SUMMARY: A bloody, unconscious Sam is carried into a small clinic by strangers, and when he wakes up, he's not himself. It's up to Dean to track him down and bring him back, physically and psychologically.
SPOILERS: For events between Hello Cruel World (7.02) and The Girl Next Door (7.03), that take place during the three-week recovery period at Rufus's cabin.
DISCLAIMER: The characters of Supernatural belong to Eric Kripke & Co. I am playing in their sandbox, with their toys, thanks to their largesse – and with much gratitude.
RATING: T for some swearing.
A/N:Written for the Sam-focused hurt/comfort fic challenge in the Oh!Sam Community over on livejournal. Based on a prompt by mamapranayama.The complete prompt appears at the end of the story,so as not to spoil things.A great big thank you to Harrigan for the beta, and to Madebyme for the kick to take part in this challenge. Enjoy.
"Doc, open up!"
It took my muzzy brain a few moments to realize that what had woken me up was not my grandfather's old alarm clock but someone pounding on the clinic door below my open bedroom window. I threw back the covers, quickly slipped on shoes and a sweater, yanked my hair back into a ponytail, and ran down the stairs. After years of working in the ER, I didn't need caffeine; I was wide awake by the time I pulled open the door.
I was still shocked though by the sight that met me: Two MontanaTel linemen standing on the front porch holding a bloody, unconscious man between them.
"What the hell happened?" I stepped to the side, motioning for them to bring him inside.
"Damned if we know." That was from Paul, if the name embroidered on the lineman's jacket was correct. "We were driving down the mountain. This guy was just lying in the road. You're the closest doc, so we brought him here."
I nodded, then led them into the examination room and motioned for them to put the man on the table. While they did, I pulled on a pair of latex gloves and grabbed my stethoscope. "So you don't know who he is?"
Paul shook his head. "Charlie here checked him for ID but he had none. Looks like he was out jogging, or something."
My mystery patient was young, late twenties I'd guess, and big, his legs hanging well off the end of the exam table. Blood smeared the side of his face from a jagged cut just inside his hairline and there was bruising across his forehead, but that appeared to be from an older injury.
"Armband suggests he had an iPod at some point, although it was empty when we found him." That was from Charlie. "Maybe if he had the music up real loud, he didn't hear a car coming. God knows we could've run over him if we weren't driving slow, looking for a downed line. There's a lot of blind curves on that stretch of road."
"Maybe…." A quick triage revealed regular breathing and a steady, if slightly slow heart rate. That was good news, and meant he was in no immediate danger. There was also a handful of minor scrapes and still forming bruises, and stitches under a dirty bandage on his left hand–another older injury–but none of the deep muscle bruising, road rash or signs of internal injuries you'd expect if he'd been hit by a vehicle, or tossed from one.
No, the head injury appeared to hold the key to what had happened to this man. Brushing back his hair to study the gash, I frowned at several bits of wood stuck in the congealing blood and caught in his long hair. "Huh."
I grabbed a pair of tweezers, pulled one of the pieces free and held it up. "Tree bark, by the looks of it. I'd say he fell, or was pushed, and hit his head on a tree. A second head trauma in such a short span of time…." I gestured to the older bruise on his forehead, "That's only a week or so old. The new injury could have left him confused, disoriented... He may have simply wandered onto the road and collapsed there."
"Poor bastard." Paul looked up at me and shrugged. "What else can we do, Doc? I hate to just dump him and run, but…."
"No, you've done all you can. Thank you." I gave them both a reassuring smile. "I'll clean him up, stitch him up, give him a full exam, then…."
"What?" That was from Charlie.
"Then wait for him to wake up. I won't be able to do a full assessment until then." I pulled off my gloves, tossed them into the medical waste bin, and moved to the cupboards along the back to get the supplies I'd need. "You can do me a favor, though."
Paul nodded. "Name it."
"Call Sheriff Taylor on your way back to work. Tell him I have a John Doe and ask him to drop by as soon as he's able." I glanced again at my patient. "Someone's likely frantic because this guy didn't come home. I'd like to be able to put their mind to rest as quickly as possible."
"You got it." Paul gave me a smile as Charlie tapped the brim of his ball cap. "Mind if we call later–just to see how he's doing? We're kind of invested now, you know?"
"Not at all. Hopefully I'll have some good news by then."
And with that, they were gone.
I laid out the supplies on the rolling tray table, pulled on a fresh pair of gloves and moved back to my patient's side to start an IV. Once that was going, I picked up the tweezers again and pulled more wood chips from the wound. John Doe didn't stir, even when I flushed the gash with saline, applied antiseptic ointment and began stitching him up. I shook my head. "Any time you want to wake up and tell me what really happened, John…I can't wait to hear the story."
A big part of my job as a physician is observation, but the more I studied John Doe, the bigger a puzzle he became. He was no vagrant, I was sure of that. While his clothes–dark sweatpants, a gray T-shirt and a brown hoodie–were sweat-stained and dirt-smeared from whatever misfortune had befallen him, they were otherwise clean. He was well-groomed–hair long but styled, recently shaven, and his teeth well looked after. When I changed him out of his clothes and into a hospital gown to complete the rest of the exam and treat his other injuries, it became clear that while he was physically very fit, his body also bore the marks of a hard life. A scar on his left shoulder appeared to be from a bullet wound and one at the base of his spine–well, I would have bet my medical degree a knife blade had caused it but, if that was true, it would most likely have been fatal, or at the very least left him paralyzed.
I began to suspect he was ex-military. He had a tattoo on his sternum, although from my experience soldiers' tats usually featured unit or branch insignia of some kind. John's? Well, it seemed more mystical than military. But the stitches in his right hand? They were like something an experienced medic would do for a soldier injured in the field. Technically speaking, they were neater than half the doctors I knew were capable of, but the suture thread was definitely not hospital issue.
I pulled a blanket from the warming cupboard, draped it over him and again studied his lax face. He was now clean and bandaged, although the bruising from his new injury was starting to spread, turning his left eye, cheek and temple shades of red and blue. I tucked the blanket around his shoulders and raised the head of the exam table. "Who are you, Mr. Doe? And what the hell happened to you?"
When the sheriff stopped by close to supper time, my patient was still unconscious. Sheriff Taylor took down what little information I could give him and snapped a photo with his phone. He promised to check missing person reports, send out a bulletin and return in the morning to take fingerprints if John had not regained consciousness by then.
I was changing John's IV when I saw the first signs he was waking up–and was taken aback by the speed with which tension claimed his body, hardening his youthful, good looks. His eyes when they opened were wary, suspicious.
"Good to see you awake." I offered what I hoped was a disarming smile. "I'm Dr. Teddy Carson. You're in a clinic in Jeffers Peak, Montana. You had an accident, but you're safe now."
His gaze was locked on me, trust clearly an issue.
"Are you in any pain?"
He hesitated, seemingly unsure of how much to reveal to the stranger in front of him. He settled on a terse, "M'okay."
I smiled again. "I was hoping for something a bit more specific."
He scowled when he realized he was wearing a hospital gown. "Headache, that's all. Where are my clothes?"
"They were dirty from your accident. I threw them in the wash." I shrugged at his look of surprise. "I live upstairs. Washing machine's handy. They're good to go for when you are. Now back to your head–on a scale of one to ten, how bad is it?"
John shrugged. "Four or five."
"Well, I think I can give you something to knock that down a notch or two, but I'd like to check you over first, if that's OK?"
He glanced around my exam room, studied me again, still assessing what kind of threat I posed. He nodded slowly when he apparently determined I wasn't much of one.
Instinct told me John didn't like surprises, so I conducted my exam by telling him what I was about to do before I did it, each step of the way. It seemed to help him relax a little. "Can you tell me your name?" I asked the question casually as I pumped up the blood pressure cuff.
John's eyes widened a little but he didn't respond.
"You had no ID on you when you were found. If you can give me something better than John Doe to work with, then we can try to contact someone so-"
"John works." His eyes darted back and forth for a moment, then he looked straight at me. "That's my name. Yeah. You can call me John."
It sounded like he was convincing himself as much as me.
"Who knew I was using the right name all along? It's good to meet you, John. What about a last name?"
The furrow lines in his forehead deepened and his fingers curled into fists. He was clearly agitated by the seemingly simple question.
He looked up at me, his breathing suddenly rapid and shallow. "I don't know. I can't remember. I can't remember my last name."
"Hey." He jumped as my hand touched his shoulder. "Don't panic. You hit your head, likely during a fall in the woods, and there's evidence of another recent head injury. Between the two, it's not surprising things may be a bit scrambled. With time, as you start to feel better, the memories will likely come back." I pulled up a stool and sat down at his bedside. "Why don't you tell me what you do remember."
John still looked spooked, but nodded slowly. When he spoke, it was more like he was thinking out-loud than talking to me. "My name…is John." His gaze jumped suddenly to his left hand. "I…I'm married," His eyes slid closed and he swallowed. "No…no I'm not–not any more. Mary died…."
My chest tightened in sympathy. He was awfully young to be a widower. "I'm so sorry."
"It was a fire... I got out–so did the boys…. But Mary…she didn't. I couldn't–"
If the loss of his wife had been recent…. It was then I began to suspect his memory issues may not solely be the result of physical trauma. "The boys?" I leaned forward, trying to steer him toward a hopefully happier subject. "You have children?"
John nodded slowly. "Two boys–Dean and Sam." He smiled and with it, the tension that had racked his body since he came to dissolved. "They're a handful–but I wouldn't have it any other way. Dean...one minute he's Mr. Serious, the next he's cracking jokes–sometimes they're even funny. And Sammy…always asking questions."
I smiled. "And where are your boys now?"
"They're safe." And just like that all traces of that dazzling smile were gone and the tension and hard edges were back in full force. "That's all you need to know." John's tone was terse, but it was more protective than threatening.
"It's good that they're safe. You obviously love them very much." I took a chance. "You a military man, John?"
"Yes, ma'am. Proud member of the Corps, Echo-Two-One. Master Corporal–Retired." John seemed almost surprised, like the information was as new to him as to me.
Slowly, I pulled my phone from my lab coat pocket and offered it to him. "If you want to call your family, use this. I'll leave the room, if you want privacy. Just let them know you're safe, maybe arrange with whoever's looking after your boys for someone to come pick you up."
John took the phone, stared at it for a long moment, then dropped it on the blanket, his eyes sliding closed. "I don't know who to call."
I rubbed his arm comfortingly and, in a step in the right direction, he didn't flinch. "Don't force it. It'll come–just like you remembered you're a Marine." I lowered the safety rail on the exam table. "You dizzy at all?"
John opened his eyes and gave his head a slight shake.
"Good. Look, I know this exam table can't be very comfortable for sleeping, especially for someone your size. There's a bed in the adjacent room. If you're up to it, I'd like to move you in there. If you get a good night's sleep, maybe a few more memories will fall into place by morning."
John nodded and swung his legs off the table.
"If you feel unsteady at all, put one arm around my shoulders, and hang on to the IV pole with the other."
John did both as soon as he let go of the table. He closed his eyes, swallowed, then nodded to signal he was ready to move forward. He towered over me so it was just as well he could mostly support himself, and we made it to the room next door without incident.
John glanced around as he pulled himself up into the bed. "A one-bed hospital, huh?"
I nodded as I double-checked his IV line and, once he was under the covers, raised the bed's safety rails. "This is a ski town. The clinic was set up to service the local resorts, so it's pretty quiet until the season begins. Even then, it's mostly sprains, breaks and sniffles. The ski patrol has a helicopter we use to ferry anyone with serious injuries or illnesses down to Bozeman. This…" I gestured at the room, "this is…just in case."
John smiled. "So, I'm a just-in-case case, huh?"
It was great to hear him attempting a joke. "Something like that."
John's smile disappeared as he studied me. "Forgive me, Doc, but you don't strike me as either a small-town sawbones or a doc-for-hire to the spoiled Aspen crowd. How'd you come to be running a one-bed clinic?"
Apparently, John could read people pretty well. "I spent most of my career working in an ER in Denver but, post divorce, I needed a break, needed to get away for a bit, so…I came here. My grandparents grew up in Jeffers Peak."
John's frown returned. "I needed to get away…." He punched the bed in frustration. "But from what? And why the hell would I leave my kids behind?"
"Hey, don't force it. Like with everything else, it'll come." I placed the call button on his pillow. "Now get some rest. If you need anything, anything at all, just press that."
John nodded. He rolled his head across the pillow and closed his eyes, but given the movement behind his eyelids, his mind was still going a mile a minute.
I turned off the light and returned to the exam room. My phone, still lying on the exam table where John had left it, chose that moment to ring. The display said Caller ID Blocked. "Hello?"
"Yeah.I need to speak to Dr. Carson."
"This is Teddy Carson."
"Agent Smith, FBI. Sheriff Taylor gave me your name." The deep voice on the other end was very businesslike, but also worried. "I understand you're treating a John Doe."
"That's correct. He was brought to my clinic this morning."
"Is he a big guy–6'4", 220? Long dark hair, hazel eyes, tattoo on his chest…."
My heart rate sped up. "That's John. You know who he is?"
There was a pause at the other end. "John?"
"Yes. That's the name he gave me."
Agent Smith gave a worried huff. "I need to speak with him–now!"
"Just a moment. I'll see if he's still awake." I moved quickly to John's room and flicked on the light. "John?"
John pushed himself up on his elbows and blinked at me sleepily.
"There's an Agent Smith of the F.B.I. on the phone. He'd like to speak with you."
John stared at the phone suspiciously. "The F.B.I.? Why do they wanna talk to me?"
I shrugged. "They handle missing persons cases. I think this agent knows who you are."
John took the phone warily. "Yeah."
I couldn't make out Agent Smith's words but he was speaking loudly and very quickly. John's frown deepened as he listened, his eyes darting back and forth. "OK, who are you–really?"
There was a brief pause, and then another stream of unintelligible chatter from the other end of the phone.
John was getting angry now. ""Look, pal, I don't know who put you up to this, but Dean is ten years old. He's a smart kid, but he sure as hell ain't working for the F.B.I." He hung up and jabbed the phone back at me.
I took it, still trying to figure out what had just happened. "Feel free to tell me to mind my own business, but...what happened?"
John dropped his head back on the pillow and raked his fingers through his hair. "I dunno who that joker was but I doubt he was F.B.I." He snorted. "And he sure as hell wasn't my kid, like he tried to say he was. Even with a dented head I can tell the difference between a grown man and a ten year old." He rolled away from me, obviously not in the mood to talk further about whatever had just transpired.
"OK. We'll check in with the sheriff in the morning, tell him about this call and let him look into it. He's a good man, John–he'll be able help." I turned off the light and backed out of the room.
My phone rang again almost as soon as I stepped into the exam room. I knew who it would be and moved quickly across the hall and into my office, closing the door behind me. "Yes?"
"What the hell's wrong with him?"
"Agent Smith–if you really are with the F.B.I.."
The agent sighed. "My name is Dean. The man you have in your clinic is my brother."
"Dean?" I frowned. "He told me Dean was his son–oh, I see. He named his son after you."
"What? No." Agent Smith was fighting hard to rein in his temper. "OK–let's start from the beginning. What has he told you about himself?"
"John has a head injury, Agent Smith, and his memory has a few gaps. What he's been able to recall so far is that his name is John, he's a former marine, he lost his wife in a house fire and he has two young sons, Dean and Sam."
"Son of a bitch…." There was a definite hint of panic in Agent Smith's voice. "I'm Dean and the guy with you is Sam, John's son and my brother. Why would Sam think he's our Dad?"
This case was getting stranger by the minute. "I...I'm not sure. But he's had two head injuries in a short span of time. That could-"
"Two? He's got another head injury?"
"Yes. It looks like he fell and hit his head. It was still bleeding when he was brought in this morning so it likely occurred shortly before that. How was the first injury sustained?"
"We, um…." Agent Smith was fighting to keep it together. "We were in a car wreck about ten days ago. I busted my leg, Sammy took a pretty hard knock to the head. He had a seizure en route to the hospital, was prescribed bed rest for the first week but seems to have been doing OK since. Then yesterday morning, he woke up early, left a note saying he was going for a walk, that he'd be back in an hour or so. We haven't heard from him since."
"Yesterday morning? That's almost thirty-six hours ago. Where are you?"
"Whitefish–that's the other side of the mountain." I checked the map on the wall of my office. "There's a whole network of cross-country ski trails between Whitefish and Jeffers Peak, but that's a helluva walk. Why would he just take off like that?"
Agent Smith exhaled loudly enough for me to hear it over the phone. "Look, just keep him there. Like I said, I've got a busted leg. Bobby, our uncle, is out combing the woods right now for Sam. I'll call him and once he gets back, we'll head over to Jeffers Peak. If I can talk to Sammy in person, maybe we can figure out what the hell is going on in that head of his."
The worry in Agent Smith's voice was genuine; so was his love for his brother–and that allowed me to trust him. "My clinic's at the east end of Main Street. Once you get to town, you can't miss it. And please bring any medical information you have on John–I mean Sam–especially from the first accident. The more I know, the more accurate a diagnosis I can make."
"No problem. I've got a copy of Sam's medical file around here somewhere. I'll bring it with me."
"Good. And Agent Smith..."
"Call me Dean."
"Dean. Is there anything else I should know about Sam? I mean, it's obvious we're dealing with something here a bit more complex than a concussion."
There was a lengthy silence before Dean spoke again. "Like our dad, Sammy's ex-military. He was a P.O.W. for over a year. For the longest time, we didn't think we were gonna get him back–but we did. He repressed most of what happened but, over the past month or so, memories of his time as a prisoner have started coming back. At times it was…bad. Real bad."
"Was he diagnosed with P.T.S.D.?"
"Not officially–that would require sitting down with a shrink and Sam's not gonna do that. But he finally seemed to get a handle on things, was keeping it all together–and then the accident happened."
"There's only so much trauma the mind can take."
"I know. Just…just keep him safe, would you–just 'til we get there."
"I'll do my best, Agent–Dean–but your brother's a big man. If he decides to leave, I'm not sure I can stop him. I don't want to drug him until we know what–"
"Just do what you have to." Dean snorted in exasperation. "I dunno, just…sit on him, or something. Sammy's too damn polite to tell you to get off." And with that he hung up.
Despite my shock at the situation I found myself thrown into and my worry for my patient, I had to smile; Dean's last comment was such a big brother thing to say. If I had any doubts they were related, they were erased with that off-hand quip.
I pulled open my office door and started moving toward John's room. John. I suppose I needed to start thinking of him as Sam, although calling him the name he believed to be his son's would certainly confuse him further. No, I'd stick with John for the moment.
I frowned as I entered the exam room and heard John talking agitatedly in the room beyond. Moving quickly to his doorway, I was surprised to see him out of bed, already wearing his freshly laundered track pants and pulling his T-shirt over his head. His hospital gown and IV lay abandoned on the bed.
"Just…just leave me the fuck alone."
John whirled around, eyes widening when he saw me, then glancing about the room as if looking for someone. "Sorry, Doc. That wasn't aimed at you. Gotta say though, your partner–he's kind of an asshat."
Now John wasn't the only one confused. "Come again?"
John sat down on the bed to pull on his socks. "'Treating Loony Tune headcases like you makes my day. You're never quite sure what'll set you off–so you just try everything.' Does he have to work hard to be a dick, or does it just come naturally?"
I moved directly in front of him. "I don't have a partner, John–one who's a dick, or otherwise. This is a one-person operation."
John frowned. "Then who was the dude who was just in here? You know–six feet tall, sandy hair, face like a boxer."
Hallucinations. That could certainly be a symptom of P.T.S.D. "The only way in and out of this room is through the door I just came through. If there was someone else here, John, I would've seen him."
John looked like he'd been kicked in the stomach. His head snapped to the left and he stared at–nothing. Or perhaps that was where he'd last seen this figment of his imagination–or, more accurately, a figment of his tortured psyche. He swallowed, then grabbed his bandaged hand and began massaging his palm with the thumb of his right hand. "He wasn't real, was he?"
"No. He can't hurt you. You're safe here–you have to hang on to that."
John's legs seemed to give out and he sat down suddenly on the bed. He snorted, then closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose. "Dr. Asshat was right about one thing–I am a Loony Tune headcase. Bet you're sorry you ever let me in your front door."
"Never." I waited until John made eye contact. "You're an injured man in need of help, and I'm gonna do everything I can to get you the help you need."
John scrubbed a hand down his face. "You take in stray puppies and kittens, too?"
I smiled. "Only until I can find them a good home." I tapped my watch. "Look, it's late. How about you get some sleep. You need it"
"No. I don't wanna sleep." John again massaged his left hand, although I quickly realized it was not a conscious gesture. "I seem to be able to control what goes through my head better when I'm awake."
"OK." I pointed upstairs. "How about we go sit in my kitchen? Alcohol and caffeine are out, I'm afraid, but we can talk over a mug of chicken soup. You choose the topic, you set the pace."
John nodded slowly. "Deal." He pushed himself up and grabbed his hoodie. "Your phone rang earlier. Was it about me?"
He was sharp, this one–and I wasn't about to lie to him, not when he was starting to trust me. But since the confusion over Dean's identity had put him on the defensive once, I could be selective about what I told him. "Yes. The sheriff was able to track down your family. Bobby, the man who's been looking after your boys, he's on his way here."
"Singer?" John bearing changed suddenly; he straightened up, looking and sounding much more military-like, and he shook his head. "Man will forever be a pain in my ass–but nothing bad's getting near my boys when he's around. I'll always be in his debt for that."
I motioned for John to follow me upstairs. "I'll look forward to meeting him."
We'd finished our soup and John had polished off a good-sized slice of blueberry pie when there was a knock on the clinic door. Any progress I'd made in getting John to relax vanished instantly, but I gave him a reassuring smile, then ran downstairs and pulled open the door.
"Doc Carson? I'm Dean, this is Bobby. And this is for you–Sam's file."
Bobby was bearded and wore a battered trucker's cap. His eyes and his stance both told me he was worried as hell. Dean, he was a heartbreaker, just like his brother. Although each obviously favored a different parent, their eyes were the same. Dean had a heavy cast on his right leg and supported himself on a home-made crutch–and, yeah, he was worried as hell, too.
"Please–come in." Closing the door after them, I was about to invite them into my office when I realized they were staring at the stairs. John was coming down them, sizing up the new visitors.
Dean scrubbed a hand down his face. "Damn it, Sammy–I don't know whether to Lojack you, or just go straight for a leash. What the hell were you thinking, running off like that?"
John raised an eyebrow at Dean, but walked directly over to Bobby and stuck out his hand. "Good to see you again, Singer. Where are my boys?"
Bobby and Dean exchanged a look and then both turned to me. I gave them a look which I hoped said play along. Fortunately, they were both quick studies.
Bobby shook John's hand. "Pastor Jim stopped by, so he's looking after the rugrats while we came out here to haul your sorry ass home. For reasons I can't fathom, all three'll be thrilled to see you when we get there."
John snorted at that, then turned to Dean. "Who's your new partner?"
Dean leaned on his crutch and stuck out his hand. "Just call me Smith."
John nodded and shook Dean's hand, but gave no sign that he knew him, let alone that they were brothers.
"Listen, given Mr. Smith's injury, I thought we'd talk in my office." I smiled at John. "If you could take Mr. Singer in there, I just need to check Mr. Smith's leg before we start."
John frowned suspiciously, but nodded, and led Bobby down the hall.
Dean's questions started the moment John and Bobby were out of earshot. "What the hell, Doc? Sam still thinks he's my Dad and looked through me like he'd never seen me before in his life. What's wrong with him?"
Observing John throughout the day and sifting through what information I'd been given had allowed me to form a likely diagnosis. After quickly scanning the file Dean had given me, it all seemed to fit. "I believe your brother is in what is called a fugue state."
"Given all he's been through, I think everything in his head became so turbulent, so hard to deal with, he had to get away–physically and emotionally. First he walked away, physically putting distance between himself and the existence that was causing the stress. Second, he created this whole new identity, one that didn't have to deal with his issues, that, in fact, has no memory of them."
Dean shook his head. "But Sammy left a note–said he was coming back. Trust me, he's taken off before. If he didn't plan to come back, he would've just gone."
"Leaving would not have been a conscious decision." I closed the file and tucked it under my arm. "Given Sam left a note, I'd say something happened on that walk, something that caused a switch to flip in his head to set this fugue in motion."
Dean looked sick. "Something like a memory–from when he was…a P.O.W., for example?"
"Definitely." I thought back to how John behaved after the first phone call from Dean, and after he'd seen my partner. "A couple of times since he's been here, I believe I've seen glimpses of Sam–when you called, for example, and when he had an hallucination. The John persona is still forming. On a subconscious level, Sam's drawing from memories of his Dad but parts of his own personality, his own experience are leaking through. When he hits on something he can't or doesn't want to deal with, then the strongest part of John, the take-charge marine, comes to the fore."
Dean looked like I'd punched him in the gut. "Sam's been through hell…." He laughed at some humor in that statement I wasn't privy, to. "You have no idea…. So I get why he'd snap, why he'd want to get away. But…why the hell would he become my Dad? Dad and Samm… man, they had some major issues–believe me. And Dad...you know part of it. He didn't live an apple pie life."
I smiled. "Most father-son relationships are fairly complicated. But your dad is someone Sam knows, which makes it easy for him to slip into that skin, so to speak. And, from what I've seen, your father's a pretty a tough S.O.B."
Dean snorted. "You got that right."
"I think Sam felt vulnerable as himself. Subconsciously, he chose someone he believes has a harder shell, who wouldn't be affected by the forces threatening Sam."
Dean looked like he was about to fall over. "Sammy's a lot tougher than he gives himself credit for."
"I'm so sorry–you need to sit down." I motioned to the chairs a little further down the hall. "Please."
Dean hobbled over the nearest chair and sank into it gratefully. He looked up at me and I could see a tired man, further crumbling under the weight of fears for his brother. "So, fine, we know what's wrong with him. Now how the hell do we get him back?"
I sat in the chair next to Dean. "The most accepted form of treatment is psychotherapy, which is just a fancy name for counseling. We need to get him to talk about his fears, let him know he's strong enough to stand up to them–and that he's not fighting them alone."
Dean shook his head. "He's not–he never was."
I nodded. "That's pretty obvious. But from what you've told me, Sam's been through the ringer. Deep down, he may know he has back up but, right now, he just needs to hear it."
Dean stared down the hall that Sam had walked along moments earlier. "You gonna be his therapist?"
I shook my head. "I'm gonna sit in, make sure things are on the right track, but you're the one he loves, you're the one he trusts–you're the one who can pull him back."
Dean snorted. "I'm no shrink."
I smiled. "He doesn't need a shrink, he needs his brother."
Dean shifted uncomfortably. "What the hell do I do?"
I hooked my arm under his to help him up. "I sense you have good instincts. Just follow them. I'll get things started, then you take over. You get stuck, just send up a flare."
Dean exhaled loudly, then pushed himself to his feet. "OK, let's do this. Let's get Sammy back."
My first goal when all four of us were settled in my office was to make John feel comfortable. We chatted for a moment, which gave Dean a chance to fill Bobby in on what we'd talked about in the hall, and then I steered the conversation toward things the three of them had in common–their work, their passion for hunting–although I was never really clear on what exactly it was they hunted–and their love of John's kids.
The latter gave me the opening I needed.
"Dean sounds like a real credit to you." I smiled at John. "Now tell me about Sammy."
John smiled. "Smart as a whip, that kid. His mom, god bless her soul, would be real proud. But I worry…a lot."
I leaned forward. "Why do you worry so much about Sam?"
John crossed his arms across his chest, a classic defensive posture. "He's soft–more likely to pick up a book than the means to protect himself. And in the world we live in, that's only gonna get him killed."
Bobby snorted. "You know, Winchester, if you took your head out of your ass and into a library once in while, you might realize that books–more specifically, what's in'em–have saved your sorry ass more times than I care to count. Sam developing a love for book learning ain't a bad thing, trust me."
John glared at Bobby. "So, what? He runs into a fugly, he's gonna throw a book at 'em?"
Bobby crossed his arms–some form of standoff, I suppose. "I've seen that boy use a gun. Twenty bucks says one day he's a better shot than you."
John's mouth curled into a smile. "I'll take that bet. I-"
"OK, that's enough. Everybody put the rulers away." That was from Dean, wincing as he shifted his cast. "Look–John–your first kid, Dean, he helps, right? Steps in to look out for Sam, teaches him what he needs to know when you can't. Sounds to me like, when the time comes, Sammy'll know everything he needs to."
John looked troubled by that. "Ever since the fire…. Neither one of 'em gets much of chance to be a boy. They're more like–"
"Soldiers?" Anger flashed in Dean's eyes; apparently Sam wasn't the only one who had some unresolved issues with their dad. But he swallowed whatever it was he was about to say, focusing instead on helping Sam. "Look, you did what you had to, and Sam's a lot tougher than you think."
John narrowed his eyes at Dean. "And how the hell would you know? You've never met my kid."
John's steely gaze was returned in kind. "'Cause your kid sounds an awful lot like my kid brother. And my dad never gave him enough credit either." And then Dean took a chance. "Your boys grew up in the life, John. Hell, you gave Sammy a gun when he was nine. And remember that hunt in Oregon when he was twelve?"
John's eyes widened. "Twelve?"
"Yeah, twelve. Not even out of middle school. I got my foot caught in a trap and you were trying to free me–it was the shot Sam fired that stopped us both from becoming wolf chow.
"His senior year in high school? You took off hunting and left him to play nursemaid to me after that…accident in upstate Maine–right in the middle of him studying for finals. I survived–no scars, no limp–and he earned a full ride to Stanford. That, to me, sounds like someone who's got his shit together."
John's posture changed; he looked older, a little more defeated. "Dean?"
Dean swallowed. "Yeah, Dad, it's me."
Dean had managed to pull 'John' through time, to the point he recognized Dean as his adult son.
Dean leaned forward. "You should see Sammy now, Dad. Since you've been gone, he's been hitting the weights. He's, um, big. Could hand you your sorry ass on a plate. Could maybe even take me, too–if he wasn't so damn fixed on playing fair all the time. But don't worry–I'm working on him."
John frowned. "You look tired, son."
Dean smiled. "Yeah, we've been through a rough patch. But we're getting a little R&R right now–an old cabin in the woods. We'll be fine." He scratched his cast in annoyance. "I get this damn thing off, I'll be even better."
"What the hell happened to your leg?" John turned to Bobby. "You slacking off there, Singer? I trusted you to keep my boys safe, and keep'em in line."
Bobby snorted. "Like I could with you? Both your boys are a chip off the old block in that respect. Both have got minds of their own and there's no telling 'em anything if they ain't in a mood to hear it." His voice softened. "But they've both done you proud, John. They're fine young men. Any man would be proud to call them his sons."
"Sam's fine, Dad. He's one of the best in the business and we look out for each other. If it comes to a fight, there's no one I'd rather have watching my six."
John said nothing, but he seemed unable to take Dean's words at face value.
"Look, most people…if they'd been through what Sammy's been through, they'd be a puddle of goo on the floor. But no matter how many times life punches Sam in the face, he gets back up–swinging. This latest crap he's been through–it's just more of the same. He'll get through it, and I'll be there to back him up, and kick his ass, every step of the way."
Dean held up his left hand and curled it into a fist. "Stone Number One, remember that, Sammy? Stone Number One."
John didn't move for a long moment, and then his posture changed again; it was softer this time, nowhere near as rigid. He glanced around the room as if suddenly unsure of his surroundings. "Dean? Where the hell are we?"
Dean started to smile, then stopped himself, as if celebrating too soon would unravel all he'd done. "Sammy?"
John was gone, and Sam was back.
Sam swallowed, the color suddenly draining from his face. "I, um, I don't feel so hot…."
Bobby and I leaped out of our chairs and caught Sam as he pitched forward and before he hit the floor.
Dean's eyes were wide. "What the hell just happened?"
I quickly checked Sam's breathing and his heart rate, then flashed a reassuring smile at his family. "He's OK. Remember, he's on head injury number two and he hiked through the mountains for a day. He's exhausted. This intervention, on top of all that, was likely just too much. We let him sleep through the night, he should be much better in the morning."
Dean's attention was locked on his brother. "But who's gonna wake up–Sam or John?"
I stood up once I was sure Bobby had a solid hold on Sam. "You got through to him, Dean. Sam knows he doesn't have to run any more. When he wakes up, I'm pretty sure Sam'll be running the ship."
"Pretty sure?" Dean wasn't pleased with that diagnosis. "That the best you can do?"
I squeezed Dean's shoulder as I headed out of the room to grab a wheelchair so we could move Sam back to his bed. "I think Sam's back, and will stay back. The man you described just now sounds like one tough cookie. Like I said before, Sam just needed to be reminded of that."
Fifteen minutes later, and with a great deal of help from Bobby, we had Sam settled in bed and a fresh IV line in place. Bobby tucked the blankets into place and raised the safety rails as Dean, balanced on his crutch, watched worriedly from the doorway.
I pushed the wheelchair we'd used to transport Sam closer to Dean and motioned for him to sit in it. He shook his head.
I raised an eyebrow at that. "You gonna stand there all night?"
Dean huffed indignantly, but reluctantly lowered himself into the chair. I took his crutch, leaned it against the wall, then bent down to lock the leg rest into place. I studied him as I lifted his cast onto the support. "When was your last post-accident check up?"
He snorted, a response I translated to mean there hadn't been one. "That's a big cast, which generally means a bad break. Has it been giving you any trouble? Any pain?"
"Itches like hell," Dean muttered. "But, other than that, it's OK."
"Oh, don't you buy his he-man crap." That was from Bobby. "I've seen him wake up in a cold sweat more than once."
I turned back to Dean. "OK, here's the deal–you let me give you a check-up and, if there are no surprises, I should be able to prescribe something to help with the pain when you have a bad night."
"Whatever." Dean was obviously still far more focused on Sam than on his own health.
The check up didn't take long. Dean was mostly co-operative but also peppered me with questions about Sam.
"So, on top of everything, isn't this…fugue, or whatever you called it, gonna make it even harder for Sam to keep the drawstring tight on his bag of marbles?"
I shook my head as I pulled the lead apron off Dean and folded the portable X-ray machine back into the cupboard. "Once Sam wakes up, it's likely he'll have no memory of everything that happened since the fugue began. He won't remember how he got here, won't remember me, won't remember the intervention."
That surprised Dean. "None of it?"
I shook my head. "The mind created the 'John' persona to protect itself from a perceived threat. Now Sam believes again he can handle that threat, the new persona has been purged." I smiled. "The mind is a fascinating thing."
Dean rolled his eyes. "Not the word I'd use. Where Sammy's mind's concerned, I'd go with minefield."
I soon had Dean wheeled back to his brother's bedside. "There's the couch in my office," I offered as I gave Dean a paper cup holding two pills and a bottle of water. "You'd be more comfortable there until morning."
"I'm fine here." He dry swallowed the pills and dropped the bottle of water into his lap.
Bobby clapped a hand gently on my shoulder. "Don't bother trying to change his mind, Doc. A mule ain't got nothing on these two when it comes to stubborn."
"Yeah." I shot a knowing look at Bobby. "I'm beginning to get that."
When I came downstairs the next morning, all three of my guests were still asleep–Bobby on the office couch, and Dean in the wheelchair at Sam's bedside. As I checked on Sam, I noted that his vitals were stronger than they had been the previous night and his color was better. The big test, however, would be when he woke up.
"Doc?" Dean groaned as he tried to stretch away the stiffness of a night spent sleeping upright.
"All signs are good," I smiled. "How 'bout I get you some coffee?"
"Oh, I could kiss you." Dean's eyes widened when he realized what he'd said. "Which would be totally inappropriate–but, yeah. Coffee would be awesome."
I climbed the stairs to my apartment, brewed a pot of coffee, then returned downstairs with a tray full of mugs, cream and sugar and a plate of blueberry-banana muffins I'd picked up from the farmers' market two days earlier. Bobby was standing near the doorway to Sam's room as I entered the exam room, but turned and held a finger to his lips. I placed the tray on the exam table and moved up beside Bobby.
Sam was just waking up.
"Dean?" He seemed confused and a helluva lot younger than the John persona I'd gotten to know the previous day. "Where the hell am I?"
"A clinic in Jeffers Peak." Dean scrubbed a hand over the crown of his head. "You, um, went on a walkabout."
"What?" Sam looked at Dean in shock. "Why would-"
"Far as we can tell, you walked clear across the mountain before, klutz that you are, you tripped over your own feet and smacked your head into a tree. Two linemen with the phone company found you and brought you here. When you didn't show up for breakfast, we set out to track you down. Took us a while, but here we are."
Sam's eyes were wide as he sought to find memories that obviously weren't there. "I just woke up early. Didn't want to wake you guys, so I went outside–to get some fresh air, you know. But, um, you-know-who showed up, kept taunting me…wouldn't stop." He grabbed his left hand and began massaging his palm. "I tried to focus on this, but…" Sam's head snapped towards his brother. "I don't remember, Dean–leaving, how I got here, nothing."
"Hey, hey–chill." Dean grabbed Sam's arm. "You're safe, and you're gonna be OK. Everything else we'll deal with. The doc says the gaps in your memory are perfectly normal."
Sam snorted. "Since when is amnesia normal?"
"It's not amnesia. It's two head injuries in two weeks. You just…blocked out stuff you don't need cluttering up your head anymore." Sam started to object, but Dean cut him off. "Look, I know you're no fan of Swiss cheese, but let's get you back on your feet, then we'll worry about filling in the blanks. Or can you at least wait until after breakfast? You know I can't handle Twenty Questions on an empty stomach."
"You don't handle anything well on an empty stomach," Sam muttered, biting back a grin.
"Bitch." Dean smiled and it was the most relaxed I'd seen him since he'd shown up on my doorstep the night before. "Fine. Ask away. Whatever I can't answer, you can ask Teddy, your doctor."
Sam frowned."You brought me to a teddy bear doctor?"
"No. Just how hard did you hit your head?"
"You just said-"
"No, I didn't. You do know teddy bear doctors don't exist, right?"
"Dude, of course I know that. So why did bring it up in the first place?"
Bobby and I smiled at each other; it was time to give the brothers some privacy. I turned, picked up the tray and carried it down the hall into my office, Bobby close on my heels. "
I poured a mug of coffee and handed it to him, then motioned for him to help himself to cream and sugar and something to eat. "Tell me something–Sam said someone was taunting him, wouldn't leave him alone. It was those taunts that seem to have launched this fugue episode. Who was that?"
Bobby scrubbed a hand down his beard as he sat back. "He's…the neighbor from hell–developed a real hate-on for Sam." He raised his mug in a toast. "But, with Dean's help, Sam's getting a lot better at kicking him to the curb–figuratively speaking, of course."
"Of course." I glanced through the open doorway, picturing the two brothers talking. "I get the sense each can take good care of themselves in a fight, but they're a helluva lot stronger as a team."
Bobby smiled. "That they are. That they are, indeed."
Here is the full prompt from mamapranayama which inspired this fic:
"I'd love to read something about this: Dissociative fugue usually involves unplanned travel or wandering, and is sometimes accompanied by the establishment of a new identity. After recovery from fugue, previous memories usually return intact, but there is complete amnesia for the fugue episode.
Sam's head injury combined with his PTSD from Hell causes him to slip into a fugue state and he wanders off from Rufus' cabin while Dean and Bobby are asleep. You could have him waking up somewhere, hurt and covered in blood, but with no memory of what happened or he's gone off and formed himself a new identity and Dean has to find him and help him remember who he really is."
Hope you enjoyed. If you have a moment, I'd love to hear from you. Until next time, cheers.