Stars Shine in the Dark
The minute you think you've got it made, disaster is just around the corner
She could hear the telephone ringing as she walked up the three steps to the porch. Her hands were full of bags after an uncharacteristic shopping spree, and she struggled with the door lock. She expected the call to go to voice mail, but she managed to get into the house and grab the phone after dropping the bags just inside.
"Kristine? Are you all right? You sound out of breath."
She recognized the voice as belonging to Angelica Raines. "Yeah, I just got home, and had a problem with the lock. What's up?"
"I'm calling to ask a favor."
There was something in Angelica's tone that made Kristine nervous. "What favor?"
"You know we're leaving for New Zealand tomorrow night, right? For the writer's conference Keith is speaking at?"
"Yeah, I know they were really excited about it."
"Yeah," Angelica sounded sad. "Well, we just got back from the doctor. Nicholas has an ear infection. He doesn't feel very bad, but he can't fly. I'd stay home, but I have a few commitments for the conference and –"
"Of course they can come here," Kristine interrupted.
"Are you sure it wouldn't be too much of an imposition?"
"Of course not. You know I love having them around. I'll have to work, but between Ellen and Millie, I'm sure it won't be a problem."
"We're talking three weeks here, Kristine."
"It's fine," Kristine assured her. "Really."
"You have no idea how much we appreciate this. If we hadn't already–"
"It's fine, Angelica. I promise."
They discussed the details, then Kristine spent a few minutes talking to Alex and Nicholas before hanging up. She took her bags to her bedroom, then kicked out of her dress shoes and changed into a loose pair of jeans and a tank top.
Kristine Ryan met Angelica and her husband, Keith, through one of her cousins. They'd been looking to adopt a child, and Kristine thought they'd be perfect parents for Nicholas and Alex Cordell. Their parents had been killed by vampires and the hunter who found them had brought them to the estate, hoping that Kristine could help.
Nicholas had started to have premonitions, which had caused some attention from the underworld. Even now, no one was sure if he was part of a new generation of special kids created by Azazel, but nonetheless, he and his brother had become part of the disorder brought on by Azazel's destruction. The underworld was in chaos, with different factions vying for dominance and one of the demons had hoped to use Nicholas in his takeover.
Angelica also had premonitions, and Kristine had hoped she'd be able to teach Nicholas how to deal with them. Also, she and her husband knew about the supernatural and hunters. A year into it, the adoption seemed to be perfect for everyone involved.
Back downstairs, Kristine padded into the kitchen where she snagged a diet cola from the refrigerator before picking up the cordless receiver to call Ellen Harvelle at the main house. As she suspected, everything was under control and there was nothing specific Kristine had to deal with. She told Ellen about driving to Charlotte in the morning to pick up Nicholas and Alex, then Ellen suggested that she come down for dinner and a movie.
After her mother's death at the hands of Azazel, the yellow-eyed demon, Kristine had transformed the family estate into a haven for hunters. The main house had capacity for 20 hunters, but there were rarely more than a handful at any one time.
After her Roadhouse was burned down, Ellen had accepted Kristine's invitation to help run the place and within the last few months, they'd added Millie Stockton to their staff. Millie's husband had been a hunter, and she'd come to the estate after his disappearance, hoping for some information. Through her contacts, Kristine had learned that he'd been killed on a hunt. Millie had intended to only stay for a few days, but she was still there six months later.
"Sam!" Dean yelled as he ran down the stairs of the house he and Sam had been searching. "Sammy!"
With a big area to investigate, the brothers had split up hoping to get the job done faster. Dean was concentrating on his search when he heard Sam call for him. The sound was too far away to discern any detail, but Dean knew Sam wouldn't bring him back downstairs for no reason. He'd been on the top of the stairs when he heard the yelling, and he didn't hesitate before rushing to the first floor.
He hadn't been able to tell where the noise was coming from, but he had a general direction. They'd been tracking a vampire for a few days and had seen it enter this house. After scoping out the house and researching the ownership, the brothers had decided to check it out after the sun came up. They knew that vampires weren't allergic to sunlight like the popular stories said, but it could weaken them, and they tended to avoid it.
Armed with blades dipped in dead man's blood, poisonous to vampires, they'd made their way inside. Dean now regretted them splitting up, especially since he was having trouble finding Sam. He heard a crash somewhere ahead of him, and called for his brother. He didn't wait for an answer before running down the hall.
He found Sam in what had been the dining room. He was on the floor, and even from across the room, Dean could tell his eyes were closed and there was blood on his face. From the corner of his eye, he saw the vampire jump through a window. Dean ignored it, going to his brother instead.
With experienced hands, Dean checked Sam for injury. He saw the bruises already forming on his face, and he felt the bump on the side of his head, but he didn't think there were any broken bones. "Come on, Sammy. Help me here, okay?" Dean said, trying to rouse him.
Dean knew it probably wasn't safe to stay in the house, so he pulled Sam into a fireman's carry and got him to the car. It wasn't easy, but he got Sam settled into the backseat, trying again to wake him up. Hospitals were always a last resort, but Dean didn't think he had a choice. He worked on a cover story as he drove.
Dean paced in the waiting room as Sam was being examined behind closed doors. He would have preferred a larger medical center, but he hadn't had much choice in the rural area. The nurse had seemed to believe his story, then passed him a clipboard full of paperwork to fill out. As always, the questions were answered with a careful mix of truth and lie. It was something the brothers had learned to do at an early age.
He'd made up a story about Sam being attacked by a mugger, and the hospital had been required to report the crime. A uniformed police officer found Dean in the waiting room, but Dean's skilled answers to his questions kept the interview short. A report would be filed, and no doubt a half-hearted investigation would be conducted, but Dean knew it would all end quickly.
Once the officer was gone, Dean looked toward the doors his brother was behind, wishing he knew what was going on. He'd just turned away, trying to distract himself when he heard them swing open. A moment later, he was talking to a woman who had introduced herself as Dr. Blake.
"He's still unconscious," she said before Dean could ask. "He's being monitored, and all of his vital signs are strong. As you can see, we're a small hospital, so I'd like to transfer him to a trauma center about an hour away. Arrangements are being made now."
Dean looked at her as if she'd been speaking a foreign language, and she must have sensed his confusion. She laid a gentle hand on his arm. "The trauma center can assess his condition much better than we can here. We've stabilized him, and it should be a simple matter of getting him from here to there. You can go in the ambulance with him if you like."
"We, uh, we're from out of town and my car…." Dean's head was spinning.
"We'll give you directions if you want to drive yourself," she said with a kind voice.
"Can I see him?"
"Of course. You can sit with him while the final arrangements are made. A nurse will come in to talk to you soon. I'm sorry I don't have better news for you, but he's young and in good shape. He doesn't have any broken bones, and his vital signs are all strong. It could be worse."
Dean felt a sudden flash of anger, but controlled it. He knew she'd meant her words to be supportive. She gave him a few more bits of information as she led him to Sam's room. Before leaving them alone, she explained what the various machines were monitoring, but Dean was only half paying attention.
For several minutes, all Dean could do was stare at his brother. Sam was surrounded by machines, and his huge form somehow looked small in the hospital bed. Dean felt guilty. Even though Sam was an adult, Dean had always felt protective of him. When they were kids, it had been Dean's job to take care of him, and that was a hard habit to break.
Finally, he forced himself forward. With a shaking hand, he touched Sam's shoulder, trying not to see the cuts and bruises on his puffy face. He pulled a chair close to the bed and sat down. "I'm here, Sammy. You're gonna be okay. I promise."
Dean didn't know how much time had passed before a nurse came into the room. She introduced herself, and then checked all of the monitors, making notations before turning her attention to Dean. She talked to him about how Sam would be transported to the trauma center, and what would happen once he was there. She also gave him directions, then handed him a piece of paper where she'd written them down as well as the names of people he would be able to talk to once he'd arrived.
Dean thanked her, more out of habit than anything else. Sam had gotten hurt before, hell, he'd died before, but Dean had never had to deal with something like this. He had tried to listen to the nurse, but knew he'd missed most of the information. He glanced down at the page in his hand, thankful she'd written most of it down for him.
Dean didn't even remember driving to the trauma center. Without the information the nurse had written down for him, he probably wouldn't have even remembered who to ask for. He was directed to a waiting room, and though he barely noticed, it was more plush than most he'd seen. He was pacing when a woman joined him a few minutes later.
"Dean Petty?" she asked.
Dean turned to see a middle-aged woman with dark hair standing near him. He didn't notice much, but he did see that she had a kind face. "Yes. How's my brother?"
"Sam is being evaluated, but the trip here was uneventful. His vital signs are all still strong." She nodded toward the nearby couch. "Why don't we sit down and talk?"
Dean had always thought that conversations held while sitting down never ended well, but he followed her to the couch. "My name is Linda Conrad and I'm a social worker here. I can explain the tests your brother will undergo, and help you with just about anything else you might need. I know you're from out of town, and I can recommend a place for you to stay. The Point Inn is closest to the hospital, and they give a discount for our patients' families."
"I don't want to be too far away from Sam."
She nodded with a smile. "I understand, and you're welcome to stay here, but you'll no doubt want some place to clean up and sleep."
Dean only nodded.
"I've written the address on the back of my card," she said holding out a business card. Dean slipped it into his wallet, and tried to concentrate on what he was hearing. She seemed to sense when he'd had enough. "When was the last time you ate?"
Dean shrugged. "I'm not sure, but I'm not hungry."
"You need to eat," she said with a motherly tone. "I'll show you where the cafeteria is. It's going to be a while before you can see your brother."
Dean didn't think she'd take no for an answer, so he nodded with a sigh.
It was late in the evening when Linda came to the waiting room with a man she introduced to Dean as Dr. Benjamin Douglas.
"You're my brother's doctor?" Dean asked.
He nodded. "I'm sorry it's taken so long, but our testing was quite extensive. Unfortunately, it's also somewhat inconclusive. That's not all that unusual for brain injuries, but there are some unique aspects to your brother's case."
"What do you mean?"
"I've looked at all the scans, and they don't show any injury. There are some other tests we can do, and they've been scheduled for tomorrow." The doctor spent the next few minutes explaining the tests in more detail than Dean was ready to hear.
"He's still unconscious?"
Dr. Douglas nodded. "But he's minimally responsive."
"What does that mean?"
"He's aware of his surroundings and can respond to simple commands. He's tried to speak, but hasn't been able to. We've told him that you're here, and he seemed to respond quite favorably to that."
"I want to see him," Dean said.
"Of course. He's being monitored electronically, but don't let the machines bother you. He's also got an NG tube; that's a –"
"A feeding tube through his nose."
The doctor nodded. "Basically, yes."
Dean followed the doctor down the hall almost in a daze. He was trying to pay attention to what the doctor was telling him, but it wasn't making much sense. He was sure Dr. Douglas was trying to use simple language, but the words weren't making much sense.
They paused outside the closed door, and once making sure that Dean didn't have any questions for him, the doctor took his leave. Linda put a hand on Dean's arm. "Visiting hours are almost over, but as long as you don't get in the way, you can stay in Sam's room. But, Dean, I would really recommend you getting a room and sleeping in it tonight."
"I just want to see my brother."
She looked at him for a moment, then must have decided her attempt to get Dean to leave would fail. "All right. I'm leaving for the night, but you have my number if you need anything."
"Thank you." Dean reached for the door handle. The doctor had been specific about what to expect, but it was still jarring to see.
"Have you told Dean the boys will be here?" Ellen asked Kristine the next morning when she stopped at the main house for coffee.
"I called, but got his voice mail."
"Are they on a case?"
"I don't know. We haven't talked in a couple of days. Sam's always researching something, and you never know what those two are going to run into."
"That's the truth," Ellen agreed.
Kristine looked at her watch. "I'd better get going. How handy that I was off today, huh?"
Kristine had a counselor position at a mental health clinic in Asheville, nearly 30 miles from her home in Mountain Ridge. She'd given up the job at one point because the estate needed more of her attention, but had been happy to get back to work.
"Have a safe drive," Ellen said. "Call me when you get to Charlotte."
"Will do," Kristine said and headed for the door. She slipped the cell phone ear piece into her ear, then dialed Dean's number as she got onto the road. She got his voice mail again, and left another message. She considered calling Sam's phone, and decided she'd do that if Dean didn't call within the next few hours.
Dean had dozed in a chair in Sam's room, but he hadn't been able to bring himself to leave. He was almost sure that Sam had fallen asleep at one point. He'd spent some time talking to him, trying to get him to respond. Sam had only been able to blink in answer to questions, and occasionally had been able to squeeze Dean's hand. Dean thought Sam was trying to tell him something, but hadn't been able to figure it out.
He glanced to the door when he heard it open. He recognized Sally, the nurse who had been coming in to check on Sam all night. After taking care of him, she turned to Dean. "It's almost shift change, and we need you to go."
She'd warned Dean the previous night this would happen, and he nodded. "Let me just say goodbye?"
She smiled. "Okay, Sweetie." She laid a hand on his shoulder before walking out of the room.
Dean looked at his brother. His eyes were open, but Dean knew that didn't mean anything. He stood up and folded the bedrail, then sat on the edge of the bed. "Sammy, can you hear me?"
Dean put a hand on his arm. "I have to go for a little while, but I'll be back, okay?"
Sam didn't respond, and Dean had trouble holding back his tears. "Sammy…." Dean felt his brother flinch, and he looked at Sam's hand. His fingers clenched, then unclenched. "What is it, Sammy. Are you in pain?"
Again, Sam didn't respond, and his hand went limp.
"They said I had to go for a while, Sammy, but I'll be back soon." When he got no response, Dean squeezed his brother's arm. "I'll be back."
Dean stopped in the men's room before going to his car. He wasn't even sure where he'd parked it, but he found it fairly easily. He sat behind the wheel, his forehead resting on it, when he heard the chirp of his cell phone. Knowing he wouldn't be able to use it in the hospital, he'd tossed it into the glove compartment. He thought he'd turned it off.
He reached for the phone and looked at the call log, seeing he'd missed calls from Bobby and Kristine. It belatedly occurred to him that he should have called at least Bobby the night before to let him know about Sam. After staring at the phone for a few moments, he listened to the messages. Bobby had called just to check in, and Kristine had left two messages about Nicholas and Alex coming to visit.
He dialed Bobby's number, but got his voice mail. In a mechanical voice, he left a message saying that Sam was in a St Louis hospital. He also said that he was going to try to get a room at the Point Inn. He ended the call, and slipped his key into the ignition. His vision blurred as the tears began to roll down his face, and before he let himself think about it, he was dialing Kristine's cell phone number.
Kristine was half an hour away from the Raines' house when she heard her cell phone. She answered the call with the hands-free device. "Hello?" She didn't hear a response, and thought the call had been lost. "Hello?"
She recognized Dean's voice, and could tell something was wrong. She checked the rearview mirror before pulling to the side of the road. "Dean?"
"What's wrong with Sam?" she asked, concerned. She was sure Dean was crying.
"He's in the hospital. He's unconscious, Kristine." A moment later, he was telling her everything, barely taking a moment to breath.
Kristine felt tears stinging her eyes as she listened, and she wished she could jump on a plane and get to Dean. He was strong, but when something threatened his brother, especially something he had no control over, Dean broke.
"Dean, I'm so sorry," Kristine said when he finally stopped talking. "Did you call Bobby?"
"Yeah. I got his voice mail. Where are you? Have you gotten to Charlotte yet?"
"Almost," she said, wishing again that she was with him. "What about you? Are you at the hospital?"
"I had to leave Sam's room, so I'm going to a motel nearby. I think he tried to tell me something, but I couldn't understand. I've known him his whole life and I couldn't figure out what he needed."
"Dean, please don't beat yourself up. This isn't your fault, okay? Look, you get to the motel and take a long shower. Have you eaten?"
"I had something last night."
"Eat some breakfast, okay? Even if it's just a bagel or something. Promise me?"
"Promise me, Dean. You have to take care of yourself for Sam's sake."
"Yeah," he said quietly. "I'll eat something."
"Try to sleep?" She heard Dean laugh. "Just try, okay?"
"Can you drive?"
"The motel isn't far. I can handle it."
"You wanna stay on the phone until you get there?"
"You have things to do."
"You wanna stay on the phone until you get there?" she asked again.
Kristine talked to Dean as he drove the few miles to the motel. She didn't think it mattered what he said, as long as there was some kind of contact.
"I just pulled into the parking lot," Dean said. He laughed. "They have a free continental breakfast. Maybe I can get a bagel."
"You'd better do it," Kristine said lightly, but then her tone became more serious. "You can handle this, Dean. I know you can. Why don't you call me once you're in the room?"
"Okay, I will." He paused. "Thank you."
"You're welcome." After hanging up, Kristine dialed Bobby's number. She knew that Dean had just left a voicemail, but she wanted to make sure he knew how bad the situation was. Her call went to voicemail, too, and she waited for his outgoing message. "Bobby, it's Kristine. I know Dean just called you, but I doubt he let on how bad it was. I'm on my way to Charlotte to pick up Nicholas and Alex, so I can't get to St Louis myself, but Dean really needs you, Bobby. Please call me as soon as you can."
Dean kept his promise to Kristine, and called once he'd gotten into the room. They talked for a little while, and when he told her he'd gotten something to eat, she pretended to believe him. He showered, and tried to sleep, but after a nightmare involving Sam and a vampire, he gave up and headed back to the hospital.
He checked in at the nurses' station, and was told that he could sit with Sam until he was taken off for the tests in about an hour. Sam looked the same when Dean walked into his room. His eyes were open, but the doctor had explained that was often the case with patients in his condition, and care had to be taken to ensure they didn't dry out.
Not sure if he was sleeping or not, Dean quietly moved the chair to the bedside and sat down. He put a hand on Sam's arm, and saw him blink. "Hey, Sam. I told you I'd be back, huh?" Sam blinked again. "They're gonna take you for some more tests soon. Man, I remember when you were in school how you'd always freak out before a test. You always aced them, though."
Dean rambled on for the next few minutes about nothing in particular, but stopped talking when he felt Sam's hand flex. Sam blinked several times in quick succession, and Dean knew he was trying to tell him something.
"It's okay, Sammy. Just calm down. I know you need something, but I don't know what. I'm trying, though, man, okay?"
"Are you in pain?" Dean asked. "Once for yes, twice for no, remember?"
Sam blinked two times.
He blinked twice again.
"Any of these tubes bothering you?"
Another two blinks.
"The vampire? Something about the vampire?"
Sam seemed to hesitate before he blinked twice.
Dean felt a small tug on his sleeve, and looked down to see Sam clutching his shirt. "I'm sorry, Sammy. I don't know."
Sam closed his eyes, holding fast to his brother's shirt. After a moment, he opened them, but Dean still didn't know what his brother was trying to say. Before he could ask another question, the door opened and an orderly came in. "We need to take him now."
"Already?" The man nodded, and Dean turned back to his brother. "Okay, dude, they're gonna take you for those tests now. I'll be here when you get back, all right?"
Sam was still holding onto his sleeve, and Dean wasn't sure if Sam was aware of it, or not. He said a few more words he hoped were encouraging, and unclenched Sam's fingers, squeezing his hand before letting go.
Leaving the orderly to his job, Dean went back to the nurses' station to ask about Sam's doctor. He was told that Dr. Douglas had done his rounds that morning, but wasn't available at the moment. Next he asked where he could find Linda Conrad's office, then headed to the elevator.
If Angelica hadn't told Kristine that Nicholas was sick, she never would have guessed. As soon as he saw her, Nicholas threw his arms around Kristine and, in true Nicholas form, spent the first several minutes chattering to her.
Kristine had planned to stay in Charlotte for a few hours, but was distracted during her visit. Even though her mind was on Dean, Kristine could tell that Angelica was feeling very guilty about leaving the boys behind. She didn't think they were particularly disappointed about not going, though.
Kristine helped Angelica make lunch, and her cell phone rang as they were sitting down. She saw Bobby's name on the caller ID display, and excused herself. In the living room, she answered the phone. "Hey, Bobby."
"What the hell is going on? I can't get in touch with Dean."
"He's probably at the hospital again," Kristine said, and then told Bobby what she knew about Sam's condition. "Is there any way you can go to St. Louis?"
"I'm already on my way."
"You're a saint, Bobby."
He snorted. "Yeah, I know. I wasn't home, so I'm not that far away. I should be there in a few hours."
They spoke for a few more minutes, then Kristine went back to the dining room.
"I don't get it," Dean said to Linda. He'd been in her office for almost half an hour trying to understand Sam's condition. "Sam knows what I'm saying, but all he can do is blink and occasionally move his hand. He's not paralyzed?"
"No, he's not. There's no spinal cord injury."
"He's trying to tell me something, but I can't figure out which questions to ask."
"He may be trying to tell you something. Just because he's answering questions doesn't necessarily mean he understands them or is answering them correctly." Linda leaned forward behind her desk. "But you know Sam better than we do."
Dean nodded thoughtfully. "How long can he stay like this?"
"Indefinitely, I'm afraid. It depends on the injury."
"But Dr. Douglas said there was no sign of injury."
"That's true," Linda said. "And that's why he ordered more tests."
Dean sighed. "Any idea how long the tests will take?"
"Several hours. You said you checked into the motel, so why don't you just go back there and try to get some more sleep?" Linda suggested. "I'll call down to the nurses' station and arrange for them to call you when Sam is back in his room."
"Yeah, okay." He knew he wouldn't be able to sleep, but realized there probably wasn't any point to sitting around the hospital. He waited until Linda had talked to the head nurse on Sam's floor before taking the elevator to the first floor.
He turned his phone on once he was inside the car, and saw that he had messages. One was from Kristine telling him that she was headed back to Mountain Ridge and to call when he could. The other was from Bobby saying he had talked to Kristine and was headed for St. Louis. He didn't finish listening to the message, dialing Bobby's number instead.
"Nothing has changed since last night. Sam's having more tests done now, and probably won't be back in his room for a few hours."
"How you holding up?"
"Just barely," Dean admitted.
"I'm about an hour out. I ran into some traffic during a storm, but I'm making good time now. Where are you?"
"Sitting in the hospital parking lot. I guess I'll head back to the motel for a while."
"I'll meet you there. Call me if you leave, okay?"
"Yeah, I will. Hey, Bobby?"
"Thanks for coming."
"No way I wouldn't have, Dean. I'll see you soon, okay?"
"Okay." Dean held onto the phone for a few moments after the call ended, then dropped it onto the seat next to him. He had to force himself to put the key in the ignition. It was even harder to drive out of the parking lot.
Dean was flipping through channels on the television when he heard the knock at the door. He'd been in his room for almost an hour without finding anything to occupy his mind. He wasn't surprised to see Bobby standing on the other side of the door when he opened it. Dean moved aside to let him in and once the door was closed, Bobby pulled the young man into a hug. Dean held onto him, clutching a handful of Bobby's jacket, for several moments.
"When was the last time you ate, boy?" Bobby asked as he glanced around the room.
"I saw a restaurant just down the road. Let's go."
"I'm not really hungry, Bobby."
"I am, and I could use the company," Bobby said. "Lemme just hit the head, then we'll go."
Dean and Bobby were led to a rear table that sat under a stuffed deer head. There were similar decorations throughout the room. Bobby opened the menu in front of him and told Dean to do the same without even a glance in his direction.
When the waitress came to take their order, Bobby asked for a club sandwich and fries. Dean ordered the same thing, and Bobby figured that would have happened no matter what he'd requested. He knew what Dean was like when Sam was hurt worse than a scrape.
Bobby couldn't engage Dean in conversation, but hadn't been expecting to. He didn't think he'd get much out of Dean at all, and would be happy if the boy ate even part of his lunch. The food arrived, and Bobby started to eat. Dean picked at the fries on his plate, but didn't touch the sandwich.
"Dean," Bobby began after a few minutes. "I know you're worried. You have reason to be from what I've heard, but you gotta keep your strength up. You can't very well take care of Sam if you fall over from hunger and exhaustion."
"Can't be much help to him anyway," Dean said sadly.
"Just being with him is helping him."
"I swear I'm gonna find that vampire and waste the sonofabitch."
"I'm sure Sam'll want to help you with that."
Dean glanced at Bobby, but his eyes went back to his plate quickly. "He could be like this forever, Bobby."
"It's way too early to be thinking like that."
"What if, though, huh? How do I take care of him if he –"
"Listen to me, Dean," Bobby gripped his wrist. "This happened yesterday. Has it even been 24 hours?" Dean shook his head, and Bobby continued. "It's too soon to be thinkin' the worst. The doctors haven't found anything yet, so they don't know what to treat. But if he doesn't improve, you've got people to help you. You understand me?"
"Yeah," Dean said quietly.
Bobby squeezed his wrist before letting go.
"It seems kinda weird that the doctors haven't found anything," Dean said after a moment. "Don't ya think?"
"I don't know. It's not like a broken bone that's easy to find, I guess."
"Yeah," Dean said thoughtfully. He looked at Bobby. "It's like he's trying to tell me something."
"No. Sammy. He can blink answers to yes or no questions, but I haven't figured out which questions to ask. The social worker said he might not understand the questions, but I think he does."
"You know your brother better than anyone else, Dean. If he really is trying to tell you something, you'll figure it out." Bobby nodded toward Dean's plate. "Food's gettin' cold."
"It's a club sandwich, Bobby. It started out cold."
Bobby reached for the bill when the waitress dropped it at the table. Dean protested, but the older man ignored him.
"You know, Kristine is probably back at the estate by now," Bobby said as he put some cash into the folder. "Why don't you give her a call?"
"I want to get back to the hospital."
"Uh-huh. Talk to Kristine for a little while, and I'll take you without argument."
Dean knew he didn't have much choice, so he nodded. "I'll meet you outside."
Bobby smiled knowingly, and Dean slipped out of the booth. As he walked past the waitress, he heard Bobby ask for a coffee refill.
"Hey there," Kristine answered the phone. Dean leaned against Bobby's car. "How are things?"
"About the same. Bobby's here."
"Good. He make you eat? I know you were lying about the bagel."
"I ate," Dean said. "Some. Are you back home?"
"Yeah, just got in a few minutes ago. Nicholas fell asleep in the car, and Alex is already in the pool. I'm sure it won't be long before he wants to check on his brother."
"I know how he feels," Dean muttered. "Sam's having some more tests done, and Bobby's making me stay away from the hospital for a while."
"Sweetie, I know it's hard, but you can't stay at his bedside 24 hours a day. Especially if he isn't in it."
"I know. It's hard, though."
"Yeah, I know it is. I wish I could be there with you."
"Me, too," Dean admitted. "But the boys need you. They don't know about –"
"No, I haven't said anything to them. No reason they need to worry," Kristine said. "But you know Nicholas. He may have already dreamed about it and just not said anything."
"I thought he was getting over keeping secrets."
"He is, but sometimes the dreams don't mean anything to him at first."
"Yeah," Dean ran a hand over his face. He talked to the boys at least once a week, and saw them as often as he could. He felt a certain kinship to them since they, like he and his brother, had lost their parents due to supernatural causes. "How sick is Nicholas?"
"If I didn't know he was sick, I wouldn't even suspect it. Angelica took him to the doctor because he was running a slight fever, and she was worried about the trip. She said he never even complained of having an earache."
"I love that kid, but he's a little creepy," Dean said.
"He's sweet," Kristine protested.
"Yeah, but he's creepy."
When Bobby joined him a few minutes later, Dean promised Kristine that he would call later in the evening with an update on Sam, and to talk to Nicholas and Alex. He ended the call, then got into the car. True to his word, Bobby drove to the hospital.
Dean stopped at the nurses' station, and learned that Sam hadn't come back yet. The nurse said he and Bobby could wait in his room, but warned that he would no doubt be tired when he returned.
There was minimal conversation while Dean and Bobby sat in Sam's room. Bobby made a few attempts, but he knew Dean wasn't in the mood for small talk. He tried his best to distract him, but in the end, it was just easier to wait in silence. Dean's nerves were already on edge, and there was no reason to push him.
It seemed like hours before an orderly wheeled Sam into the room. Dean waited as a nurse came in right behind them and made sure everything was connected properly, but as soon as she was gone, he moved to Sam's side and put a hand on his arm. There was no reaction, so Dean figured he was asleep.
Mainly just for something to do, Dean smoothed the sheet over his brother, then sat down in the chair Bobby moved to the bedside. Bobby patted Sam's arm, then sat in a second chair the nurse had brought in earlier.
Dean looked toward the door when it opened a few minutes later, and Dr. Douglas walked in. He introduced Bobby as their uncle, and after shaking hands, Dr. Douglas turned back to Dean. "Why don't we talk outside?"
Dean whispered to Sam, then followed the doctor. He paused at the door and looked at Bobby. "You should hear this, too."
Dean nodded. "You're family."
After a pause, the doctor led Dean and Bobby to Linda's office. Once they were settled, the doctor began. "I could spend a long time showing you the scans and going into detail about what we were looking for, but the bottom line is that after running every possible scan, I still can't find evidence of injury. I've consulted with the other neurologists on staff here, and to be perfectly honest, we're stumped."
"That's not really what I wanted to hear," Dean said.
"Understandable," the doctor smiled kindly. "I'm not saying we're done looking, or that there might not be something that just isn't showing up on the scans. That's somewhat unusual, but not completely out of the ordinary. Since nothing is showing up, there's probably nothing specific to treat Sam for. There's nothing to operate on, nothing to try to correct. In a way, it's good news that there's nothing on the scans."
"But he's still barely able to move or communicate," Dean said. "That doesn't seem like good news to me."
"It's frustrating," Linda broke in. "But Sam's response to various stimuli has been tested, and his overall score is good. Now, that doesn't mean he'll fully recover, but the better his score, the more he's likely to recover."
"He could stay minimally responsive forever, though, right?" Dean asked.
"It's possible, but his score indicates there will be improvement. It's impossible to guess how much," the doctor explained. "I'd like to keep him here, and have the rehabilitative staff start working with him."
"A physical therapist will work with him to minimize muscle damage," Linda began. "And I'll work with him to minimize the psychological damage. You and I have already talked about this, but he could be more emotional, maybe just initially, and I'll help him to understand that. He also may be more temperamental, more aggressive….all of these things we can work on. We'd like to include both of you in this process."
"So that's it? That's what we're left with after all the tests?" Dean asked. Bobby laid a warning hand on his shoulder.
"I promise you that we're everything that can be done," the doctor said. "The task now is to get Sam to the best possible point. Depending on his progress over the next few days, other decisions will need to be made, but this is the best course for now.'
Dean felt sick, but he maintained a calm expression. Linda began to speak again, trying to reassure him, but he barely heard her. He couldn't imagine his brother not back at full capacity.
Once the conversation was over, Dean and Bobby headed back to Sam's room. They were alone in the elevator, and Bobby looked at Dean. "You consider asking your angel for help?"
"He's not my angel," Dean muttered. "I've tried, but he only shows up when he wants to."
"What about Ruby?" Bobby's tone was cautious.
"No. No way." Dean was certain. "Even if I knew how to get in touch with her, I wouldn't do it. Sam already feels too much gratitude to that she-demon. You know I hate all this, right?"
Bobby put an arm around Dean's shoulders. "I know. I do, too."
Sam's eyes were open when Dean and Bobby got to his room, but Dean knew that didn't necessarily mean he was awake. He folded the side rail on the bed, and sat on the edge carefully. Sam flinched, and Dean quickly reassured him. "It's just me, Sam. Bobby's here, too."
"Hey, kid," Bobby said when he moved closer to the bed.
Sam closed his eyes and his lips moved slightly. Thinking he was trying to speak, Dean leaned forward. "Are you trying to say something?" He felt a small tug on his sleeve, and looked down to see Sam holding onto his shirt. It took a lot of effort for Dean to blink back his sudden tears.
"We were just talking to your doctor," Dean said trying to keep his tone light. "Seems you're quite the mystery. Linda said she spent time with you today and explained things."
Sam blinked once.
Are you tired from all the tests?" Dean asked him after a few silent moments.
"Do you want us to leave so you can sleep?"
Sam gripped Dean harder and blinked several times. Dean put a hand on his shoulder to calm him. "Okay, we're not going anywhere. I'm right here, okay?"
Sam seemed to relax.
"Sam," Dean began after another short silence. "Have you been trying to tell me something?"
"About how you feel?"
Sam blinked twice.
"What about what happened with the vampire?"
Sam blinked once, and Dean thought he was staring intently.
"He attacked you?"
Sam blinked twice.
"Wait, Sam. Two blinks means no."
Sam blinked twice again.
"Are you saying the vampire didn't attack you?" Dean asked as his heartbeat increased. Sam blinked once, and Dean was confused. "I heard you yell. When I got to you, you were unconscious and….Sammy, was there something other than the vampire in that room?"
Another single blink.
"A second vampire?" Dean asked, and Sam responded no. "Some other creature?" Sam didn't blink and Dean glanced at Bobby. "Sammy, was there something other than the vampire in the room with you?"
Sam blinked once.
"A person?" Dean asked.
Sam blinked once, but after what Dean took to be a deliberate hesitation, he blinked twice.
Dean tried to hold his frustration back as his mind whirled. "Sam, when I got to the room, all I saw was you and the vampire jumping out the window."
Bobby caught Dean's eye, then took another step closer to the bed. "Sam, was it something that only looked human?"
Sam blinked once.
"Was it controlling the vampire?" Again, the question came from Bobby, but Sam didn't respond. "Do you know the answer?"
Sam blinked twice.
"But you're sure it wasn't another vampire?" Dean asked.
Sam responded affirmatively, but after a few moments, he closed his eyes and a tear rolled toward the bed.
"It's okay, Sammy. You're doing great," Dean tried to sound encouraging and he put his hand on his brother's. "Do you want to sleep?"
Sam's eyes opened quickly, and he stared at Dean.
"I won't leave," Dean said quietly, and Sam blinked once. "Go to sleep, I'll be here."
Kristine had just given Nicholas a dose of medicine when her cell phone started to ring. She slipped it out of her back pocket and saw Bobby's name on the display. "I have to take this, kiddo. I'll be right back, okay?"
Nicholas nodded and Kristine answered the phone as she walked to the hallway. Alex took her place on his brother's bedside. "Hey, Bobby." She continued down the stairs so that the kids couldn't overhear. "How are things there?"
"Sam's doctor hasn't been able to find anything on all those scans he took, and they're gonna start some kind of rehabilitation tomorrow"
"He's still only minimally responsive?"
"Yeah, no improvement there."
"I'm sure Dean's reacting well."
"He's all right. Considering. He's in with Sam now, but the kid is probably tired. Both of them, actually. Oh, and Sam said there was something else in the room with him and the vampire."
"He talked? I thought you said –"
"Well, no, he blinked. Dean and I were asking him questions."
"Dean didn't say anything about something else in the room."
"He didn't see anything else. Sam said it looked human, but wasn't a vampire."
"Bobby….what if Sam's condition is supernatural?"
"Anything's possible, I guess, but…."
"It could still be physical, caused by a blow to the head. Vampires are really strong, right?"
"Yeah, they are, but Sam said it was the other thing that attacked him. Poor kid really wants us to know what that second thing was, but he just can't tell us. All he can do is blink and move one hand a little."
"Poor Sam. This whole situation just sucks."
"That's an understatement," Bobby agreed. "How are things there? You got the boys, right?"
"Yeah. Nicholas is finally slowing down, but things are fine. Do you think Dean's gonna stay at the hospital all night?"
"Probably. I figure I'll go back to the motel after a while and get some sleep so I can keep an eye on him tomorrow. It might be important to figure out what else was in that room with Sam and the vampire, too."
"I'm sorry all this fell on you."
"Don't worry about it. You've got your hands full there, too. I'll talk to you tomorrow, okay?"
"Yeah, okay. Give Dean my love." Kristine ended the call, then went back upstairs to check on Nicholas and Alex. Nicholas had fallen asleep and Alex was watching television with the volume turned low. "You can go downstairs, ya know."
Alex looked at her and nodded. "I wanna stay with Nicky."
"I'll check on you in a bit, okay?"
"Okay." Alex turned his attention back to the television, and Kristine adjusted the covers around Nicholas before going in search of Ellen.