Title: Roses in December
Prompt: From the ever-lovely and talented pkwench: Freshman semester at Stanford Sam gets tagged by a car while walking home from work, the library, whatever. His only emergency contact is one Bobby Singer who is attending a "business conference" in New Hampshire. However, he has the number of someone who might be a little closer to Sam and who can probably get there before the boy wakes up. You can totally go permanent injury with that if you like. :)
Summary: "God gave us memory so that we might have roses in December." J. M. Barrie. (Okay, not exactly a summary. That's what the prompt was for.)
Spoilers: This is a Season 1 AU, so none.
Wordcount: 3,736 (this section)
Warnings: So far? Not much. A bit of bad language. It's tame by my standards. ;)
Disclaimer: Disclaiming disclaimer disclaims all that ought to be disclaimed. Furthermore, I disclaim.
Neurotic Author's Note: Okay, so I kind of took the prompt and, uh, did something totally different with it. I set it waaay after freshman year, and kind of went with something a little other than permanent injury, although I suppose it could be permanent, but I just don't know yet. So, uh, yeah. There you go. Sorry, pkwench.
Neurotic Author's Note #2: I don't actually know how long this thing is going to be. I'm still playing with it. It might resolve in just one more chapter, maybe five. Or it could get epic on me, I just don't know. My apologies in advance, because I'm not going to be following my usual rule of updating on a daily schedule until the fic is complete. It's going to be sporadic at best. *cringe*
There are only a handful of people who have Bobby Singer's cell phone number. Most of the time he resents having to carry one at all, but hunters who can't stay current with the times are the first to find themselves six feet under. Cell phones are damned useful, provided you're in an area that gets cell coverage, and there's something to be said for the new text messaging feature that a lot of the little gizmos have nowadays: no useless ringing, no need for idle chit-chat, just the pertinent information contained in 140 characters or less.
Still, the shrill ringing of his phone at two o'clock in the morning is about the most unwelcome sound in the world. Two o'clock in the morning automatically means it's bad news, and given how few people have his number, it means that it's bad news concerning someone he cares about. He lunges for the bedside table, fumbles with the phone, and finally manages to turn it on and bring it to his ear. An unfamiliar voice answers his sleep-befuddled greeting.
"Yes, is this Mr. Singer?"
"Yeah. Who is this? How did you get my number?"
"I'm sorry to intrude, Mr. Singer. I'm calling from Stanford Hospital. You're listed as one of the emergency contacts for Samuel Winchester. Is that right?"
He straightens up. "Yeah, that's right. Is Sam all right?"
"I'm afraid not. There's been an accident."
"What? What happened?"
"He was struck by a car late yesterday evening, and right now he's listed as being in critical condition. We've been unable to find contact information for any of his family members, and it would be helpful, both for the hospital and for Samuel, if someone were to come."
Bobby swears under his breath. "Dammit. I can't make it any time soon. I'm in New Hampshire for a, uh, business conference. Listen, I got a number for someone who's a lot closer to where you're at..."
There's something lodged in his throat. He chokes, can't quite get his arms to come up to pull at the foreign object he can feel in his mouth, and suddenly there's a cacophony of voices, a flurry of activity around him.
"Sam!" A different voice, more commanding this time. "Sam, you need to calm down. We have to remove the ventilator tube. Sam? Listen to me. Calm down and let us work, okay?"
He manages to lie still, coughs so hard he thinks he might puke when the tube comes out, and black spots dance before his eyes. His chest feels as though it's on fire. After a few moments the pain recedes a bit, and he becomes aware of someone rubbing his shoulder, but he doesn't open his eyes.
"I'm going to give you something for the pain, Sam," the second voice continues. "You just hang in there, okay?"
A third voice chimes in, soft and definitely feminine. "Sam, it's okay. We're right here."
"Hey, Sammy," the first voice is back, familiar and soothing. "You with us? Come on, kiddo. Open those baby blues for me, you hear?"
He can't place it, but something about the voice makes him want to do what it says. The pain is fading, and so he forces his eyes open, waits for things to come into focus. Someone's standing over him, and he gets a vague impression of hazel eyes and spiky light brown hair, a leather jacket that's achingly familiar, freckles scattered over a thin nose, a scruffy five o'clock shadow. The man smiles at him, looking so pleased that he can't help but smile back. It's a nice smile, he thinks, warm and maybe just a little teasing. His gaze slides over to a very pretty blonde girl standing by the bed, then slides back to the guy, who's still talking.
"Hey, there you are, Sammy. You had us all worried. That nap you took lasted an awfully long time. You remember anything about what happened?"
That gives him pause. He frowns, trying to sort things out in his mind. That he's in a hospital is obvious: the bed, the ventilator, the serious-looking guy in the white coat standing off to one side, taking notes on a clipboard. His right leg is suspended above him, encased in some kind of scary-looking metal thing. An external fixator, a distant corner of his brain supplies. He's surprised he can remember that. Everything else, though... he shakes his head slowly.
"Retrograde amnesia isn't unusual after a trauma like this," the doctor says, looking up from his clipboard and approaching the bed. "It's the body's way of coping. Excuse me," he says to the other guy, a hint of impatience in his voice. "What's the last thing you remember, Sam?"
He shakes his head again. "Dunno. Was there an accident?" His voice cracks, his mouth impossibly dry. The pretty girl holds up a cup of water with a straw to his lips, and he finds that he's ridiculously grateful for it. The doctor keeps talking as he takes a few careful sips.
"You were hit by a car. Can you tell me the date?"
"That's fine, don't worry about it. You've been in a coma for a while —gave us all a bit of a scare."
"Coma?" He looks back and forth from the blond girl to the guy, trying to figure out just what they're doing here. Comas are serious, and unless they're close —blood relatives— they wouldn't be allowed in the room with him, would they?
"Sammy..." the guy in the leather jacket is leaning over him again, his expression suddenly worried. "You okay?"
"My leg hurts," he says finally, because it's the only thing that makes sense.
"The morphine will help with that," the doctor promises. "We're going to have to run some tests, but I think for now I'll just let you and your brother catch up."
Brother? He jerks a bit, trying to push himself upright, and one of the monitors suddenly begins beeping shrilly as the pain in his chest flares up again.
"Take it easy, Sammy! Just let the drugs do their thing, okay? No sitting up until you're better. That car kind of did a number on you."
He keeps struggling, grabs onto one of the arms trying to manhandle him back onto the bed. "Uh, I don't —I can't—" he stammers.
The guy eases him back, and after a moment he lets him, too tired to keep fighting for long. "Sam, what's wrong?"
His leg throbs. "I don't know," he manages, and for no reason he can determine he finds himself fighting back tears. "I don't —I don't know you."
It's a nightmare. A nightmare that's already lasted far too long, and it doesn't look as though Dean is about to wake up from it anytime soon. He didn't think it could get worse than receiving a call in the wee hours of the morning telling him his brother was probably going to die in the next few hours, but apparently the universe is out to prove him wrong.
The first thing he learns upon entering the hospital and asking for Sam —and it feels weird to be asking for his brother by his real name— is that his brother is undergoing a second emergency surgery (his mind balks at the word 'second,' because it didn't even occur to him that there might have been a first surgery) to stop some kind of spontaneous bleeding that developed, and a whole lot more medical jargon that goes sailing right by him in a buzz of anxious static.
The second thing he learns is that his brother has a girlfriend: an honest-to-God blonde bombshell of a girl who's putting up one hell of a fuss at the same desk where he got his information to begin with, because no one is telling her anything. The nurse is placid and unmovable behind the desk, simply repeating her mantra of "family members only," until Dean is sure that the girl is going to simply lunge across the countertop and throttle her. He's too busy pacing to pay much attention to her, and it's only when he hears her utter the name "Sam" like a talisman that he puts two and two together.
"Sam Winchester?" he asks, and the name has the same effect on her. She whirls, eyes bright with hope and anxiety.
"You know Sam?"
"I should. Who're you?"
"I'm his girlfriend. They won't tell me anything. Are you his family?"
"Yeah. I'm his brother. I didn't know Sammy had a girlfriend," he pulls her away from the counter, is halfway tempted to hit on her because, well, she's hot and chicks in distress are something of a specialty of his. Except that she's Sammy's girlfriend and Sammy is not fifty feet away on an operating table, and Dean can't bring himself even to go through the motions.
"He told you about me?" his throat constricts, in spite of himself.
"A little bit. He doesn't talk much about his past," she glances at the doors leading the operating room. "They won't tell me what's going on."
He clears his throat. "Were you, uh, there when it happened?"
"No," she shakes her head. "Not right away. It was right outside our apartment. I was inside, and I guess he must have been coming home from work. I heard a car braking, and then people started screaming, and when I looked out the window..." she bites her lips. "God, there was so much blood..."
He shakes his head, doesn't want to hear it. "You want to get some coffee? Tell me the rest?"
She snorts. "I want a cigarette. Sam would be so pissed."
He glances up at her with a sudden grin, pulls out a pack of Marlboro's, flicks open the top with his thumbnail. "They told me he's gonna be in surgery at least another two hours, maybe more. I'll tell you what I know, but it isn't much."
She pulls a cigarette from the pack. "You're a fucking lifesaver, you know that?"
They sneak out through one of the fire escape doors, and she doesn't even bat an eyelash when he expertly disables the alarm so they don't get caught. She does notice the limp, though.
"You hurt yourself?"
He shrugs. "Couple of years ago. I can tell you what the weather's going to be like now. Not a big deal."
"Right," she blows smoke through her nose. "Sam does that too."
"Plays down when he's hurting. Guess it's a family thing."
"Guess it is."
They sit side by side, shoulders barely brushing together, and smoke coils up from the tips of their cigarettes, and neither of them says another word for the next two hours.
It's not like Dean hasn't camped out in emergency rooms and intensive care wards before, desperately waiting to find out if he's lost yet another family member. He's got lots of practice at that, mostly thanks to his Dad. Except this time it's different. He's never had someone wait with him before: Dad never coped well with Sammy being in hospital, disappearing for as long as he could with a bottle of Jim Beam and only coming back when he was sure Sam was out of the woods. Dean's pretty sure his Dad coped the same way whenever he was hospitalized, too, but then he was usually unconscious for that part, and Sam never said anything about it.
This time, though, he has an unexpected ally in Jessica Moore. He finds out more about her in the first few hours they spend waiting for Sam's surgery to be over than he's ever revealed about his entire family in his whole life. She's Sam's age, and they've been dating a little over a year since a mutual friend introduced them. She's got a sister and a brother, both younger, and her parents live in Orange County and are oh-so-proud that their daughter is going to Stanford. She's pre-law, same as Sam —and Dean starts a little guiltily when he realizes that Sam has been gone for nearly four years and he has no idea what his little brother's been studying— and she and Sam just took the LSATs together in June.
"He scored a 174," she tells him.
"Is that good?"
He grins, takes a drag off his cigarette, watching it burn down almost to the filter. "That's my boy," he says, and catches a funny expression on her face. "What?"
She shrugs. "He didn't believe me when I said his family would be proud of him. It's nice to know he was wrong."
He grinds the cigarette butt under the heel of his boot. "Yeah, well. He doesn't know us nearly as well as he thinks he does." Before she can answer he checks his watch. "We should go back in."
It's weird having someone else there. Someone else to help process all the medical jargon the doctors spew at him. He's never been good at this part, not even with practice. He always just sort of stands there numbly, unable to absorb more than the basics of whether or not Sam is going to be all right, but this time Jess is there, asking questions, poking and prodding and insisting, and he's beginning to understand just why Sam is dating her. When the surgeon has finished talking, she insists on being allowed in the ICU with Dean, finds them both really large cups of coffee and a couple of really uncomfortable chairs.
"Forty-eight hours isn't that long," she tells him, her mouth set in a thin, determined line. "Sam and I have crammed for exams together for longer than that. This? This is nothing. He's going to be fine."
Once the first twelve hours go by and Sam is still hanging in there, Dean starts letting himself hope a little bit. He and Jess take turns leaving for coffee, for sandwiches. He all but runs back every time he's gone for more than twenty minutes, but each time he comes back Sam hasn't so much as budged. He's still pale and oh so still on his bed, looking small and vulnerable hooked up to all the monitors, IVs snaking up from his arm, the ventilator whooshing steadily as it pumps air into his lungs. Jess curls a leg under her on the chair, keeps one small hand wrapped around his wrist, stroking the back of his hand with her thumb, talking to him quietly when they're alone. The gesture is so intimate that Dean backs away the first time, feeling as though he's intruding, but she looks up at him with a smile and motions to him to come in, and it's ridiculous how relieved he is at that.
Jess deals with the horde of friends who keep trying to barge in. They're not allowed in the ICU, for which Dean is more than grateful, but they hover and call and try to help, and by the time morning rolls around on the second day he's ready to punch the next one who tries to ask him who he is and why Sam has never mentioned him, and generally act as though they have more of a right to worry about Sam than he does. Jess steps in smoothly, then, gathers the Stanford kids around her like a broody hen, smooths their ruffled feathers, and firmly sends them packing back to their dorm rooms, or wherever else students go on campus these days. He almost hugs her when they're alone again.
While Jess deals with the life Sam's made for himself, Dean tries to deal with the life Sam left behind. His brother might be dying, but Dad's off hunting a chupacabra in New Mexico and apparently there's no cell reception there. Either that or he's ignoring both the ringing phone and his messages, which Dean wouldn't put past him, if he thinks the hunt is important enough. So he leaves messages, and just shrugs when Jess shoots him a funny look. He keeps the messages short, and to the point: Sammy's in a coma, but the doctor's are cautiously optimistic that he'll wake up on his own. Sammy's leg is shattered, and it'll take multiple surgeries to get back even limited mobility. Sammy broke some ribs, which in turn punctured a lung. Sammy's skull is fractured, and the doctors are bandying about scary words like "subdural haematoma," and Dean has watched enough medical dramas on television to know that that's a bad thing. Sammy has ventilator-associated pneumonia. The list goes on, and he dutifully leaves updates until the recorded voice tells him Dad's voicemail is full and to try again later, and then he just leaves his phone turned off by Sam's bed and goes outside for a cigarette.
Jess joins him, bums a cigarette from him, lowers herself carefully onto the step of the fire escape. "Is that why Sam never tried calling you guys?"
"For what it's worth, I'm sorry."
"Yeah, so am I."
Forty-eight hours turns into two weeks. Jess is actually amused when he says that she shouldn't compromise her studies, and points out that it's the end of June, and classes have been over for a while now. She works part-time as a T.A. for one of her professors, but the guy has apparently been understanding and isn't pressuring her to return to work yet. So she sets up camp with him in the hospital for the long haul, finds him a spot to park the Impala where he won't have to pay astronomical fees, and even sets up a cot for him in her and Sam's apartment that he almost never sleeps on, but appreciates nonetheless. She finds the cane he still grudgingly uses every so often when his leg gets bad, and insists on keeping it nearby, just in case.
"How are you going to help Sam if you can't even help yourself?" she says, and weirdly enough he finds that he can't resent her for it, not now.
He's not used to having an ally other than Dad, but then again, this isn't exactly like a hunt, either. With Sam unconscious and Dad still not answering his goddamned phone, it's a relief to find someone who's just as anxious as he is, someone who wants to stick to him like Velcro. Together they haunt the ICY, drive the nurses crazy, spend their days and almost all of their nights near Sam's bed. Jess holds him together the first time Sam's heart stops, and after that it seems only natural to fold her into a hug when he finds her crying quietly in the fire escape because the pneumonia has taken a turn for the worse and the doctors have told them to be prepared. He tells her funny stories from when Sam was a kid, and she reciprocates with anecdotes about a Sam he never even suspected existed, who likes country music and occasionally relaxes enough to smoke pot.
Days roll by, and Dean hangs onto Sam's hand and talks at him non-stop, on the off-chance that Sam might be able to hear him, and when his voice gives out Jess takes over. Dean conveniently ignores the high chick-flick quotient of everything he's doing, doesn't care if the rest of his life ends up resembling The Notebook or whatever, just so long as he gets his brother back.
"You gotta come out of this, Sammy," he says, for what feels like the millionth time. "It's been two weeks, dude, and I'm a little tired of riding this particular roller-coaster. Besides, you owe me, like, three years' worth of explanations, and I want details on how you managed to land yourself such an awesome girlfriend. You've been holding out on me, little brother, and once you're out of this bed, I owe you an ass-kicking."
It turns out that coming out of a coma is nothing like on TV. It's a gradual process. There's no magical moment in which Sam's eyes just pop open and he's fine, but Dean will take what he can get. He almost kisses the doctor the day Sam triggers the vent by himself, except that that would be really inappropriate and maybe more than a little gay, and Dean can only deal with so much upheaval in his life at any given time. He settles for letting Jess hug him so hard she practically cracks his ribs, and grins like an idiot at her for the next hour, feeling a little less foolish because he can see his expression mirrored in her face. After that it's back to waiting, to having his pulse flutter all over the place when Sam moves on his own. He never thought he would be happy to see his brother flinch away from pain, except by now he's learned the Glasgow Coma Scale off by heart, and he'll take anything, anything at all.
Jess comes to find him, breathless and red in the face, almost exactly fourteen days after Sam's accident, and drags him back to the room, so excited she can't string together a coherent sentence. And even if Dean's own heart practically tries to jump out of his chest when Sam finally opens his eyes all by himself and panics and fights the ventilator, he figures he'll take that if it means that he's awake, because it means he's getting better. It means Sam is getting better, and Jess is clinging to him and trying really hard not to cry, and now he doesn't have to worry about the fact that he can't leave a message for Dad that the unthinkable has happened.
And then, because the universe hates Dean Winchester, Sam looks at him, hazel eyes all wide and frightened, without even the slightest trace of recognition on his face.