The Truth, and Nothing But.
Season 2, set a few months after BUABS.
After Sam is found gunshot and bleeding out on a motel room floor, he refuses to talk about it. His increasing depression, and brooding silences, force Dean and Bobby to take drastic steps towards uncovering the truth.
Who shot Sam Winchester and why?
Warning: This is a Brotherly Schmoop Zone. Enter at own risk.
Many thanks to Devon99 for the speedy beta.
Dean watched the blips pinging up and down on the monitor, checked his watch, listened to the hiss of oxygen, and fought back a weary sigh.
It had been twelve hours since they arrived at the ER, and a little more than that since he found Sam lying in a pool of his own blood on the motel room floor.
Six hours he had spent watching the emergency surgery from the observation room window above, flinching, heart in his mouth, as the surgeons worked on saving his little brother's life.
Four hours post – op, Sam still hadn't regained consciousness but Dean remained hopeful.
Almost two weeks later, Sam sat quietly in the wheelchair, arms tucked awkwardly inside the rests, humungous feet overhanging the pedals. It should have looked comical, like a circus clown trying to ride a child's tricycle.
It looked anything but.
Dean kept up the smiles and teasing quips, acted as though nothing was wrong or out of place, but Sam didn't remark. Nor did he sigh or comment when Dean ruffled his hair and called him Sammy. He just sat, silently, with a hangdog expression that would have put a blood hound to shame.
This time it wasn't weariness Dean was fighting to hold back. Now he was battling the urge to clip Sam upside the head and demand that the kid talk to him. Thumping him wouldn't be helpful to his recovery, but Dean's hand twitched regardless.
For ten days, Dean had sat by Sam's bed, waiting for him to wake up, and a further six after that waiting for some kind of sign that Sam was still with him. While Dean attempted to maintain a level of normalcy and conversation, his little brother was busy perfecting the thousand yard stare.
The doctors had warned him of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Dean was willing to acknowledge that being shot at close range with a high powered weapon in their own motel room was probably responsible for most of Sam's silence. But Dean also knew the kid like the back of his hand.
There was something else going on, and his suspicions were confirmed by the telltale glimmer in Sam's eyes whenever Dean tried to discuss the events of that night.
For whatever reason, Sam blamed himself.
Dean wouldn't give up on him. Sam was harbouring some terrible knowledge in that freaky head of his, something that was growing and festering day by day, and Dean was determined to lance the boil, so to speak.
But right now, he had to get his kid brother comfortable, warm, and safe.
"Here we go, Sammy," Dean murmured, gently grasping Sam's arm, getting ready to help him to his feet.
Sam started and blinked up at his brother, as though just coming awake.
"Uh… oh… right," he mumbled, looking a little unsure what to do with himself.
Dean repressed a sigh and widened his smile instead.
"Time to break the hell out of this place," he joked, and nodded to the open rear door of the Impala. "But let's just take it nice and slow, huh?"
A soft, mobile bed awaited Sam, made of stolen hospital blankets and mounds of pillows. Dean had obviously gone to some effort because, settled in the foot well on a clean sheet, was a carton of orange juice with a straw poking out the top, a bottle of chilled water, and some pain killers.
Sam saw all this and turned his head away for a few seconds.
"Uh… th-thanks, Dean," he muttered, and sniffed quietly.
Dean frowned but otherwise let it pass.
The kid wobbled a little when Dean gently pulled him out of the chair, and clutched fiercely at his older brother's flannel shirt, breathing heavily.
Dean stopped moving, and took all of Sam's considerable weight without so much as a whimper of protest.
Sam was exhausted and obviously still in a terrible amount of pain, but his stubborn nature kept him silent, unwilling to impart that piece of information, even under torture. His body, however, betrayed him with shakes, shivers, and a cold sweat soaking through his clothes, all the signs that even this small amount of movement was just too much for him.
"S'ok, Sammy," Dean whispered, kindly, rubbing Sam's arm. "I gotcha. Just let me do all the work."
Sam hung there, struggling to calm his breathing, still clutching tightly at Dean's shirt, and it was a good few minutes before he nodded.
The two men shuffled closer to the car, Sam's jaw clenching and unclenching rhythmically with each movement.
"I'm just gonna turn you, ok? Slowly now…" Dean carefully moved round behind his brother adjusting his grip but not letting go, and helped him turn to the side. "And… down… watch your head…"
Not that Sam needed to worry about that at all. Dean was already watching it for him, with one hand splayed across Sam's scalp, cradling it like a newborn baby, while he slowly ducked down and inside the car.
Dean crouched down and regarded his kid brother with concern. Sam was resting back in the seat, eyes closed, clearly pushed to the limits of his endurance. His pale, young face showed every ounce of pain he tried so unsuccessfully to hide; ironically, from the one person he could never hide anything from, at least, not for long.
"Sam, maybe you should've stayed a little longer."
Sam opened his eyes when he heard Dean's quiet suggestion.
"I'm fine," Sam replied, breathlessly. "Just need a little down time, that's all. Quit worrying, Dean."
Dean's frown deepened. Sam wasn't being petulant or even bitchy, just plain old fashioned resigned, and that was even more worrying. It sounded like Sam had given up, as though he truly believed he deserved this.
But there was no point in arguing. In Sam's shoes, Dean would have been complaining his way free from the ICU days ago. Sam, on the other hand, hadn't uttered one single complaint. He'd mutely eaten the shit food without even a grimace, obediently taken his meds, and slept when told to by his doctor.
The only glitch had been his statement to the police. Dean knew all his brother's tells, so he was the only one in the room who'd flat out known the exact point Sam lied his ass off.
Can you remember who shot you? Did you get a good look at your assailant?
No, I'm sorry, I don't remember anything…
Dean had thought long and hard about this, had tried every trick in the book to get Sam to open up, but the only thing he got from him were the big, sorrowful, puppy dog eyes, stubbornly holding on to that flash of self-condemnation.
Dean had gone over the options and possibilities in his head, and after a few phone conversations with Bobby Singer, finally reached a conclusion:
The gunman was a hunter.
No way was this a random burglary. The shooter was too damn professional for that. They'd silently slipped into the room at a busy motel on a Saturday night, caught a trained and experienced hunter unawares, and fired a shot without disturbing the other patrons. Obviously, some kind of a muffler had been employed to silence the retort, and how many small time burglars raided cheap, nasty motel rooms with an expensive, muffler equipped .44?
And why choose the brothers' room, specifically?
Too many coincidences.
The gunman knew what they wanted and knew their target well.
This was an execution attempt.
Why Sam, and why did it fail?
The assassin was long gone by the time Dean got back to the room, finding the door ajar, and the old black and white TV crackling away to itself. There would have been plenty of time to finish the job. A double tap to the head and lights out.
Dean tried not to flinch on the heels of that thought.
The cops had noted an anonymous call to emergency services, informing them of a gunshot victim at the nearby motel. The voice had been disguised to sound artificially deeper, but the dispatcher could have sworn the caller was female.
Dean had easily shrugged that off. Someone could have walked on by the open door, peered inside and seen a guy sprawled out on the floor in a pool of blood. Not many people would want to get directly involved in something that looked mighty suspicious, especially if there was the possibility the attacker was still in the room somewhere. But some kind soul might have put in a call on Sam's behalf, and if he was honest, Dean could admit it would have been the safest course of action for any civilian.
According to the local cops, there'd been no sign anyone else had been in the room besides Sam. No fibres, no hairs, no foot prints in Sam's blood. Nothing.
Just a broken mirror in the bathroom, which Dean was pretty sure had nothing to do with any of this. Sam's doc had found pieces of mirror shards in a few cuts on Sam's arm. Nothing serious, and no prizes for guessing what happened, though the 'why' of it was still a mystery.
Whoever shot his kid brother had either expertly, and quietly,picked the lock, or Sam had invited them in.
That last one was a little hard to swallow, but Dean couldn't ignore the possibility.
Now, it was a tiny, insignificant detail to the cops, but Sam claimed the last thing he remembered was leaving the bathroom, and pulling a shirt over his head. He'd felt the pain in his back, then nothing.
Liar! Dean's instincts screamed and stamped their feet like a four year old in a tantrum.
Dean had found him actually wearing the shirt. It was stained by blood and bearing a lethal looking entry wound in the back, just below Sam's heart.
Yet, the way Sam told it, he'd dropped before managing to pull the shirt right on.
Dean was willing to buy that, having been shot in the back, Sam might not have seen his assailant right at the moment the bullet left the barrel, but Sam was conscious when Dean found him, bleeding out and in shock. The shooter would have known that, would have checked to see if he was still alive.
And, most importantly, Dean didn't care how injured he was, or how much shock he was in, Sam's Einstein-sized brain wouldn't have just let a little detail like the assailant's face slip by him. Dean knew him better than that. It would have been recorded in Sam's mind right off the bat, like a plane on autopilot.
Maybe the assassin wore a ski mask, but Dean's instincts were telling him otherwise.
Sam knew who it was. Which meant he just didn't trust anyone enough to open up.
That hurt, Dean admitted to himself, reluctantly. When he confessed to Bobby Singer, the gruff old codger had snorted down the line at him.
This ain't about you, kid. Sam trusts you with his life. No, this is something far trickier, far deeper. Tread gently around him, Dean, and he'll come clean soon enough...
So he was resigned to waiting it out. For now.
The journey went smoothly, with only a couple of meal breaks. Dean had been tempted to stop overnight for a break, but images of motel room carpets stained with fresh blood kept flooding his head, and Sam seemed comfortable enough, so Dean put his foot down. The car growled softly, picked up speed, glided past all potential rest stops and carried the brothers safely onwards.
Bobby Singer's salvage yard was its usual, charming mess of broken down and rusting automobile history. In fact, Dean had once sworn he'd seen a documentary on the History channel about it, where the enthusiastic presenter had been run off the property by a fierce, bearded, shotgun wielding, badger in a ball cap.
Bobby had grunted something unintelligible at the time, and given Dean a solid cuff to the back of the head that he was sure to never forget.
Unconsciously rubbing that exact same spot, Dean grinned as he drove carefully through the gates. Home, sweet home.
"Sam? You awake, buddy?" he called softly, and pulled up, switching the engine off.
Twisting in his seat, he assessed his little brother, noting the pain lines and tightly clenched jaw.
Dull, lifeless, blue-green eyes cracked open and peered out at him.
Sam stared at him blankly for a few seconds, then nodded and slowly began to sit up.
"Whoa, hey!" Dean scrambled out from the behind the wheel and headed round to assist him. "Just stay still and I'll get you out…"
"I can handle it, Dean," said Sam, again not sounding pissed or anything, but weary, and anxious not to be a burden. "Just hold the door for me?"
Dean bit back a sarcastic remark and just shook his head.
The brothers made their way up to the house in silence, Sam staring unseeing at the dusty ground, Dean keeping him upright with both arms around his body.
"Need a hand there, boys?" Bobby announced his presence from the top of the veranda steps.
He didn't wait for an answer, just thumped his way down to the brothers, wrapped an arm around Sam's waist from the opposite side to Dean, and helped drag the youngster into the main house.
"Made up your usual room. Should be good and warm in there by now. Got that old oil heater you boys used to like when you were kids…"
He mumbled on, his gruff manner and whisky rough voice soothing and familiar to the brothers after days of clinical surroundings and strangers in scrubs.
"…it still casts that weird blue glow on the ceiling, and if you're of a mind to, I'm sure you haven't lost the knack for bunny shadows…" Bobby added, fondly.
Dean chuckled. Yeah, he remembered that.
When he and Sam were kids, Dean used to entertain his little brother at night by turning out the bedroom lights, and casting hand-shadow puppets on the ceiling. Six year old Sammy had loved it, and the little boy couldn't keep from giggling loudly; so loudly in fact, that a highly amused John Winchester would stride up the stairs and bellow at his boys to "Keep it down, for God's sake! You're supposed to be asleep!"
Dean's grin softened at the unexpected memory.
Those were happier times in the Winchester family.
Sam didn't say a word in response to Bobby's ramblings. His head hung down, wobbling bonelessly with each step upwards into the house, and the only sign that he was even awake were the clumsy attempts to keep his feet under him.
Bobby caught Dean's eye over Sam's head. He ok?
Dean shrugged slightly in response. Absolutely not.
Bobby nodded and cast a worried, sideways glance at the younger Winchester.
"Say, Sam? You hungry?" he asked, casual as you please. "Got some homemade burgers ready to grill, and a freshly tossed salad… you interested?"
Sam raised his head. "I-I don't…"
"Dude, you can't take any more of those pain meds on an empty stomach," said Dean, reasonably. "You'll burn a hole in it."
It had been one hell of an effort as it was, trying to get some soup down the kid en route to the yard. First time Dean attempted it, up came the meds and the soup, all over the diner table.
Yeah, the clear up had been fun, Dean remembered, sourly, with disgusted diner patrons watching on and making no move to help. Sam had nearly died of embarrassment when someone not so subtly remarked about damn drunken kids and self-inflicted illness. Dean had heard it loud and clear, and the only thing stopping him from ripping the old guy's head off had been Sam's hand on his arm, gently tugging him back.
Dean watched the kid now, hoping that display of the old Sam would come through once again.
"Ok," Sam whispered, and nodded, just a slight movement, but acknowledgment nonetheless.
"Alright, then," Dean allowed himself a triumphant smile, oddly and overwhelmingly pleased with Sam's slow but steady progress.
Bobby, however, wasn't nearly so reassured.
It didn't help Bobby's faith when Sam freaked out at the dinner table. His burger had bled a small amount of red juice onto his hands, the meat a little rarer than he usually took it. He went almost catatonic, mumbling under his breath, staring at his hands in horror, as though they were completely covered in blood, rather than a small amount of meat juice and cooking oil.
"It wasn't me… it wasn't me…"
Dean and Bobby had been forced to intervene.
As soon as Sam was drugged up on more pains meds and tucked away in bed, Bobby rounded on Dean with a scowl.
"Something ain't right with Sam."
Dean glanced up from scrubbing the dishes.
"You noticed that, huh?" he remarked, sarcastically, and nodded, in a 'told you so' kind of way. "Yip. Poor kid's been like this since he woke up."
Bobby glanced quickly over at the kitchen door, as though worried Sam might appear at any moment.
"He's acting like he's seen ghost or something," the older guy scratched the back of neck, nervously. "You don't think…?"
"Nah," Dean assured him. "Once Sam was out of danger, I went back and checked the room for EMF. Not even a squeal, man. I'm telling' ya. Whatever it was?" he reached out, grabbed up a towel and began drying his hands, distractedly. "It wasn't a ghost."
Bobby nodded and breathed out, long and slow.
"Well, you know I ain't a fan of forcing someone to talk before they're ready," he said, quietly, eyes narrow and heavy with concern. "But somehow I think we're gonna need to make an exception here. Whatever went down that night? It's killing him."
Dean's mouth quirked, humourlessly. Singer sure had changed his tune in the last few hours.
"Tell me about it," his sad gaze sought Bobby's and he sighed, wearily. "If you got any ideas, let me know."
Bobby nodded, thoughtfully.
"Leave it with me."
So, what do you think so far?
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Also, please treat all medical references with a pinch of (rock) salt.