Redemption 1/8 (part 1 of a 3 part arc)

Author: Neonchica (with assistance by co-author Betzz).

Summary: Death was always an option. This - this was not. Dean has been rendered permanantly disabled by one of his enemies. Now, quadriplegic and ventilator dependant, Dean and Sam must work hard to overcome these new obstacles and learn to accept this new definition of living.

This is an AU version of an older piece, Retribution. Chapter 1 is merely a rewrite of the end of Retribution in order to set the scene and "remove" the possibility of recovery. To really know what happened earlier, you will need to read Retribution.

Author's Note: I had no intentions of going back and revisiting Retribution. I was happy with how it ended, and really never planned on exploring the alternatives. However, with the gentle proddings of a fellow author and friend, Betzz, she convinced me to pick this up again, and reexamine the situation under the question of "what would happen if Dean's spinal cord had been severed in that showdown? What turns would their lives take and what would stay the same?" She offered to write the story with me, and together we formulated a plan that ultimately turned into a mini-series. Since this was mostly her baby at that point, I let her choose the injury level and the subsequent effects of the injury, rendering Dean a C2 quadriplegic with absolutely no movement from the neck down. The goal was to see how much emotion and personality we could convey with just his facial expressions. Unfortunately, she had to drop back before the completion for personal reasons, but I decided to tweak and add until the story was complete. Hope you enjoy!

Author's Note 2: So the plan is to also post this to livejournal (see link in my profile). However, I was just over there trying to get things set up and what ultimately posted is a MESS! The font is too big, my italics and quotations marks and page positioning is non-existent, and it posted all this mess halfway through with pictures then gave me some obscure message about [Error: Irreparable invalid markup ('iand') in entry. Owner must fix manually. Raw contents below.] that I have no idea how to fix (let alone understand). So bear with me and keep refreshing that screen until the pics post. If any of you has thoughts on how to help...that would be AWESOME! Because me and html - yeah, we've never met. I want to know how all of you make your pretty little LJ's... *pouts*

Recap: Just a quick summary to catch up those of you who choose not to read Retribution first. Dean was captured by Adam, a young quadriplegic who had - several months previously- been channeling a demon in order to walk again. Dean and Sam stopped him, eviscerated the demon, and put Adam back in the chair. He and his fiance, Lori Ann, plotted to capture Dean and make him experience the same things Adam experiences. With the help of their own zombon (half human, half zombie) creations, they use drugs to paralyze Dean and torture him for days. One of the zombons was instructed to put a wire through his neck and around the spinal cord. Later, Dean was hooked up to a pulley system that was attached to a rope on the other end which was set to hang Sam. In order to save his brother, Dean (who was just getting movement back in his fingers from the reduced flow of drugs) was forced to propel himself forward, tugging on the wire in his neck, which then released the pressure on the rope around Sam. Sam was freed and they rush Dean off to the hospital, but the damage to Dean's spine had already been set...

If you want a better explanation you're just gonna have to go read the story.

So here's goes nothing...

Dean is so deeply focused on the sounds of frenzy down the hall that he completely misses the entrance Adam and Lori Ann make into his hospital room. By the time he's aware, Lori Ann is standing directly over his bed, hand on its way down to his forehead as she flashes an evil grin in his direction. Adam stays silently in the background, outside Dean's field of vision.

"Hello, Dean," She sing-songs as her fingers drift to his hair, gently stroking his bangs back as she smirks patronizingly. "You're a hard man to reach, you know that?"

He gulps, while inside he's screaming. Sammy! You've got to wake up. Get up Sam!

"What's a matter, Dean? Got nothing to say?"

'You bitch,' he mouths.

She tsks at him without missing a beat, lips pursed as she looks down pityingly. "Is that any way to talk to the woman who's holding your life in her hands?"

Suddenly Dean catches a glimpse of the electrical cord Lori Ann is fingering as she lifts it high enough to fall in his line of sight. For all he knows the cord could be attached to a vacuum or a lamp, but his gut tells him it's the ventilator. One tug and he's as good as dead.

'What do you want?'

"Dean, Dean, Dean," she sings. "We just came to check on you, see how you're doing after such a traumatic experience. We were worried about you."

'Like hell you were.'

"Adam can tell you, it's terrifying having the doctors tell you you'll never walk again. Isn't that right sweetheart?"

It won't happen to me. I'm gonna walk again, Dean thinks, trying desperately to convince himself. Instantly he strengthens his poker face, determined not to let slip his pain and fears. They didn't finish the job they'd set out to do - he has to believe that, and there is no way he is willing to allow them another opportunity.

"If you want to talk- Adam says, voice mocking as he gears up his wheelchair and moves closer to Dean.

'Fuck You!' Dean mouths forcefully, though he knows Adam can't see his lips any more than he can see Adam's face.

But Lori Ann can, and she sets off on another round of tsks as though it's her God-given right to scold him. "Is that any way to talk to the people who have come to help you? We know what you're going through, Dean. We just want to talk. Come on, baby, let it out."

Sammy please, you have to wake up. I can't do this on my own. I admit it, okay? I need help! Dean can feel the veins on his forehead begin to pop as his head trembles. He can still see Lori Ann holding onto the electrical cord and he swallows against the tubing in his throat, knowing full well that each breath it feeds him could be his last.

Squeezing his eyes shut tight Dean works with the tension building up in what little bit of his body he has control over. He wills it to move, to spread out, fervently trying to osmose some feeling and movement back into his extremities, convinced that mind over matter will be enough. There is only one way out of this, and that is to call for help before the two lunatics at his bedside have a chance to finish him off.

"Adam tried that, too." Lori Ann says in a hushed whisper. He can feel her hot breath tickling the inside of his ear and he mentally cringes. "It doesn't matter how much willpower you have, Dean. It's not going to give you your life back. This is your life now. Deal with it."

Her words stop Dean cold, sending chills down a back that refuses to respond to his pleas. He keeps his eyes shut, but loosens the pressure he's been applying as more questions come into play. They never wanted me dead - just paralyzed. So if they're not here to finish the job then why are they here?

'What do you want?'

"We want what any victim wants, Dean. We want to see you face the same torment you forced Adam to face. We want to watch as you learn your fate, as you deal with the idea of a future trapped inside your body. We want to experience your pain when you finally realize that this is it for you."

'I will be OK' Dean insists, finally springing his eyes back open and locking them onto the bitch in front of him. He matches her stare, cold, steely gaze to cold, steely gaze.

For a second Lori Ann seems to shrink back at the hatred and determination Dean conveys, but soon she is back in the game, taunting him with the same ferocity Adam had managed to muster through the intercom system. She lets out an explosive snort and then reins it in before her voice can wake Sam.

"I've done my research on you, Dean Winchester. I know who you are, what you're about. You and I both know you can no more live without control of your body than a fish can live without water. It. Is. Who. You. Are."

Dean forces himself not to flinch at the truth of her statement, desperately trying to convince himself that this isn't permanent. He will walk again. Soon. He just has to. 'I have Sam.'

"Sam? That's so sweet." She breaks contact with Dean to look at Adam for a minute. Dean still can't see Adam's face, but he just knows that he's grinning.

"He honestly thinks that Sam is going to stick with him through this."

'He will,' Dean insists when Lori Ann finally looks back in his direction.

"He's left you for less, Dean. If he couldn't handle the strain of being trapped in a lifestyle that he grew up in, what makes you think he will be able to handle caring for you for the rest of his life. He want's more, Dean. You know that just as well as I do. He will leave you again."

Tears spring to Dean's eyes, and no matter how hard he tries to force them down he can't make them stop. Lori Ann and Adam may have managed to permanently cripple him, and now they're rubbing salt in the wounds, forcing him to face the fact that he's human. Weak. No longer indestructible. Even if, by some chance of fate, he manages to come out of this ok, Dean knows that continuing on with the lifestyle he's chosen means facing the possibility every day that he might not come out of a hunt whole. Anything could happen, at any time. And where would that leave him?

"Leaving was the biggest mistake I've ever made in my life," interrupts the angry, slightly scratchy voice of Sam, Dean's savior, just before he hears a tinny crash. Lori Ann disappears from his line of vision followed quickly by a heavy thud. And suddenly his chest compresses in on him as all the air leaves his lungs.

---

The hollow echoes of voices are more a nuisance than alarming as Sam floats in dreamland. He's never been one to dream happy dreams, but the drugs flowing through his system have at least allowed him a reprieve from his standard nightmares. Right now he is just wandering through a vast expanse of colors, smeared and swirled as though on an artists canvas. In the background soft music plays and he feels at peace.

As the voices begin to drift into his dream he aches to close them out but takes comfort in their kindness all the same. -check on you-worried-sweetheart-want to talk-Face the same torment-

Suddenly fear grips the outer edges of Sam's awareness as the strength in the words gives way to the emotion and he realizes there is more going on than simply an intrusion into his dream world. He struggles to break free of the drugs that hold him hostage in sleep. Something is wrong. Dean!

BHe honestly thinks that Sam is going to stick with him through thisB

Those words finally bring Sam back from the brink. In an instant, Sam recognizes that voice, and he knows Dean is not safe. His eyes spring open as he fights with himself to not move, to not call attention to the fact that he is now awake. Somehow he has to get from the bed over to Lori Ann without being detected - he's too weak himself to risk giving away the advantage.

Slowly, painfully, Sam rolls himself onto his side to better see the positioning around the room. Both Adam and Lori Ann have their backs to him as they hover over his brother. His helpless brother. He allows himself the fleeting question of How the hell did they get past the nurses? But that's neither here nor there at the moment. Knowing the answer to that is not going to get them out of this situation.

He's left you for less, Dean.

Sam sees red. Blood flows to his ears in a cacophony of sound as he fights both his emotions and his physical pain to climb steadily, silently, to his feet. The next thing he hears is Lori Ann once again, announcing He will leave you again, and he's on his feet, metal bedpan gripped tightly in his white knuckled grip.

"Leaving was the biggest mistake I've ever made in my life," he growls, raising the bedpan up at the same time. Before Sam even realizes what he's doing he feels the jolt up his arm as the metal pan makes contact with the side of Lori Ann's head. She falls to the ground in a silent heap, lax limbs splaying out around her in a jumbled mess. In her hand, still clutched tightly despite unconsciousness, is a black electric cord.

Allowed only a second to wonder where the cord came from, Sam soon hears a low growl and before he can recover, he feels something slam into his knees and he's knocked off of his feet.

The pain that travels through his already damaged knee is so intense Sam can't even make a sound save for a low whimper. Dark spots dance in front of his eyes and for a second his vision goes completely black as nausea threatens his composure.

When he's finally able to open his eyes and focus on the situation, Sam comes face to face with a seething Adam hovering over him, wheelchair resting over top of his feet and ankles. Sam tries to get up, makes a noble attempt at crab-walking backwards, but one of the wheels has his pant leg trapped underneath it, and the bulky knee immobilizer has the rest of the material trapped around his leg. The combination has him effectively pinned, and he lacks the strength in that leg to pull hard enough to break free.

"What the hell do you want?" Sam demands through gritted teeth, a fire in his eyes that only comes out in desperate situations. He's in pain, he's pissed, he's worried about Dean, and there has been no greater enemy.

Adam laughs wickedly. "What do I want? I want my life back. I want to wake up and find this whole thing has been a nightmare. I want you and your brother to have never butted into my life. I want revenge." He moves the wheelchair forward another inch.

The footrests grind against Sam's ankles, and he has to bite his tongue to keep the cry of pain at bay. But he's seen something else as the chair moves forward and he's not about to do anything to ruin his good fortune. The fabric is now free of the wheel, and if he can just gently, subtly, maneuver his feet back out from under the chair, he'll be free.

"Look, I'm sorry that we invaded your life," Sam says, breaking out his infamous puppy dog eyes for good measure. He shoots a desperate look to their closed door, wondering futilely where the hell is the hospital staff? Have they not heard the commotion in our room?

At the very least it works to distract Adam from his feet as the assailant reads Sam's thoughts. "They're not coming, Sam. You'd be surprised at the activity on this wing. It's been a very busy night. Strangest thing, really. Two kids coded just before we came in - such a shame, really. They both had such bright futures."

"You bastard," Sam hisses, twisting around for another look at the door, as though he might be able to see something through the thick wood. As he strains, he can finally hear the commotion down the hall. The alarms shrieking. Voices yelling. "They didn't do anything to you!"

"It's called collateral damage, Sam. Some things just can't be avoided."

Finally untangled, Sam springs to his feet with much more agility than he should have been capable of. He launches himself at Adam, shoving both man and chair backwards until they collide with the wall. The sip and puff straw Adam uses to propel himself around is knocked out of his way, effectively suspending his ability to fight back.

"I'll kill you," Sam screams, fist raised and ready to strike.

Adam just smiles, seemingly unfazed by the ferocity of Sam's actions. "No you won't," he says, the smugness clear in his voice as Sam falters.

Fist still raised, but loosening and clearly less lethal, Sam spits out, "What makes you so sure?"

"You don't have it in you to kill. Besides, I think your brother needs you more. You'd better get over there if you're going to be of any use."

On a double take, Sam finally notices the frantic expression on Dean's face and the blue pallor to his lips. "Dean!"

---

As soon as Lori Ann goes down Dean knows he's in trouble. He can instantly feel the oxygen cease to flow to his lungs, doesn't even have to hear the machine power down to know she has pulled the plug on his life source. A shrill alarm sounds, mocking his predicament.

Sammy! Sam please! There is nothing he can do as he flounders like a fish out of water, gulping and gasping for a breath of air he knows won't come. His lungs have shut down, betrayed him, and he knows without a doubt that this is the way he will die. Trapped, helpless, unable to call for help or save himself. The outlet is just inches from his head, yet he lacks the power to replace the plug back in the socket.

Little colored dots begin to dance in front of his eyes, red and yellow and black. He can feel his forehead and cheeks begin to tingle as more and more air escapes from his body without being replaced.

It feels as though an elephant is sitting on his chest, suffocating him, closing off all means of survival. He gulps against the tube in his throat, tries to scream. Tears flow from his eyes, unintentional yet no less significant.

This isn't right. This isn't fair! I can't die like this. Someone help me, please.

All of his senses cease to exist as Dean fights for air. Sight, sound, time. He knows nothing but the pure agony of knowing he's slowly suffocating to death and no one seems to care.

And then someone does care. He has no idea how long it's been, feels like a lifetime, before Sam is finally hovering overtop of him. For once the emo expression is welcome and Dean stops fighting, giving himself and his fate fully over to Sam.

Almost instantly, Sam's hands are at his neck, messing with the still tender hole and the tubing shoved into it, frantically trying to figure out the problem. Any other situation Dean would accept the idea that maybe Sam still had drugs running through his system and he'd been wrenched from a fitful sleep to come into this fight, so maybe he is a little confused and not running on all eight cylinders. But damn it, dying here! Dean doesn't have time to wait for Sam to figure it out. He needs him to look up. NOW.

When the cards are down and everything is laid out on the table, the Winchester brother's work like a well-oiled machine, reading each other in a language no one else understands. This situation is no different.

It's as though Dean actually gets inside Sam's head with his own thoughts, his desperation for little brother to look at him in his final seconds before darkness swallows him up. The plug! Dean mouths, practically delirious with oxygen deprivation. He knows his eyes are rolling around in their sockets, unable to focus on anything. He can only hope the message got through as he finally slips under, no longer able to hold onto consciousness with so little oxygen traveling through his body.

Sam has never been good at reading lips, he's never really had cause to learn before and it's only in the last day that he's had to practice, but somehow the barely perceptible movement of his brother's blue lips gets across the fact that the plug's been pulled. The plug that he'd registered only for a split second in Lori Ann's hand before Adam had taken him down.

He drops to the ground, adrenaline masking the agony his body must be in, and grabs the plug from Lori Ann's limp hand. He's back on his feet in an instant, lurching for the outlet and already aiming for the slots before he's close enough to plug it in.

Immediately the ventilator springs back to life and he looks back to see Dean's chest begin, once again, to rise and fall in a steady motion as air is pushed back into his lungs. Sam limps back to his brother's side, hands on either side of Dean's cheeks as he taps him lightly to wake up.

An eternity passes before Dean's eyes flutter back open and he brings unfocused eyes to latch on Sam's.

'Sammy?'

"Yeah, bro, it's me. You're safe now. Don't ever do that to me again."

'Wouldn't think of it.'

Sam chuckles and discreetly wipes away a few tears that have chosen to make an appearance. "You back with me now?"

'Sure am. Not going anywhere.'

"Alright, good. I've got to take care of these two. I'll be back, I promise. You gonna be okay for a minute?"

'Yep.' Nope.

"Okay, I'll be right ba-"

Dean's eyes widen in warning just a second before Sam's words are cut short. He hears the air rushing at him and turns just in time to be treated to the bedpan slamming into his face. And he goes down.

Fuck. Sam! The precious feelings of air rushing into his lungs and Sam standing safely in front of him are short lived. Panic quickly sets in as Dean watches Sam disappear from his vision to be quickly replaced by Lori Ann.

A deep bruise mars her temple, and a goose egg sized bump has already formed. She looks at Dean with crazy eyes, hatred oozing from the dilated pupils. If there had been any likelihood of talking her down before, Dean knows it's all over now.

His eyes drift over the objects within his limited vision, realizing that it's up to him to save both himself and Sam or they will both die. And how the fuck am I supposed to do that?

Lori Ann launches herself at him, finger nails slashing and clawing at his face and neck. She knows what she's doing, knows it's pointless to inflict pain anywhere below that or he wouldn't feel it anyway. One hand grabs at Dean's hair, yanking and tugging, as the other pushes against his cheek.

A thumb finds its way near Dean's mouth and he takes his limited advantage, clamping down as hard as he can with his molars. He hears a crunch, a scream, and tastes the coppery tang of blood as it fills his mouth.

Lori Ann yanks her thumb from his mouth and clamps onto it with her other hand as she turns to Adam. "Fucking bastard bit me."

Wanting to gag, but knowing how dangerous that is for him, Dean pushes down the need and simply takes pleasure in the fact that he's bought himself some time.

He looks around again and finally sees the call button for the nurses station laying just inches from his right hand. They had set it in his hand earlier in the day under the guise that he could use it, and cruelly mocking the fact that he doesn't stand a chance. It has slipped out in the activity of the evening and is now in an even more out of reach location.

Yet Dean also knows it's his only chance. There is no other choice. He absolutely must get to that button. His life depends on it. Sam's life depends on it.

Putting forth every iota of determination in his mind and body Dean strains to make his hand move as he'd done before in the old school. He knows he will do it, because there is no other option. Sam is his responsibility, his livelihood is his job. He can't fail his little brother.

And then Lori Ann is back on top of him, finger still seeping blood and now staining the side of Dean's cheek. She goes right back to yanking at his hair, screaming in his face. Her breath falls hot and rancid against his nose. Spittle lands on his face, across his nose and cheeks, and he has to repress the need to wipe it away knowing he can't do it.

He's really not paying too much attention to what Lori Ann is doing to him, instead focusing solely on getting to that button. Once again the tension in his head and neck causes blood to fill there and he feels a tingling sensation as he fights desperately to get help, pleads with his unrelenting body to move, to push the button. Nothing happens. He can hear Adam talking in the background and surprisingly he seems to be trying to restrain Lori Ann. "Remember, don't kill him, honey. Living like this is the best punishment. Remember what we talked about? Don't kill him!" But his sugar sweet voice doesn't reach Lori Ann in her vengeful frenzy.

She lashes out with a fist to his temple, momentarily pulling Dean's attention from the call button and Adam's voice, bringing him back to the fight. He has to pause for a minute to allow his vision to come back to him, but soon he's redoubling his efforts to get to the call button.

It's horribly frustrating just how close he is, fingers mere centimeters away. And yet the odds are insurmountable. The button is just barely out of reach, but there's no way he's getting to it. He feels Lori Ann dig a trench down the side of his face with her nails and winces, in pain and frustration and desperation.

Dean bites on his lip, drawing the pain to one central location, and strains to make those few millimeters count. Mind over matter. Just push yourself, Dean, you can do it. This can work.

Lori Ann lashes out again, flat palm swiping across Dean's cheek and sending his entire head to the right. He feels the trach shift in his throat, feels pain lance out at the incision. Instantly he's on alert, waiting for the feel of his lungs being deprived of oxygen once again. It's a feeling he's not eager to relive, but it seems inevitable. He's certain something has just been knocked loose.

So he's surprised when not only is he still breathing seconds later, but he also hears the door to the room opening and a cry of shock as Lori Ann is pulled off of him. There are time gaps in his memory as the adrenaline in his system finally depletes. He remembers sounds of shouting and security removing Adam and Lori Ann from the room, remembers someone helping an unsteady Sam to his feet, a doctor hovering over him checking his stats and all the leads and making sure that nothing else would fail.

After that he doesn't remember anything for hours. When he wakes up again the sun is shining, he's on his side facing the door, and Sam is back at his post beside his bed, boring holes into his forehead. Sam is sporting a swollen nose and a black eye from its meeting with the bedpan, and his knee is propped up on a stool with an ice pack on top, but is otherwise no worse for wear.

'Sammy?' he mouths groggily, still trying to wade through the fog of medication and concussion.

"Yeah, Dean. I'm here." Sam scoots closer, narrowing the gap between himself and Dean. "It's over. You're safe." He laughs in disbelief, pushing his hair out of his eyes. "I don't know how you did it bro, you put up one hell of a fight, managed to keep Lori Ann busy until someone heard the alarms. Guess they went off when the ventilator plug was pulled. She was about to kill you, she damn near did..."

'I'm still here.' Chick flick moments have never been Dean's forte, he avoids them with a passion, but he still finds the need to comfort Sam. Thing is, he needs Sam's comfort, too, as thoughts of the night before spring to mind. He remembers the desperation of needing to reach the call button, the feelings of failure when his hand refused to move. He was completely helpless, trapped, and -worst of all- he couldn't do a thing to save Sam. If it hadn't been for Lori Ann pulling that stupid plug on his ventilator, they might both be dead because there was nothing Dean could do to save them.

Dean looks down and focuses on his right hand, glaring, willing it to move and to prove his fears unfounded. But still nothing happens, he's as frozen as ever. The doctors have yet to confirm it, but Dean's certain this is it for him.

Looking back up, Dean sees Sam staring at him, a small smile trying to poke through as Sam attempts to see a silver lining to the fight last night. Dean doesn't have it in him to burst his little brother's bubble just yet. For some reason, Sam still has hope that things will turn out okay. Dean has to allow his little brother that hope, at least for a little while longer, at least until he can figure out how to fix this. Garnering his last few vestiges of positive thinking, Dean manages to pull a smile onto his own face.

'Still have a fight on our hands,' Dean mouths, satisfied when Sam seems to understand what he's saying.

"Nothing we can't handle, Dean. We're gonna be okay."

I hope so, Sammy. I hope so.

TBC - next posting Sunday the 10th