Disclaimer: I don't own these characters and I don't get paid for having fun messing with them.
A/N: So, this story was originally going to be just a one-shot, but by the time I had finished writing it, it was over 17,000 words long. So, I've decided to split it up into five parts and will post a new chapter each day. I'm really hoping you like this, but just be warned that I do not have a beta, so all mistakes, bad grammar and weird tangents are all mine. Let me know what you think- I love all reviews- good or bad. :D
10 Years Gone
Then as it was, then again it will be
An' though the course may change sometimes
Rivers always reach the sea
(Ten Years Gone, Led Zeppelin)
Awareness wasn't something that came to him all at once. It came bit by bit, piece by piece like a puzzle slowly pulling itself together. Images and sounds- they all floated in and out incoherently through the corners of his consciousness- niggling at him, prodding him to make sense of them, but they were like wisps of smoke and catching hold of them long enough to know what they meant was almost impossible. Nothing was concrete- it was all vague, disjointed, and nonsensical.
He would never be able to pinpoint the exact time that he came to full awareness, for it happened so gradually, but eventually his fuzzy, confused brain began to recognize the messages his eyes were sending him:
Peach colored walls, a white acoustic ceiling, a plastic-framed print of a beach scene, fluorescent lights shining just above his head, and a window with it's multicolored, striped curtains pulled closed that blocked out most, but not all of the sunlight and allowed for a couple of rogue rays of light to stream through the cracks.
All of this he took in as he tried to grasp onto the meaning of it all. He was in a bed, that much he was certain of and it was no motel bed for it had rails on the side, and with just his eyes he traced a thin tube snaking up from under his sheet towards a clear plastic bag hanging from a pole beside him, dripping slowly into the tube.
IV?... Hospital. The words popped into his head and that was the first thing to make any kind of sense to him as the room he was in had that anti-septic smell and impersonal feel to it that screamed of a medical institution.
But, now that he understood a little bit of where he was, the how, why and when he ended up there was still not something he could recall.
His eyes roamed around the room again, trying to force his muzzy brain to work. He was missing something...or someone?
Yeah...he'd ask Dean what the hell happened to him as soon as he came back- he probably went out to get a coffee or something like that. He himself knew full well how sitting around a hospital room watching someone sleep could get pretty tedious, so he couldn't really blame his brother for not being there the instant he woke up. Yet still- he could feel a knot of tension building in his stomach that he couldn't explain away. He really didn't like not being able to piece together anything coherently nor the fuzzy, creepy feeling he had snaking into his head and he just hoped Dean would turn up soon to explain everything.
So, he waited for Dean, expecting him to come bounding into his room at any moment, a coffee cup in one hand and a smarmy retort rolling off of his tongue. But it wasn't long before he was overcome with a deep, gut-wrenching malaise. He felt weaker than he had ever felt before in his life and it was frustrating how even turning his head to the side was a physical challenge. He tried to stay awake for Dean's eventual arrival, but the irresistible pull of sleep gripped him quickly and he was closing his eyes and welcoming oblivion again within moments.
Coming to again, Sam knew that quite some time must have passed since the curtains that once could barely hold back the brightness of the sun were now shrouded in darkness and the only light coming into the room was from the hallway outside the open door.
He blinked, trying to fight the urge to fall back asleep again then searched the room for Dean- Surely he'd be back by now.
But, Sam was still alone in the room.
In fact, he hadn't noticed it the last time he woke up, but there was no sign that Dean had ever been in the room. Sam was quite familiar with the cone of destruction his brother left wherever they went, but here were no candy wrappers, no discarded fast-food bags sitting on the table, no half finished soda cups lying about and he came to the dreaded realization that Dean may not have been in this room at all.
Did that mean he was hurt too? Was he lying somewhere in this hospital as well wondering where the hell Sam was?
He struggled to push himself up- his need to find his lost brother trumping the shaking and weakness that had invaded his arms as he tried to perform the simple task, but his efforts only got him about half way up before his muscles completely gave out and he was falling against the pillow once again. He panted for breath, exhausted, frustrated and confused by his failure.
What the hell was wrong with him? Why couldn't he even find the strength to get out of bed?
He needed answers and he needed to find Dean. He hated to admit it, but he was going to need some help.
Pulling his hand up, he reached for the nurse's call button built into the railing of his bed, but froze the moment he got a good look at it.
The hand he was looking at was surely not his own- it couldn't be- It was too bony, the skin too pale, too thin. Further examination revealed that it wasn't just his hand, but his whole arm was foreign to him. The muscular arm that he was used to seeing everyday of his life was gone, replaced by a thin, stick-like limb with a sharp, jutting wrist and elbow.
His heart-rate involuntarily picked up as he reached for the blanket covering him and pulled it back. The sight it revealed was no less shocking than his arm and he felt his breath being swept away by it. His legs were just as thin as his arms, almost skeletal with nearly no muscle tone, his protruding knees almost wider in circumference than his thighs.
This was not his body, he thought in disbelief. Had he been switched with someone else's body again like that kid, Gary had a couple of years ago? It had to be something like that- one doesn't just fall asleep one day and wake up the next 60 lbs lighter without there being some kind of supernatural crap going on.
He needed to find Dean right now, but getting this spindly, frail body to obey his commands wasn't getting him anywhere and he was already feeling weakened and dizzy not only by his physical state but by the shock of it all. Laying back on the pillow, nearly out of breath and quickly losing what little strength he still had left in him, Sam reached again for the call button, this time mashing it repeatedly-someone needed to tell him what the hell was happening to him right now.
He waited for what felt like an eternity Before he heard a voice call out from the down the hall.
"Hey, Pepper- can you go check on 'sleeping beauty'? His call light just came on."
"Must be a glitch." He heard a woman respond. "I'll go check it out."
Footsteps echoed down the hall until a sillouetted figure appeared in the doorway and flicked on the light, unconcerned that she might wake the patient inside.
She crossed over to Sam as he lie in the bed without really paying much attention to him nor the disturbed bedsheets covering him, but when she bent over the check the call button for signs that it was malfunctioning, she gasped, nearly shrieking when his hand clamped down on her wrist.
"Oh my dear God!" She exclaimed, her shocked and fear-filled eyes locking onto his.
"Please..." He spoke weakly, his voice coarse from disuse and barely audible. "Help me."
Sam's room was soon swarmed and filled with a flurry of activity as doctors, nurses and aides came in and out. There were too many of them for him to keep track of so he didn't even try to learn any of their names when they introduced themselves. However, the first nurse that had entered his room, a thin, dark-haired woman somewhere in her mid to late thirties wearing pink, floral patterned scrubs, had been the only one that remained the whole time and even shooed many of the others that had no need to be there away.
His awakening had apparently caused quite a stir. There was hushed talk inside and outside of his room that he could only catch snatches of. There were words bandied about like 'miracle' and a general disbelief amongst the staff. He heard one nurse mention 'vegetative state', but he heard and understood little else, it was all still too confusing to process.
Assessments were made and questions were asked that he tried to answer: His name was Sam Winchester, the president was Barack Obama, he was 28 years old and so on and so forth, but he couldn't help notice some of the odd looks those asking the questions gave him and their reactions. They made him uneasy and only further exasperated his confusion.
He was poked, prodded, had lights shown in his eyes and his reflexes were tested what felt like every couple of minutes by one person after another. It was all very overwhelming and it was hard to keep up with everything happening around or to him and all he could hold on to was the hope that someone could explain where his brother was- if he was okay or not.
However, asking the questions he needed answers for was almost impossible since he had practically no voice and in the process of answering all of the questions the doctors had been asking him, it had almost completely given out. It took so much effort to get any words out that the few questions he actually managed to verbalize either went unheard, misunderstood or dismissed with a 'we'll explain everything later.' It was more than a little frustrating to be fussed over so without anyone really acknowledging that he was more than just a body filling a bed and not an actual human being. He felt more like a curiosity or an object for everyone to puzzle over and he wanted nothing more for them all to either go away or tell him plainly what was going on.
The nurse that had stayed with him, hovered nearby and he turned his head towards her. She seemed to sense that he wanted her attention, for she met his beseeching eyes. He tried to speak, but his voice had totally given out by then and he was left with resorting to pleading with his eyes alone: Please tell them to go away...tell me what's happening.
She must have understood because when she turned her eyes away from him, she stalked over to the two doctors that had been called in to assess his condition, interrupting their animated, yet quiet conversation.
"Doctors, I think he's has had enough and is obviously exhausted. He needs his rest and he can't get that with everyone in here."
The doctors both turned to look at Sam. The younger of the two doctors looked somewhat abashed, realizing that they had discussing him as if he wasn't laying right beside them. However, the older doctor, a grey-headed man with thick glasses and a portly belly, didn't seem to take the suggestion that they needed to leave from a subordinate very well and whirled on the nurse.
"Dr. Stinson and I haven't finished our assessment of the patient." He huffed.
"Please, Dr. Morse. I think every test that we can do right now to the poor man had already been done tonight."
"Excuse me? Are you a doctor, Ms. Conway?" He asked incredulously, as if taken aback by anyone questioning his judgment.
To her credit, the nurse didn't back down. "No, I'm not. But I know enough about patient care to see when a man needs peace and quiet."
Dr. Morse narrowed his eyes towards the nurse, his face reddening, but the nurse's argument was as solid as a brick wall and a moment later, he gave up in defeat, throwing up his hands. "Fine. Since you seem to know so much more about how to treat a patient than I do, then we'll just leave. But, first thing tomorrow I'm having the patient transferred to county for further testing, so have him ready to go by then, understood?"
She nodded, but her ire towards the doctor's attitude had obviously set her on edge. "Of course, Doctor." She agreed almost with a sneer and a moment later, Dr. Morse was dragging the younger doctor with him out the door, grumbling about 'the audacity of some people.'
"Alright" Sam's hero nurse, come to rescue him from the crowd of people milling about spoke up, her voice raising above the din. "Show's over, people. Go back to work- This man isn't the only patient that needs tending to."
She shooed the rest of the hangers-on out of the room with a wave of her hands and soon the room was empty save for Sam and the nurse. He felt a wash of gratitude come over him towards her, thankful that the hub-bub had died down.
"Well-" She turned to him and bent over, pulling the blanket up for him. "Sorry about all of that, but you're a bit of a special case and news travels fast. No one was expecting you to wake up like this... but no matter- we can talk about it more in the morning before the doctor comes back. So, I guess I'll make myself scarce as well so you can get some sleep."
She was all set to turn and leave when Sam reached out and grabbed her hand before she could go.
Stay, he mouthed.
"Sure. What is it you need, Mr. Winchester?"
He shook his head weakly, licked his lips and concentrated on finding enough energy and air to speak. "Sam...my name is Sam."
She had to bend close to his face in order to hear him, but she understood him well enough. "Sam?... You want me to call you, Sam?"
"Alright, Sam- what can I do for you?"
Sam was certain he couldn't trust his voice to be heard any longer, so he made a motion with his hands indicating his need for a pen and paper. She caught on well enough and dug through the bedside table for a pad of paper before pulling a pen out of her shirt pocket and handing them both over to him.
The pen felt awkward in his hands and he was still convinced that he hadn't woken up in the right body, but who would believe him besides Dean and Bobby? God, he needed to find them, but also he needed some answers and he hoped this nurse would be able to help him with that.
Sam began to write, his words formed by a series of scratchy and wobbly letters so unlike his usual flowing script, but he managed to make them legible enough to be understood.
Where am I? He wrote first.
"You're at Shady Oaks nursing home in Chicago."
The answer to his question perplexed him almost as much as waking up in a strange body did. What the hell could he be doing in a nursing home? And what was he doing in Chicago?
"I know...you're not exactly the typical patient we get here, but you've been asleep for a very long time, Sam. I suppose it was felt for the best that you be placed here where you could be looked after and cared for."
Just how long had he been asleep? he wondered and that was the next question he wrote.
The nurse seemed reluctant to answer. "Let's just say that it's been a very long time, but we can talk more about it when you're feeling better- you should get some rest..."
Sam grew impatient by her stalling and underlined the question two times as a way of demanding the answer.
She pursed her lips then responded by asking him as question of her own. "What year do you think it is, Sam?"
2011, he wrote.
"Well..." She paused, plainly unsure if she should answer truthfully, but she continued anyway after swallowing hard. "It's now 2021."
"What?" He squeaked out in surprise and disbelief. She had to be joking and he didn't find it particularly funny, but one look in her eyes told him that she really was telling him the truth.
"I'm sorry...I didn't want to be the one that told you that. I know... it's got to be a lot to take in."
That was a huge understatement. Ten years? Ten years?
His head spun and he felt dizzy, he closed his eyes hoping it would help stop the room from spinning around him.
Vaguely, he was aware of a hand pressing into his chest and a voice telling him to breathe- to relax- but how could he?
Ten years gone. So much could happen in that amount of time- Dean wouldn't just leave him in this place that long unless... unless...
Sam felt sweat break out on his forehead as his lungs constricted painfully.
Is that why Dean wasn't there? Had something terrible happened to him while he slept the years away?... Could he be dead?
That last question drove all other thoughts from his head and he couldn't catch his breath or control the thundering in his chest as he fell into the grips of a searing panic.
Sam had no awareness after that. He never heard the shouts of the nurse as she called out for help nor felt the prick of the needle as it punctured his skin and delivered a powerful dose of sedative. All he knew after that was darkness.
To Be Continued...