Disclaimer: I own nothing. No copyright infringement intended.
Thanks go to SnarkyMuch2 for beta'ing this and for telling me it was worth posting.
After an hour OF waiting, the nurse came back to them. They jumped to their feet at her arrival.
"I've just had a call from radiology," she said. "Your brother is being taken down to the operating room now."
Dean swallowed thickly. "Brain surgery..."
She nodded. "I know it sounds scary, but we have one of the best neurological teams in the country here. They're doing their best for you brother."
Dean nodded and sank back down onto the couch, burying his face in his hands. His brother was having brain surgery. No matter how good the surgeon was, it was still serious, and his brother was facing it alone. More than anything, Dean wanted to be with Sam. He was scared and the only thing that could make him feel better was talking to his brother. But Sam couldn't talk; even now, he was being cut open. The thought made Dean feel queasy, and he retched.
"You okay. Dean?" Garth asked solicitously.
Dean shook his head and clapped a hand over his mouth. He raced from the room and searched for a bathroom. Three doors down there was a sign over the door declaring it the gents' room. He raced in and dropped to his knees in front of the toilet bowl. His stomach lurched, and he lost the burger and fries he'd had for lunch into the toilet. His stomach cramped painfully, and his mouth watered copiously. When his stomach was empty, he sat back on his heels and wiped his sweaty brow.
The bathroom door opened and Garth stepped in. "Dean?"
"I'm here," Dean said.
Garth stood outside Dean's cubicle, and he looked in at him with a sympathetic expression.
Dean shook his head. He was feeling far from okay. His stomach churned again, and he bent over the bowl.
Garth disappeared for a moment, and when he came back, he was holding a plastic tumbler. He filled it with water from the faucet and handed it to Dean. Dean took the tumbler and rinsed the water around his mouth and then spat it into the toilet. He still felt weak and shaky, so he leaned back against the cubicle wall and rested a cool hand to his sweaty brow.
"Sorry," he said. "You shouldn't have to deal with all this."
Garth shrugged. "You and Sam are my friends. I just want to help."
"You are helping," Dean said. "Man, you saved Sammy's life tonight. If you hadn't been there, who knows what would have happened."
Garth didn't need to think too hard to envisage what would have happened if he hadn't been there. Dean had been ready and willing to shoot Sam in repayment of all his listed crimes.
He shuddered and Dean caught the motion from the corner of his eye.
"What's up?" he asked.
Garth shook his head and forced a smile. "Nothing."
Dean pushed himself to his feet and stepped around Garth to examine himself in the mirror. He looked pale and sweaty and there were a glittering in his eyes that he didn't like. It looked too much like unshed tears. He wanted to cry, dammit. He wanted the release of tears, it would make him feel better, but he couldn't let himself. He had a fear that if he started, he would never stop. Besides, he didn't deserve to feel better. He had a creeping feeling that this whole mess was his fault. He knew he should ask Garth what had happened, as the events were a blank to him, but he was scared of what he might hear.
Garth watched Dean as he stared at his reflection in the mirror. He knew soon Dean was going to ask what had happened to Sam, and he dreaded the moment. He didn't want to have to tell Dean that he had beaten his brother.
As he could read Garth's mind, Dean spoke up.
"Garth," he said, staring determinedly at the sink. "What happened back there?"
Garth rubbed the back of his neck uncomfortably. "What do you remember?""
"Not a lot," Dean said quietly. "I was here at the hospital with the deputy, and then I was in the motel and Sam was on the floor. Everything between is a blank."
Garth cursed under his breath. He was hoping Dean would have at least some idea of what had happened so it wouldn't all be on him to explain how Dean had beat his brother into a cardiac arrest.
"What is it?" Dean asked, a sick feeling of dread settling over him.
Garth's hands clenched at his sides. "I don't know how to tell you, Dean."
Dean sighed a raked a hand through his hair. "I think it's better if you just come out and tell me. I think I already know what happened anyway."
Garth looked up and it was clear from his expression that he would rather do anything than confirm Dean's suspicions. "You… uh… you and Sam had a fight," he said awkwardly.
Dean nodded. "I figured. And I'm guess that it was more than a few thrown punches."
Garth looked down at his clasped hands, thinking of how to frame his response. "You may have said some stuff, too. You kinda unloaded."
Dean bowed his head. He could imagine the things the penny had made his say. All the things he had kept hidden in his heart up to that time, all the cruel things he had stopped himself from saying as he knew they would open a breach between him and his brother.
"You blamed him for not looking for you when you were in Purgatory," Garth said mercilessly. "And for a bunch of other stuff, some of it I understood, some I didn't."
"Let me guess," Dean said. "Someone named Ruby and demon blood."
"Yeah, and someone called Samuel. You seemed to think Sam had let you believe he was dead when really he was running around with that guy."
Dean was stunned. That was more than something he had bitten his lip and refused to say aloud. He had never blamed Sam for allowing him to think he was dead. That wasn't Sam's fault, not his Sam's. That Sam had been soulless. He'd had no familial bond to Dean, no love for him; he wasn't capable of loving without his soul.
His hands clenched into fists so tight that his nails cut into his palms. He relished in the pain, using it to ground him in the moment rather than allowing his mind to travel back to the motel and the horror he had both seen and portrayed there.
"Sam didn't take it lying down," Garth said as if that could ease the ache in Dean's chest. "He stood up for himself…"
Of course he had. He didn't have a choice with Dean flinging accusations at him.
"Dean!" Garth gripped Dean's shoulder. "You didn't do this to your brother. The penny did."
"You said we fought," Dean said.
"You did, but Sam started it."
Dean huffed a laugh. "That defense only works in Kindergarten. I made him fight me. If he'd been saying the things you said I was spouting, I would have thrown a punch too."
Garth nodded determinedly and stared at the opposite wall. "Yeah…"
"What are you hiding, Garth?" Dean asked.
"You may have been pointing a gun at Sam the whole time too. That was why you fought. Sam tackled you to get the gun."
Dean felt a moan build in his chest, and he bit it back with effort. He had pointed a gun at his brother! The bad news just seemed to keep on coming. Not only had he beaten his brother so bad his heart had stopped, he had pointed a gun at him too. He could have killed him! He still could. Sam was fighting for his life right now because of what Dean had done.
He couldn't bear to sit in that room anymore. He wanted to be in motion, doing something, anything, to help his brother, but he didn't know what. He began to pace up and down the length of the small room. It wasn't enough. He felt like he was suffocating in the enclosed space.
"Come on," Garth said. "We should head back to the family room. There might be news soon."
Three hours later, a man dressed in crumpled scrubs came into their room and introduced himself as Doctor Benson.
After hours of waiting for news, Dean was suddenly scared of what he was going to hear. He was tempted to walk out of the room and go in search of his brother, refusing to listen to the doctor's words, but he forced himself to stay in place.
"How's Sam?" he asked.
"The surgery was a success," the doctor said. "We were able to drain away the excess blood and there was no visible tissue damage."
"So he's okay," Dean said, breathing a sigh of relief.
The doctor shifted uncomfortably and Dean caught the motion.
"What's wrong?" he asked.
"There is no visible sign of damage, but that's not to say there is no damage. It was a large bleed. Commonly in cases like this, there is an obvious shift. The blood forces the brain against the opposite side of the skull, damaging tissue. This did not happen to your brother, but there was increased pressure for a sustained period of time, and there may be consequences."
"You're talking about brain damage?" Dean said in a breathy voice.
The doctor nodded, looking apologetic. "I'm afraid so."
It felt like the air had been sucked from the room. Dean couldn't catch his breath. He braced his hands on his knees and tried to draw a deep breath. He felt a hand on his shoulder, and he knew Garth was doing his best to comfort him.
The doctor was still talking, but it was white noise to Dean. The word 'damage' was reverberating around his mind.
"What's going to happen to him?" he asked in a whisper.
"It's too soon to tell," the doctor said. "Until your brother wakes, we won't know the level of damage we are looking at. That's if he wakes. It was a serious bleed, and there is no guarantee that he will regain consciousness."
Dean felt like he had been punched in the gut. He actually rocked back in his seat as if from an invisible blow. He felt like he was going to be sick again. "He might not wake up," he said in a hoarse voice. "Is that what you're telling me? That my baby brother might not wake up."
"I'm afraid so," the doctor said heavily. "You need to prepare yourselves for the possibility that your brother may not wake up from this."
Dean's hands fisted on his knees. He wanted to rant and rave at the doctor, to tell him he knew nothing, but he was frozen in place. Sam may not wake up. How was Dean supposed to make this right if he couldn't talk to his brother?
"Say Sam does wake up," Garth said, "what sort of damage are we talking about here?"
If Dean could have spoken, he would have cursed at Garth for asking this question. He didn't want to know the answer. He didn't want the doctor to say anything else, as every word he spoke injured Dean.
"Cognitive and physical delays. Difficulty with memory retention. Absence of past memories."
Every word hit Dean like a barb. Even if his unspoken prayers were answered, and Sam woke up, he could still be lost. He might not know Dean. The thought of it made his stomach churn again.
"I want to see him," he said in a whisper, and then he raised his voice when the doctor continued speaking. "I need to see my brother!"
The doctor straightened. "Of course. He is in the ICU. I'll take you there now."
Dean stood on shaky legs and followed the doctor out of the room. They walked through a series of corridors until they came to an elevator. The doctor pressed the button and Dean waited, tapping his foot, for it to arrive. All his patience was gone now; he just wanted to be with his brother.
The car arrived and they stepped in. Dean's hands fisted as he waited out the short ride to the fourth floor. When the elevator came to a stop, they were in a brightly lit corridor with glass-screened doors lining the walls. It was quiet; the only sound their soft footfalls.
The doctor led Dean to a door at the end of the hall and paused outside the door. "It can come as a shock to see someone like this, so it's best you prepare yourself," he said.
Dean nodded curtly. "I'm prepared. Let's just get in there."
The doctor slid the door open and gestured for Dean to enter.
He stepped inside and froze in place at the sight before him. Sam was lying on a bed with his hands resting at his side, looking perfectly still. He was surrounded by a bank of machinery, and there were tubes leading from him in every direction. His skin was pale, and his head was swaddled in clean white bandages with a tube leading from them. In short, he looked terrible.
Dean had lied. He wasn't prepared for this. There was no way he could have been prepared to see his brother like this.
"Ahhh, I see they have extubated him," the doctor said. "That's good news. Your brother is able to breathe on his own."
Dean found it had to take comfort in the fact that his brother breathing alone was a positive sign. It just reiterated how dire his condition was.
He stepped closer to the bed, and the bad news was increased. There was a bruise darkening on Sam's temple and left cheek. Dean had left those marks on his brother. It had been his fists that had impacted Sam's flesh with intent to damage him. How could the penny have made his do that to his own brother?
The doctor cleared his throat. "I'll leave you both alone for a moment. If you have any questions or if anything happens, there is a call button beside the bed. Speak to a nurse and they will have me paged."
Dean nodded, not taking his eyes from his brother. The doctor slid the door closed behind him, and Dean and Sam were left alone.
Dean stepped closer to the bed and looked down at his brother.
"Oh, Sammy. What the hell did I do to you?" he asked in a moan.
He looked down at his bruised knuckles and cursed himself. He had done this to his brother. He was the reason Sam was lying in a hospital bed now, beaten and bloody, and possibly irrecoverably damaged.
There was a chair against the wall. He dragged it over to Sam's bedside and sat down. Tears pricked at his eyes, but he denied himself their release. To cry would be to make himself feel better, and he didn't deserve to feel better. He deserved to suffer.
If ever there was a time to pray, it was now, but Dean couldn't bring himself to pray to a god that he knew didn't care about Sam. If he'd cared, he would never have let things go so far between Lucifer and Michael. He wouldn't have cursed Sam to the fate of throwing himself into hell to save the world.
Looking down at his clasped hands, he began to speak to the only person left in the world that he truly cared for. His Sam.
"I know you've been through a lot, and you're worn down, but I need you to wake up, Sammy. I need you to wake up and talk to me, because I don't know what to do. The doctor is throwing all kinds of scary words around. He's telling me that you might not wake up, but you have to. I need my brother back. I know I said some crappy things to you, and I'm sorry, but if you care for me at all anymore, I need you to wake up."
He paused and looked up at his brother. Sam hadn't moved an inch, and his eyes were still closed. He wasn't hearing Dean's pleading.
"C'mon, Sammy. You owe me. I need you. Wake up and I will do anything. You want to quit the hunt? I'll drive you to your woman's door and wave you goodbye. You want to go back to school? I'll fill out the applications for you. Just tell me what you need, and I'll do it." He huffed a mirthless laugh. "I'll even let you drive."
There was a soft indrawn breath and then the most welcome voice in Dean's world spoke.
"I'll hold you to that."
Dean's gaze snapped up, and he saw his brother looking at him with weary eyes.
The corner of Sam's mouth tugged up in a smile.
"Oh God, Sam."
The tears began to fall in earnest, and Dean bowed over and began to sob. His shoulders shook with the force of them, and he felt like he was drowning for air.
Sam looked on in confusion. He didn't understand Dean's tears. He had only ever seen him cry a handful of times in his life.
"What's wrong?" he asked.
Dean didn't feel capable of answering. He covered his head with his hands and allowed himself the release of tears at last.
Sam was awake. There was no knowing what would happen next, what sort of damage had been done, but for now, Dean was just happy to hear his brother's voice.
~ finis ~
I know some of you will be unsatisfied with the way I have ended this story. The truth is, a head injury like the one Sam sustained would cause some serious damage and to do his story justice I would have to cover the rehab required and I feel I have done that in Clean Slate and I don't like repeating.
If you are interested in reading a story that covers the aftereffects of a head injury, I can recommend Snarkymuch2's story — My Brother's Keeper. It is a beautifully written series of drabbles of Dean caring for his brain damaged brother. She is listed on my profile under my favorite authors. While you are on her profile, check out her other stories. They are all wonderful.
In other news, I have just posted the first chapter of my new story – Temper. When Sam goes back to Amelia after Dean's text trick, he is confronted by an angry Don. As you should know by now, as one of my stories it features a LIMP!SAM.