Author's notes: As always, I keep my mouth shut at this point and let you read this one first...please see my notes at the end of the chapter.
He didn't hear it at first, over the rushing of his own blood in his ears and the thud-thud of his heart against his ribcage. An unhealthy but welcome tunnel vision, together with a rigid and unyielding foot on the accelerator had lead him here. Only when he turned onto the parking lot of the Alpena Regional Medical Center, a small part of his frenzy dissolved long enough to allow the quiet, almost inaudible noise to enter his awareness.
Sam's first thought was to ignore it. Probably Jess. He would call her back. Maybe pastor Jim, asking if he had arrived safe and sound. He would call him back.
It was a tiny nagging feeling that forced him to take the first free parking space, even if it was the farthest away from the main entrance, even if he had to park the car awkwardly on a heap of ploughed snow. It was that feeling that let him almost crawl onto the back seat, reaching out for his cell which was ringing happily away.
When he finally managed to snatch it, one look at the display let his world freeze.
A pause. One Sam was so ready to fill with words he might regret later. Maybe.
His eyebrows shot up. That was it? Sorry?
"Sorry! You got to be kidding me, you son of a bitch, do you know how many times I tried to reach you? Have you checked your phone? What were you thinking? You can't just drop a bomb like the one you dropped and make a bolt for it, you know, I'm out of my mind with worry–"
"Sam, just…stop, okay. Stop."
Sam did as he was told. Not because it was an order. Not because he had the intentions to listen to his dad's excuses.
It was his tone that stopped him.
His father sounded…off. Tired. And quiet. He was almost whispering. As if loud noises would shatter his world. Would shatter him.
"Dad?" And suddenly it was back. The damn constricting throat. The fear which had retreated and had cleared the way for the white-hot rage that had kept Sam going, had kept him driving the 4 hours from Detroit to Alpena, had kept him sane. "Dean. What…dad, what is it? How is he?"
With a trembling hand Sam gripped the door handle. With legs that were more jelly then bones and muscle he got out of the car. He didn't feel the biting wind that tore at his clothes and hair. He knew the tears pooling in his eyes weren't from the cold.
A sound so unlike for his dad reached his ear. A whimper? A sob?
A fucking sob.
"Don't say it…" Sam whispered, hesitant to take a step forward and away from the car, not trusting his body. "Don't you dare say it…"
"No. I don't want to hear it. I won't listen to you…"
Running a free, trembling hand through already tousled hair, Sam fell back against the cold metal of the vehicle. This wasn't happening. This wasn't his father telling him that his brother hadn't made it, had lost the fight, had left them alone.
All the anger Sam had felt towards his father flew away instantly, all the things he had wanted to say to him, to blame him for, it melted to a puddle of anguish and pain.
"I wasn't fast enough...I should have been faster...I should have taken a car sooner...God, no..."
"No...he can't do this, dad...how can he do this? Leave us alone like that? This isn't real...tell me this isn't real..."
His legs gave way and Sam slid down to the icy ground. He didn't notice the snow crawling into the fabric of his jeans immediately. Didn't notice the thick snowflakes settling on the tip of his nose. The bright white scenery with it's muted noises turned to a frozen scenery, motionless and cold.
His brother was dead. The reason he had quit hunting, the sword of Damocles that had been hovering above their heads for all those years, it had finally snapped, had shattered his world by taking the most precious person Sam had.
Dean was gone. And he couldn't even tell him goodbye.
"Are you done, Sam?"
His father's voice was the only clear thing left in his brain. A beacon in his numbness. A clamp around his spinning head.
Oh yes, he was done. And when the moment came and his grief turned to hatred, his father would be, too.
The flicker of a frown rushed over Sam's face. There was a rustling, as if his dad was putting his phone aside. He was murmuring, whispering something.
Trying to keep himself from drowning in grief and shock, torn between asking what this was about and to just keep his mouth shut, Sam just listened, unable to do anything else.
There could have been an explosion beside him. A dog peeing at his leg. Someone stealing the car he currently leaned against. Sam wouldn't notice. And he wouldn't care.
For the umpteenth time since he had received the first call from his dad, since his odyssey had started, Sam was about to cry. But this time, it had nothing to do with anguish or panic.
Please, don't let this be a dream. Let this be real.
There was a silence, and Sam almost crawled into his cell, pressed the little device against his ear with so much force it cracked, tried to listen, afraid of missing anything. The telltale blip blip blip of a heart monitor reached his ears, accompanied by someone – Dad – speaking very gentle and very soft, sounding like a heartwarming hum.
When had Sam heard his father ever speak that gentle and soft?
He was about to ask again, to say his brother's name once more because he needed to say it and he needed to hear Dean answer.
It was nothing more than the weakest murmur. It was a slow, short, crooning version of 'Yeah, of course it's me, who else did you expect, geek boy?'
It was the most beautiful sound Sam had ever heard in his life.
"You're okay…are you okay? Dean? Can you…can you…don't talk too much, okay? How are you feeling?" God, he was rambling but it was so damn hard to sort and organize his jumbled thoughts and emotions.
Another murmur, but this time it sounded like an actual word…almost crushing his phone, Sam strained his ears and listened. Dean was trying to get something out.
P…? Pee? Peace? Pichi? How did Dean even know that kind of thing?
"Peachy! You're feeling peachy?"
It still sounded weird and off and so not Dean, it was hard to listen to and broke Sam's heart, but he couldn't care less right now.
Dean was alive. It was probably a long way to go from here, but he was alive. Still there.
Another rustling. Another whispering. Sam strained his ears again.
"Dad?" Sam tried to hide his disappointment.
"Where the hell are you?"
An epiphany moment. As if a bucket of cold water was poured out over him. Fighting the urge to smack himself Sam scrambled clumsily and hectically to his feet, trying to remember were he had left the keys and seriously pondering over leaving the car unlocked.
"God…I'm so stupid…I'm here, I just parked the car, I'm almost with you…."
"Then how about you swing your ass up here, kiddo? You're brother and me are waiting for you."
And just like that, his father had offered the olive branch. After tense years of trying to be father and son which had peaked in an awful row and 18 months of silence, there finally was this moment of peace and familiarity that had been a rare guest in the Winchester household.
"I'm going to hang up now, okay? Still not allowed to use a cell phone in here…"
Spotting the car keys dangling from the ignition, Sam snatched them, slammed the door shut and locked it. He then scanned the hospital building for the entrance and started to run towards it.
"How do I find you? Which insurance do you use?"
There was a pause. God, he hoped they were using a fake name at all and dad hadn't forgot about it?
"Don't you dare laugh..."
Sam frowned. Hell, he would laugh about anything like a lunatic right now. "I won't. Now spill."
"Dick and Manny Feltersnatch."
Okay. How was he not supposed to laugh at that? Almost tripping over his own feet, Sam snorted. "Seriously?"
"Shut up and move it."
"Alright, alright...see ya in 5."
"See ya, Sammy."
He couldn't decipher his emotions at the moment. They were a hurricane. Joy, excitement, fear, concern, tension. Too many hours of too much emotional turmoil, dread, worry, a fast ride that had him close to veering off the street too often. He had feared an impact with a stone wall.
The impact hadn't come. Yet. Once again they had gotten away with a glancing blow. One that would haunt Sam for a very long time, so much was sure. Once again he was confronted with his worst nightmare of losing someone he loved. Losing Dean. Maybe some day losing his father thanks to some creature or monster or lore or whatever hell had to offer.
But maybe this was a chance, too. His chance to rebuilt a few of the bridges he had burnt behind him. To get in touch with his family again. Answer Dean's calls from time to time, maybe call him once in a while.
It was his family after all. He couldn't chose them. But he could be ready to accept them as a part of his life, with all their kinks and weaknesses.
Coming to a halt in front of the huge double glass doors, Sam took a moment to recover his breath. Raising his hand, he looked at his cell phone for a moment.
Then he turned it off, slid it into his jacket pocket and jogged into the building.
Final author's notes: Funny, I just had to laugh so hard about 'Dick and Mannie Feltersnatch'. Where did that come from?
Okay, so I hope you all like this ending! It's a happy one and I think we all need that now, am I right?
I'm sure a few of you are disappointed I end it here. I know that there's enough stuff for more chapters. But as I said, this was an experiment, a story based on phone calls. With Sam arriving at the hospital, being finally there to see John and Dean, this story is told. Maybe there'll be a sequel...
I have to thank all of you for accepting the challenge, for not sending hate mails because of ridiculously short chapters and for plastering me with praises and lovely reviews, day after day! You're all awesome, you know that? Thank you very very much!
MeAzrael, my beloved Kate, from the idea to the finished story you've been my guide. Not only as my Beta, but also because you shared your probably most agonizing hours with me, spoke to me and let me in, even if you probably wanted to just run away from everything more than once, fed up with the situation and all the questions and sympathetic faces. This is your story, too!
DeansBabyBird – more DeansBabyEagle with the super sharp eyes :-D Thanks for your help!
So, what's next? I guess I'm going to run to my computer every day only to realize that there's nothing to post and, worst of all, no review to read anymore! Which is going to make me fire up my OpenOffice and continue to work on my next baby, 'Running Dry'.
Looking forward to see you all again! Next time!