K Hanna Korossy
His first clue something was wrong—besides the way his concussed brother was squinting and faintly green—was Sam's answer to the doctor's first question.
Okay, so the normally simple query about name wasn't quite so simple in their case, considering it was whatever they happened to have insurance and ID cards for. Usually, Dean would've slipped Sam the right answer before the doctor had a chance to ask, but Sam had been unusually slow to respond this time—one of the reasons they were at the hospital in the first place—and Dean hadn't had the chance. Nor had Sam seemed to even notice him mouthing Sam Wright over the doc's shoulder, let alone gotten the hint.
The doc's pretty face frowned in consternation. "No," she said gently, "you're Sam, remember? Does that sound right?"
Sam sank back into the pillow, swallowing convulsively enough that Dean grabbed the nearby emesis basin just in case. "Yeah. Yeah, sorry, just…got confused a minute."
"That's okay," the doc—Sandra?—assured him. "How about the date? Can you tell me what day it is, Sam?"
"Um." Sam went even paler with concentration, and Dean chewed anxiously on his lip. He didn't know why Sam's head had gone to Bizzaro-actors world, of all places, but he should know the date either place. "April. Two thousand…eleven?"
Dean just barely smothered his groan. Okay, this he had been afraid of: Sam had lost 18 months in Lucifer's cage, and it made sense he thought it was a year earlier than it was. But try explaining that source of confusion to a doctor.
The doc hmmed, which Dean knew was medical speak for We're going to need to run a lot more tests. "Let's try something else. Do you know where you are?"
Sam didn't even hesitate. "Vancouver."
And…back to actor-world. Dean sighed.
Who's the president right now, Sam?"
"…of America?" Sam said faintly.
Dean couldn't help rolling his eyes.
"Yes, of America."
Dean slapped his hand over his face. He'd only told Sam about the future Zach had tossed him into—the kid hadn't even been there. The harpy had dropped him pretty far, but how hard had Sam hit his head, anyway?
"Okay. And where do you work, Sam?"
"Doc—" Dean tried to interrupt, because he really didn't want to hear what Sam came up with for this one. But she just put a hand up, silencing him.
Sam rubbed fretfully at his forehead with one hand. His eyes were pinched with pain, but he wasn't looking for Dean to anchor him, didn't even seem to be fully aware of where he was. Dean's concern hit a new high-water mark.
And that was before Sam's mumbled answer.
"S-Sandover Iron? Um, IT department."
Doctor Sandra looked over her shoulder at Dean. "Is that right?"
What the heck. "Uh, well, he did, a while back," Dean stumbled through an answer. It wasn't even a total lie. "He's been, uh, unemployed lately, just…taking a road trip with me while he got over an…accident he was in." Dean was pretty sure his attempt at a smile was more of a grimace; he was a master at pulling things out of the air, but this was reaching, even for him.
And she was frowning that concerned frown again, turning to the file by Sam's feet. "What kind of accident? Is that in his medical history?"
"Genital herpes," came a mutter from the bed.
Dean snorted a laugh, turning it into a cough when the doctor glared at him. It wasn't funny, it wasn't funny, no way was it funny that Sam's mind was so messed up that he was even flashing back to Gabriel's TV world. But, oh, man, it was freakin' hilarious. In a really scary, troubling kind of way. Dean quickly schooled his face back to solemn concern.
He wasn't faking it when Sam started to retch.
The doc joined him in helping turn Sam on his side, not so easy when you were talking about a flailing gigantor, and Dean held the basin with one hand and got Sam's hair out of the way with the other. He swallowed hard in a sympathetic gag at what Sam was bringing up, just managing to control his own queasiness. Yeah, Sam wasn't doing so hot; Dean didn't need an MD to tell him as much.
"Okay, we're going to run an MRI—I'm concerned about his memory and comprehension. The CAT scan showed a little swelling in the brain, but we need to rule out more serious damage."
"Yeah, okay," Dean murmured, chastened. Yes, he knew where all these pieces of false information came from, but how badly had Sam's gourd been rattled to be pulling stuff from all those different realities?
Then again, how many people had that many realities jammed into one brain to begin with?
And then there was the wall that most of the last two years had been tucked behind, thanks to Death and the Cage and Sam's battered soul. Assuming that didn't show up on a scan, it was still brain damage on a level Dean didn't even know, but was anxious not to fix. The last thing he wanted was for Sam to remember those 18 months, especially from his time below.
Sam was down to weak coughs, and Dean snagged a tissue from the bedside table and wiped his brother's mouth like he had when Sam had been a toddler. He shoved the emesis basin away as far as he could reach, then grabbed the pitcher and poured some water. Sam was groggy, but Dean slid a hand under his sweaty head and lifted him up enough to take a few sips.
Sam did, then paused, squinting at him. "Dean?"
Sam stared at him a moment. Then, to Dean's dismay, his eyes filled. "You're alive?"
Dean did groan this time. And the sad thing was, Sam's screwed-up brain had all kinds of places from which it could have cherry-picked that memory. "Ah, no, not dead."
The only good thing about Sam then starting to cry was that it finally sent the doctor packing. No doubt gleefully planning all the hoops she was going to jump Sam through and maybe the paper she'd get out of an unemployed guy with his crazy concussed imagination.
Screw her, Dean thought darkly, and crouched down by the bed next to his cracked brother. "Sam. Hey, listen to me."
"Th-thought you were dead," Sam whispered. "God, Dean, Cal shot you in the parking lot. I-I couldn't find the Trickster—"
Crap, yet another timeline. Dean was shaking his head already. "No, dude, listen to me, look at me. That was, like, four years ago. Both of us took the Hell tour since then, remember? Cas, Ruby, Luc—uh, Lilith?" He quickly moved on at Sam's absolutely baffled expression, "Look, you got your melon shook up, okay? I know things are a little confusing right now, but we're gonna get 'em straightened out. All you have to remember right now is that you're Sam and I'm your brother and everything's gonna be okay."
Sam was blinking at him, dewy-eyed but calmer, although somehow his hand had managed to wrap around Dean's wrist under his jacket and grip tight. "Uh, Ellen?"
Dean nearly closed his eyes in relief, and maybe a little wince. At least this was recent past, the Titanic-alternate timeline that still confused Dean himself sometimes unless he thought about it. "She's gone. Carthage and the hell hounds, remember? Jo, too."
"Bobby never married her," Sam breathed, finally with a little more certainty.
"No. He doesn't even remember that." Thank God. Dean wished yet again that Cas had done them the same favor. Without yet another new timeline running through his head, Sam might not have started jumping tracks in the first place.
"Damn straight. That Mustang, that was wrong on so many levels. Forget about it, okay? Never happened."
Sam closed his eyes with a sigh. "My head hurts, man."
"Yeah," Dean said with sympathy. He reached around with the hand Sam hadn't glommed on to and massaged the tight muscles at the back of the kid's neck. "Harpy dropped you on your head, remember?"
"Not really." Sam sighed again, sounding congested, and wrinkled his nose in what Dean thought was embarrassment at his little breakdown. Which pretty much made it off limits for any future teasing. "Two thousand…?"
"…twelve," Dean supplied. "April. Almost your birthday."
Sam snorted softly. "Don't 'ven know how old I am 'nymore." He opened his eyes to squint at Dean. "Why's my head hurt?"
Okay, this was more normal scrambled Sam. Dean took a breath, even as he launched into a simplified version of an answer because he knew Sam would forget it a moment later.
He'd let the doc run her tests. Depending on how they went, he might even try to talk Doctor Sandra into running a few tests on him after hours. But Dean was pretty sure now that Sam's head wasn't any more messed up than years in the Cage and their screwed-up lives and a knock on the head couldn't explain. Or that some quiet time in the relative normalcy of the Impala and a cheap hotel room and the presence of one worn but faithful big brother couldn't fix. At least as much as either of them ever got fixed.
Sam dozed off somewhere around the fourth round of what happened to him and why they were there. Dean pushed up on numb legs and dragged a chair near with one foot so he could actually sit. He didn't want to break his brother's hold on him, because even in sleep, Sam hadn't let go.
And as long as his little brother remembered enough to do that, Dean figured he could work with the rest.