SUMMARY: Tag to Jump the Shark. Missing scene between Dean saving Sam from the ghouls and the hunter's funeral for the real Adam.
A/N: Like many of you, I really liked this episode but thought Sam's recovery was, um, a tad abrupt. This endeavours to fix that, staying within canon. Spoilers for Jump the Shark, obviously.
DISCLAIMER: Nope, still don't own the Winchesters. I'm just stubbornly encamped in Kripke's sandbox, playing with the lovely toys he created simply for fun.
IN THE BLOOD
He'd grown used to the noise in his head, the constant, distant buzz like a thousand angry voices each trying to make themselves heard, trying to take over.
It was one of the side effects of demon blood that Sam had learned to live with in exchange for the strength it gave him, for the power that fuelled the abilities he needed to protect Dean and to take down Lilith.
But as the blood dripped steadily from the cuts inflicted by the ghouls, the buzz quieted, leaving an unaccustomed silence that amplified the dizziness caused by blood loss.
His vision blurred as he watched, helpless, as Dean battled the ghoul posing as Adam – their brother. His struggles to free himself from the ropes binding him to the table increased, his heart pumping faster and faster. But with each beat, blood flowed rapidly down his arms, quickly sapping his strength. The room twisted and buckled. There were two Deans now and two ghouls, each fighting in sync. His eyes slid closed as the spinning room fed nausea building in his gut.
Sam blinked, forcing his eyes to focus. The ghoul was on the ground now, Dean kneeling over him, bashing his head over and over. The ghoul stopped moving, the bloody pulp that remained no longer resembling Adam but, still, Dean kept pounding. When he stopped, reaching up to wipe blood from his face, he still seemed coiled tightly, unconvinced the ghoul was dead and ready to start again if the thing showed any sign of moving.
The room shifted again and Sam felt consciousness slipping away. "Dean!"
His brother's head snapped toward him, Sam's voice seemingly breaking the trance. Dean scrambled to his feet and was quickly at Sam's side, grabbing a knife and sawing through the ropes than pinned his brother to the table.
Sam groaned as his right arm was released, movement sending pain spiking through his arm and into his head. He wanted off that table, to run out of the house, away from the memories of the ghouls, of each vicious slash with a knife, of each cruel taunt, but it took all the strength he had left simply to lift his head.
"Come on, come on, come on." Dean's hands were suddenly underneath him and around him, lifting him up, lending him the strength he lacked. "Alright, Hang on…"
His brother was doing that stream-of-consciousness rambling he did when he was worried. "Here we go. Here we go…"
Sam was sitting up, but it took conscious effort to stop himself from keeling over again. Dean steadied him, and then gently took his left arm, scowling at the ghoul-inflicted damage, before grabbing a cloth and wrapping it tightly around the gashes. "Here you go, buddy…"
Buddy. Sam's chest tightened. He couldn't remember the last time Dean called him that.
Sam's blurry vision couldn't tell what Dean was using to bandage his arms and, in all honesty, he didn't give a rat's ass; he cared only that the pressure helped numb the pain as he fought to control his balance and his nausea. Dean quickly repeated the process with Sam's right arm.
Sam teetered as he glanced gratefully at Dean. "Thank you."
Dean smiled tightly. "That's what's family's for, right?"
For a fleeting moment, the walls between them were down. There was no apocalypse, no demon blood, no Lilith – just the two of them, with Dean taking care of him like he'd done so often before.
Dean's hand briefly rubbed Sam's back. Sam leaned into the touch but, too quickly, the contact was broken and Dean was moving away, gesturing to his arms. "Keep pressure on that."
Sam frowned as Dean disappeared into the next room. His brother was still talking but Sam had no idea what he was saying, the words fading in and out like someone playing with the volume control on a stereo. He wavered, suddenly losing his fight to stay upright. His head slammed into Dean's chest before he even realized his brother was back or that he was toppling over.
"I gotcha, Sammy. I gotcha."
Sam forced open his eyes when he felt something cool pressed to his lips. His vision still refused to focus but he recognized the smell of oranges. "Juice?"
Dean's right arm stayed wrapped around Sam's back as his left held the glass to his brother's mouth. "Yep. OJ. Recommended by the Red Cross after every blood donation – voluntary or otherwise. Drink up."
Sam took a long drink, turning his head into Dean's shoulder when he was done.
"Think you can sit up on your own now, or do you wanna lie down?"
"No!" Sam's eyes snapped open, flashing back to waking up tied to the table, at the mercy of the two ghouls. "I'm not lying down." Weakly he pushed himself away from his brother, almost toppling over again.
"Whoa." Dean's hands gripped him tightly until he was steady, or steadier, at least. "Seriously, dude. I've gotta take care of your arms. I think it'd be better if you just-"
"No." Anger brought Sam's vision into focus, if only briefly. "I'm okay." He gritted his teeth, fighting again to find his balance.
"Yeah. Sure you are." Dean studied his brother carefully before reluctantly releasing his hold on Sam's upper arms. He gently picked up Sam's left arm and unwrapped the cloths he'd used to stem the bleeding.
Sam frowned when he realized they were dinner napkins.
Dean jaw clenched as he took in the damage. "Damn it, Sammy. You're a mess."
Sam offered a weak snort. "Gee, Dean. Nothin' gets by you."
Dean scowled, whether at the lame joke or at the injuries inflicted by the ghouls, Sam wasn't sure. The elder Winchester shook his head. "These need a hospital, but I take you to the ER one or both of us is gonna end up locked up."
Sam frowned, staring down at his bloody arm. He swallowed. "I can see me being shipped off to the psych ward 'cause it looks like I tried to off myself." He wobbled as he looked up at Dean. "But why you?"
Dean's eyebrow quirked as he pulled loose the rope still twisted around Sam's wrist. "Because of these rope burns, genius. If you were trying to take yourself out, why would you tie yourself up first?"
"Oh." Sam's gaze slid back to his arm as Dean tightly wrapped a thick towel he'd grabbed from somewhere around it. The pain dulled slightly as the pressure increased.
Worry deepened the lines around Dean's eyes and mouth as he quickly moved around the table to Sam's right. "Talk to me. How you doing in there?"
Dean's voice was fading in and out, the room wavering like in a desert haze, but Sam nodded lightly. "Okay." He frowned as he tried to flex the fingers of his left hand. "Hand's numb – all pins and needles."
"It's the blood loss." Dean pulled the bloody napkin off Sam's right arm and wrapped a second towel securely around that gash. He reached across the table, picked up the glass of juice and again held it up to his brother's mouth. "Come on, finish this."
Sam didn't have the energy to argue; he gulped down the juice, stopping only when the glass was empty.
Dean nodded. "Good." He put down the glass but scowled at the blood seeping through the towels. "Damn it to hell." He grabbed one of the knives on the table and began sawing through the ropes that still bound Sam's ankles and the duct tape that pinned his knees. "That's it, we're going to the ER."
"No." Sam looked up so quickly he toppled over again. Like before, Dean caught him, keeping an arm securely around him until the dizzy spell passed. Sam shook his head slowly, then again buried his forehead in his brother's shoulder as he fought off the wave of nausea the movement caused. "No hospital. You said-"
"Screw what I said. We need to get you taken care of." Dean tossed the ropes on the floor, eyes darting back and forth. "I'll make up some story to keep you out of the psych ward and, if they try to lock me up, I'll talk my way out of it like I always do."
"No." Sam slammed his forehead into Dean's shoulder for emphasis. "It's not worth-"
"Just shut up." Dean's glare was in complete contrast to the arm wrapped securely around his brother, lending strength and support as the younger Winchester regained his equilibrium. "I can't fix this, Sammy. You've lost too much blood; they sliced through the veins, they-"
Sam swallowed. "Then just drop me off." He sat up, still unsteady. "I'll tell'em I don't remember what happened. I'll say-"
"No. I'm not dumping you." When he was sure Sam wouldn't keel over again, Dean stepped to the foot of the table and pulled loose the rope off Sam's left ankle, scowling at the hiss from his brother. The ankle had been sprained when the ghoul had tried to pull Sam under the car and the ropes wrapped tightly around it had obviously done the injury no favours. "Just let me think for a minute." His scowl deepened when he caught sight of the bloody patch on Sam's left side. "What the-"
He strode around the table and hauled up Sam's shirt before the younger Winchester could offer a word of protest. Dean's eyebrows knotted at the deep bruising and torn, angry skin around the wound. "What the hell did this?"
Sam snorted as his vision again slid in and out of focus. "Let's just say ghouls have a unique spin on giving you the finger."
"Sick freaks." Dean's eyes flashed with renewed fury. "I'd like to bring'em back to life just so I could bash their heads in all over again."
Sam turned unsteadily to glance at the headless corpse of the ghoul masquerading as Kate Milligan and the bloody pulp that had minutes ago resembled their half-brother. "I dunno. You did a pretty good impression of Joe Pesci in GoodFellas first time around." He smiled weakly at his own joke.
Dean rolled his eyes. 'I'm worth two Joe Pesci's on a bad day. Three and a half on a good one."
Sam wanted to laugh but his vision was darkening at the edges and he was losing the battle to keep his eyes open.
"Sammy?" Dean's voice again sounded like he'd stepped into the next room although the grip on Sam's upper arms told him his brother was still right beside him. "Sam! You stay with me, you hear me?"
Sam's eyes snapped open when he felt a light smack on his cheek, stinging the bruise where he'd taken a shotgun butt to the face. There was a moment of clarity, a clear image of Dean hovering worriedly in front of him before the darkness circled in, consuming everything.
Sam heard the buzz of whispered voices as consciousness returned. But unlike those that grew louder inside his head with each dose of demon blood, these came from across the room. He peeled open his eyes, again fighting to bring his vision into focus.
He was still in the Milligans' house, still lying on the table but now there was a pillow under his head and a blanket covering him. He glanced down at his arms; each was now neatly and heavily bandaged. Two IV poles stood next to the table, one holding a bag of blood, the tubing snaking up to his neck, the other holding saline solution mixed with some painkiller cocktail, if the pleasant numbness he now felt was anything to go by. The tubing from that IV disappeared under the blankets, apparently tapped into a vein in his leg.
Sam frowned. His brother was good when it came to first-aid but this was a pretty elaborate set-up. He blinked rapidly, his eyesight clearing as he glanced around the room. The bodies of the two ghouls were gone. Dean was sweeping up glass from the door he and the Adam-look-alike had smashed through while another man, a stranger, was wiping out a large, white bowl.
"Dean?" Sam's voice was thick and raspy.
Dean's eyes snapped toward Sam. He dropped the broom and walked quickly to his brother's side. "Hey, Sammy. How you doing?"
"Better." Sam cleared his throat and frowned as the stranger, an older man with greying blond hair and piercing blue eyes, put down the bowl and moved in to stand opposite Dean.
Dean gestured with his head toward the man. "Sam, this is Andy – otherwise known as Dr. Andy Naslund. He came here to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. Stitched you up nice and neat so you won't look like Frankenstein when the bandages come off."
Sam raised his eyebrows at Dean as the doctor pressed his fingers against Sam's neck, checking his pulse.
Dean smiled. "You forget? We're in Minnesota – Pastor Jim's old stomping grounds. Pretty extensive hunter support network in these parts. I called Bobby, he gave me the doc's name and Andy high-tailed it over here."
"Oh." Sam rolled his head across the pillow and glanced up at Andy as the doctor reached over to the sideboard for a blood pressure cuff. He nodded lightly. "Thanks – for everything."
The doctor smiled, wrapping the cuff around Sam's biceps and rhythmically squeezing the pump. "Your welcome. Those bastards put you through the wringer." He nodded as he studied the gauge on the cuff. "Good. Your pressure's up and you're starting to get some colour back – both steps in the right direction."
Sam took that as his cue to sit up. "Speaking of the bastards, where are they? What did you-"
"Hold on, cowboy." Dean's hands were quickly on Sam's shoulders, holding him gently in place. "It's a little early to start moving around."
"Dean." Sam's voice was a low growl as he fought against his brother's hold, his breathing escalating rapidly. "I want off this table. Now."
Dean, recognizing the flashback panic in his brother's eyes, relaxed his hold, glancing over at Andy. "Doc?"
The doctor raised an eyebrow but nodded at Dean. "I think Sam might be more comfortable on the couch." His gaze returned to his patient. "Just give me a minute to unhook you from these IVs."
Sam nodded, then looked on as Andy flipped back the blanket, revealing the younger Winchester's freshly bandaged left ankle and the IV taped in place just above it. Once it and the IV from his neck was removed, Dean helped Sam sit up but, even moving slowly, he got a head rush that made the room spin.
Dean's brow creased worriedly as Sam wavered in his hold. "There's no rush. Take it slow."
Sam swallowed, but nodded. "I've got one speed right now, Dean, and slow's it."
"Right." Dean slid Sam's legs around and lowered them off the table. "Put your weight on your right leg first."
Dean stood on Sam's right, the doctor on his left. Each slid an arm around his waist as he slowly pushed himself off the table. Sam's knees buckled immediately but he stayed upright thanks to the firm grip of the two men who flanked him. He closed his eyes and swallowed. "This sucks."
Dean's hold on him tightened. "Just be grateful I got here while those damn ghouls were still on the appetizers. You're a one-man all-you-can-eat buffet, Sammy."
"Nice." Sam shook his head. "And I'm the one with the lame sense of humour?"
The short trek across the room was slow but Sam was soon settled on the couch, legs stretched out in front of him, again covered by a blanket, arms resting on his chest and the IV reattached to his ankle.
He frowned up at the doctor as he re-inserted the needle into the catheter. "Is that really necessary?"
Andy winked at him. "Enjoy the painkillers while you can. Trust me, you're gonna miss them when they wear off." He pulled a bottle of pills from his pocket, holding them up to Sam before tossing them over to Dean. "You'll need to take two of those every six hours for the next week. They'll help but, I won't kid you, you're in for a rough go of it."
Sam's jaw clenched. "I'll handle it." He glanced across the room to where the female ghoul had fallen when decapitated by Dean. "I asked before, what happened to the ghouls?"
Dean looked over at Andy. "The doc here didn't come alone. Brought a couple of friends with him. They hauled away the bodies and we've managed to clean up most of the evidence." He shook his head as he surveyed the damaged house. "Can't really disguise the fact that something nasty happened here, but cops shouldn't be able to tell we were a part of it." He smiled tightly. "That's what counts."
He glanced down at his watch, then over at the dining table. "We'll get the table cleaned up, wait until all the neighbours are asleep, then get the hell outta Dodge." Dean clapped Sam gently on the shoulder. "Until then, sit tight. Watch the two of us slave away while you do nothing." He grinned. "But when your arms are better and we have a corpse to dig up, I am so parking my ass on a grave stone and manning the flashlight while you do all the work. Just remember that."
Sam snorted. "Like you'll let me forget." He settled back and ground his head into the pillow.
The doctor studied the table, frowning at a blood stain that had seeped into the grain, then looked up at Dean. "I'll be right back. I've got something in my car that should help with this. It won't get rid of all the blood, but it'll at least screw around with the composition so crime scene investigators won't be able to match it to anything."
Dean nodded and the doctor disappeared through the kitchen.
Sam watched the doctor go and then stared at the table. His eyes snapped shut involuntarily as he tried to block out flashes of the two ghouls taunting him.
"His blood tastes different."
Sam shuddered. It scared the crap out of him that the ghoul had been able to detect a difference in his blood. He was under no illusions; he knew he was playing with fire by dosing himself with demon blood but, when he'd started, he just didn't care. Dean was in Hell and, as far as Sam was concerned, the last remaining Winchester was a dead man walking.
When Dean came back, part of him wanted to stop – and did stop, for a while. But when Dean told him what happened in Hell and Alistair re-entered the picture, everything changed. They needed every advantage they could get. When he killed Alistair, the demon who'd broken his brother, he knew he'd made the right choice - at least until his conversation with hack writer/prophet Chuck had reawakened old doubts.
And now, finding out it was changing him physically, noticeably…He frowned when he realized his hands were trembling.
"Doc - why's he shaking?"
Sam's eyes darted up to see his brother staring at him worriedly as the doctor re-entered the room. He sighed. "Dean, I'm fine. I-"
"The hell you are."
Sam forced himself to relax, knowing that over-reaction would just amp up his brother's worries. Dean's pseudo-parental instincts when it came to Sam were among the many dulled by his time in Hell. It was a big part of the reason Sam had been able to hide his use of demon blood for so long. But lately, since their angel-arranged trip to the alternate world of Dean Smith and Sam Wesson, Dean had been sharper, more Dean-like. It was getting harder to hide things from him.
Andy crossed over to Sam and pressed the back of his hand to the younger Winchester's forehead. He shook his head. "No fever. You cold, Sam?"
Sam swallowed, well aware that Dean's eyes were locked on him. "A little."
Dean's jaw clenched. "I'll get him another blanket."
As he disappeared upstairs, Sam's heart began racing. Maybe he should just tell him. Dean now seemed to understand why Dad had kept Adam a secret; maybe he'd understand that Sam, too, was simply doing what he had to do to keep his brother safe.
Those thoughts crumbled as images of himself drinking Ruby's blood morphed quickly into the ghoul Mom sucking on his arm and Dean punching him in the face. "If I didn't know you, I would want to hunt you."
Sam's heart pounded painfully against his chest as Dean reappeared at his side with a heavy quilt.
"Sam?" Dean draped the blanket over his brother. "What the hell, dude?"
Sam swallowed. "I'm okay. Really. Thanks."
Dean wasn't buying it. "Bull. What is it?"
Sam cleared his throat. "What should we do about Adam – the real one?"
Dean frowned but chose not to call Sam on the diversion. "I found him and his mom – in the crypt. That's why I came back here. Just didn't know we were dealing with ghouls 'til you said so."
"Oh." Sam nodded slowly. "He didn't have a chance, Dean. I wish that-"
"Wishes are for fairy tales, Sammy. Just a waste of energy. Let's just focus on getting you back on your feet, on what we can control." He squeezed Sam's shoulder. "Get some rest. We'll do right by Adam when you're stronger."
Sam nodded. He watched Dean pick up the broom and resume sweeping. Focus on what we can control. The irony of his brother's words was a punch to the gut. It was exactly what he had to do even if it was the polar opposite of what Dean intended.
He hated the deception but, for now, it was how it had to be. If it came to it, he could live with Dean hating him; he couldn't live with losing him again. He'd keep Dean safe, no matter what he had to do.
A/N: As strained as the brothers' relationship has been this season, I've seen a lot in the last few episodes that has made me hopeful that Sam and Dean will eventually bridge the chasm that's opened up between them. Will it happen before the season finale? My money's on 'No,' but I sure hope it happens early in Season 5. Thanks so much for reading. Please let me know what you think. Your feedback is an incredible gift. Till next time, cheers.