A/N: I just wanted give a little warning about this next installment and say that there are a few spoilers coming up from season six. I also want to give out another big round of thanks to all of you that have taken the time to read and review this story. I'm overwhelmed with your responses and because you all have been so great, awesome, and fantastic I've decided to post the rest of this story as one chapter. So, here it is- the final installment and the answer to Sam's mystery. I hope you enjoy it. :D
"Sam...Sam...wake up, we're almost there." He felt a nudge on his shoulder and Sam opened his eyes then wiped at his mouth, embarrassed by the fact the he had not only fallen asleep during the drive, but had apparently drooled all over himself.
"Where are we?" He asked groggily, looking out the window that he had moments before been sleeping against. They were continuing on the interstate and it was still a little disconcerting waking up in this car. He was used to driving all over the country and sleeping in the car while Dean drove, but this was different.
He missed the rumble of the Impala's engine under his legs that never failed to lull him to sleep faster than a mother's lullaby, but this little Prius of Pepper's moved silently and smoothly across the pavement with little noise from the outside world seeping in. He felt like he was in a vacuum and he had to admit that he even missed the blaring sounds of classic rock blasting out of the tape deck while Dean tapped at the wheel and either hummed or sang along.
God, he missed that.
"We're about ten minutes out from Pontiac. You feeling better after your nap?" She asked, keeping her eyes on the road.
"Yeah." He said as he rubbed the sleep from his eyes. "Guess I was a little tired." He admitted without trying to let on just how exhausting getting out of the hospital had been for him.
He went back to watching the scenery pass by and ever since their trip had begun, Sam had taken note of how the cars on the road had changed. The vast majority of them were now either hybrids like the one Pepper drove or completely electric, but who could really blame people for switching from gas-guzzling SUV's and cars like the Impala when just about every gas station they passed sold a gallon of regular for over $8. Sam had no idea how he was going to pay Pepper back for the fuel she was using up.
They drove on mostly in silence until they reached the hospital and Pepper parked the car. "You want me to help you get inside?" She asked and Sam figured he must look as fatigued as he felt, but this was something he had to do alone. He was grateful for her offer of help, but he wasn't quite ready to let her in on the conversation he needed to have with the man inside.
"Nah...I'll be fine. I need to talk with my friend in private if that's okay."
She nodded. "Sure, I understand. I'll just wait out here. Good thing I brought a book along." She said as she dug into her purse and pulled out her tablet reading device.
"Doesn't anybody read from real books anymore?" He grumbled.
She shrugged. "It's a brave new world, Sam. Why waste a tree for a trashy romance novel?"
"Good point." He nominally agreed before pushing his door open. "I'll try not to be too long."
"Take your time." She came back distractedly, already buried in the words displayed on her screen.
Sam shuffled across the parking lot using his cane for support, feeling much like an old man as he pushed himself along and was already approaching exhaustion by the time he made it to the reception desk and asked for Jimmy/Cas' room number.
Locating the room was much easier than getting to it, but Sam wasn't going to let the aches and weakness in his limbs stop him from getting to his destination. When he finally did make it to the room, he was out of breath and took a moment to let his lungs catch up before knocking on the closed door.
"Come in." He heard from the other side and Sam tentatively opened the door, practically holding his breath until he was inside. Cas...or he should say, Jimmy was propped up in bed and alone in the room, his head bandaged and arm slung up across his chest. But, to Sam's relief he was awake and alert, peering at Sam with a quizzical eye.
"Ca-...er...uh Jimmy?" He stuttered, suddenly feeling uncomfortable seeing the man out of the rumpled suit and trenchcoat that practically defined him.
"Yes?" He asked, sounding nothing like the husky voiced angel Sam knew.
"Do you remember me?" Sam asked.
The former angel shook his head. "Sorry...I took a pretty good knock on the head and things are still kinda jumbled up. Who are you? Are you from the church?"
"What?...uh...no. My name's Sam...Sam Winchester?" Sam raised his eyebrows hoping his name would ring some bells.
"Sam who?" Jimmy continued to eye him warily. "You're not another reporter, are you? 'Cause I don't want anymore articles written about me. I'm no hero..."
"Don't worry I'm not a reporter. I just wanted to ask..." Sam stepped in closer and lowered his voice for only Jimmy to hear. "Don't you remember Castiel?"
"Castiel?" Jimmy narrowed his eyes in confusion. "Who's Castiel?"
Jeez...Sam was getting more than a little frustrated by Jimmy's apparent amnesia. At least the last time Cas had left Jimmy, the man had most of his memories of being a vessel intact, but this time seemed different- Jimmy apparently had no clue who he or Castiel even were and Sam wasn't sure if his memory loss was due to his injury or something else
He decided to switch tactics. "I'm sorry...But, I read about you in the paper and we met some years ago- back in 2007 or so, do you recall that?"
Jimmy furrowed his brow "Was that the conference in Detroit? Because that was back in 2010 not 2007."
Sam wasn't expecting that. Jimmy had already been possessed by Cas in 2007- how could he remember a conference he attended in 2010 when he had most definitely been busy helping he and Dean stop the apocalypse then?
Sam shook his head, feeling queasy. "So...you don't remember Dean either?...or Bobby?"
Jimmy pursed his lips and shook his head.
"What about Raphael? Zachariah?"
"I'm sorry...maybe you have me confused with someone else, but I don't know those people."
Sam was almost at a lost for words, raking a hand through his hair. "Maybe...I'm sorry...I uh...I just thought..."
"Hey...it's okay, Pal. I've been working for my business for over twenty years now and I forget names and faces all of the time, Sorry I don't remember ya."
"It's okay." Sam replied numbly. 20 years? "I uh...I should go- let you rest."
"Okay. Well...it was nice meeting you, Sam. It was Sam, right?"
Sam nodded stupidly, feeling the bottom falling out from under his feet.
"Hey, Buddy...you alright?" Jimmy eyed him with concern one might show for a stranger. "You look a little green around the gills."
Sam could only nod before he felt his heavy feet leading him to the door and out the room. He nearly stumbled before he caught himself on the nearest bench of chairs and collapsed into them, feeling the wind rush out of his lungs.
Jimmy had no memory of him- of Dean- of Bobby- not even Castiel or the apocalypse, nothing of the years he had spent with them. But apparently he did remember working for the same company for 20 years. It didn't make any sense.
It was like he woke up and found himself in the Twilight Zone or some kind of other dimension. Sam wondered what else was different than he remembered and he reached into his back pocket, pulling out the little tablet computer, turning it on and hacking into the hospital's wi-fi, firing up the internet.
He hadn't seen any point in looking into the past during his search for his brother, he had been too focused on finding him in the here and now. But, he was coming to the realization that he should have- he should have gone back all the way to the beginning.
First he looked up the events of 2010. A mess had been made the moment Lucifer had taken over his body and tried to start the apocalypse. Earthquakes, tornadoes and other natural disasters had struck causing untold amounts of damage, yet he could find nothing about them in his search. It was like they never even happened.
It was all starting to sink in. He hadn't just awoken to a new time, he had woken up in a completely different world.
Sam could barely read the screen any longer as his hands began to shake and he started another search- this one for himself.
He went back to birth records in Lawrence, Kansas for 1983 and came up empty. There was no birth-certificate for him, which came as no surprise since he clearly recalled deleting it but when he found Dean's, he started to feel dizzy. He thought he had deleted that as well...maybe he just thought he had, he tried to explain to himself.
He dug deeper still and was surprised when he came across a death certificate for his father from the same database in Lawrence and read in grim disbelief that it was dated January 12, 2017- of cancer. That had to be almost ten years after his dad actually died- and he he had died in Missouri, not Kansas.
Sam had to grab the sides of the bench after he read that, his head had started to spin so much and his stomach flip-flopped that he almost toppled over. Get a grip, Sam. He chided himself then focused on finding more.
He scanned through dad's death certificate and found his occupation listed as 'auto shop owner', marriage status: widowed and his next-of-kin: Dean Winchester.
Was any of this possible? Had his father never gone into hunting after his mom died? Had he really lived his entire life in Lawrence- working everyday as a mechanic- living a normal life? It was almost too much to comprehend.
It wasn't long before Sam found Dad's business record and learned the phone number to his shop. He was just about ready to jump out of his seat and find the nearest phone when he caught sight of Pepper hurrying over to him.
"I said take your time, Sam, but that didn't mean all day." She huffed but then stopped short, her eyes darting to him in concern. "Are you okay? You look like you've seen a ghost- What happened?"
He couldn't even begin to explain any of this to her and he had only one thing on his mind. "Pepper, I need your phone for a minute."
"You're not gonna tell me what's wrong first?" She asked, but dug into her pocket anyway and handed over her phone.
Sam shook his head, feeling a migraine taking hold. "I just need to make a call first, okay?"
She just shrugged and watched him closely as he dialed the number for the shop then held his breath, unsure of who would answer the phone, but hoping it might be Dean.
"Y'ello? Larry's Automotive, this is Larry." A coarse voice drawled on the other end.
"Uh...hello. I'm sorry... I thought this was the number for Winchester Auto Repair..." Sam sputtered.
"Well, it used to be, but now it's not." Larry replied plainly. "Now it's called Larry's"
Sam rubbed his forehead. "Yeah...okay. But, look... I was just wondering if this is the same shop owned by John Winchester."
"John? Oh...well, I'm sorry, buddy, but John passed on a few years ago and left the shop to his son. But, I guess the kid didn't have much of a head for business so he sold me the place about a year ago."
"Dean?" Sam suddenly felt hopeful. "Does he still work there?"
"Nah...he and his wife moved as soon as the business was sold."
Wife? Sam almost wondered out loud.
"Where?" He demanded to know.
"Uh...I don't have his exact address, but it was somewhere out in Iowa, I think. Maybe Cedar Rapids?"
"Cedar Rapids? You're sure?"
"Best as I can recollect."
Sam hung up the after giving his thanks to Larry and sat motionless for a moment, trying to bring his thoughts and racing mind under control.
"Sam?" Pepper stepped in closer, touching his shoulder.
He looked up into Pepper's eyes beseechingly, it was asking a lot of her, but he needed her help once again. "Do you think you could take me to Iowa?"
Sam didn't bother to call first- this was something he could only do face-to-face.
"Well?" Pepper asked, turning to him as he looked out the car window at the nicely manicured, green lawn of the two-story, brick house, complete with beige sedan sitting in the driveway. It was hard to believe this was the place- Dean's home. The same brother who eschewed suburban life, who found it too stifling and monotonous lived here in this idyllic example of what 'normal' should be? It was almost unfathomable."You had me drive you all the way out here, aren't you going to go up there?"
He licked his lips in anticipation, unsure of what he would find out when he finally saw Dean and that left him with knots forming in the pit of his stomach.
"Go on." Pepper encouraged him and he took a deep inhale, blowing it out in a big whoosh before pushing open the door and stepping out.
He pushed his way slowly up the paved path towards the front door, relying on his cane more and more with each step to keep him upright. Pausing at the door, Sam hesitated before ringing the bell, his mouth dry and his heart pounding.
Gathering up his courage, he reached for the doorbell and pressed it in, hearing the chimes go off inside the house from his spot on the other side of the door. It felt like an eternity before he heard a lock turn and saw the door begin to creek open.
Sam felt his breath catch when the familiar dark-haired woman opened the door and looked up at him questioningly.
"Lisa..." He gaped at her. She was older with small crows feet sprouting around the corners of her dark eyes, but she was still the same beautiful woman he remembered. She narrowed her eyes at him, eying him warily.
"Uh...sorry...can I help you?" She asked, seemingly put off by him calling her by name.
"Hi-" He started almost breathlessly, searching for the right words. "Uh...I was wondering if Dean was home."
"Oh...are you a friend of his?" She asked and Sam felt his heart drop- She didn't know him either.
"I'm Sam. You don't remember me?"
"Sorry." She shrugged apologetically. "I don't know all Dean's friends. But, he's not home yet." Her eyes roved over to the road however and her face lit up with a smile seeing a vehicle approach their home. "No wait- here he comes."
Sam turned and watched as a plain, silver, hybrid minivan pulled into the driveway and stopped. Almost before the engine could come to a stop, one of the side doors opened up and a small tow-headed boy hopped out happily, running for the open door of the house and into Lisa's arms, babbling rapidly and all but ignoring Sam's presence.
"We won our game, Mommy! Can I call Ben and tell him?- he's the one that showed me how to throw a curve ball and I did it right this time. I struck out three guys! Maybe I'll get to play ball at college like Ben does too" Sam marveled at the little boy. He was the spitting image of Dean when he had been a little boy...Did this mean he was an uncle? Sam wondered.
"That's awesome, Johnny! You can call Ben after supper, okay?" Lisa grinned at her son and ruffled his hair affectionately. " Go wash up- it's almost time to eat."
"'Kay!" The little boy ran inside excitedly.
"Wipe your feet!" Lisa turned and raised her voice through the open door. "Sorry about that. He tends to get a little hyper after a game. Well, I need to get in and finish cooking. Nice to meet you, Sam."
Sam grinned as she walked back into the house, leaving the door open for the man strolling up the pathway. Sam turned and felt a lump begin to grow in his throat seeing Dean walking towards him without any signs of recognition.
"Dean?" He asked uncertainly.
Sam himself, would have had a hard time recognizing his brother in a crowd if it were not for his signature bow-legged swagger. Unlike Sam, who had withered over the last ten years, Dean seemed to have packed on the pounds, sporting a hefty paunch that stretched his light-blue polo shirt tight around his midsection and spilled over his belt. On top of that, his hairline was showing signs of receding and he wore a pair of wire-rimmed glasses that made him appear much older than what Sam was expecting.
Sam closed his mouth the second he realized he had been gaping at Dean.
"Can I help you with something?" His brother asked stopping just before him.
"Uh...uh." Sam stammered, stunned.
"Look, if you're here to sell us windows or something, don't bother. As you can see..." Dean waved his hands towards the house. "We already got plenty of them and they all work just fine."
"No..no. I'm not here to sell you anything." Sam felt his heart begin to pound. "It's me, Dean...Sam? Please...please tell me that you know who I am." He begged.
"Sam?" Dean cocked his head at him. "Do I know you from somewhere? Did we go to high school together or something, 'cos I already told that girl from the school that I wasn't gonna be able to make it to the reunion."
Sam shook his head, the constriction in his throat that had started earlier grew tighter and he was practically panting for breath now, desperate for his brother to understand, to remember who he was. "No...Dean...please. You got to hear me out here. No one seems to remember who I am. But, you have to...you just have to..."
"Look, man...I'm sorry, but why should I remember you?"
"Because..." Sam paused, swallowing before he could speak again. "Because I'm your brother."
Dean's mouth twisted into a deep scowl, his eyes slanting in clear confusion mixed with anger as he took a step closer to Sam and lowered his voice. "I think you might be mistaken, buddy. I don't have a brother- never did."
"Dean...c'mon. You gotta dig a little here...I am you brother and I think you know it, but...I don't know...maybe something's messing with your memories, but I gotta be in there somewhere. Think...please." Sam pleaded.
"I don't have time for this nonsense, okay?" Dean's face began to flush angrily. "I think you should just get going, Man."
Dean started to turn away and head for the door, but Sam couldn't let him go, not yet. "Wait! Mom...your mom...she died in a fire...November 2nd , 1983, didn't she?"
Dean stopped mid-stride without turning around, but Sam could tell from the way his back straightened and shoulders tensed that he had struck a nerve.
"Listen...This is what I've been trying to explain to you. I was born in Lawrence just like you. My father was John Winchester, my mother was Mary..."
Dean turned violently around and looked as if his head might burst when it took on a beet-red flush as he stalked his way with a finger pointed at him as if it were a gun. "Now, you look here, you fucking asshole. I don't know where you dug up all this information on me and my family or what kind of sick game you're playing, but you got your facts all wrong- my mother didn't die in November- it was May and the fire that killed her, killed the baby she was pregnant with too. She never got a chance to give birth and have another son and I never got the chance to have a brother. So, if you know what's good for you, you'll get off my property and leave me and my family the hell alone or I'll call the cops, Got it?"
Sam felt as though he had been punched in the gut and he found it near impossible to take a breath. Dean believed mom had died while pregnant with him...Sam had never been born- not in this world- not in this reality.
"Dean..." He begged, hoping beyond hope that he could make him believe the truth.
"GO!" Dean shouted as he pushed Sam in the chest, knocking him off balance and sending him towards the ground until he landed hard on his backside. Dean never looked back after that, he simply left Sam sitting there on the lawn as he stormed through the front door and slammed it shut behind him, rattling the glass in the windows beside it.
Stunned, Sam could only sit there, his head slumping down until his chin hit his chest, a hand absently running through his hair. Everything he had ever know was now gone, twisted up, turned upside down, and then shredded to pieces. A deep, heart-wrenching pain soon took over and his eyes swelled involuntarily with tears until he choked back a full-on sob.
He lost it all...lost Bobby, lost Cas...and now Dean.
He lost his whole life.
Sam sat with his head wearily leaning against the window of Pepper's car defeated, exhausted and overcome with hopelessness as she drove away from Dean's house.
"God, Sam...I'm sorry. I take it you and your brother never got along? Is that why he never came to see you in the hospital?"
He didn't have the energy nor the resolve to respond. She'd never understand and he had no way to explain it himself, much less to her.
Sam said little on the return trip back to Chicago and he had given up on being polite and responding to any of her concerned questions- he just didn't care anymore and he fell into a deep, but troubled sleep as the miles flew by outside his window.
It was well past midnight by the time Sam woke up again and he noticed that they were on the interstate circling the city.
"We should be back at my place in just a few minutes, Sam."
He lifted his head groggily and shook it. "You don't have to do that. You've done enough for me- you can just drop me off at the nearest motel."
Pepper set her face. "Nonsense, Sam. No arguing, okay? You're going back to my place where you get get some proper rest, alright?" Indeed there was no arguing with her and as promised, minutes later they were pulling into a parking space outside a large apartment building.
Sam let himself out of the car and immediately caught the scent of the lake nearby. He was too tired to really take in much of their surroundings other than the faint smell of fish as Pepper hooked an arm around his and lead him towards her building.
Something tickled his memory as they approached it- he couldn't put his finger on it, but the place felt familiar somehow. He shrugged it off though and chalked it up to exhaustion and his hurting heart.
Pepper entered a code into the security system to open the front door and Sam let her practically drag him into the brightly-lit lobby before leading him down a corridor to her door. Opening it up, she flicked on a light, revealing a tidy and tastefully decorated apartment.
"I guess you can take the couch tonight if that's okay with you."
Sam just nodded, weariness seeping out of all his pores. "I'm just gonna go change and find some blankets for you. So, go ahead an make yourself at home."
Finding the couch, Sam lowered his aching body down and slumped into the cushions. His exhaustion was not only physical in nature, he was just bone-tired of this life and the prospect of facing the rest of it without Bobby and Dean...he wasn't sure he could do it.
At least Dean seemed content with his life as it was and Sam tried to take some comfort in that, but it was hard to feel anything but heartache.
Maybe he just needed to accept this new life, he thought miserably, and find a way to keep trudging on day by day, even if every fiber within him just wanted to give up and fall back into that deep, dreamless oblivion of the coma he had emerged from and never wake up again.
Sam heard a rustle from behind him and turned around. Pepper had changed into a simple, sleeveless night gown and was carrying a pile of pillows, bed linens and blankets, heading his way.
"I hope these will be enough to keep you warm tonight. This building used to be a fish processing plant before they converted it into apartments, so it still gets a little drafty in here sometimes."
"I'm sure I'll be fine." He mumbled back. Pepper bent over to lay the pillows and blankets down on the coffee table before the sofa and as she did so, Sam's attention was drawn to her upper arms, a feature of the woman that had been covered in his presense before that point
He furrowed his brow as he traced the black lines that swirled and encircled her shoulders- she hadn't struck him as the kind of girl that would sport tattoos, but perhaps this was another sign of the new times he was trapped in. However, just then he suddenly felt a strange sense of deja vu wash over him- there was something about those designs- something he should know that was obvious, yet he couldn't grab a hold of their meaning.
"Those are interesting tattoos." He pointed out, wanting to know more about them and why they seemed so familiar to him.
"Oh...these? Yeah..." She caressed her bare arms. "They're kind of a family tradition to get these. I hope to have more like my father did one day."
Her comment sounded strange to his ears. "So the family that inks together stays together?"
She snorted with something that came close to a sneer and he was overcome and taken aback by the sense of danger he felt from the look in her eyes.
"My father had these- so did my sisters and brothers- all in my clan get them."
"Yeah...my family- " She looked down, speaking with her eyes downcast. "But, they're all gone now. I'm the last of my line...I'm all alone."
Something in her tone of voice suddenly changed and she when she spoke again, it dripped with deep-seeded anger. "They were all killed. First my father... and then a couple of years later my sisters and brothers were all hunted down like animals and I was the only one to get away."
She turned darkened eyes on him. "But now you must know what it's like, Sam...to have your whole family- your whole world- everything and everyone you ever cared for or who loved you in return taken from your life..." She leaned in close to him and hissed in his ear, "Now you know how I feel."
A wave of fear washed over Sam as her words sunk in and his mind began to feed him images and the pieces of the puzzle they created coalesced into one solid memory: the old abandoned building down by the lake, the long corridor with the open door at the end, the smell of fish and of decay. He also remembered clearly what he and Dean had been hunting now.
It had only been a couple of days after learning about Crowley from Eve when Sam read about the seven people missing in Chicago. One of those missing people had turned up floating in Lake Michigan- completely drained of blood. Dean thought vampires at first, but after gaining access to the body thanks to Dean's handiwork at creating fake FBI IDs, Sam found no signs of a vampire bite, instead he found one clean puncture mark through the jugular...most likely made by a hypodermic needle. After that they knew what they were after and tracked down the location they believed it might be hiding out by triangulating the spots where all of the victims had gone missing.
The tattoos on her arms should have clued him in right away for that was his true last memory before he woke up in this alternate reality- those arms grabbing him and taking hold with a power he couldn't fight off.
She must have been doing something to him this whole time so he wouldn't recall it all until now.
He gulped heavily, knowing that nothing was as it appeared.
Pepper lifted her head, her once dark, brown eyes now glowing a vivid, electric blue.
He took in her new appearance with a stifled gasp. "You're a djinn...aren't you? You lured us here- took all those people so we would come after you. This whole time...the coma?...Bobby's death?...no one remembering me? None of it's real...You made it all up, didn't you? This is some sort of dream.. or hallucination."
"Took you long enough to figure it out- I was getting pretty sick of the play-acting and pretending to be your friend, but it was all worth it seeing your face the moment Dean rejected you and tossed you on your ass..." She sneered, closing in on him until she had him lying on the couch and straddling him, pinning his weakened frame so he couldn't fight back.
"It's just too bad Dean wasn't with you when you stumbled into my web- I could have had fun with you both at once... but, no matter- I'll find him eventually and give him whats coming to him as well. Just consider this my payback for the all of the pain and grief you've caused me- for killing my father- for the way you and your grandfather kidnapped my kin and robbed them from me- leaving me all alone."
Sam didn't personally remember any of the events of the year he spent soulless or of hunting with Samuel Campbell, but he knew enough from Dean's explainations that they had been rounding up supernatural creatures like the djinn and sending them off to Crowley. Sam started to understand her anger and need for vengeance now, not that it made him feel any less frightened of her though.
"I could always kill myself- dying here will wake me up." He declared defiantly.
She laughed in his face, her eyes ablaze with vehemence. "You forget that you're in my sandbox now, Sam... there's no way you can wake yourself up from this- I can make you belief whatever I want." She waved her hand over him and Sam felt his body go numb. "Even paralyze you from the neck down so you can never move again."
Sam's heart raced when he tried to move and nothing happened.
"By the way, I made sure to open up your wrists in the real world so that right now as we speak, your life is seeping away down to a dirty floor where Dean won't find you until it's too late. He won't be able to save you and you'll be dead in minutes from blood loss, but in your mind, Sam- you will live a long, long life- alone, with no family, no one to love you and nothing to look forward to each day except for bitterness, loneliness... and despair... Just like how you left me."
Sam shook his head, wanting to grab her neck and throttle her, but her power over his mind was too great and he couldn't move anything but his head.."No...it isn't real."
"Real enough, Sam." She smiled maliciously, then slid off of him, leaving him lying helpless on the couch as she walked backwards away from him.
"I'll be calling the hospital now, so they can come and take you back...I'm sure Dr. Morse will be pleased to see you return and I bet you'll have a simply fantastic time being his guinea pig..." She added with malicious sarcasm.
Sneering venomously, she was about to turn and pick up her phone when she suddenly stopped mid-stride, her eyes growing wide in shock, anger, fear, panic and pain. Her mouth opened to let out a scream, but only a choking, gurgling sound came out as blood bubbled and spurted forth, dribbling onto her chin and down her neck in rivers of red. She turned accusing eyes on him as a bright, crimson circle grew from underneath her nightgown and spread swiftly across her abdomen, soaking the once white fabric into a deep scarlet. At last, the life fled from her body and she fell onto the floor, her eyes staring up vacantly into space.
Sam had no time to react to the unexplained and sudden demise of the djinn before a wave of exhaustion and fatigue crashed over him accompanied by an overwhelming desire to close his eyes and just rest. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he knew shouldn't give in to it, but it was too tempting to resist.
"Sam?" A faint voice shouted from a distance, almost too hard to hear. "Sammy...c'mon, man...wake up already."
The softness of the couch underneath him disappeared, replaced by a feeling of floating through the air.
"Sam...shit....hold on- I'm gonna get you down." Sam tried peeling his eyes open. He took in the sights surrounding him in a detached sort of way, to tired to have an emotional reaction to it all: gone was the apartment, replaced by chains hanging from the exposed, steel girders of the ceiling above while bodies hung suspended next to him, some of them fresh, but all of them smelling of death. Last of all, his eyes landed on the djinn, her eyes glaring up at him lifelessly, a silver blade sticking out from her back and piercing it's way all the way through her body.
He wanted to again close his eyes and go back to sleep, but pain came next- his hands and wrists flaring in white-hot agony while an involuntary groan escaped from deep within his throat. He squeezed his eyes shut then felt something give above him, his hands falling and the floating sensation he had experienced before soon became a cold, hard rock beneath him.
"Hey...hey.." He felt a tapping on his cheek followed by pressure being placed over his wrists. "Open your eyes, Sam...c'mon, sleepy time's over. Time to come back to reality, 'kay?"
Sam forced his heavy eyes to crack open and he caught a glance of short, sandy colored-hair bobbing over him.
"D-?" He tried to speak, but that urge to close his eyes again and go back to a blissful state of oblivion was back.
"No you don't...no sleeping...stay with me here."
From somewhere Sam found the will to stay awake and it may have been helped along by his happiness at seeing his brother and hearing him saying his name...just knowing who he was.
"You...you know who...I y'am?" Sam asked just to make sure this wasn't still a part of the dream.
"Course I know who you are, Bitch. But, you're bleeding like a stuck pig right now so shut it so I can get these bandages on tight."
Sam wouldn't have been able to wipe the smile off his face even if he had tried and as it was, he was only half aware of what he was slurring out as he gazed up at his brother with slow, sleepy blinks. "Glad you...glad you 'member me"
"Oookay...Guess that makes two of us." Dean drawled out in response to his little brother's non sequitur, humoring his loopy state. "I think we need to get out of here and pump you full of some juice and cookies- blood loss makes you kinda stupid, Sammy."
"Nah I don't think you need to come out... I think he's gonna be okay, just tired right now.. Yeah, I know...I'll call you when we're back on the road again, okay Bobby? Yep- Bye"
Dean's voice and the sound of him snapping closed his phone cut into Sam's dream while sunlight hit him directly in the face, rousing him from some of the most peaceful rest he had had in a long time. He cursed the sun internally for robbing him of the extra sleep he could have taken in, but when he opened his eyes and gazed about the room, he was happy to be awake.
Half-eaten cartons of Chinese food, discarded m&m bags, empty soda and juice cans and one unshaven brother sitting up in the other bed picking up the remote and flipping through channels on the motel TV set was a sight for Sam's sore eyes.
"Hey- looks like Rip van Winkle finally decided that 18 hours of sleep was enough for one day." Dean quipped after noticing Sam staring at him. "How're ya feelin?" He asked.
Sam sat up slowly with a groan, his head full of cotton, mouth dry, sewn-up, bandaged wrists aching and needing to pee, but for all of that, he hadn't felt better in a what felt like an eternity and definitely better than last night when Dean had to practically carry him into the room.
"Not bad, actually." He replied to Dean's question truthfully. His body was his own again- not the feeble shadow of the man who had spent ten years wasting away in a bed and he doubted he would ever take being fit and healthy for granted ever again.
"Here-" Dean grabbed an unopened can of grape juice and sent it sailing in the air towards Sam. "Drink some more juice- you still look like one of those pale bitches from those vampire movies."
"Aww damn...speaking of liquids..." Sam hurried to the bathroom to relieve his over-burdened bladder. When he was finished with his business, he washed his hands then looked up in the mirror. His face stared back at him, full, young, healthy and strong, but in the corner of his mind, he could still see the sunken-in and weary image of the man the djinn had made him to believe he had been.
He turned away from it and left the bathroom, not wanting to think of that face ever again.
He crossed the room and headed back to his bed and sitting down and leaning his back against the headboard, joining Dean in watching some rather idiotic show about douchebags that lived in New Jersey and used way too much spray tan in order to get his mind off of the spectre of the djinn illusions.
However, even such brainless TV did little to distract him and his thoughts drifted back to that bizzaro world he barely escaped.
"Well, this is lame." Dean complained as he shut off the TV and tossed the remote aside, sensing that Sam's head was elsewhere. "Alright, Sam. You gonna spill about the djinn or what?"
"What." Sam came back monotonously, absently picking at a loose string dangling from the bottom of his t-shirt. Dean threw a pillow at him, making sure it hit him over the head.
"Dean..." Sam sighed heavily, tossing the pillow away. "It doesn't matter- it wasn't real."
"I know how those things can make you believe that what you're experiencing is real, and dammit if I didn't want to stay living in that dream world when I got caught by one of those things... But, somehow I get the feeling it wasn't the same with you-"
"Not exactly..." Sam agreed quietly, the string on his shirt getting more twisted up until he finally snapped it off. "It wasn't a world I would have wanted to stay in..."
"So tell...what did she make you see?" Dean insisted without demanding, gently prodding Sam to talk and get things off his chest.
Sam sighed. Dean was going to keep asking so he started off from the beginning, going over the experiences he had in Pepper's (if that was even her real name)fantasy land. When he was done, Dean was quiet and pensive.
"So...that was pretty much it. You came along and killed her..." He paused then added, "Thanks for that, by the way."
"Hey...it was a good thing we knew it was a djinn before going in or I wouldn't have known to bring the knife dipped in lambs blood, so good call on your part."
"How did you find me, anyway?"
"Wasn't too hard. I had just made it to the basement when I thought I heard something and tried to call you, but when you didn't answer I came looking for you and my nose led me the rest of the way. She must have had about four or five other bodies strung up in there...that's kinda a hard smell to miss."
"Wait...so...you couldn't have been away from me more than a few minutes then." Sam suddenly realized.
"Nah...maybe ten- fifteen minutes, tops." Dean agreed. "Any longer and you might have bled out before I found you."
Sam shook his head in disbelief. "It felt like weeks."
"Yeah well, those Djinn can do a real mind fuck on ya. Make you believe almost anything- even the most crazy things like me being a fat, suburban soccer-dad." Dean quipped half-heartedly. Sam knew that deep down Dean would have been happy with a life like that, so he quickly moved to teasing in order to deflect any feelings about Lisa and Ben and the life Dean had with them before they dragged his brother down.
"Actually..." Sam began, a smirk curling his lips up. "You were a balding, glasses wearing, baseball-dad that drove a minivan."
"Good God...a minivan?" Dean winced. "Now that really would have been a nightmare..."
Sam was quiet again and Dean got up from his bed to take a seat on the edge of Sam's then nudged him with his knee. "Hey...There's something you're still not telling me, isn't there?" He asked, sensing that Sam was holding back a few things from him.
"It's nothing..." Sam tried to brush off his darkening mood, but Dean wasn't buying it.
"Bullshit...your mouth says one thing, but your pouty, bitchy face says another. So c'mon...start singin'."
Sam blew out a deep breath, not really wanting to go into how he was feeling, but with Dean getting increasingly less patient with his reluctance, he started to talk. "It's...it's just that...what if something like that really happened? What if this wall in my head suddenly came crashing down one day and I was left a drooling vegetable for the rest of my life? I wouldn't want you to be burdened taking care of me..I'd want you to move on and-"
"Whoa. Whoa. Whoa!... " Dean raised his hands to stop him mid-sentence. "Who said anything about you becoming a vegetable? For one thing you got me and there's no way I'm gonna let anything happen to that over-stuffed brain of yours and for another..." Dean became suddenly quieter as he gripped Sam's shoulder and looked him dead-on in the eye, his voice coming through emphatically and with a crystal-clear honesty that left Sam feeling an embarrasing amount of moisture begin to gather in his eyes.
"You'd never be a burden to me, Sam- no matter what happens- not ever."