I was working the night shift. Once again, I had been unable to say no. It was a slow night so I sat at my post behind the triage desk reading my e-mail and thumbing through a magazine. I had just opened an e-mail from my friend, Claire, showing pictures of her travels in France with her new husband, when I heard the tell tale swoosh of the electronic ER doors accompanied by the pounding of heavy boots. The footsteps were frantic and as I looked up from my e-mail I saw a stocky blonde man who couldn't have been more than 28 or 30, wearing a leather jacket covered in blood standing just inside the ER doors.
I pride myself on not making assumptions but my mind immediately leapt to the words bar fight. His gaze was anxious searching the area for a doctor, all the while keeping an eye on the doors, periodically glancing out as if he were watching something. "Help! I need some help, please!" He cried. I stood up intent on finding this man a doctor. His jacket was coated in blood.
"How was he still standing?" I mused. Upon reaching him I found a corner of the tough leather that was remotely clean. "Sir, can I help you?" I asked.
Startled by my touch he pulled away."I need a doctor," he stated.
"I can see that," I said somewhat sarcastically.
Momentarily his eyes flicked to his jacket. "It's not mine," he said brushing me off. "I need a doctor," he repeated before his eyes once again found the ER doors roaming back and forth in a frenzied motion as though he had lost what he was watching. "My brother…" He gestured towards the doors pulling me along. It was then I saw it. A shiny black Impala. The boy's eyes, even though he might have been 30 that's exactly what he looked like a scared lost little boy, darted up and down combing every inch of the Impala looking for something specific. Though I couldn't see it he must have spotted what or who he was looking for. I couldn't tell if that relaxed him or made him that much more tense. "My brother," he repeated.
Realizing the blood quickly staining the leather of his jacket must be from his brother I flagged down the nearest doctor and a couple of orderlies with a gurney just to be safe. I had no idea how old his brother was or what condition he was in, but judging from the amount of blood on the jacket of the man in front of me it couldn't be good. Seeing people were now coming to his aid the young man tore back out to the Impala retching open the driver's side door with little consideration for the car. Though I could have sworn I saw a small look of apology directed at the car a moment later.
For a second he all but disappeared inside the car. All I could see was his back encased in black leather peeking over the dashboard. As I got closer and one of the orderlies opened the passenger side door I could see why he had been essentially swallowed by the car. Spread out as much a he could across the front seat, which was not very much and could not have been very comfortable, was a slightly younger man, if I had to hazard a guess I would have said about five years younger than the first. The younger man's head now rested in the lap of the man from the ER. The man from the ER had one hand placed over the hand of the younger man. Both hands had streaks of blood on them and were positioned over a large stack of blood-soaked gauze that covered the younger man's side. The other hand was slowly carding its way through the younger man's shaggy, for lack of a better word, mop of hair. The elder man was murmuring reassurances into the younger one's ear as the doctor checked him over and the orderlies began to try and slide him out of the car. "D-D…" slipped from the younger man's lips, no doubt an attempt at the elder's name. Immediately the elder's eyes sought the younger's. Clearly he had not expected this. "It's okay Sammy," he said. "I'm right here. Not going anywhere. I got you help, everything's gonna be okay. Just relax and let these people help." This seemed to calm the younger as he relaxed into the touch of the elder and allowed the orderlies to continue extricating him from the car. Boy was I glad I had thought to have them follow. The younger man, though he was, had to have been well over six feet tall and just as muscular as his brother. The older brother stayed in the car cradling his brother's head inching forward as the orderlies and the doctor put more and more of his brother onto the gurney. As one of the orderlies reached to slide the upper half of the younger man, Sammy's body out of the car, his hand brushed a little too close to the wound causing Sammy to hiss in pain. Instantly, the older brother cupped both his hands around Sammy's head covering his face with his arms as though to shield him. He glared at the orderly, his hazel/green eyes flashing like steel, and his voice came out not sounding at all like the man from the ER but rather a low growl. "Don't hurt him." From then on there was no doubt in my mind that this man could be very dangerous if provoked. He gave the impression of a momma bear protecting her cub. The orderly a young newbie quickly backed away scared to death of the older brother.
The doctor slid into his place. "We're going to try our best not to hurt your friend."
The elder interrupted, "He's my brother."
The doctor corrected himself, "Your brother. But if we're going to help him we have to get him out of the car. That will hurt a little as I assume he's been lying in the same position for quite a while. We will be as careful as possible but I can't promise anything, sometimes things have to get worse before they can get better. But we will be extremely careful and try not to cause anymore unnecessary pain." This seemed to pacify the elder, for the moment at least, as he allowed his brother to be placed on the gurney and wheeled through the doors of the ER. Even though we were wheeling the gurney quite quickly, there was no telling how much blood besides what we could see the younger brother had lost, the elder brother still managed to keep the pace his hand still firmly laced in through the his brother's hair his fingers touching the younger's face, the younger leaning into this touch. The doctor continued to talk to the elder brother asking him questions. "How was your brother hurt?" he asked trying to determine a basic course of treatment before we actually reached the trauma room.
"Hiking accident," he mumbled. "We were out doing some late night hiking and something attacked him." I was pretty sure this was a cover story for something else. Late night hiking. Come on. But it was not my place to question whether the patient's story made sense. When we reached the trauma room, one of the other nurses placed a hand on the elder brother's arm removing it from the younger brother without his knowledge while simultaneously pushing the gurney through the doors. Finding himself with a barrier between him and his brother the older brother pushed open the doors, entering the room, wanting to be with the younger.
The doctor nodded to me and I placed a gentle hand on his arm. "Come on. Let's let the doctors do their work."
Once again he pulled out of my grasp, "No he needs me. I need to be here."
Trying to find a way to placate the elder I said, "We'll stand right outside these doors. You'll be able to see everything that's going on and if he needs you you're right here, but the doctors can still do their work." He nodded and followed me out. The doctors tried to patch up the wound but this was far more than an ER case. I knew the minute I saw one of the assisting nurses on the phone mounted to the wall.
I pulled the elder brother out of the way just as the trauma room doors swung open. This action caused the momma bear to come back out and the voice of the man to become desperate. "What's going on? Where are they taking him?" His desperate shouts were followed by even more desperate footsteps as he attempted to catch up to the gurney.
The doctor stopped for a moment and handed papers to the elder brother, "Are you next of kin?" he asked. The brother turned to look at me.
"Your brother needs surgery," I explained. "The wound in his side is too serious for them to treat down here. The doctor needs to know if you have the ability to give him permission to operate." The elder brother just nodded. "Yes what?" I asked to clarify.
"Yes, I can give the doc permission to operate. And yes, he can do the surgery." For the first time the night since he had walked into the ER his eyes became watery, "Please, save my brother." I doubted please was a word that frequented this young man's vocabulary. Taking his eyes from the doc he turned to his brother who had slipped back into unconsciousness somewhere between the car and now. "You keep fighting Sammy," he said his hand tracing his brother's face. "I'll be right here when you get out of surgery." He lightly ruffled the younger brother's hair before nodding to the doc. He stood and watched as the gurney was wheeled down the hall and into the elevator. After the elevator doors had shut with a small ding, he still stood there watching them as if he if he stared hard enough and long enough he might still be able to see his brother or he could make his little brother come out in one piece. He had that lost little boy look on his face again as if he had lost a part of himself as if this was all part of one big nightmare.
I had seen this kind of thing before; if I let him he would just stand here and wait. I moved toward him. "Come on," I said placing a hand on his shoulder surprised when he didn't move away. "He'll be in surgery for awhile. So how bout we get you cleaned up and then I'll take you upstairs to the surgical waiting room."
He momentarily looked down at me as though he hadn't heard a word I'd said. "What?"
"He'll be in surgery for quite a while so let's get you cleaned up and I'll take you up to the surgical waiting room. That way you can keep your promise to be there when he's out of surgery."
Elder brother gave me an incredulous look. "Why are you helping me?"
I smiled. I get the question more often than it seems. "It's my job. Now, come on." I began to lead glancing behind me to make sure that he was following. When he saw me watching him he gave me that lost boy look. Pretty soon I was going to take to calling him the lost boy because I had yet to find out his name and had serious doubts as to whether I'd get it out of him. I led him to the showers where we usually bathe the homeless guys who pass through. "Take a shower," I told him. "Get some of the blood off."
"It's only on my jacket."
"Well, hand it over." He looked at me like I had grown two heads. "Don't worry. I'll give it back I just want to get it cleaned for you." To my surprise he handed it over. "At least get the blood off your hands and there's some on your face as well." He turned on the faucet and began to furiously scrub at his hands desperate to get every last bloody streak off. "I'll be right back. I'm going to go find you some scrubs to change into. Get you out of those messy clothes before your brother sees you. "
I was lucky enough to catch the half smile he managed for me. "Thanks. You don't do this for all your patients' families do you?" he questioned.
"Just doing my job," I said before heading out to give him some privacy. It didn't take me long to scrounge up a pair of scrubs for Sammy's brother.
When I came back I heard his voice floating through the door. "Mom, Dad I'm sorry. I didn't protect Sammy. I should have done better." I knocked lightly on the door about to lecture him on the hospital policy of cell phones but when I entered I saw that he didn't have one. These boys were orphans. They were all each other had. Now I understood the protectiveness of the elder brother.
"Here's the scrubs. Put them on and I'll take you upstairs. I went back outside the door to wait. I don't think I've ever met anyone who changed clothes as fast as Sammy's brother. I wasn't outside for more than a few minutes when the elder brother was next to my side. I took him upstairs to the surgical waiting room, but something about these brothers, maybe it was the fact that they were all alone in the world, wouldn't let me leave them alone. I went back down the ER to clock on for my lunch break, but before going to check on "the lost boy" I stopped at the cafeteria to grab him a sandwich and a cup of coffee. I had been in the hospital with my little brother before and being a nurse as well I know that when people are worried they have a tendency to forget to take care of themselves. The brothers had already been here for almost three hours. It was now almost four AM. Taking a seat near the elder brother I placed the sandwich and the coffee on the table between us. I watched as he eyed the food skeptically before snatching up the coffee. "You need to eat too," I told him.
"I'll eat when I know my brother's okay," he replied gruffly.
"You won't be any good to him if you don't eat." This seemed to hit a nerve and he begrudgingly picked up the sandwich and began to nibble on it. I sat there in silence with him until my break was over. I went back to work all the while wondering about "the lost boy" and his brother. Unable to contain my curiosity, I checked the computer records just before the end of my shift to discover the room number of Sammy. I realized that I still had no idea of a last name of the brothers. I didn't even know the elder's name or if Sammy was the younger one's name or just a nickname. I decided just to chance it and head up to the ICU hoping to spot the elder brother. The elevator doors opened and I gazed down the long hallway my eyes scouting for "the lost boy." I began to walk down the hallway checking the name plates outside the doors scrutinizing each one looking for a Sammy. I had gotten about halfway down the hall when I heard it. The voice of the man from the ER. I sped up, my practical tennis shoes squeaking on tile floor. When I was closer to the door, I slowed down so my shoes wouldn't alert the boys to my presence. The door to Sammy's room was slightly ajar. I peaked in watching the boys. Sammy was still unconscious; his brother had pulled the crappy plastic chair as close the bed as he could get, mindful of all the machines helping the younger.
The elder brother ever vigilant of the machines slowing raked his hand through his brother's hair, his eyes focused on the heart monitor, watching those endless peaks and valleys that told him his brother was still with him. The other hand rested on top of Sammy's, waiting for any sign of movement. Once again he was talking to Sammy as if nothing was wrong, though I could here a break in his voice here or there. "Hey, Sammy. You made it through your surgery with flying colors, Little Brother. Now it's time to wake up to so we can jump in the Impala and get the heck out of dodge." I smiled. He was so dedicated to his brother. My curiosity satisfied for the moment, I decided to head home and spend some time with my husband before he had to go to work and catch a few hours of sleep.
I drove home, but still couldn't get the brothers out of my head. I walked in the door and was instantly greeted by my husband, Don, and our Springer Cocker Spaniel mix, Josie. "How was work?" he asked.
"Slow for the most part…" I trailed off.
"Slow, but?" he prompted when he noticed the bloodied leather jacket hanging from my arm.
"At about 1:30 this morning two boys, well they weren't boys, they had to have been in their 20s. The older one could have been 30; the jacket's his I promised him I'd get it cleaned for him. He came in screaming for a doctor whiled the younger one was waiting in the car. The younger one… Oh Don, it was awful. He had this big gaping hole in his side. He lost so much blood. I know I see these things everyday but this was different. The older brother he must have raised the younger one because when one of the orderlies touched his brother wrong he growled like a momma bear. They just seemed so close. I went to check on them after my shift because the younger one needed surgery and the older brother was sitting in the chair half asleep talking to the younger one. I don't know what it is about these men, Don, there's just something about them."
"You just have a big heart," he said coming forward to put his arm around my waist. "Why don't we grab some breakfast at the diner before I head to work? We can stop and the dry cleaners and drop off the jacket. See if it can't be cleaned up a little bit." He led me to the bedroom and waited for me to change clothes. The diner was full of the usual crowd, but when people wished me good morning I offered only a half-hearted wave in response. After dropping off the jacket at the dry cleaners, not taking the time to explain why I was dropping off a jacket that was most definitely not my husband's clearly covered in blood, I went home, took a short nap, then spent the rest of the day cleaning my house and playing with Josie. In the evening, I settled down with Don and Josie to watch Dukes of Hazzard reruns. I next day was my day off. Normally, I tend to avoid the hospital on my day off, however, that day I wanted to check on the men from my last shift. I wasn't quite curious enough to make the trek to the hospital, but I vowed to go in early for my next shift to see how the two were faring after having a day to deal with the surgery. And go in early I did.
I made my way upstairs to the ICU with two cups of coffee one for me and the other for Sammy's brother whom I was sure had not left the hospital since I had last seen him. My eyes flicked back and forth from the numbers to my piece of paper as I went. I had written down the number of the room after following "the lost boy's" voice down the hall. Upon reaching the door, I was surprised to hear two voices coming from the room. One I recognized as the man from the ER, the other was quieter so I couldn't quite place it. I knocked on door waiting for permission to enter.
Instead of a come in I was met at the door by the elder brother who carefully sized me up before realization dawned that he had seen me before. He spotted the coffee and gave me what I think was an attempt at a puppy dog look. I smiled and handed it over. "Just coming back to check and see how you guys were doing."
The elder brother smirked at me. He was a lot more at ease now that the younger was awake. "All part of the job, right?"
"Something like that," I said. He opened the door wider signaling that I was invited in.
"This is my brother Sammy," he said smiling gesturing to the over six foot figure lying on the bed. I still remember that grin. If it could have gotten any wider I think his face would have split open. "Sammy, this is…" He looked at me apologetically. "I don't know you as anyone other than the lady who got Sammy help."
"Connie," I supplied.
"Connie," he repeated.
The younger boy in the bed extended his hand. This gave me a chance to look into his eyes as well. They were the same greenish hazel as his brother's though not as hard. I guess he didn't have to be with a brother like his. "It's Sam," he said with a slight glare toward his brother. I could tell this was a point of contention between the two. "Nice to meet you Connie. And thanks."
"Like I told your brother, just doing my job." It was then I rounded on the older brother. "What about you? Do you have a name or do you just go by the letter D?" The younger brother looked confused while the elder brother ducked his head at this comment, no doubt the scene in the car still fresh in his mind.
"I'm Dean," he said lifting his head with a smirk. I watched Sam roll his eyes at his brother and held back a laugh.
"You think your God's gift to women don't you?" he said.
"Not God's gift…just a gift to women everywhere. You could be too if you took lessons from me, Sammy."
Sam shook his head with a small chuckle, "Of course." The movement must have been just a little too much for him because Sam began to cough. Hard. It sounded as though it was extremely painful; I knew from experience that it had to be the coughing pulling at his new stitches. Immediately, all bantering stopped and Dean rushed to his brother's bedside.
He sat on the bed next to Sam and propping his brother up against his side, which was no small feat considering Sam's size, rubbed circles on his back as if he had done this a thousand times before. "It's okay Sam. It's okay. Just breathe through it. It'll pass." Looking up for moment, Dean seemed to remember that I was there. "I think you should go," some of the ice from the night in the ER was back in his voice.
"Are you sure you don't need any help?" I asked offering my assistance. I was and still am a nurse after all.
In a flash, gone was the caring, tender older brother and in his place again was the momma bear. "No, we've got it under control." I started toward the door, not wanting to anger Dean any further.
At that minute, Sam's attention was split between keeping his brother under control and focusing on trying to breathe. "He gets a little over protective sometimes," Sam wheezed at me. "Dean, she's just trying to help." It seemed like it took all of Sam's air just to get out those two sentences. I walked out the door; it would be better for all parties involved if Sam focused only on breathing and not preventing his brother from killing an almost total stranger. On my way out, however, I stopped at the nurse's desk to let them know that the patient in 432 was having trouble breathing and warned them to be careful of the older brother.
"Sam and Dean," I thought as I rode the elevator down. "Nice names." And they seemed like nice boys…as long as you didn't get between Dean and his little brother. I realized about halfway to my parking spot I had forgotten to ask for their last name, though I highly doubt I would have gotten it anyway. I didn't officially see Sam and Dean again for the remainder of their time in the hospital, though I did peak in on them sometimes before or after my shift. Occasionally, Sam would have an oxygen mask on during those first few days, but as time progressed he was able to take more of his brother's teasing. Once Dean knew his brother was getting better and he wouldn't hurt him, I heard through the grapevine Sam's wound was healing nicely, I often saw him perched on Sam's bed conversing with his brother about things like spirits and hunts.
The boys had been in the hospital for about two weeks and I had gotten used to riding elevator up to the fourth floor, then to the second floor when Sam was moved to a step down unit. This particular day however, I was on a mission. Rather than watch the boys dote upon each other, I wondered sometimes if they realized they were doing it, I was there to return Dean's jacket from which the dry cleaner had managed to remove all of Sam's blood except the faintest traces. When I reached Sam's room I could hear the same old brotherly banter through the door which as always was slightly agape. Peering in, I could see Dean helping Sam into a button down over shirt though he was teasing his brother, I suspected Dean was doing so to take his brother's mind off the fact he was helping him. I hung the jacket on the handle of the door. On the inside I had placed a post-it with $50 dollars attached. I had written a short message to Dean, "It's all part of the job. Take care of your brother." I left the boys with a smile.
Sam eventually checked out of the hospital and I had seen neither hide nor hair of them around town for days. I was beginning to think the boys had left for good until one morning I was having breakfast with Don before we both went to work. We were sitting in a booth at the diner, when the bell above the door jingled signaling the entrance of new customers. Glancing up, I saw Dean walk in wearing the leather jacket now free of his brother's blood. He stopped and held the door open for Sam who walked slower, still slightly favoring his side. Dean was up his old shenanigans teasing Sam relentlessly no doubt while at the same time ready to support his brother should he falter. I placed my hand over my husband's and jerked my head toward the door. He slowly turned, watched the boy for a moment then turned back to me. "Your mystery men?" he asked. I nodded. The boys took the booth across the diner meaning, Don and I were able to study them as we drank our coffee. Some people would call this creepy; Don and I called it people watching. As we watched Dean continued to tease Sam about everything from his food choices (Sam chose poached eggs with toast and yogurt while Dean had a breakfast sandwich with extra sausage and heaping pile of hashbrowns) to the waitress (I was glad we couldn't hear the conversation), laughing when he was able to antagonize his brother enough to elicit a huff of annoyance. Dean's eyes may have been cold and wary of others but for Sam they had nothing but love. Sam's in turn were filled not only with exasperation at his brother's antics but with pure little brother adoration for Dean, though I don't think either of them could see. They finished their breakfast quickly, probably anxious to get on the road and leave this town far in their rearview mirror.
I watched them drive away in the Impala I remembered from the first night I had seen them. I wondered briefly if Dean had managed to get the blood off the front seat because it was now covered with a ratty old blanket that probably hadn't seen the light of day since the 80s. The brothers drove off strains of AC/DC making their way out the open window. Dean's choice I presumed by the way his head bobbed along with the music. Sam leaned against the window, intent on going to sleep to give his still healing body a rest. Smiles graced the faces of both brothers as my town faded to a mere memory in their minds. Looking down at his watch, Don reminded me that we both needed to head to work. I got up to pay the bill; it was my turn to get breakfast. When I reached the register, the waitress shook her head and handed me a piece of motel stationary. Scrawled across the top were the words, "If you ever need help," and a phone number. Underneath, was written, "Sure, it is. I will. Thanks again." The last part was written as an after thought, probably by Sam. I keep that piece of stationary on my fridge in between pictures of Josie and the number for the pizza place. Every time I look at it, I remember the night when a blonde man with ice cold greenish hazel wearing a bloodied leather jacket burst through the doors of my ER seeking help for his shaggy haired giant of a brother with a matching set of softer greenish hazel eyes. I stare at it and wondered whatever happened to the two of them.
Would you like another story with Connie such as her meeting up with the boys again, them stopping back in town, her finding out what they actually do for a living? Review and let me know.