There's No Such Thing as Monsters
A/N: Set in season two between 'What Is and What Should Never Be' and 'All Hell Breaks Loose'. Some swearing.
I've been working on this all hiatus and I feel like I should have a ramble about it. I've had this idea in my head for something ridiculous, like a year or longer, and I finally worked in out in my head enough to start putting it down on paper. It may get confusing, but hopefully not crazily so. I'm still doing edits and stuff, but I'm hoping to post a chapter a week. I'm really looking forward to hearing what everyone thinks about this. It's probably the plottiest (is that a word?) thing I've ever written, and it's a little outside my comfort zone, so I really hope you all enjoy.
Sam often found himself waking up in places other than where he went to sleep. A nap in the Impala saw towns roll by without notice. A knock on the head during a hunt switched the scenery from graveyard to motel room in a blink of the eye. Sometimes there was a hospital and no recollection of where he'd been before or what could have landed him there.
Fact was, half the time Sam wasn't entirely sure where he was to start with. Towns melted into other towns, diners had the same names and the motel rooms all looked alike. But there was always one constant.
Dean's hand on his shoulder would shake him awake when they stopped for food or gas or, if Dean was in that mood, it would be a sudden eardrum-bursting blare of Metallica that jerked him upright. Dean's voice would lure him back to consciousness in familiar-but-not motels. Dean's humming would quell the panic of waking to white walls and beeping machinery, and Dean, who had an unexpected and seemingly genius talent for such a thing, would fill him in on where they were and where they'd been last week, or last month or last year...
Sam had tested him once, naming random dates, checking the details in Dad's journal, while Dean sat on the edge of his bed, tossing M&Ms into the air and catching them in his mouth, between rattling off the names of half a dozen towns they had been through over the years; Werewolf in Barlow, Kentucky, August '97, Black Dog in Gifford, South Carolina, December '95, Poltergiest in Alpine, Utah, May '03. Sam stopped his quizzing when Dean's recollections turned into lewd stories of his conquests in each place.
Thing was, trouble was always just around the corner when Sam woke up without Dean. The occasional breakfast run or shower or 'overnight stay' at some girl's apartment aside, Sam could always be sure that he'd wake up to Dean's even breathing in the bed across the room, or Dean at his side jolting him from a nightmare, or Dean sneaking early morning porn on the laptop under the pretense of searching for a hunt, or Dean watching cartoons on TVs with bad reception, or... well, just Dean. Sam would always wake up to Dean.
So Sam knew that something was wrong before he even opened his eyes.
The first thing that pinged his hunter's senses was the silence, like being in a soundproofed room. The motels they stayed in were usually just off the highway, which meant there was a constant stream of traffic; cars honking or screeching in ways that made Dean mutter about fixing brake pads or checking the suspension or – whatever, Sam didn't really listen when Dean talked cars. Trucks large enough to rattle the windows lumbered past at all hours, along with the occasional wailing ambulance or police car, the latter of which always making the two of them fall silent and tense until the squeal faded into the distance.
The walls were always thin enough that couples arguing in the next room or... uh, the opposite of arguing, could be heard loud and clear, forcing Sam to pull his pillow over his head to block out the noise of both the rowdy couple and Dean's seemingly mandatory commentary that accompanied it.
Where ever Sam was now, it was quiet. Too quiet, he thought automatically, quirking a tiny smile.
There was another thing. If things were as wrong as Sam was starting to think they were, no way should he be cracking mental jokes or smiling to himself, and his thoughts kept going off on tangents, that was wrong too. The more he thought about it, the more he began to realize that he was feeling really... strange. Like, disconnected or kind of floaty or...
Sam snapped his eyes open, or tried to. It was more like a complicated ungluing process. Wrong. This was very wrong.
This bed was not the bed he remembered lying down in. This room was definitely not the room he remembered going to sleep in, and Dean definitely wasn't here.
Sam sat up, struggling through a wave of vertigo. Thin blankets pooled at his waist and... and these weren't the clothes he went to sleep in either. These weren't even his clothes. They were light blue drawstring pants with a matching t-shirt, kind of like hospital scrubs. Kind of like what Dean had been dressed in after the crash – don't go there.
Damn it, why couldn't he think straight? His thoughts kept slipping around like oil, holding onto one was an effort in near futility.
Think, think... okay, the clothes weren't important. He needed to figure out where he was and where Dean was and why he wasn't here and where the hell was here anyway? This tiny room with nothing more than a bed, a desk with matching chair and a set of drawers.
Had he been captured by... something? What had they been hunting? God, he couldn't remember. It seemed like an odd place to keep a prisoner. Not as many ropes as he was used to and where was the cliché dark dingy cellar or cave that monsters, and B-rate horror movie producers, were so fond of?
The doorknob twisted. Sam lurched back on the bed, his thoughts shattering and scurrying away in a dozen different directions. Danger was the only message left, coming though loud and clear. Frantically, he looked around the room, pushing the dizziness and subsequent nausea away as he searched for something, anything, that could be used as a weapon against whatever was about to come through that door.
There was nothing. The door opened.
"Good morning. How are you feeling today?"
Sam stared, still pressed against the wall, at the woman standing in the doorway. She held a clipboard and was dressed similar to him, although her scrubs were a light purple colour. Behind her, partially obscured by her rounded hips, was a trolley with about two dozen small paper cups sitting atop it. There was a pen tucked behind her ear, almost obscured by dark red hair that was falling loose from her pony-tail.
"Who are you?" Sam managed, forcing himself to relax slightly, to not press quite so hard against the wall (because no matter what this was, the wall wasn't going to protect him). He stayed alert though. There were plenty of monsters that could conceal their true form.
The woman, if that's what she was, frowned slightly. She was chubby in an attractive sort of way, soft. "I'm Kelly, remember? I took over as your primary care nurse after Trudy went on maternity leave last month."
Kelly, Trudy, maternity leave. It wasn't making sense. Sam couldn't make the pieces add up and that was something he knew he was usually good at, something that made Dean ruffle his hair, half obnoxious, half affectionate, or bump his shoulder and call him 'geek' or 'college boy'. He wanted Dean.
"Where am I?"
Kelly's frown became more pronounced. She pulled the clipboard away from her chest and looked over whatever was written on it.
"It says here that you took your medication last night. Did you tongue it? You know you need it, Sweetie. Here." She turned around and picked up a small plastic cup from the trolley. "Take these. I promise you'll feel much better."
Sam eyed the cup warily. "What are they?"
"Just your meds, Sweetie. Nothing to worry about." The frown was gone, replaced with false cheer as Kelly smiled encouragingly, if a little plastic.
Sam looked from her to the cup. "What are they for?" he asked slowly. Get information. Figure this out. He could do it. A headache was building up behind his eyes.
Kelly's smile became even more strained. "Your schitzophrenia, of course," she said sweetly.
Sam jerked. "I'm in a nuthouse?"
The smile dropped and the frown looked a lot more truthful than her cheer. "It's a Psychiatric Ward, Honey. You're here to get well."
She held out the cup expectantly. Sam heard the faint rattle of pills bumping against each other.
"I'm not taking those. There's been... something's wrong." It had to be some sort of... weird dream or hallucination. A supernaturally induced trip or something. "I'm not supposed to be here."
"Honey, if you don't take your medication I'll have to tell your doctor. It could lead to a loss of privileges."
She said it as if losing privileges was a terrible fate. Sam said nothing. What could he say?
Kelly sighed, lowering the cup. "Alright then."
She turned to leave, placed the cup amongst the others on the trolley.
"Wait," Sam said. He had to ask. He didn't hold out much hope that Kelly would know. He wasn't entirely sure that she was real, but if there was a chance... "Where's my brother?"
Kelly looked bemused as she stepped out the door, nudging the trolley aside with her plump hip. "I wasn't aware that you had a brother. Maybe he'll come during visiting hours."
Sam wilted. It still didn't make sense, and wasn't really all that comforting, but at least she hadn't said that Dean was dead or missing or maybe just didn't exist in this... alternate reality or parallel universe or whatever it was.
"Anything else?" Kelly asked, her hand hovering over his pill cup as though he might have changed his mind.
Sam shook his head mutely and Kelly carried on her rounds.
It was a fairly small mental health facility, Sam noted as he explored his new surroundings. According to the notice that was posted next to the nurses station, visiting hours weren't until 4PM so he had a lot of time to investigate and try to come to some sort of conclusion. He'd just have to hope that Dean would figure out where he was and come when he could.
He started with the basics, memorizing the layout and searching for clues. Whatever this was, there was always something that gave the game away.
It all looked very normal, however. There was a section for the men and another for the women, both shooting off from opposite ends of the main room, which was a recreation area of sorts. It was filled with round tables and chairs. Sam counted five sets. There was a small TV in the far right corner, almost as ancient as the ones found in his and Dean's motel rooms, with two armchairs and a couch surrounding it, and some shelves against the left wall that held jigsaw puzzles and art supplies, along with a few battered-looking boardgames.
There was a ranchslider along the far wall, next to the TV area. Through the glass doors Sam could see an elderly man with white hair and a younger woman, both clutching cigarettes in a small paved outdoor area.
The nurses station was centered on the wall behind Sam, which followed on to the single room. There were ten rooms for the males (he'd counted them when he left his room), and he assumed it was the same for the females. The whole thing was shaped like a capital T, presumably shooting off from the rest of the hospital.
Next to the nurses station was a door, complete with a slot indicating that it could only be opened with a key card, the same as the door to the room he'd woken up in. It looked to be the only exit from the ward.
Okay, so step one: pray that Dean would turn up at visiting hours.
Step two: acquire one of those key cards.
For now though, all Sam could do was watch and try to learn the scheduals of the nurses. Things would be much easier to figure out once he'd found a way out and had Dean by his side.
Sam jumped, turning by reflex to seek out the person whom the voice belonged to.
A girl around his age, maybe a bit younger, was seated at the table closest to him. A dozen sheets of paper were spread out before her and her eyes didn't seem to have left the sheet she was currently working on.
He slid down into the seat across from her, eyeing her picture doubtfully. It didn't look like it was supposed to be anything, just smears of red on top of black lines. "How do you know my name?"
"I know everyone's names," she said, black crayon sweeping the page. She shook dark hair out of her face.
"But how do you know my name?" Sam leant in closer, inspecting the girl intently but he didn't recognize her, didn't think he'd ever seen her before. "I don't know you. I don't even know how I got here."
"I don't know how you got here either," the girl said on a sigh, sounding rather resigned, "But you're in my head, like all the others."
Sam sighed to himself, sitting back. Right, try to get information from mental health patients. Great plan. "But I don't know you," he insisted. Maybe if he could just figure out how she knew his name...
The girl huffed an irritated breath, "I'm Rosalie, okay? But you know that. You must know that if you're in my head."
Okay, so maybe he shouldn't expect any breakthroughs from this girl. He wasn't sure how to reply to her assumption that he was in her head but Rosalie didn't seem to expect an answer, still focused on her drawing, which, Sam leant forward again to get a better look, seemed to be taking on a horrific twist, the black lines forming limbs, the red splashed over the page like blood.
Sam pulled his gaze away from the picture and the top of Rosalie's head. He swiveled in his seat, taking in the rest of the room's occupants.
Everyone was dressed in the same light blue scrubs, apart from the two nurses at the desk, one of them Kelly, who were in purple and two... orderlies? Male nurses? Guards? Whatever, they were big and wore white, stationed next to each other near the TV area, watching the room in general.
A middle-aged man in a bathrobe with no cord sat playing Connect Four with a younger overweight man with dark curly hair a few tables away. There was a painfully thin teenage girl draped over one of the armchairs, twirling her lank hair with a finger as she gazed listlessly at the TV, and an older woman, hair streaked with gray, sitting by herself, doing nothing, as far as Sam could tell. Just staring into space.
The outdoor area was surrounded by a concrete fence, high, but he thought he could probably get over it... except that there was another white-clothed man standing out there observing the smokers.
Alright, so... think. This was the part where Dean would be telling him to 'get his geek on'.
Some of the haze was starting to lift, whatever he'd been drugged with was wearing off. Vague memories were stirring just below the surface. He and Dean had been hunting what they'd figured was a... werewolf? Yes, werewolf, so... so werewolves had nothing to do with psychiatric hospitals. Werewolves, when they turned, were basically animals. They didn't cast spells or create fake realities, they simply hunted and killed, thirsty for blood with none of their human qualities.
Madison was somewhere on the edge of his thoughts and Sam was grateful for the lingering effects of... whatever, that kept her there. He didn't want to think about her, he wanted to figure this out.
Sam turned back to Rosalie, more for the distraction than anything else. "What's the name of this hospital?" he asked.
"Saint Margarets," she answered without raising her head, shuffling her papers so that she had a blank sheet on top.
Saint Margarets. He'd been here. Not here, in the psychiatric ward but definitely in the hospital. Through his murky memory he could just make out the image of the Impala pulling up outside the entrance, him and Dean pretending to be... Animal Control? There was a man, a survivor, a broken ankle and some claw marks, and a lucky escape.
Maybe... maybe the man had something to do with this. Hank Something or Something Hank. He was... a builder? Construction worker? Architect? But anyone could be into witchcraft. It wasn't all black cloaks and warts. Sometimes it was just a person with a grudge and the right book.
Sam tried to think but the drugs were withholding any details and his headache was flaring up again. He folded his arms on the table and rested his head on them dispondently.
He really hoped Dean had figured this out already.
Sam was so deep in thought when Dean arrived that he didn't even notice him come in.
Rosalie had disappeared off somewhere, leaving Sam with the table to himself. He was making notes with a felt pen, because apparently the unit didn't keep simple pencils or biro pens, writing down anything he could think of that might be related, which admittedly wasn't much, when Dean dropped himself down in the seat Rosalie had vacated.
"Dean." Sam jumped slightly, "Thank God." He dropped the pen and leant across the table in some sort of vague attempt at privacy. "Please tell me you've figured this out 'cause I'm kind of drawing a blank here."
"That right, Sammy?" Dean said neutrally. He looked tired, Sam realised. His whole demeanor drooped with weariness. Maybe Dean hadn't found anything either.
"Well, there's only so much information I can get without an internet connection and access to our books and stuff. What have you been doing?"
Dean ran a hand over his face. "I've been working," he said, as though that should be obvious, which Sam supposed it kind of was. He was just kind of hoping that Dean would have more than that.
"So this is the same hospital, right?" Sam went on when Dean didn't seem to have anything to add. "The one we were in yesterday, with the guy from the werewolf attack. Maybe it's not a werewolf? 'Cause I can't see how that would have caused this. Or the guy, maybe he's into witchcraft or something. Do you think... Dean?"
Sam trailed off as Dean propped his elbows up on the table, covering his face with both hands.
"Dean?" Oh God, maybe Dean had figured something out, something bad, because what else could make him act like this?
Dean drew in a deep breath and blew it out slowly, moving his hands away. He fixed Sam with a level stare.
"So the nurse say you haven't been taking your medication. Again."
Sam physically recoiled, pulled back as though he'd been slapped, sucking in a gasp. "What?"
"Damn it, Sam." The weariness took on an edge of frustration. "You know how much it upsets Mum when you do this."
"Mum?" Sam echoed faintly, but Dean just kept going and Sam had the feeling that he was already several pages behind.
"And Dad... seriously, Sam, and you wonder why he barely comes to see you? He can't handle sitting here listening to you spout out this shit. It's not..." Dean blew out another frustrated breath, scrubbing a hand against the back of his neck. He acted like Dean, so totally like Dean. Everything was spot on, minus the leather jacket, but it couldn't... it couldn't be Dean.
"I know it's not your fault," Dean said, his voice calmer but Sam could see the tension rolling through him. "You're sick and I get that, okay? I do. I'm trying to understand, I really am. But you need to take your pills, Sammy. You're supposed to be getting help here. You're meant to be getting better."
Sam shook his head vigorously, eyes wide. He had the feeling that he looked kind of crazed, which probably wasn't helping his case, but this wasn't... Dean couldn't be saying...
"No. No, Dean, you don't understand, Something's wrong. It's, like, a spell or a curse or, or... I don't know, but this isn't right! Last night we were in a motel room. The werewolf, remember? And we came to this hospital to interview that man..."
Dean was staring at him, a mix of pity, confusion and frustration warring for dominance over his expression.
Sam clenched his fists, fighting hard to stop himself from banging them down on the table top. "Tell me you remember that!"
Dean looked away, swallowing, and rubbed a hand over his eyes, before turning back. He shook his head. "You've been here for almost six months. There's no curse and no motel rooms. There's no werewolf."
Dean reached out, lightly resting his hand over Sam's, and waited until Sam looked from his hand to his face, eyes almost damp in his sincerity. "Sam, there's no such thing as monsters."
To Be Continued...