SUMMARY: Missing scenes from 7.17, The Born-Again Identity. Sam's in danger of falling apart, but it's Dean's strength that helps him keep it together.
RATED: T for some swearing
SPOILERS: Set in Season 7; Missing scenes from 7.17, The Born Again Identity, with references to canon events up to and including that episode, and for Season 2's 2.03 Bloodlust.
DISCLAIMER: Sadly, the Winchesters are not for sale, therefore I don't own them. Many thanks to Kripke & Co. for allowing me to play in their sand box with their toys.
A/N: For JaniceC678 – this is thinking outside the box but I hope it still fulfils your prompt – and for Detroiter Stranded in Tucson, just because you asked so nicely for more. *g* Enjoy.
Ethan inhaled deeply, savouring the heady scent of the blood trickling down Sam's arm. "O-Negative – the universal donor." The vampire walked slowly towards Sam, his fangs descending as he smiled. "How appropriate – something tells me you'll be donating universally very soon."
Sam's breathing quickened as he scanned the nest of vampires closing in on him. He adjusted his hold on the unconscious Lenore who lay cradled in his arms, her head resting on his shoulder. She didn't weigh much, but getting her in and out of the car had reopened the gash on his arm where Gordon had slashed him, and the scent of fresh blood was quickly pushing the vamps toward loss of control. "Look, I'm not here to fight – I know you're not feeding on humans. I just wanted to get Lenore back to you… where she's safe."
Ethan jerked his head at a man to his left, motioning for him to take Lenore, before quickly returning his attention to Sam. "You're a lot of things, Winchester, but I didn't think stupid was one of them. You bring her back like…this, and think you're walking out of here without a fight?"
Sam ignored the taunt, his focus on Lenore and the vampire taking her from him. "She said she'd be fine… But she passed out in the car on the way over here."
The hate in the vamp's eyes as he took in the cuts that littered Lenore's arms and chest, and the low growl rumbling behind his fangs were in direct contrast to the gentle way he slipped his arms around her and lifted her from Sam's arms.
Sam reluctantly released his hold and stepped back. "The knife that cut her… it was dipped in dead man's blood."
"You son of a bitch." Sam never saw Ethan move, but the vampire was suddenly right in his grille, fingers clamping around his throat, eyes glinting with fury. "I'm gonna rip you to shreds and enjoy every second of it."
"No…I…" Sam reflexively grabbed Ethan's arm, trying to pull the vampire's hand from his throat, but he was too strong. Sam choked audibly as Ethan tightened his hold and lifted him so only his toes scraped the ground. His vision grayed at the edges then, just at the point when consciousness began to slip away, Ethan let go. Sam crumpled to the ground, gasping and coughing, his chest heaving as his starved lungs sucked in air.
Sam was vaguely aware of the vampires encircling him, cutting off any means of escape. He staggered to his feet, unsteadily turning around as the vamps moved closer. He had barely straightened up when Ethan came at him from behind, wrapped an arm around his chest to pin his arms at his sides, then grabbed him by the hair to yank his head back. Before Sam could even try to break the hold, Ethan buried his fangs in his neck.
Sam's scream filled the room, his eyes widening in shock and his struggles to free himself intensifying as Ethan drank. But even as he fought, Sam's head was spinning.
This wasn't right.
Ethan released his hold on Sam's head and held up his hand as a warning to the approaching vampires, stopping them in their tracks. "Wait your turn – there'll plenty for everyone." He laughed softly, licking the blood from his lips as he studied the bite on Sam's neck. "We're gonna stretch this out as long as we can – make him suffer just like Lenore did."
Sam's gaze shot to where she lay unconscious on a couch at the side of the room, tended by one of the female vamps. This was some kind of warped déjà vu – a memory distorted through a funhouse mirror. The attack never happened. Sam stared again at Lenore; she had woken up and stopped Ethan, told him that Gordon was the one who'd tortured her.
Sam closed his eyes at the feel of warm blood running down his neck. "This… this is all wrong."
"Cut, cut, cut."
Sam opened his eyes in time to see the vampires freeze in place as if someone had hit the Pause button.
"Damn it, Sam – stick to the script. You don't have any lines here. Now the scream was good – but I've heard you do better. On the next take, let's put some real pain into it."
Sam's head snapped toward the voice. Pushing his way through the unmoving vampires was Lucifer, wearing a beret and carrying a megaphone.
Sam's breath hitched. "This never happened. It…it isn't real."
Lucifer exhaled in exasperation. "You're working from the wrong script, Sam." He waved a sheaf of pink paper. "Didn't you get the new pages? We changed the ending – I mean, boy saves girl, girl saves boy – how boringly predictable is that? But vampires chowing down on the hero? That's fresh. That's fun. The fans will eat it up." He moved in close and lowered his voice to a stage whisper. "I think moviegoers these days are secretly rooting for the bad guys. Heroes are just so…annoying. I mean, did you hear how audiences cheered when Paris Hilton bought it in House of Wax?"
"Get the hell away from me." Sam wriggled free of Ethan's hold, easier now that the vampire offered no resistance, and stumbled backwards away from the devil. "I'm dreaming."
"Nope – not dreaming." A look of mock sympathy crossed Lucifer's face. "That would imply you're sleeping – and there's no sleeping for Sammy today…or tomorrow…or the day after that… or the day after-"
"It's not real." Sam grabbed his right hand, jamming his thumb into his scarred palm. "It's not real, It's-"
"What's going on, Sammy?"
Sam wheeled to his right; his brother's run slowed to a walk, worry carving deep lines in his face. "Dean?"
"What are you doing out here?" Dean scowled at the hand Sam was now pressing against the side of his neck. "You hurt?"
Sam swallowed. "You see the vampires?" He knew the answer before he'd even finished the question.
"Vampires?" Dean came to a stop right beside Lucifer. "It's a parking lot, Sam – full of gas guzzlers, not blood suckers."
Sam screwed his eyes shut, counted to five, then opened his eyes again – the vampires still filled the bar, still frozen in place; Lucifer stood next to him with his arms folded across his chest, tapping his foot impatiently. Sam pulled his hand from his neck; it was covered in blood. "They won't go away. He won't go away."
"Who – Lucifer?" Dean grabbed Sam by the arms. "Focus on me, Sammy, not him. You know which one of us is real."
"Closed set," Lucifer barked through the megaphone at Dean, then turned to Sam shaking his head. "Tell big brother here to take a hike, Sam. You're the star of this little horror show. Now let's move – time's wasting. I need to show all those Hollywood producers in my pocket how it should be done."
Dean's shout pulled Sam's attention back to his brother.
"Focus on me." Dean leaned in closer, and tightened his hold on Sam's arms. "Listen to my voice, shut out everything else. I'm real. You're here with me. There's no Lucifer. No vampires…"
Sam grabbed the front of Dean's jacket, his hands shaking. He closed his eyes and let his brother's words fill his head like a mantra – no Lucifer, no vampires…no Lucifer, no vampires… He focused on the metal teeth of Dean's jacket zipper as they bit into the skin of his palms; he focused on the tight grip Dean had on his arms, his brother's hold steadying him, grounding him.
That hold flooded his head with memories of just how many times Dean had been there for him, supporting him literally and figuratively, since before he even knew monsters were real. When he was little and plagued by nightmares that Dad would disappear like Mom had, Dean would curl up beside him, throw an arm around him and offer a sleepy, "Don't worry, Sammy. I'm not going anywhere." After Jess was killed, Dean had pulled him from the fire and been right there with him as he worked his way through grief and anger and back into the hunting world. And even after Hell, and Ruby, and demon blood, and living without a soul, here Dean was, still standing beside him, still holding him up – still being his foundation. His stone number one.
Sam exhaled slowly and opened his eyes. Dean said nothing but continued to study him worriedly as Sam glanced around. They were outside, in the parking lot of their motel. There was no sign of Lucifer, no sign of the vampires. It was just the two of them and a lot half full of cars. His hand jumped to his neck – there was no torn skin, no blood. Sam's head dropped forward as relief flooded through him. "They're gone."
Sam nodded slowly. "Yeah – for now."
"Good…good. No hallucinations is good." Dean released his hold on one of Sam's arms, but tugged at the other as he turned back toward their room. "Come on. I've got an idea."
Sam's legs were shaky as they crossed the parking lot, the knot in the pit of his stomach refusing to dissolve because he knew Lucifer hadn't gone far; he never did. Ever since Sam had opened the door by talking to his tormentor after Dean was kidnapped, the devil was either in his face or disappearing just long enough to get Sam's hopes up before reappearing with some new form of torture.
Still, as he followed Dean into their room and closed the door behind him, he revelled in the momentary quiet. Knowing it wouldn't last made it just that much sweeter.
"Here." Dean offered him one of two glasses of whiskey he'd just poured. "Down that."
Sam shook his head. "Thanks – but no."
"Sammy, drink it." Dean pushed the glass into his brother's hand. "It's been four days, man. You need sleep, and since exhaustion doesn't seem to be knocking you out, we'll just have to make you pass out." He huffed impatiently when Sam still hesitated. "Look, it's either this or I deck you. One way or another, you're getting some shut-eye."
Sam stared at the glass in his hand. "It's not gonna work."
"Sure it is." Dean swallowed his own whiskey. "For someone your size, you're a complete lightweight when it comes to booze. Hell, you're the only one I know – besides Garth – who can get plastered on the contents of a mini-bar. Remember Connecticut?" He raised an eyebrow. "So, down the hatch."
Sam didn't have the energy to argue. He raised the glass in a mock toast, then downed the whiskey in one gulp, welcoming the burn that softened into comforting warmth. Still, he shook his head when Dean moved to refill the tumbler. "No, because I do remember Connecticut – especially the morning after." He cut off Dean's protest with a half-smile. "But I will take a beer."
Dean shrugged, refilled his own glass, then dug out a can of beer from the cooler and passed it to Sam. "So, what was old Luci yanking your chain about this time? I heard you scream, and-"
Sam scowled. "I didn't scream."
Dean rolled his eyes. "OK, I heard your manly yell and came running. What'd he do?"
Sam dropped tiredly onto the edge of his bed, popped the tab on the can and took a long drink. "His latest trick is taking my memories and twisting them. This one was the time I took Lenore back to her nest after Gordon tortured her." He raked his fingers through his hair. "I thought it was real – at least until he tacked on an alternate ending."
Dean's eyes flashed. "And that was…"
"The vamps attacked me…" Sam's stomach lurched at the memory. "Planned to drink me dry for what happened to Lenore."
"Well the devil can't let the good guys win, right?" Dean's eyes narrowed as he sank onto his bed, opposite Sam. "We're gonna find a way to beat him, Sammy – to kick him out of your melon for good. But, for now, chug." He gestured to the can Sam was nursing. "This isn't about pacing yourself, this is about recharging so you've got the juice to fight the bastard. And for that you need sleep."
"Oh, man, would I love some shuteye." Sam kicked off his boots, pulled his legs up onto the bed and slouched back against the headboard. "But every time I close my eyes, he's right there, finding new ways to poke me with a stick."
The muscle along Dean's jaw jumped. "OK, what say we play some poker?" He pushed himself up, heading for his duffel and the deck of cards stashed in the side pocket. "Give you something to focus on other than Luci's ramblings 'til the booze knocks you out."
"Yeah, sure." Sam yawned as he reached for the jar of peanuts in the shell on the nightstand. "Use these for chips?"
Dean frowned. "Guess so. Just remind me not to eat my winnings before the game's over."
Sam raised an eyebrow. "Who says you're gonna win?"
Dean grinned as he flopped on the bottom of Sam's bed, already shuffling the deck. "Always do."
Sam wasn't sure how long they played before he dropped off, but when he woke with a start, it was still dark outside and Dean was sprawled across his own bed, still dressed and snoring softly. His heart rate sped up as he scanned the room for any sign of Lucifer; all seemed quiet – but then the devil loved surprise attacks.
"Sam?" Dean rolled over and sat up, rubbing his eyes sleepily. "Y'okay?"
Sam responded with a terse nod. "How long was I out?"
Dean squinted at the alarm clock. "Not even an hour. You nodded off mid-hand so I figured I'd catch some Z's, too." He yawned. "Barely had time to catch one."
Sam scowled at the empty peanut shells scattered amongst the cards that littered the bottom of his bed. "You ate the pot."
Dean stretched as he stood up. "It was mine." He flashed a sleepy grin. "I looked at your cards when you passed out. Sorry, dude - Full House beats a Straight."
"Nice." Sam's scowl deepened as he dragged his foot through broken shells. "How 'bout next time you make a mess with your winnings on your own bed."
Dean's grin widened briefly, then faded out as he studied his brother. "How's it going in there. Lucifer still working his way through Zeppelin's greatest hits?"
Sam shook his head as he swung his legs off the bed. "He's not here. It's the longest he's been quiet since he started this crap. I…I don't like it."
"Roger that." Dean stared at the almost empty bottle of Scotch on the dresser, then glanced at his watch. "Look, we're running low on hunter's helper but we passed a bar about three blocks from here. Still got an hour or so 'til last call. How 'bout we head out, have a few over a game of pool. Between the walk there and back and a Johnny Walker or three, maybe we can knock you out for the rest of the night."
"I'm game for anything at this point." Sam stood up while massaging the stiff muscles in the back of his neck.
Dean grabbed his jacket and opened the door. "Race ya? Loser buys."
Sam raised an eyebrow as he slipped on his jacket, followed Dean outside and closed the motel room door behind him. "Dude, be serious. We're supposed to be flying under the radar. Two grown men, racing down a city street after midnight? No, that won't draw attention at all."
"Well, there's that." Dean looked genuinely disappointed. "Fine, you're buying." He shrugged as Sam's eyes widened. "Full House beats a Straight. That makes you the loser tonight."
Sam shook his head while checking his back pocket to make sure he had his wallet with him. "Just tonight? I'm flattered."
Dean's grin returned as he clapped his brother on the back. "I'm being magnanimous. Enjoy it while it lasts."
"Magnanimous?" Sam jammed his hands in his jacket pockets and fell in step beside Dean as they walked through the parking lot toward the sidewalk. "Let me guess – you clicked the wrong link and ended up on instead of Busty Asian Beauties?"
"Ouch." Dean feigned hurt. "Here I am, trying to be nice and that's the thanks I get? Hell, I was even thinking of letting you win at pool, but now – screw you, Sammy. You're going down."
Sam's stomach lurched. He stopped in his tracks, staring at his brother.
Dean frowned when he noticed Sam was standing still. "What?"
Sam swallowed. "You."
"What about me?" Dean walked toward him and tugged on Sam's jacket. "Come on. The whole point of this night out is to get enough booze in you that you can crash. The sooner we start, the sooner you sleep. Then we can both forget about Lucifer for a bit."
Sam's stomach lurched when realization hit. "You're not Dean."
Dean came to a sudden halt, his eyes widening. "Scuze me?"
Sam took a step backwards, slowly shaking his head. "You're not my brother."
Dean's face crumpled in worry. "Damn it, Sammy, you-"
"Don't call me that." Sam's expression hardened. "Only Dean gets to call me that."
"Man…" Dean scrubbed a hand down his face. "You are in worse shape than I thought. Sam, look at me – I am Dean."
Sam shook his head again, this time while jamming his thumb into his scarred palm. "No… no. I know my brother better than anyone… and you're not him."
"Dude…" His brother again closed the gap between them but Sam held up his hands in a defensive, back-off gesture. "Damn..." Dean's familiar features suddenly morphed into Lucifer's. "What gave me away? I thought I nailed your brother this time – in the non-porn, non-Biblical sense, of course. Totally captured his blue-collar je ne sais quoi." The devil snapped his fingers. "Wait, I know – it was magnanimous, wasn't it? Way too big a word for dimwitted Dean."
"Dean's plenty smart." Sam kept backing away. "He just doesn't use dollar words when nickel ones will do. And trust me, he's got plenty of four-letter words that describe you perfectly."
Lucifer waved his hand dismissively. "Sticks and stones – besides, who do you think coined those little zingers, huh?" He chuckled, pleased with himself. "But other than that, it was pretty good, huh? My performance, I mean. I thought I totally sold it. Really had you believing you might get some sleep tonight."
Sam stumbled backwards, mentally replaying everything that happened since he woke up. Since he woke up. Had he even been asleep? He glanced around. And was this really the street or just another one of Lucifer's mind games?
The devil morphed back into Dean. "Come on, Sam. Play along. Your brother's not that complicated. I know I can get him down pat if you just work with me."
"No…" Blood pooled in the crescent where Sam was driving his thumbnail into his palm. Dean was complicated, and that was something Lucifer and most of the people they dealt with would never get. All the layers – hunter, partner, foil, opponent, protector – that's what made his brother so hard to replicate, why shapeshifters, Leviathans, even the Devil himself, would never be able to pull off the guise for long. Hell notwithstanding, the brothers had been together a lifetime – and it took a lifetime to see beyond the mask Dean wore, to be allowed to see those layers.
The real Dean had pulled him from the vampire hallucination; despite the smartass demeanor, the care and the worry had been too genuine not to be. He was sure, too, that he'd played poker with his real brother back at the motel. It was since he woke up that something, little things, had been off. His brother acted like Dean and said all the things that sounded like Dean; there had been no blatant giveaway – just a series of little things that suddenly added up.
Race ya? That had seemed over the top, even for Dean. Since Bobby's death and Frank's disappearance, Dean had been a little more subdued than usual. They both had. And ever since Sam had been unable to sleep, he'd watched Dean struggle to keep it together for both their sakes, to be strong where Sam couldn't be.
I was even thinking of letting you win… Sam could think of plenty of times when, for one reason or another, Dean had let him win at cards, at pool, at rock-paper-scissors – but he never, ever admitted it, not even in jest. It was just part of the big brother mantel Dean would always wear; they both knew he was doing it and why, but talking about it, admitting it, destroyed the illusion and cheapened the gesture for both of them.
We can both forget Lucifer for a bit. That had been the clincher. Even if Dean downed a whole case of Johnny Walker, there was no way he was forgetting Lucifer. And even if his plan had worked and Sam drank himself into a stupor, Dean would be pacing around the room trying to figure out how ditch the devil for good.
"Dean?" Sam ignored the fake in front of him as he wheeled around, calling out to his real brother in the faint hope he was in earshot, that he could break through Lucifer's matrix like he had in the parking lot. "You here?"
"I'm right here." Lucifer, still wearing Dean's face, moved closer, schooling his features into a passable expression of concern. "I'm there for you, Sammy. You know that."
"Dean!" Sam's shout echoed eerily through the empty streets, the echoes quickly piggybacked by the sound of Lucifer's laughter. There was no sign of his brother.
Sam turned and ran.
"Aw, Sammy, don't go," the devil shouted after him. "We're gonna miss last call."
Sam ran even faster.
Sharp pain yanked Sam back to full consciousness, a brilliant light above him forcing him to screw his eyes closed almost as soon as he opened them.
"Relax, Sammy. You're safe." His brother's voice came from his left, at the same time calloused fingers closed around his forearm in a familiar, comforting gesture. "They'll take good care of you."
Sam rolled his head towards Dean. A Category Five headache made it hard to think straight but squinting against the light he recognized the metal rails that flanked him, the IV in his elbow and the all-too-familiar clinical smells. "ER?"
"Yeah." Dean shook his head. "You played chicken with a car and lost. Fortunately, the two of you weighed about the same – which is why you have a few dings rather than being roadkill. But hang tough, Humpty Dumpty, the docs are gonna glue you back together."
…chicken with a car…
A jumbled kaleidoscope of images ran through Sam's head; a car appearing from out of nowhere and slamming into him, pain and disorientation as he cartwheeled through the air before crashing into the ground; muffled voices and blurred faces of strangers – paramedics, he guessed – hovering over him, lifting him up and strapping him down; then more pain and the nauseating headache as ambulance sirens blared in the background. But each time he began to drift off into the comforting oblivion of unconsciousness, Lucifer yanked him back.
Sam hissed loudly as he tried to sit up, sharp pain shooting through his right side as he quickly scanned the ER. The devil was nowhere to be seen.
"Easy there, Sam." The female voice came from his right; the nurse it belonged to gently pushed him back onto the raised head of the gurney. "We're still waiting on your X-rays but it looks like you've broken a rib or two. Let's keep moving to a minimum until we find out what's what. Deal?"
Sam nodded, swallowing against the bile rising in his throat as he relaxed back onto the pillow that was slipped behind his head.
"Good." The nurse, her reddish-brown hair pulled back into a neat ponytail, rolled a tray table loaded with medical supplies to the side of the gurney. "You've also got a sprained wrist and more than your fair share of abrasions, the worst of which is some pretty nasty road rash here on your forearm. The paramedics flushed it on the way over here, got most of the dirt and gravel out, but I'm going to do it again to be sure. Then we'll treat it with an antibiotic solution, bandage it up and you'll be a lot more comfortable."
"Ouch." Dean pulled a face as the nurse peeled back the gauze and he got a good look at the wound.
Sam shot a look at his brother. "Trade places?"
"Hell, no." Dean wrinkled his nose. "This is gonna hurt."
The nurse smiled sympathetically. "You're stuck playing the patient, I'm afraid." She lowered the safety rail and placed an empty steel bowl under Sam's arm. "If the pain gets too much, let me know. We can give you a local."
"No." Sam steeled himself, knowing what to expect. "Just do it."
She did, and Sam almost threw up the first time the warm water touched the open wound. He was grinding his teeth hard by the time she picked up a pair of long, pointed tweezers to pull out the more stubborn pieces of gravel.
As she worked, Sam glanced up at Dean and froze. His brother wasn't looking at him; Dean's attention was locked on the tweezers picking at the wound, a smile toying with the corners of his mouth.
Sam's stomach lurched, but this time the nausea had nothing to do with the pain. They'd replayed this scene too many times to count. Sometimes Sam was the one on the gurney, sometimes Dean, but each knew their role; the one still standing lent their strength to the one on the table. Not in a touchy-feely, hold-my-hand kind of way. More like a make-light-of-it, joke-about-it, be-a-smart-ass-and-distract'em-from-the-pain deal. But there was no worry in Dean's expression, no half-assed smile to try to disguise it – just rapt fascination with the gory mess on his brother's arm.
Memories of the walk to the bar suddenly cut through Sam's headache. "You're not Dean."
The nurse looked up in surprise. "'Scuze me?"
Sam ignored her, smiling coldly at the carbon copy of his brother. "You still haven't got it right. You're not him."
The nurse's face crumpled with concern. "Who are you talking to, Sam?"
"OK, Sammy. Let's just chill." Faux Dean gave Sam an overly sympathetic smile. "Your head bounced off that windshield pretty hard. I mean, the car's a total write-off – but that's no big surprise given that hard head of yours. You-"
"You can't know what happened… he can't know what happened. Dean wasn't there," Sam hissed as he pushed himself up on the gurney in a feeble attempt to get away from his brother – from Lucifer.
"Whoa, there. Keep still." The nurse again pushed him back against the gurney. "Sam, look at me."
But Sam's attention was locked on the devil. "Dean's back at the motel, right? Always was. You've been yanking my chain this whole time."
"Okay, okay – you got me." Dean morphed back into Lucifer and shook his head. "Man, I suck. I mean, I've been screwing people over for millennia and today I can't even fool a sleep-deprived school dropout with a dented head into believing I'm his half-wit brother."
"Keep underestimating Dean and you never will," Sam spat out. "Now leave me the hell alone."
"Now why would I do that?" Lucifer grinned. "Yanking your chain is fun. And a guy's gotta get his fun where he can. I mean, hanging out with you – Mr. I'm-Gonna-Save-The-World…Again – is kind of a drag." The devil reached over the gurney rail and gave Sam a mock punch to the chin. "Remember what I said about heroes – bor-ring."
Sam flinched at the contact. "Get away from me. Just-"
"Sam." The nurse's tone became firmer as her concern deepened. "This is Dr. Reed. He examined you when you first came in. He's here to help you not hurt you."
The fifty-something doctor with salt-and-pepper hair who'd just entered the ER bay walked right through Lucifer to get to Sam's bedside.
"Hey!" The devil objected loudly to his position being usurped.
Dr. Reed nodded at his patient. "Sam. I've just had a look at your X-rays. There's a clean break in the third rib on your right side, a crack in the fourth. You'll be uncomfortable for a while but with time and rest, they should knit well. You're gonna be fine."
"And in the battle of Sam versus car," Lucifer was using an announcer's voice now, "Sam wins!" He reclaimed his position when the doctor moved off, grabbed Sam's arm and raised it to signify victory.
"I said don't touch me." Sam yanked his arm from Lucifer's hold.
"Whoa, now," Dr. Reed exchanged worried glances with the nurse. "Getting agitated isn't going to help anyone, least of all you. I need you to relax and-"
"I can't relax, I can't sleep." Sam jabbed a finger at Lucifer. "He won't let me."
The nurse frowned. "Who won't let you?"
"Uh-oh." Lucifer burst out laughing, winding his finger in a circle beside his head, as he sing-songed, "Dr. Black &White and Red here both think you're cuckoo!"
Of course they did. Sam glanced from the doctor to the nurse. From their perspective he was talking to thin air. He exhaled slowly then forced a smile. "Just ignore me. Like I said, I've haven't been sleeping well, and my head's killing me."
"And you got hit by a car," the Devil stage whispered. "Let's not forget that."
This time, Sam ignored him. "I'm…I'm just having a bad day."
That fueled more laughter from the Lucifer.
The nurse finished taping a fresh bandage of the now-cleaned road rash wound. "How long is it since you slept?"
Sam let his eyes slide closed. "Four days."
"Five, Sam." Lucifer smacked Sam's arm to get his attention, then tapped his non-existent watch. "Technically, five."
"Shut! Up!" Sam screwed his eyes closed when he realized he was yelling. Good one, Sam. That'll convince them you're nice and sane." "I'm just-"
His attempt at a cover story petered out when he realized the doctor had moved to the side of the treatment bay and picked up the receiver of the wall-mounted phone. "Page Kadinsky. I need a psych consult in Treatment Bay 2."
"I don't need a psych consult. I need to call my brother." Sam hissed as he sat up, then frowned when he realized he wasn't wearing his jacket. "My phone's in my jacket pocket. Just get me my phone then – what the hell is that?"
Dr. Reed had produced a syringe from somewhere and was injecting the contents into Sam's IV line. "Just something to help you relax. The last thing we need is that broken rib displacing and puncturing a lung."
"Morphine, maybe?" Lucifer studied the IV line, then grinned over his shoulder at Sam. "That'd get rid of the stick up your ass for a while – make you a helluva lot more fun to hang out with."
Whatever the drug was, it worked fast. Sam felt hands behind him slow his descent as he melted back onto the gurney. Still, he didn't lose consciousness, the drug trapping him in that twilight between sleep and wake. The doctor's and nurse's voices became distant and distorted, his vision blurred.
That voice was clear. Sam rolled his head to the right, eyes widening in shock as his vision slid into focus. "Lenore?"
The vampire smiled down at him. "You're gonna be fine."
Sam was totally confused, now. Why the hell was he seeing Lenore?
She ran her fingers over the wound on his arm. "Thank you."
Sam frowned. "For what?"
Lenore laughed. "For saving my ass, what do you think? It took guts to stand up to Gordon, and to walk in here. I'm pretty sure you knew you weren't gonna get a warm welcome."
Sam glanced around; he wasn't in the ER bay anymore – he was back in the bar, lying on the floor where Ethan had dropped him and surrounded by vampires. He swallowed. It was a memory but this time, how it really happened.
Lenore held out her hand to help him up, the cuts on her arms and chest healing as he watched. The dead man's blood was finally out of her system. "You'll have to forgive Ethan." She smiled at the big vamp to Sam's left. "He's always been… overprotective."
"Trust me," Sam grabbed her hand and hauled himself to his feet, "I know how that is."
"Your brother, right?" When Sam nodded, she shook her head. "I saw his face when Gordon cut you. At that moment, I was really glad he seemed to be in my corner. He's not a man I'd like to cross."
Sam snorted. "Yeah. We've, um, butted heads a few times and believe me, I'd much rather fight with him than against him."
Lenore tilted her head to look up at him, Sam towering over her now he was standing. "Well, I'm not gonna test that theory. We'll be gone by morning. Fates willing, you'll never hear about us again. But if you need help, we owe you one."
"Aww, isn't that sweet." Lucifer, again wearing his director's beret, was picking his way through the crowd. "So sweet, I think I might puke."
"Don't listen to him, Sam."
Sam's head snapped to his right. "Dean?"
His brother crossed the room toward him. "I know, I know…I wasn't invited to this shindig – Gordon and I were going a few rounds at the time – but somebody's gotta shut up douchebag here."
"Moi?" Lucifer looked offended. "Now that's just rude."
Sam's gaze darted between the devil and Dean; he was seeing both so Lucifer couldn't be disguised as his brother – could he?
"Sam, look at me."
As Sam turned back to Dean, he realized he was once again in the ER, lying on the gurney, Dean at his right. Lucifer on his left.
Sam focused on his brother.
"That memory you just had, that's real. That's you making a difference, so you hang on to that. Use it to stay strong."
Lucifer rolled his eyes. "Oh, big brother talks a good game but where is he, huh? He's not with you, being supportive like I am. I'm real." He jabbed a finger at Dean. "That – that's just a figment of your imagination."
"Sam!" Dean grabbed the gurney rail and shook it to get Sam's attention. "He's right, I'm not real. But neither's he. You know that, and you gotta hang on to that until I get here. Where do you think I am, huh? It's sure as hell not back at the motel with my feet up, enjoying a cold one. No, I'm busting my ass, trying to track you down." He pointed to the door of the treatment bay. "You keep an eye on that door. I'm gonna be charging my way in, any moment now, chewing you out for taking off again."
Sam snorted softly. "That sounds about right."
"Damn straight it is." Dean glared at the devil. "So don't let Luci here convince you otherwise."
Lucifer stuck out his tongue. "I see that the stick up the ass is a family trait."
"Hey." Dean reached over and grabbed Sam's shirt, twisting his fingers in the fabric. "Every time he gets too much, you listen to my voice, shut out everything else, use it to stay strong. I got your back, Sammy. Always will."
"Oh, please." Lucifer produced an airline barf bag from somewhere and pantomimed puking into it.
When Sam turned away from him his brother was gone. "Dean?"
"Told you he wasn't real." Lucifer was back at his side. "It's just you and me, kid. What do you wanna play now?"
The drug's hold appeared to be weakening; the ER bay slid into focus and just behind Lucifer, he saw Dr. Reed conversing quietly with another doctor, this one round-faced and balding. Sam closed his eyes, swallowed, then reached up and twisted his fingers in his T-shirt, much like Dean had done. I got your back, Sammy. Always will.
Sam nodded to himself. He could do this. He could hang on.
Dean crossed the hospital lobby, heading straight for the information desk. He'd fallen asleep for five minutes – five fucking minutes – and Sam had disappeared. His brother had no car, no cash and was working on next to no sleep for two days, but had still managed to fall off the map for the better part of another three.
Dean knew his brother inside and out but sleep deprivation made Sam unpredictable. All his skills were still in play but he was applying them in ways that made Dean's head hurt.
For two days, he's called every hunter contact he could trust, an admittedly short list, and every cop shop, hospital and morgue in three states until he'd finally come across an accident report where the hit & run victim matched Sam's description.
He'd driven through the night to get here. The cop he'd spoken to knew only that Sam was taken to the ER and admitted; no post-accident interviews had yet taken place so he had no information on the extent of his injuries.
The clerk behind the information desk looked up as he approached.
"Sam Smith. I spoke with the police. They tell me he was admitted here."
The clerk seemed surprised, even annoyed, by Dean's worry-fueled brusque tone. "Just one moment." She checked her computer, then a fat sheaf of paper attached to a clipboard. "You're a relative?"
"Sam's my brother."
The clerk swivelled her chair to face him. "Mr. Smith, your brother is a patient here but I'm afraid there's a No Visitors directive on his file."
"What?" Dean's temper was quickly getting the better of him. "He was in a car accident. Why the hell can't I see him?"
The woman stood slowly and, obviously recognizing that Dean was close to losing it, glanced over at a security guard on the opposite side of the lobby to get his attention. "For that information, you'll have to speak with Dr. Kadinsky." She tore off a sheet of paper from a sticky-note pad and scrawled a phone number on it. "Call this number to make an appointment."
"An appointment? Why would-" Dean sensed movement behind him and saw the security guard crossing the waiting room toward them. He gave the clerk a cold smile. "Thanks. You've been a big help."
Dean moved off towards the exit but when the security guard turned his attention to the clerk, he ducked down a corridor which a sign on the wall indicated led to the elevators. Screw making an appointment. Sam had been missing for three days; if his brother was in this hospital, he wasn't leaving until he saw for himself what was wrong with him.
Dean scanned the directory on the wall by the elevators. M. Kadinsky was listed in Suite 302. He punched the Up button and paced impatiently, as he waited for the car to arrive.
He'd been looking out for Sam ever since the kid was born. He knew, would always know, when something was off with his brother and right now every claxon in his big brother early warning system was blaring. Sam plus hit-and-run did not add up to No Visitors. Why did they want Sam isolated? Did the Leviathans have something to do with it? Lucifer? Something else?
Dude, chill, he admonished himself, exhaling slowly, deliberately. The hospital had no traceable connections to Dick Roman, but it also used an antiquated, far from fully computerized patient record system which meant there were no electronic files to hack. And for Dean, lack of information was a shortcut to worst-case scenario. His jaw muscle twitched as a bell pinged, announcing the elevator had arrived. Whatever the hell it was, he'd deal with it. He always did. The important thing was making sure Sam was in one piece.
The elevator doors opened and thankfully, the car was empty. Dean quickly stepped inside, hit the Close Door button and then '3.' No visitors. Infectious disease? No – if Sam had picked up some nasty bug, odds were they'd both have it. Lockdown for violent behaviour? Dean felt sick – yeah, he could see that happening. Sam's size could be intimidating on a good day and since Lucifer had been poking him with a stick, any little thing could have made him lose it.
The doors slid open and a sign on the wall opposite told him Offices 300-350 were to the left. A dark-haired nurse filling out a form at the nurses' station offered a smile as he approached. "Can I help you?"
Dean spotted a door marked 302. "No, I got it. Thanks."
She was quickly on his heels when she saw where he was going. "Wait, you can't go in there without an appointment."
Dean didn't bother to knock. He pushed open the door and fixed his attention on the bald man behind the desk, ignoring the nurse's continued objections. "You Kadinsky?"
A look of understanding passed over the doctor's face as he stood up. "You're Sam Smith's brother."
A/N: Janice had requested the missing scene from 2.03 where Sam returns Lenore to her nest. I loved the idea of writing that, but needed to come up with a way that Dean was in the story, too. This what my warped brain came up with. *g* Hope you enjoyed. If you have a moment, I'd love to hear from you. Until next, cheers!