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Hi y'all! Thanks so much for all of the reviews on this story so far - You all have been so wonderful that I'm gonna post the rest of story tonight. Thanks for reading and I will reply to all of your comments a soon as I can! :)
Dean opened crusty eyes and felt a groan escape his lips as light hit his eyes. He turned to get his face away from the offensive brightness, or at least he tried to turn before the pain stopped him cold. He squeezed his eyes shut and hissed, noting to himself to not do that again.
He opened his eyes to see his father hovering over him, "Dad? Wha …?"
For a few seconds, Dean couldn't figure out what was wrong with him and why he felt like a piece of shit that had been squished beneath his boot, but all at once memories came crashing back on him and he remembered the hunt, the bajang, and the surprise of having that damn thing get the jump on him, nearly ripping him to shreds.
"How're feeling?" Dad asked.
"Ungngggg." He grumbled, then looking around the sunlit room and seeing that it was just him and his father at the moment and new question popped into his head, "Where's Sam?"
"He should be coming back from school soon. In fact, if his ass doesn't show up in the next ten minutes, I'm going to kick it."
Dean snorted a little, but that too was an action he vowed to not do again until he felt better. His father sensed his discomfort and reached for a bottle of painkillers, shaking out two and handing them to Dean along with a glass of water. Dean took them in one swallow then savored the water as it washed down his parched throat.
"How's the head?" Dean asked, seeing the bandage that adorned his father's forehead and the wrinkle in his brow that marked the pain he had to be in.
"It's fine. I ended up sleeping most of the day and it's much better than when I first woke up."
Dean nodded and found that his head too was a body part he shouldn't move much if he wanted to avoid pain, but the need to use the bathroom was making itself increasingly known and he knew he was going to have to move if he was to get any relief.
His first attempt at sitting up was rather pathetic and he whimpered like a little girl which caused his father to try and stop his upward movement, "What are you doing?"
"Gotta piss." Dean explained, wincing as he made another feeble go at sitting. His father's lip curled up into a slight grin as he reached out a hand and helped Dean get to his feet. Once he was vertical and he had his balance, he let his dad help him to the bathroom door, but waved him off once he was inside.
"You think you can handle it from here?" His dad asked.
"Yeah … "Dean tried to grin cheekily, "but if Pamela Anderson wanted to handle it, I don't think I would say 'no'."
Dad shook his head with a silent snort as Dean shut the door and went about his business.
A few minutes later, Dean emerged from the bathroom to see his father searching the room for something.
"What are you looking for?" Dean asked.
"My cell phone. I can't find it."
"Maybe you left it in the car?"
"I already looked there."
"Think it could have been dropped in the woods?" Dean asked as he slowly shuffled his way back to the bed and gingerly sat.
"Yeah … that's probably where it's at." John sighed resignedly, "You got your phone? I'm gonna call Sam, he's late getting back."
"Yeah, sure." Dean winced a little as he dug into his back pocket and pulled it out only to frown immediately when the damn thing fell apart in his hands, "Crap."
"Guess you'll have to use the motel phone." Dean pointed out a little sheepishly as the pieces of his phone fell onto the bed; he must have broken it when he fell on it the other night.
His father grunted in agreement and started to dial the phone sitting on the nightstand between the beds. After several moments, a familiar jingle filled the room. Dean and his father exchanged glances.
"Dammit! That's Sam's phone." Dad grumbled angrily, "He knows he's supposed to have it with him when he goes to school."
"He probably just forgot it – it was a rough night for all of us." Dean pointed out, trying to defend Sam a little even though he was just as pissed at his little brother for being out of touch and making Dean feel this queasy feeling of uneasiness growing in the pit of his stomach. The ring tone of the phone was coming from the opposite side of the room and curious to see where his brother had put the thing, he pushed himself up from the bed with a grunt and followed the noise.
The ringing led him to the trashcan. He peered inside, "What the hell?" Dean muttered as he stooped, ignoring the painful pull of the stiches in his skin as he bent and picked the balled-up jacket from the can. He easily found the phone inside the jacket's pocket, but as soon as he unfurled the rest of the garment, he felt a wave of dread came over him.
"Dad … look." Dean held up the jacket, or what was left of it, really. Large tears marred the back and the distinct, brownish hue of dried blood was crusted into the fabric.
Dean swallowed hard while his father froze, a mixed expression of worry and anger setting into his hard features, "Christ … Sam didn't … he didn't tell me he was hurt. Goddamn it!"
"Maybe it's not that bad. I mean … he went to school, so he couldn't have been too hurt, right?"
"I don't know," Dad looked away, but even with his head ducked, Dean could see the line of remorse etching into his brow, "I never asked."
Sam inhaled reflexively and awoke with a sudden jerk to a noxious smell under his nose. The acrid, burning odor caused his eyes to immediately fly open and with a start, he looked up into the fuzzy face of a round woman peering down at him with concern.
"You okay?" She asked, pulling back the packet of smelling salts the she must have used to revive him.
"Uhhhggnnn." He groaned, "Wha … what happen'd?" He asked, trembling while the pain in his back threatened to drive him to tears. All he remembered was being woken up by the janitor and the next thing he knew, things went topsy-turvy. A pair of hands helped to bring him to a sitting position which made the room spin in a nauseating circle. He closed his eyes and held his aching head in his quivering hands, but somehow he managed to not lose what little there was in his stomach.
"You passed out, kid." Sam lifted his head, and met the gaze of the janitor who had woken him before. He looked around, seeing that he was still in the cafeteria and on the floor with the janitor and the woman hovering over him. Now that some of the cotton had cleared from his head, he recognized the woman as Mrs. Garcia, the school nurse. He had never had occasion to see her before, but his little fainting spell had brought him to her immediate attention.
"I think I should take you down to my office," Mrs. Garcia spoke, "You took quite the spill and, " she touched Sam's forehead with the back of her hand, "You've got a fever going. We need to call your parents and have them come and pick you up."
Sam shook his head "I'm okay … I just got a little dizzy."
"I don't think so," She countered with hands coming to her hips, "You can't stay here if you keep fainting all of the time. C'mon … Hector will help you get to the cot in the office, won't you Hector?"
So, that was the janitor's name, Sam thought idly.
"Of course." Hector agreed as he took hold of Sam's elbow, "C'mon … let's get you to your feet."
The dizziness and nausea held Sam in their firm grip as the trio walked the halls slowly from the cafeteria and to the nurse's office. Hector was gentle in laying Sam down on the cot and as soon as he was horizontal, he closed his eyes to the onslaught of pain in his back. He turned onto his side and shivered then felt a blanket cover his shoulders.
A glass of water was soon offered and placed into his hands, "Here … drink this while I call your parents. What was your name again?"
"Sam … uh …" For a moment, he couldn't remember if he was using his real name in this school or not, but is slow moving brain finally caught up with his tongue, "Winchester."
Shit … dad was going to kill him for having the school call him when he was already in a bad mood and trying to recover from last night's disaster, but he really, really didn't feel well and if facing his father meant he could curl up in a warm bed with a bottle of Motrin, then maybe it would all be worth the ass-chewing he was bound to get.
Mrs. Garcia moved towards the phone while Sam tucked the blanket up around his chin and fought to bring some kind of warmth to his aching muscles and joints. He let his head sink into the pillow and watched disconnectedly as Hector gave Mrs. Garcia a friendly wave before he left the office to return to his duties.
Looking around, Sam felt eyes on him – not human eyes – the eyes of no less than twenty colorful, wild-haired short, round, troll dolls that Mrs. Garcia had sitting on top of her desk and all over the office.
He shivered again.
Why would somebody who professed to want to make people feel better decorate their office with those creepy things? People were sick enough if they had to come see her, why make it worse for them?
She probably though they were cute, but if she only knew what a real troll looked like she'd change her tune pretty quick.
Even with the ugly dolls staring at him, Sam felt his eyelids gain weight and they became harder and harder to keep open and after several slowing blinks, he gave up trying to fight off his fatigue altogether.
"Sam?" He felt a hand on his shoulder. He wasn't sure if he had been sleeping or not, but given how hard it was to peel open his eyes, he could only figure that he had and he was reluctant to leave that fluffy, painless place he had been floating in. Awareness only drove home how much everything hurt and when he felt something touch his ear, he was immediately awake with a jerk.
"Whoa … it's okay. I'm just taking your temperature." Mrs. Garcia explained, keeping a hand on his shoulder then tsking as she took the aural thermometer out of his ear and read the numbers on the readout, "103.7" She shook her head, "I tried to call your father, but there was no answer. Do you have a number for your mother I can call?"
Sam shook his head then screwed his eyes shut as even that small action drove a nail through his skull, "Just my dad … but … call my brother? He can pick me up."
"Okay … what's your brother's name and number?"
"His name's Dean … uh …" Again, Sam's muddled brain had a hard time picturing the numbers he needed to give her, "uh … 732-416-3098" He hoped that was right … sounded close enough.
""Okay … I'll call your brother, Hold on a minute."
Dean had better answer and come get him. Childishly, all he wanted was for his big brother to make everything better like he was always so good at doing.
Mrs. Garcia left Sam on the cot again and went back to the phone. He wasn't even aware that he had slipped into sleep until she came back and touched his shoulder, waking him up, "I tried that number you gave me, Sam. But no one answered. I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to take you to the hospital -that fever of your's is pretty high and I can't treat you here on my own; I'm not allowed to dispense medication, so I need bring you into the ER."
Sam his head and felt all of the blood drain from his face. God … it was bad enough already that he had fainted in school, but going to the hospital would be even worse – how would he explain the claw marks on his back which they would no doubt find? He was lucky that Mrs. Garcia hadn't done more than check his temperature – all he, his brother, and father needed was to have questions asked about how he got injured – especially ones that his fevered mind couldn't answer with any sort of believability.
The only thing he could think of was escape.
He needed to get away from Mrs. Garcia's good intentions and somehow make his way back to the motel under his own steam.
He looked up into her eyes and pulled one of his most pleading faces, "You think … uh … before you take me to the hospital that you could get my backpack?"
"I dunno, Sam … I really should take you straight to the ER."
Her face softened and he knew he had won her over, "Oh … alright. What's your locker number and combo?"
He gave her both and as soon as she turned her back and headed down the hallway, he dragged himself out of the cot, leaving the warmth of the blanket behind. He shivered uncontrollably, but managed to make his way to his feet without passing out yet again. At the door, he checked down the hallway and seeing no sign of the nurse, he headed the opposite direction of his locker and made his way to the nearest exit.
Once outside the building, Sam was truly missing the blanket back in the nurse's office as a cold wind hit his face and seeped through the layers of his clothing. A bone-deep shiver coursed through his body, but he knew there was no turning back now – he had to get back to the motel.
One step in front of the other, he told himself as he walked away. The nurse would no doubt be searching for him soon, so he stepped up his pace, moving as quickly his sore, feverish body would allow. He made about two or three blocks from the campus, his head and back pounding in furious pain and his joints loudly complaining before he came across a bus stop with a bench. Figuring he was far enough from the school to be safe from the nurse's clutches, he sank down heavily onto the seat, pulling his jacket as close to his chest as possible. He couldn't lean back against the seat, but leaning forward and resting his head on his knees for a minute or two would be all he needed before he headed for the motel once again.
He wondered why Dad and Dean hadn't answered their phones and his mind went over possible scenarios – what if they were both passed out in the room? What if they were in trouble?
Sam reached into his pocket where he always kept his phone and could have slapped himself for not thinking to call them in the first place, but his pocket was empty. He cursed himself mentally for forgetting that his phone was in the pocket of his other jacket – the one he had tossed into the garbage can back at the motel.
Stupid … he was sooooo stupid. No wonder his father was pissed at him all of the time. Why couldn't he be more like Dean? Why did he always have to be the one to screw up?
As Sam mentally abused himself with his head between his knees, the sounds of a loud diesel engine filled his ears. He looked blearily and saw a city bus come to a stop in front of him. The door opened and the driver looked at him expectantly.
"You getting' on, kid, or what?"
Sam stared at the driver blankly, trying to push his brain into gear again. Taking a bus would certainly be faster than walking and he just didn't think he could walk much further. If the bus could get him close to the motel, then it might be worth the expense.
Sam wanted to ask the driver if he went by the motel they were staying at, but for the life of him, he couldn't think of the name of the motel. After so many years of hopping from one room to the next, it was hard to keep them all straight. He tried to think of the street name it was on then remembered that it was one the main drag of the city, "this bus go down Business 19?" he asked, putting all of his strength into speaking clearly and not appear as sick as he felt.
"Yeah." The driver called back.
Sam nodded then pushed himself from the bench – the bus would be better than walking. He had to grab the rail tightly in order to keep from toppling over as he boarded and reaching into his pocket for the dollar he needed to pay for the ride was far harder than it should have been, but once he found a seat, he sank down into it gratefully. Again, he leaned forward so as not to let his sore back touch the seat and let his head rest in his hands. He turned his head so he could look out the window so he could watch for the stop where he would need to get off, but after five minutes of watching the scenery pass, his eyes grew minds of their own and closed on their own accord.
John glanced at his son. Dean sat stiffly in the passenger seat of the Impala, clearly not used to occupying a place in the vehicle that wasn't behind the wheel.
Clearly, John could see that his oldest boy was in pain, even if he would never admit it. But what worried John more was the tight set of Dean's jaw and the way he stared stoically ahead - he wouldn't rest and take care of himself until he knew that Sam was okay and he'd drive himself into the grave if it meant he could help his little brother.
And that's what worried John the most – Dean was a loyal son, but he was an even more protective brother and one day, if he wasn't careful, Dean would end up doing something rash in order to save Sam. It was a trait of Dean's that John both admired and feared both at the same time.
John had called the school already, but all he got was a woman saying that she had gone to get Sam his backpack and when she returned he had disappeared. She at least told him that Sam had been sick, that she had tried to call John and Dean, but hadn't been able to reach them. She sounded worried and that was enough for the hairs on the back of John's neck to stand on end.
So now Sam was out there somewhere in town, probably trying to make his way back to the motel under his own power, but even as John tried to trace the route Sam might have taken back to the room, he had yet to see any sign of him.
And all of this was John's fault. Why did he not even ask Sam if he was okay? Why had he not checked him over himself? Sam had somehow dragged both his and Dean's asses out of the woods and driven them back to the motel, patched them up and them kept watch over them. But when John had woken up all, he could see was the mistakes Sam had made and he had let his weariness, pain, and disappointment cloud what was right in front of his eyes. And now that he could look back in hindsight, Sam had appeared drawn, tired and pale, but he had pushed his son out the door without son much as a 'how are you?'
Shit … how many times had he tried to drive home how important it was to pay attention to detail into his sons when he himself had missed out on something so blatantly obvious?
However, now wasn't the time to beat himself up and dwelling on his mistake wasn't going to help him find Sam any faster, so he shifted his focus from his own guilt to finding his youngest child. He drove up and down the streets that Sam might have walked, but Sam's tall, lanky form was nowhere to be seen.
"We should go back to the motel," John suggested, "Maybe he made his way back already."
Dean seemed ready to agree until his attention snapped to the side road and he pointed to a bus parked along the sidewalk with an ambulance idling behind it. John felt his heart sink into his stomach as he saw a stretcher being brought around to the back of the ambulance.
He could just make out a shock of brown, shaggy hair peeking out and he knew immediately who it was.
Dean paced the length of the room; twenty strides forward - about face -twenty strides back …
He glanced up at the clock. It had been two hours, 32 minutes since they followed after the ambulance carrying Sam to the hospital and he still had no answers.
His mind swam with possibilities, none of which he really wanted to entertain. The only outcome he could accept was his brother looking up at him with big, hazel eyes and asking for forgiveness for putting Dean through such uncertainty and worry. But even that, he couldn't count on – it had been too long and that never meant anything good. Right now, he'd take just seeing Sam breathing as enough.
Dad sat in a nearby chair, staring blankly at the wall ahead of him. Dean had seen his father in the heat of battle, seen his at his best and at his worst, but seeing him like this … ?
How was Den supposed to keep his shit together if his father was like this?
Twenty strides forward – about face – twenty strides back …
Dean stopped cold in his tracks and abruptly ending his pacing routine. Dad seemed to snap out of whatever place he had been trapped and immediately came to his feet, crossing the expanse between him and the man in the white lab coat.
The man addressed himself as the doctor overseeing Sam's care and Dean listened to the medical jargon being released from the doctor's mouth, catching phrases here and there that set his teeth on edge. Things like 'driver found him passed out in the bus, unresponsive', 'We found long scratches on his back that appear to be infected', and 'antibiotics don't seem to be working yet' hit him like a Mack truck.
"Can we see him?" he found himself asking. Bottom line – that's all he wanted.
The doctor nodded, "I'll take you to him, but I must warn you that he hasn't been very coherent and he's been in and out of lucidity since he arrived. His fever is dangerously high and we're having a difficult time bringing it down, but hopefully, the antibiotics will start to do their job and we can get this infection under control soon." The doctor looked at Dad with a sidelong glance,"By the way, do you have any idea how he could have gotten those wounds on his back?"
Dad glared at the doctor, "No." was all he replied curtly, abruptly ending any further questions about how Sam got hurt.
"Well then … how about we go see Sam?" The doctor suggested, keeping a wary eye on Dad. Dean saw a look of suspicion flit across the doctor's face and he got the feeling from the man that the questions about how Sam got hurt and so sick were only over for the time being.
Dean followed after his father and the doctor on numb legs. His own injuries from the previous night felt like a mere annoyance compared to the moment he saw his little brother lying in the hospital bed hooked up to IV's, machines, and a variety of various medical equipment. The doctor walked over to Sam's bed and started to explain the machines and what they were doing for Sam.
Sam was down to just his boxers, lying on his side with a cooling pad under him and ice packs located around various points of his body in an effort to reduce his skyrocketing fever. Though his eyes were closed, one look told Dean that his little brother was far from sleeping as his feet restlessly slid up and down the mattress and he made low, keening noises in his throat that almost unmade Dean completely.
Sam muttered something that Dean couldn't hear and the doctor turned, speaking back to his little brother with all of the warmth of a frozen Popsicle, "I'm afraid we need to get your fever down, Sam. You can have a blanket as soon as your temperature is lower."
Suddenly, Dean snapped out of his fugue – Sammy was hurting and he was just gonna stand there while some dickhole doctor brushed him off? Dean crossed the room just as the doctor was heading for the door to leave and on the way he did little to hold back the contempt on his face as they passed each other.
But all thoughts about what an ass the doctor was fled as soon as he was by Sam's side, leaning over the railing of his bed and running a hand over his fiery, hot brow. He was shocked by the heat Sam was generating even with all of the cooling pad and ice packs and though he had seen his little brother though all kinds of fevers, illnesses and injuries, this was the first time that Dean truly felt so completely helpless and useless.
Sam rolled his head towards him as soon as he was touched and slid his eyes open, looking up at Dean with an unfocused gaze.
"Hey, kiddo …" Dean was surprised to hear his voice crack, but his attempt to swallow and clear his throat met with an impossible obstacle in his throat.
"D-d-Dean." Sam stuttered, his teeth chattering, "D-dad?"
"I'm right here, Sammy." Dad spoke up as he laid a hand on Sam's shaking shoulder from the opposite side of the bed, "We're not going anywhere."
Dad's eyes shifted their focus squarely on the wounds to Sam's back and after a quick look around to make sure there were no medical personnel in sight that could question his actions he carefully peeled the bandage down half-way.
"Dammit, "Dad muttered, "Why didn't he ask for help?"
Dean looked up towards his father and the two locked gazes and Dean knew without a doubt that what his father saw wasn't good. With a quick, silent motion of his head, Dad beckoned Dean to join off to the side. He was reluctant to let Sam out of his grasp, but whatever his father had to tell him had to be important.
"Dean, I need you to go to the car and get some holy water. It looks like Sam might not have cleaned out those wounds on his back as well as he should have – it's possible some of the poison from it is still in there and making him sicker than the infection alone."
"Will it help after this long?"
"I don't know, but we can't afford not to try."
He was so cold …
Where was he? Why is he so cold?
He opened eyes that refused to raise themselves completely or allow him to see clearly. All he got was a lot of white and some fuzzy images of people coming in and out of his field of view.
It looked like one and smelled like one and the people fussing and bustling around him looked like nurses or doctors, so ….
Dad was really going to be mad now.
He'd really screwed up this time and he'd never live down not even being able to escape and evade a rotund, fiftyish school nurse. Had she found him? Dragged him to the hospital against his will?
No … that didn't make sense – he'd remember that, right?
But it was so hard to think and everything hurt.
How did he get there? He remembered leaving the school – it was cold outside and then …
God, Brain … c'mon … work!
He suddenly had flashes of being on bus, feeling worse – feeling so cold, flashing lights, more cold …
Oh … did he pass out on the bus?
Not that that was any better than being captured by the school nurse, but at it least explained how he got there.
Sam closed his eyes and shivered as a renewed round of chills wracked his body and no amount of huddling in on himself of moving around could warm him up.
Would it kill someone to give me a blanket?
"I'm afraid we got to get your fever down, Sam. You can have a blanket as soon as your temperature is lower."
Oh … did I say that out loud?
Wait – how does he know my name?
Oh crap … Dad and Dean must be here already. How did they know?
Thinking too deeply into gave Sam's already massive headache a renewed jolt. Sleep … he just wanted to sleep and not think – just turn off the lights and go where the pain and the freezing air couldn't reach him.
Can't sleep. Too cold.
Exhausted, his eyes closed like they had a mind of their own, but rest was elusive and no matter how hard he tried to curl into himself and chase down sleep, he could not find enough comfort to catch it. It wasn't until he felt something touch his brow that he finally felt some heat seep into his skin. He savored that warmth and turned his head into it, wishing there was more. He felt fingers and a familiarity that stirred feelings of safety and security within him and he opened his eyes, knowing who he would see.
"D-d-d-d-Dean?" He asked, his teeth chattering so fiercely that he could scarcely form the name of his brother. Dean grinned down on him, but his hand never left Sam's brow.
Though he couldn't see him, Sam could almost sense his father behind him, "D-dad?"
"I'm right here, Sammy." Another warm hand landed on his shoulder, this one calloused and rough, but he greedily accepted its heat as well, "We're not going anywhere." Dad sounded worried, but steady and the calm reassuring squeeze he gave him, helped to smooth some of the tremors coursing through him. Sam couldn't remember the last time his father had been this affectionate with him and he was confused. Dad wasn't spitting mad at him? Why?
Shit … he must be really sick.
What if I'm dying?
Sam hardly had time to process that thought when he felt fingers grasp the edges of the tape holding the bandage on his back. He felt tears spring to his eyes from the pain even though the contact was gentle and he squeezed his eyes tight, biting his tongue to keep from whimpering like a little girl in front of his dad.
Jesusfuckshitdammitdammit …Hurtshurtshurts …stop!
"Dammit," he heard his father swear, "why didn't he ask for help?"
Sam responded in his head with a sarcasm he was surprised he could find giving how terrible he felt and forming one of the first clear thoughts he had managed in quite a while, Well … gee, Dad … maybe it had something to do with the fact you were unconscious.
Soon the bandage was taped back up once more. Sam mashed his face into his pillow as he felt the warmth of Dean's hand leave his forehead and he instantly missed his brother's touch. He wanted to beg and plead for its return, but he knew that would only make him sound more like a baby and the words would not come from his uncooperative mouth.
He could still hear his brother and father in the room – they were talking about something – what it was, he couldn't make out; they were talking too low.
Sam lifted his eyes long enough to see Dean begin to leave the room, but not before he stopped by his bed and place a hand over Sam's brow once again, as if he knew that was exactly what Sam wanted right then.
"I'll be right back. 'kay, Sammy?"
Sam nodded blearily, his eyes almost too heavy to keep open. He blinked and Dean was gone, the only other person left in the room besides him was his father.
Dad walked over to him and took up the position that Dean had abandoned moments before, his scruffy, bearded face filling Sam's line of sight.
"Sam … Dean's gone to get holy water. The bajang – its poison could still be in your wounds. I think its making you sicker than you should be." Dad placed his hand back on Sam's shoulder, "We'll get you feeling better soon, okay?"
Sam's eye met his father's, even though the fever burning in his blood, Sam could see concern and well-hidden fear in those eyes, but not anger.
"N-not mad?" Sam asked, confused. After all he, he had screwed the pooch on the hunt and then messed up trying to patch up his own wounds only to pass out on a city bus and wind up in a hospital – his dad should be mad – spitting, hopping mad. But he wasn't … Sam couldn't wrap his sluggish mind around it.
"I'm not mad, Sammy." Dad sighed and then rubbed a hand through his hair, "Sure … I guess I was at first, but … I shouldn't have been. It was an accident that woke the bajang and you were the one that killed it and then got Dean and I out of the forest and patched us up … you did good, kid and I was wrong to brush you off this morning. I was stupid and I didn't even think to check you out so you being here – that's on me and … I'm sorry."
Dad was apologizing? Sam theorized blearily that he must be delusional or maybe he had woken up in an alternate universe or on Bizzaro world where Superman was evil, the world was shaped like a cube and everything was the opposite of what it should be. There wasn't much else to explain why his father was being so … understanding.
Then again, maybe Sam had been the one that hadn't understood. His father was only human after all – born to make mistakes.
Oh God … now I've got that damned Human League song stuck in my head – as if I wasn't sick enough.
Dad's hand left his shoulder and in the next instant it was cupping Sam's face comfortingly. He closed his eyes and felt some of the shivers racing through him ease up.
He wasn't even aware that he had slipped into sleep until Dean's voice woke him, "I got it."
Sam opened his eye to see his brother hurrying over with one of the hip flasks that contained holy water.
"Good. Hand it to me." Dad ordered and Dean dutifully obeyed. Dad unscrewed the flask then pointed to the door, "Keep an eye out for anyone coming near."
Dean nodded and quickly sped to the door, his attention flicking back and forth between Sam and the hallway.
Dad clasped a hand on Sam's shoulder and spoke softly, "Sam … I'm gonna clean out these wounds with the holy water. If there is still some poison in there, this is going to hurt. But I need you to try to keep quiet, we can't have anyone come in and start asking questions, okay?"
Sam nodded, his father's words washing over him, but not really making much of an impact until he felt the bandage on his back being removed once again. The slight touch of his father's fingers on his skin renewed the fiery agony in his skin and he grunted, trying to remain quiet as he squeezed his eyes shut.
Finally, the bandage was removed, "Okay … got it."
Sam sighed as the burning sensation lessened to a simmer. He opened his eyes again to see a rolled up washcloth being offered to him, "Here … bite down on this, it should help."
Sam opened his mouth and allowed his father to place the rolled up towel between his teeth, "Hold on, Sammy," was all the warning he was given before the icy, wet water touched the overheated and torn skin of his back.
At first, there was nothing but cool, soothing wetness, but all of that changed the instant the holy water touch the uppermost part of the gashes nearest to his neck. Suddenly he felt as though he had been ignited in flames as an explosion of pain impacted his nerves and travelled across his body. His teeth clamped automatically into the washcloth in his mouth as he grunted against the searing fire in his skin. It went on and on forever – an endless cascade of agonizing waves crashing him.
Tears leaked from Sam's eyes even with them shut tightly and they spilled onto his pillow as he turned his face into it and moaned, trying to ride out the spasms of pain jolting his body.
"I'm done, Sammy." He heard his father say and felt him rubbing his arm, "It's over."
Sam would have felt relief at that if the agonizing burning in his back hadn't been the only think he could feel and understand with any clarity and it wasn't long after that that darkness claimed him.
Sam appeared to have passed out, which was a blessing in John's opinion. The pain had to have been excruciating and at least now Sam was quiet and no longer feeling the effects of the cleansing John had inflicted on him. He reached out and let his hand land on Sam's head, letting his finger run through his boy's soft hair that was now damp with sweat.
Seeing the effect of the blessed water on the poison in his son's skin had been bad enough, but Sam's muffled sobs and moans as John had poured on the holy water had been far worse. Knowing that he was the one that was causing so much pain, even if it was for Sam's own good, tore a chunk from his heart that hurt more than a shot to the gut.
All he could hope for was that the holy water had worked – that Sam would recover quickly and he could take his son away far away from here – from this town – away from the mistakes he had made.
But he knew no matter how far he drove, his mistakes would follow him.
"Dad?" Dean hissed from the door, "The doctor's coming."
John looked up and nodded, not realizing how badly his hands were shaking until he tried to quickly tape the bandage onto Sam's back once again. He fumbled with it and accidentally pressed into one of the scratches. Sam flinched and groaned, but didn't wake up, for which John was grateful – Sam needed his rest and with the doctor coming, it was best that he wasn't up to talking with the man.
John knew that the doctor was harboring questions about how Sam was injured and it wouldn't the first time some doctor or teacher was suspicious about how one of his boys had ended up with numerous bruises or a broken bone and last thing he needed was CPS getting involved.
John hated hospitals for that reason - he couldn't exactly tell the medical staff the truth, that he and his boys hunted supernatural creatures and it wouldn't be the first time he had to cut short a hospital stay before the authorities got involved and decided that John wasn't fit to know what was best for his kids.
It seemed like this time would be no different. He hated the thought of having sneak Sam out before his treatment was complete, but getting out of town would have to be his next priority. As soon as Sam showed signs of getting better, John would make sure they grabbed the right medications for him and then hit the road.
John finished reapplying the bandages to Sam's back just as the doctor strode into the room. He eyes John with the same look of suspicious contempt that he held earlier and he knew for certain now that the doctor had formed his own conclusions about him – that he had to be some kind of child abuser – a man that couldn't contain his anger and took it out on his kids.
Sure – John had a temper, he drank too much, and he took his boys out on dangerous missions, but there was one thing he was not and that was someone who would purposefully hurt his kids. He had enough of the switches, belts, and fists from his own father growing up to know that he never wanted to be that way.
The doctor didn't say a word to John as he checked Sam's vitals and it was with some relief that the man didn't notice the wet sheets under his son. He finally raised his eyes towards John and deemed him worthy enough to be spoken to.
Dean walked over and joined John by his side, his son's look summing up exactly what John thought of the doctor as well.
Damned self-righteous bastard.
"Hmmm … surprising. Sam's fever has come down two degrees since it was checked last. Looks like the antibiotics are beginning to work.
Or the holy water is working, you fucking quack.
"I think we can safely take these ice packs away and if he continues to improve, I'm going to have him transferred to a regular room."
Dean sighed, clearly relieved, "So, he's going to be okay?"
"I believe so." The doctor agreed, giving John the stink eye again.
Okay – he had enough.
"Something else you want to say?" John asked the physician.
The man hesitated a little at first the squared his shoulders, "I'm still at a loss as to how Sam was injured. Are you certain that you don't know this happened?"
John ground his teeth, "I told you I don't know." he replied, his voice low. He tried to hide the hostility in his voice, but knew it came out sounding threatening.
"Sam also has several … older injuries … scars … some recent and some at least a few years old. Can you explain those?"
"Sam's an active kid. He's in sports and plays rough. Sometimes he gets hurt"
The doctor looked unconvinced.
Dean decided to join in, his voice just as tight as John's and he made no effort to hide his growing anger, "Just what are you trying to say here? You think my dad's been beating on Sammy?" He took a step forward, entering the doctor's personal space, almost nose to nose with him, his eyes darkening. The doctor, to his credit, didn't back down.
"I just have questions that I'd like to have answered. I've made no such accusation …. So far."
Dean eyes narrowed even more, "Now you listen here –"
"Dean –"John grabbed Dean's arms and hauled him back a couple of feet from the doctor, fearing for a moment that his oldest might start swinging. Not that he would blame Dean if he did, but the last thing they needed was for hospital security to get involved or for either one of them to get arrested for assault and battery.
Dean huffed and the doctor sneered, "I'll be back to check on Sam soon. I have some phone calls to make. Excuse me." The doctor spun on his heel and headed for the door, clearly on his way to inform the authorities.
John unclenched his jaw. They had to get out of there – now.
"Dean, get a wheelchair. Time to go."
Dean, still fuming to the point where John was surprised he didn't see steam coming from his son's ears, just nodded and stalked off.
John then picked up the chart from the end of Sam's bed and flipped it open. Reading through it quickly, he found the medications Sam was on, found a pen and wrote the names and amounts he would need onto his hand.
Dean returned as soon as John had replaced the chart and he pushed the wheelchair up to the bed, beating John to Sam's side, "Hey …" Dean pushed back the hair covering Sam's forehead, while John started removing the various medical devices Sam was hooked up to, "Time to wake up, Sammy."
Sam made a noise in his throat then forced his eye open into thin slits, "Dea? Wha?"
"We gotta get outta here." Dean explained quickly, "Think you can sit up?"
"m'kay" Sam nodded weakly, making an attempt to come up on his own, but he quickly lost steam and Dean took over from there, one arm coming around the back of Sam's neck and while the other went under his knees. With a little grunt, Dean pulled his little brother up to his chest, carrying him to the wheelchair, "Jeez, Sammy … put on a little weight?"
Sam mumbled something in return that John couldn't hear, but made Dean snort as he lowered Sam into the wheelchair carefully, "M'not fat, bitch – this bulk is all muscle."
John saw Sam shiver as he leaned forward in the chair, his head hanging and hair falling into his face while goosebumps spread across his pasty, colorless skin. Sam's pallor against the dark mop of hair provided a sharp contrast that made John second guess his decision to cut and run from the hospital while Sam was still so ill and so weak. But staying wasn't an option anymore and Sam would get better and probably faster with him and Dean taking care of him over the cold, impersonal atmosphere of the hospital.
Determined once again to get Sam out of there before that arrogant prick of a doctor returned, he grabbed a blanket from the empty bed next to the one Sam had been in and wrapped it around his shoulders. Sam pushed his head up, looking up gratefully at John with tired, dark shadowed eyes as he grabbed the edge of the blanket and pulled it closer around himself and huddled into its warmth before he let his head hang once again with his chin to his chest.
Dean was already checking the hall to see if the coast was clear as John rubbed Sam's shoulder, wincing at how hot Sam was even through the blanket, "Hold on, kiddo. We're gonna get you outta here and take care of ya, okay?"
Sam just nodded, his head still bowed.
John looked up at Dean who nodded as well and gave a thumbs-up, silently saying that the hall was clear enough for them to slip out unnoticed.
The escape from the hospital actually went rather smoothly and there were no questions asked of the trio until they made it to the parking lot and their Winchester luck struck yet again.
John was waiting at the curb with Sam while Dean ran to the car and pulled it around towards them when Sam's doctor came rushing out of the building.
"Hey!" Doctor Nosy yelled just as Dean stopped the car beside the curb, "What do you think you're doing?"
John ignored the man and yanked the back door open before carefully scooping Sam out of the wheelchair and gliding him onto the backseat bench, making sure to tuck the blanket around him again once he was settled.
At the Same time, Dean abandoned the driver's seat and joined Sam in the rear, pulling his little brother against him and allowing Sam to rest his head on Dean's shoulder.
Seeing Sam close his eyes as he lay against Dean, John backed up and closed the door, spinning as he heard huffing and puffing behind him.
"Where do you think you're going?" The red-faced doctor asked, "What is Sam doing out of his room?"
"What does it look like?" John responded, clipping his words as he strode for the driver's side.
"You can't take him – he still needs treatment."
"I'll treat him."
"You can't be serious." The doctor protested incredulously.
John leveled a dark gaze at the doctor that explained just how serious John really was about this.
"I'm calling the cops – this is … "The flabbergasted doctor sputtered, "this is child endangerment and you won't get away with this … I'll have you know that -"
The rest of the doctor's words were cut off as he climbed into the car and slammed the door shut behind him. John really didn't have the patience to deal with the doctor any longer and other than giving the man a parting glance, he paid him no heed regarding his threat. The man could call the cops all he wanted, but they'd be far out of town and this jurisdiction before they could find them.
John glanced back in the rear-view mirror. Dean had his arm around Sam as he slept and for the first time since they found his youngest son in the hospital, he looked like he was actually getting some peaceful, healing sleep.
John gripped the gear shift and threw the car into drive, pressing his foot hard into the accelerator as he peeled the classic auto out of the parking lot, leaving the fuming and wildly gesticulating man in the white coat behind in a cloud of exhaust.
Dad drove on for hours, only stopping once so he could 'procure' some antibiotics for Sam at a small pharmacy on the way to wherever the hell they would end up.
Night was falling and Sam had slept most of time in the car, nestled up against Dean. He was still hot and feverish for most of the ride until they crossed the state line and he started to sweat profusely, wetting through the shirts Dean had on.
Dean reached up and felt Sam's forehead. It was clammy, but much cooler – his fever had finally broken. Sighing with relief, he rubbed the top of Sam's head, letting his finger slide through his damp hair, "You're gonna be okay, Sammy."
Sam mumbled then shifted, nuzzling further into Dean's shoulder before he started snoring softly into Dean's ear. Allowing a small grin, Dean remarked to himself how his brother seemed to sleep so much better in the car than anywhere else and he had vague memories pop up of Sam as a baby, crying his little head off until Dad strapped him into his car seat and started driving, the vibrations and the motion of the car almost instantly putting him into a deep sleep. Even now, seventeen years later, Sam still seemed to need that comfort of the only home they had ever really known to really relax and feel safe enough for some true rest.
Sam was safe now and he was right where he belonged.
Dean squeezed him back tighter then leaned his head against the window, his body and sore wounds reminding him that he too needed rest after the last couple of days they had been through. He closed his eyes with a sigh and listened to the soothing sounds of the engine and Sam's breathing.
It wasn't long before he too joined his brother, their snores floating together in a harmonic duet that filled the interior of the car.
Sam woke up in a bed he didn't remember falling asleep in. At first glance, the white, bleach scented sheets made him think that he must still be in the hospital, but slowly, his sluggish brain recalled being in the backseat of the car – feeling safe as he snuggled against his brother.
Oh man … so much for facing serious illness like a man, he thought.
Rolling onto his back, Sam felt the sting of the scratches the bajang had given him, but the pain was not nearly as bad as he recalled and as he began to wake up further, he found that thinking wasn't as much of a chore either. He still felt like crap, like he was getting over a bad case of the flu, but all things considered, he felt markedly improved since the last time he was awake.
Just then, Sam felt tiny puffs of air hit the side of his face and he turned, finding himself face to face with Dean, sleeping on his side next to him with his mouth wide open and drool puddling onto his pillow. He also got a face full of Dean's morning breath, so with a slightly grossed-out grimace, he tried to prop himself up onto his elbows. He smacked his mouth and realized that his own breath probably wasn't all that pretty either.
He could hardly remember the last time he brushed his teeth or had a shower and he felt scuzzy in his own unwashed skin. Taking in a little sniff, he concluded that he wasn't just feeling dirty – he stank of sweat and illness and he just wanted to scrub it all away.
Sam looked across the room. It was like any motel room they had stayed in before: dingy carpet, yellowing blinds, cheap furnishings … ahhhh … home sweet home (for now). The other bed in the room was currently unoccupied, but judging from the rumpled, slept in look it had and the dull, early-morning light streaming in through the curtains, his father must have gotten up before them and gone off to pick up breakfast and coffee, both of which actually sounded pretty good to him as his stomach rumbled. Sam saw his returning appetite as a good sign that he really was getting better and attempt to take a shower might make him feel even better.
He sat up the rest of the way, shaking off the lingering dizziness in his head and shivering slightly as the last vestiges of his fever refused to completely let him go yet. Determined more than ever now to take a shower just to warm up his slightly chilled body and hopefully soothe some of his aching joints and muscles, Sam swung his legs over the bed and planted his bare feet on the floor. Standing up proved to be harder than he would have hoped and he had to stop after he was fully upright to grab the nearest nightstand for balance as his vision swam with floaters, but once he recovered, he made it to the bathroom without any incident on limbs that felt a bit like Jell-o.
Sam turned on the shower taps and stepped into the hot, steaming water, audibly sighing as it hit his skin and warm him from the outside in. He closed his eyes and savored the heat for several minutes before he finally got around to actually cleaning himself with the soap and shampoo.
Reluctantly, he eventually had to turn off the shower when the last of the hot water was spent. Dean was going to bitch about the lack of hot water when he got up, but it would be worth it in order to feel clean and human once more, he figured.
Sam stepped out of the shower and reached for a towel, not really surprised when he saw his hand shaking as he grabbed it. He may have felt better, but he knew from the weak feeling in his muscles and chills starting up again that this excursion was most likely to be the most action he was going to see for the rest of the day.
A plume of steam followed Sam as he exited the bathroom. He looked towards the bed and noticed that Dean was still fast asleep and didn't look like he had moved a muscle since he last saw him. He made his way towards the duffel bag he noticed sitting on the floor beside the bed and bent over to open it and find some clean clothes. Bending over however, turned out to be a bad idea as Sam's knees suddenly decided to quit working and his vision tunneled to black.
The next thing he knew, his hands were trying to catch him from falling, grabbing onto the bedspread for something to slow down his descent. All he really accomplished however was to lose the towel wrapped around his hips and pull the bedspread off of the bed and onto him as he fell onto his face.
Sam may have blacked out for only a moment or two, but the clamor he had caused sent his brother rocketing out of bed and racing to his side. When his vision finally cleared of the black clouds, Dean's face was all he could see.
"Shit, Sammy … You okay?"
For some illogical reason, Dean's concerned and frantic face with his hair all askew and drool unchecked on his chin up close and personal in Sam's line of sight looked hilarious to him and he was surprised to hear himself giggle.
Dean's face seemed to war with itself between confusion, concern, and amusement which made Sam laugh even harder.
"What the hell? What's so funny? You hit your head on the way down or something?"
Sam choked on a snort, "N –no … I'm … fine," he said between laughs, unable to explain even to himself why Dean looked so funny to him – maybe his mind was still warped from the fever.
"Yeah … laugh it up. I'm not the one laying naked on the floor." Dean grabbed Sam by the elbow, "C'mon, Let's get you back to bed before you destroy the whole room."
Sam allowed his brother to haul him off of the floor and help him to sit on the bed. Still feeling a little light-headed, he closed his eyes for a fraction of a second before Dean was thrusting a pair of tighty-whities and a t-shirt into his hands. Sam grabbed the underwear and shirt without a word and slipped them on before lying back on the bed and resting his head onto the soft, plushness of the pillow, feeling a little more drained than such a simple task should have caused.
"You sure you're okay?" Dean asked.
Sam couldn't stop his eyes from rolling, "Yeah …M'fine. I Just let the shower get too hot - -made me a little dizzy – that's all."
Dean sat down on the bed next to Sam and touched his forehead with his palm as if Sam was five years old again and needed his big brother to take care of him. He tried to jerk away, but Dean held him still, "Quit squirming, I'm just checking you fever."
"I'm fine, Dean … Quit it."
"Well sooooory, bitch," Dean came back sarcastically, "You had a fever over 105 yesterday, so forgive me for making sure you aren't going to keel over again."
Sam sighed until Dean seemed satisfied that he wasn't going to spontaneously combust. Dean grunted as he stood up again and made his way to the table where the med kit sat open and he pulled out a couple of bottles of pills out before he went to the bathroom and filled a cup of water.
Dean made a slight grimace as he sat back down on the bed and handed Sam his pills and water. Sam eyed his brother over the top of the cup, noting how he seemed to still be in some pain from his own wounds as he grunted and sat down on the bed next to him, pale and tired looking. Sam recalled the blood and the gashes across Dean's chest and his own aches and pains were forgotten.
"You okay?" Sam asked.
"Yeah … just a little sore."
Sam knew a lie when he saw it and his brother was a lying liar that lies, he concluded.
"You should take some stuff too." Sam pointed out.
"Yeah, yeah … told you I was fine." Dean sighed, "I'm not the one that's sick."
"You're gonna be if you don't take care of yourself. I didn't fix you up just so you could ruin all of my hard work."
That must have been the wrong thing to say because as soon as it left his mouth, Dean's eyes blazed with guilt and anger, "You should be one to talk. You … you could have died … and for what? To prove some stupid point that you could handle things without any help? That you could do everything on your own? Jesus … all you needed to do was ask for help washing out those damn scratches and you never would have gotten sick. And don't tell me you didn't tell dad because you were afraid of him, 'cause that bullshit and you know it. You've never have a problem arguing with him before, so what was different this time?"
Sam blanched, feeling the blood withdraw from his face as his stomach knotted, "It's just … "
"Just what?" Dean demanded to know impatiently.
"It was my fault, okay? I woke the bajang up – you guys wouldn't have been hurt if it hadn't been for me. I guess I thought I deserved -"
Dean cut Sam off quickly, angrily shaking his head, "Oh for crying out loud. You are such a dumbass, Sam!" Dean nearly shouted, "You think that you needed to be punished, is that it? Christ on a popsicle stick – that's the most fucked up thing I think I ever heard!"
Sam lowered his eyes while Dean continued his tirade, getting up in Sam's face and assaulting him with his hot breath, "This self-flagellation crap is gonna stop right here and now – got it? Just get over it already – So you made a mistake and had an accident – that shit happens all the time. So from now on – I don't care if you start frickin' World War III or shoot the goddamned pope himself – if you're hurt, you tell me or dad. End of story. Understood?"
Sam let Dean's clipped words sink in and he nodded, properly chastised.
"You done now?" Sam asked, quirking his lips, hoping to lighten the mood a little and push aside some of the shame he was feeling, "'Cause if you keep breathing on me with that skunk breath of yours I'm gonna pass out from the fumes."
Dean snorted then got up in Sam's face again, a glint of sadism in his eyes as he drew in a breath and opened his mouth wide, "SO SORRY FOR BREATHING ON YOU." He blew out, making sure Sam got a lung full of his foul, morning breath.
Sam jerked away with a grin on his face, playfully shoving Dean's face away from his, "Good God – if your shit had a mouth that's what its breath would smell like."
"Yeah well …" Dean struggled for a comeback. Sam smiled broadly, knowing he had zinged Dean pretty good and when Dean couldn't think of anything, except, "Shut –up, geek." He laughed out loud until Dean disappeared into the bathroom and slammed the door behind him.
Sam's grin didn't last and quickly disappeared the moment he heard the lock to the front door being opened and his father walked in. Dad stopped and looked up at Sam as he stood in the open doorway, "Sam? How're you feeling?"
"M' fine." Dropping his head, Sam looked down at his fingers as if they were now the most interesting things he had ever seen before – anything to avoid looking his father in the eyes and seeing ther disappointment he was sure to see there. Dean had already given him the lecture on keeping his injury from his father and brother and he knew that he should have spoken up about it before things had gotten so out of hand. He really didn't want to hear it all over again, but Dad only nodded as he resumed entering the room. He simply set a drink carrier with two coffees and an orange juice along with a bag of donuts onto the little, round table by the window before he looked up and noticed the empty space beside Sam, "Where's Dean?"
"Bathroom," Sam replied quickly while still managing to avoid his father's gaze.
Dad nodded again then took the cup filled with orange juice and walked over to Sam, holding it out to him, "Here … you need to keep hydrated. You hungry?"
Sam shook his head, but took the juice and began drinking it down.
His father and sat down at the table and grabbed a cup of coffee out of the drink carrier and started to sip at it before pulling a newspaper he had tucked under his arm out, unfolding it and beginning to read. He was probably already trying to find something interesting for them to hunt next and Sam wasn't sure if that was a good thing or not.
On some levels Sam wanted things to get back to normal right away and for his dad to find something to hunt quickly just so this whole bajang fiasco to be put away and forgotten, but he also wanted to prove to his father on the next hunt that he wasn't always a screw-up – that even though he hated hunting, he could keep his head in the game and watch their backs. Then maybe … just maybe … Dad could look at him with the same respect as he did Dean.
Sam snorted a little to himself as he looked over at his father, yeah right, who am I kidding?
Dad suddenly dropped the paper onto the table with a sigh and braced his elbows on the surface of it, rubbing his forehead with his fingers like he did when he had a headache or a hangover, reminding Sam that his father had also been injured by the bajang as well and was probably still feeling the effects of the concussion. He felt another round of guilt eat at his stomach and he wanted to apologize all over again, but he held back, not wanting to re-hash everything all over again – because really – what good was it going to do? Dad had said it himself – what was done was done.
His father stopped and looked up and Sam wasn't quick enough to turn his eyes away this time. Their eyes connected and to Sam, his father looked … relieved, but still concerned. Sam must still really look like shit for that to happen, but before Sam could look away again, his father gave him a small nod and something passed between them – something like forgiveness. Both of had made mistakes and both of them were sorry for them and had learned from them.
He knew then that they would never speak of this again and he nodded back, completely in agreement with his father for the first time in a long time.