A/N: Well here it is the conclusion to the story. I really hope it meets expectations especially for Jess (Spoilerwolf) who this story is for. I had this story mapped out a certain way, envisioning the ending, and how it would wrap up. However, I'm not sure the final product is what I expected or that I got the story to the level I wanted it to be. I'm going through some hard times so my mind hasn't been firing on all cylinders lately as I've been distracted so that has definitely played a role. Please forgive any and all mistakes as I wouldn't doubt that there are some. Also, please forgive any errors in medical facts as well. This story contains verses from the poem "Sir Galahad" by Tennyson and the title is also taken from a line from the poem. I hope you take the time to read and review. See you next story :)
"Worse?" Dean asked. "What do you mean?"
"Look at Sam's face," she instructed him.
Dean didn't get it. He 'd been doing that for the last couple of days, staring at Sam's face, waiting for a flutter of his eyelids, anything. However, he did as she told him and this time he saw something different.
He wasn't sure if it was the lighting in the room but there was something off about Sam's skin color.
"You see it?" She asked, noticing that Dean was catching on. "It's yellow jaundice. Unfortunately it means that Sam's liver is most likely failing."
She walked over to Sam's face and pulled down his lower eyelid and Dean could see the whites of Sam's eyes were yellow too.
"Well how do we fix it?" Dean asked.
"I'm sorry I can't give you more but we have to get this bloodwork done before we can take a plan of action."
Dean leaned over the railing of Sam's bed, unable to take his eyes off of Sam's face, how yellow it really was. How hadn't he noticed it before?
He watched as vials of Sam's blood were taken, feeling helpless at the idea of his brother losing anymore. The nurse hurriedly walked out of the room once she was done and Dean sat back down, stricken at what this could all mean.
He kept looking at Sam's face, hoping somehow it would change in color, revert to the rosy glow it once held, that this would all magically go away. He knew it was fantasy but he didn't have much hope left.
He eventually sat back down, his legs feeling wobbly again. Finally the doctor returned to speak with him.
"The tests from the other day have come back and we believe what Sam has is Idiopathic Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia. It's a condition where the cells in the body mistakenly destroy red blood cells and this causes the anemia. We're not sure what causes it. Sometimes it's spontaneous. "
Dean took it in. Was this why Cas had said he couldn't heal Sam because he was unable to heal Sam's damaged cells? Was this what he meant about all that mumbo jumbo about subatomic levels? He wasn't sure, but he knew Sam's body attacking itself had to do with the trials.
"The severe anemia is now causing Sam's liver to fail," the doctor continued. "His other organs are showing signs of failure as well."
Dean didn't know how to respond to it. It sounded like there wasn't much hope for his brother at all.
"We are going to do what we can to try to reverse it, by starting Sam on some steroid treatment, but—"
"You don't know how he'll respond and he might die," Dean concluded for her.
"Unfortunately that's correct," she said. She exited the room quietly but it wasn't long before a nurse came in to place another IV bag above Sam's head. She also exited quickly as if she and the doctor could sense that he didn't want to be bothered.
Dean shrugged out of his sling, grimacing in response. He placed his head in his hands, his mind swimming dizzily.
Am I a bad person?
It was like a punch to the gut. Sam's words. Only it wasn't the words Sam had spoken to him before in the car. It was the words of a five year old Sam asking his brother for reassurance.
How could he have forgotten that? How could he have forgotten the Classics Illustrated Comic Books? They had belonged to their dad, some relics from his childhood. He did remember reading to Sam about that stupid knight. He always wanted to hear about Sir Galahad even though Dean had grown sick of the same old story. He also didn't get why Sam had asked him that question over and over either.
However, now he understood better than ever.
Suddenly he couldn't sit any longer. He had to get up and do something, find a way to heal Sam in his own way. His words were always healing to his brother before.
No Sam. You aren't a bad person. You're annoying, yes and your goody, goody act gets on my nerves but you're a good person. Now go to sleep please.
It was the same routine whenever John was out of town. It was the only way Sam could get to sleep.
He got up and exited Sam's room, heading to the front desk of the ICU.
"You have a library around here?"
The woman at the desk directed him up two floors to the hospital library. He didn't know what he would find there except for maybe medical books with a bunch of jargon but he had to try. He walked purposefully in that direction.
There was a woman at the front desk of the library, enthralled in a book called The Hunger Games and Dean wondered if it was about the latest dieting trends.
"Can I help you?" She asked, looking up.
"I need help finding some comics," Dean said.
"The gift shop is downstairs," She said, returning to her book.
"No it's old, vintage. It's called Classics Illustrated Comic Books."
"Really?" She seemed to perk up. "Are you a collector?" Suddenly he couldn't help but think of Charlie.
"No, but my brother, he's a patient and he loved those stories when he was a kid."
"We definitely don't have that here, sorry," she said. "Can I help you find something else?"
"No, I was really hoping to find those comics. My brother loved, well loves," he began, catching and berating himself for ever referring to Sam in the past tense. "He loves the Knights of the Round Table."
"King Arthur and Galahad?" She said, perkily again.
"Yeah, especially Galahad."
"Who can blame him? He was an amazing knight, pure, and willing to sacrifice it all."
Dean couldn't help but feel that sounded familiar.
"Well I might be able to give you something. Come with me," She said, smiling. She suddenly had a spring in her step, as if she loved the idea of being able to help someone find real literature instead of the usual medical texts.
"She directed him over to a shelf containing several anthologies. She pulled one out that said something about Complete Works of Tennyson on the side.
"Tennyson?" Dean questioned.
"Yes, someone donated this to the hospital, lucky for you. There is an amazing poem in here about Sir Galahad. Ah here it is," she said, flipping to the back. She pointed at a poem entitled Sir Galahad that was several stanzas long. Dean couldn't help but glance at the portrait of Galahad, kneeling, so noble and probably someone Sam wanted to emulate. Someone Sam did emulate. "It's the best I can do," She said. "I can Xerox it for you."
"That would be awesome. Thanks," Dean said, sincerely. He couldn't help but smile. The way she geeked out made him think of Sam too. It was like the kid got high off the smell of books. She'd probably have a huge crush on him too if she met him.
She returned with the pages, handing them to Dean.
"I hope your brother feels better soon," She said, sitting back down and flipping open her book.
"Yeah me too," He said. "Thanks again."
Dean returned to his vigil at Sam's bedside, the papers firmly clutched in his hands. He scanned the pages before him and realized that this reminded him of his worst nightmare from high school, a bunch of old English thrown on to paper. However, he licked his lips and began to read.
"My good blade carves the casques of men,
My tough lance thrusteth sure,
My strength is as the strength of ten,
Because my heart is pure" Dean recited.
He had to stop for a moment at those words because it rang far too true to him. He didn't know why Sam thought the trials were purifying him. He didn't need purification. Demon blood or not, Sam was the purest person he knew. He continued reading, the words coming out faster, almost like a chant, a rallying cry for his brother.
"How sweet are looks that ladies bend
On whom their favours fall!
For them I battle till the end,
To save from shame and thrall:
But all my heart is drawn above,
My knees are bow'd in crypt and shrine:
I never felt the kiss of love,
Nor maiden's hand in mine."
Dean stopped again, this time in reflection. Sam had never known love, well he had but it was always stolen from him. He never knew normal and it saddened him to think that Sam was accepting this fact. He'd lost Jess and then given up Amelia and chosen him, putting his brother and the lives of other people first.
Dean continued reading the poem, deciphering the words in his head. He was bombarded by memories of Sam as a kid helping him struggle through Shakespeare and how he had helped him with the trick of using the Latin words they knew for exorcisms to help him guess word meaning.
"I yearn to breathe the airs of heaven
That often meet me here.
I muse on joy that will not cease,
Pure spaces clothed in living beams,
Pure lilies of eternal peace,
Whose odours haunt my dreams;
And, stricken by an angel's hand,
This mortal armour that I wear,
This weight and size, this heart and eyes,
Are touch'd, are turn'd to finest air."
He stopped again, taking a moment to wipe his eyes. It all sounded so peaceful, so perfect. It was nice to think of Sam letting go of his "mortal armor" and the burdens of the world to finally find peace.
"Not now Sammy," he said, looking over at Sam in the bed, the yellow of his skin suddenly standing out for him as tiny beads of sweat stood out on Sam's brow. He got to the last stanza and read it with the same enthusiasm and expression he did from all those years before when he'd preformed "Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening."
"O just and faithful knight of God!
Ride on! the prize is near."
So pass I hostel, hall, and grange;
By bridge and ford, by park and pale,
All-arm'd I ride, whate'er betide,
Until I find the holy Grail."
The Holy Grail. The Holy Grail for Sam was finishing God's trials and locking up hell for good and he knew Sam wouldn't give up without a fight.
Dean continued reading the poem for Sam until his own voice went hoarse. He continued as nurses came and went from the room. He kept up his recitations even when the doctor stopped him to tell him that Sam's kidneys were now in failure too. He even kept up the reading when a dialysis machine was rolled in and he couldn't help but see his brother's blood being cycled through it to "cleanse" it. He knew though that his brother didn't need cleansing at all.
He lost track of all sense of time. He knew it had been days since the Wendigo hunt gone wrong, but he barely registered the sun rising and setting behind him in the window of the hospital room. He had fallen into a light doze, his shoulder stiff and painful from his own injuries. His fingers cramped from holding the now wrinkled papers in front of him. He got up and glanced at the array of machinery surrounding Sam. His vision blurred slightly from sleep, he glanced at the numbers hoping they meant some kind of improvement. He attempted a painful stretch and then he approached Sam's bed. His skin still had the same sallow pallor. Sam's arms were bruised from forearm to his wrist due to all the IV leads coming from him. His face was puffy and swollen from all the medication and a part of him wished he could pretend this wasn't Sam at all, that Sam was off like Sir Galahad on a quest. However, the tousled hair, although pasted to his forehead with sweat reminded him that this was his Sammy, the one who hadn't looked the same since taking on this seemingly insurmountable task. How he wished he could get one sign that he was still in there.
He looked at the numbers on the machines by Sam's bed again and saw the number for heart rate. He could have sworn when he glanced earlier that it was higher. Suddenly he registered that the beeps of Sam's heart monitor were getting further apart.
"Sammy," he said, quietly fearing the worst. Then just as he suspected all hell broke loose. The alarms in Sam's room started to sound and he heard the words "Code Blue" being blurted out of an intercom with Sam's room number attached to it. He was shuffled aside as a horde of people flooded Sam's room.
He winced as compressions were started on Sam's already battered chest. Was Sam's heart failing him now too? He was sure of it as he was hustled out the door.
He stood stone still just outside where he was practically placed by the nurse. He could still hear what was going on inside, cries for epinephrine, and the words charging to 350. He knew they were shocking Sam back to life. He envisioned his brother flopping helplessly on the bed and couldn't imagine his wounded body could endure much more. People moved in a blur around him but he didn't notice their presence even though they might have been talking to him. He couldn't be sure. He cocked his ears waiting for the sound he longed to hear, the steady beep from the machine telling him Sam was alive instead of the loud whine that penetrated his eardrums. He watched the clock tick by, 2 minutes, then 4 minutes, and then his own heart started to pound painfully in his ears. It was too long, too late. Then after 8 minutes, he heard it, a beeping and the doctor say, "he's back."
He felt himself falling but was caught by an orderly in the hall.
A chair was brought over and he sat in it, placing his head between his knees because he thought he was going to pass out.
Just then Sam's doctor came out of his room. She rushed over with a look of concern for him.
"Dean, can you hear me?" She asked. "Are you okay?"
Dean grunted in response. She was worried about him?
"How's Sam?" He asked instantly.
"Well I can tell you're fine now," she said, lightheartedly.
"I know you got him back, but how is he?"
She got quiet again and Dean felt his emotions that had just flipped from desperation, despair, to hope transforming into anger.
"Just tell me!" He said, lifting his head.
"Dean, Sam's heart stopped beating for 8 minutes. I really thought we weren't going to get him back."
"But he came back," Dean stated simply.
"Yes, he did. I think I know where he gets that tenacity from."
Dean smiled just ever so slightly.
"Sam is a fighter," she continued. "I wish I could tell you now he's going to be okay but I can't. His organs still have not responded to treatment and his heart is getting weaker."
"You don't know my brother," Dean declared. The last thing Sam had was a weak heart. He had a heart sometimes that was too big for his own good which was why he was in that bed in the first place. His heart still believed there was hope even in the darkest times, and it ached for everyone they couldn't save, and would keep beating until he had done everything he could to save as many people as possible.
He left the doctor standing there and went back to Sam. The nurses had settled him back in the bed, readjusted the ventilator. Dean went over and fixed the blanket, brushing a stray strand out of Sam's face. Then he went back to his chair and continued reading the poem.
Eventually the words became his own and almost unconsciously he was no longer reading a poem about Sir Galahad but about Sir Sam, the bravest, purest knight of them all:
"His good blade carves the evil ones,
the aim of his gun is sure,
His strength is as the strength of tons,
Because his heart is pure"
"How sweet are looks that Sam receives
from ladies that like what they see!
For them he battles till the end,
To save them from horrors so they can be free:
But all his heart is drawn above,
His knees are bowed from burdens he carries all the time:
And he can never know true love,
He has too many mountains he must climb."
"He wishes to breathe the airs of heaven
And meet the ones that he lost there.
But all his battles will not cease,
For he's surrounded by darkness and evil schemes,
Still he has hope that he and his brother can find peace,
These thoughts and wishes haunt his dreams;
Yet they seem to slip from his hand,
He keeps the faith that this mortal armor that he wears,
That is crushed by the weight of the world,
Will be gone and instead he'll feel as light as air."
"Out of the darkness he hears a voice, O just and faithful knight of God!
Keep going! The prize is near.
So he continues down the darkened road for miles;
By ganking hellhound, saving a soul, and finding a cure,
He's armed with his brother here,
Until he finishes God's trials."
Dean knew he might not be Tennyson but he was speaking from his heart and he believed Sam could hear him.
By day seven, a week since Sam had been admitted, Dean was feeling powerless. He could recite his poem for Sam by memory as if it was a prayer, a ballad, an anthem to his dying brother. The doctors told him that Sam still wasn't showing signs of improvement and if he didn't rebound soon, he'd have irreversible organ damage.
"Come on Sam. I need you to come out of this," Dean began walking over to his brother's bedside. "I just got through Tennyson for you and even made it my own." He looked down at his brother. Sam was still mottled by the strange bruising on his face, swollen and feverish. The ventilator was still doing the breathing for him, the dialysis machine still humming nearby.
"You know I'm not that great at these motivational speeches," Dean continued. "Usually you're the one who gets me through these things, tells me that it will get better. You're going to lead me to the light right?" Dean finished.
Sam always had the courage that kept him going when things looked bleak, even when they were younger and it was as simple as reciting that Robert Frost poem. Dean had been so willing to not memorize the poem at all, to just take the failure, or even just say the poem as is and take the lowest possible grade. However, Sam had practiced with him, taught him the true emotion of it, how it was about feeling helpless but in the end deciding that it was still worth it. This was how he had won for best reading in the class and become a finalist. Sam had been no more than 12 at the time but he reminded Dean that their whole lives were all about acting and playing a certain role and he had confidence Dean could perform the poem. They hadn't been in town for the finals so Dean didn't know if he would have won or not but Sam was positive. Sam had taught him so much about life just by being his little brother: responsibility, faith, trust, and true love.
Dean remembered what Sam had said after finding out the last trial was to cure a demon. He said they were heading to the end. However, Dean refused to believe this was the end for his brother. He knew curing a demon would not be easy but they'd figure it out and he had the same utmost confidence in Sam that his brother had in him that he'd get the job done. He also knew Sam still had so much to teach him but he needed him to be his beacon. He needed to see the light in his eyes.
Three days later, Dean knew that Sam had heard him. The latest bloodwork revealed that Sam's organs were improving. His fever had also come down considerably. He no longer required dialysis and his color was better. It wasn't the rosy glow of health but the yellow skin was more a tinge than a darker hue. He also saw movement from Sam. He moved his fingers and at times looked like he wanted to open his eyes. Finally the doctor agreed it was time to wean him off the ventilator.
When it was time for the tube to come out, Dean waited outside the door, a mixture of fear and excitement coursing through his body. When the doctor told him it was a success, he was elated. Of course the doctor told him they were "cautiously optimistic with Sam's progress" but he knew better. Sam was winning the battle, just like he always did. He walked back in the room relieved to see so much of the machinery gone. Sam still had an IV fixed in his hand and a nasal cannula under his nose but he looked more like himself than he had in the last ten days.
"Sam?" Dean said, reaching out his own hand to place on Sam's arm. Sam had looked so fragile before, he scarcely got too close for fear of bruising him further.
Two days later, finally with arduous effort, Sam opened his eyes and looked at Dean confusedly. Dean instantly paged the doctor.
"Wha..What happened?" Sam rasped out, haltingly.
Dean tried not to get too alarmed. Sam had been out of it for several days and he knew he might not remember what had occurred.
The doctor arrived quickly and assessed Sam while Dean waited outside the door.
"I guess you were right," she said, as she walked out of Sam's room.
"That your brother would pull through. I can tell you never doubted it for a second."
"I didn't. Sam doesn't have a weak heart. Any weaknesses he has just make him stronger."
"I think you both make each other stronger," she replied.
Dean smiled knowingly.
Even though Sam was getting better, the doctor explained that Sam would still need medication and follow up appointments to control his anemia. His organs had rallied but he was still very weak.
Sam was so weak that he couldn't even bring a cup to his own lips to drink. Dean placed a straw in the cup and carefully brought it up to Sam's lips.
"Do you remember what happened now?" Dean asked.
"Not too much," Sam admitted, after taking a sip of the cool water.
"Remember that time I joked about you being a tree. It's not funny anymore."
Sam gave him a bemused look as if it was just dawning on him now.
"Are you okay?" Sam asked. "The Wendigo attacked you."
"I'm fine. You're the one who was just at death's door."
"Dean, I'm sorry—"
"For not listening to me?" Dean asked. "It's okay. You did save my life. Although I'm thinking of getting childproof locks installed on the Impala"
"Very funny," Sam quipped.
A few days later, Sam was feeling strong enough to get out of bed so Dean decided to take Sam out in to the fresh air to get a few moments away from the hospital.
Sam was still extremely weak and Dean had to hide the shock at just how thin Sam was. He carefully helped Sam into a wheelchair, mindful of all the bruising, making sure he affixed Sam's IV bags full of medication to the wheelchair pole.
Sam looked like he had just run a marathon by the time he was seated in the chair, panting with exertion.
"You okay, Sammy?" Dean asked.
"I'm fine," Sam said, through gritted teeth.
Dean ignored the blatant lie. He knew Sam was a long way from fine.
Dean wheeled Sam to small outdoor patient gathering and they shared some good natured jabs at each other when Sam turned serious.
"Dean, I'm afraid," he admitted suddenly. "About this last trial, about what's happening to me."
"Sam I know."
"You do? The whole time I never really wanted to admit it because I knew you'd feel guilty since you wanted to do the trials. I guess this just proves you were the right person for the job."
"Sam, stop that please," Dean began. "You are the right person and enough of that crap about needing to be pure. You are pure Sam. The fact that you almost died shows how pure you are. You heard Cas. He knew the trials make any person sick that starts them, even Metatron knew. The whole thing caused your body to get mixed up and attack itself. Not because your blood isn't pure, because you're human."
Sam sat quietly, his arms resting on the sides of the wheelchair as if he was soaking in what Dean said.
"I also want you to know that there is no doubt in my mind that you'll get the job done," Dean said, at last.
Sam smiled from ear to ear, finding relief in the fact that his brother trusted him, and Dean couldn't help but smile himself. It seemed like forever since he saw Sam smile.
"You want to hear something funny though?" Sam asked.
"I had the strangest dreams. I feel like I dreamt I was Galahad for some reason."
Dean held in a smirk. He wasn't sure he'd share his attempts at writing poetry with Sam just yet. Just then a tiny ray of sunshine broke through the clouds and shined down on Sam's face. Sam looked just like Galahad in that moment and Dean knew he was lucky to have this "brave knight" for his little brother.