Authors: Mink & Jink
Rating: PG - Gen
Disclaimers: SPN & characters are owned by their various creators.
The bleach smell was making his stomach churn and his skin prickle in a cold sweat.
Wait, they'd said and he had for a long time on the stiff hard chair, wrists chafed and aching in the plastic cinch cord. He thought about just how exactly he could free himself. The right tool and time like some photograph he couldn't make focus in his mind. He was having trouble staying awake despite the uncomfortable position he'd been left in.
For an emergency room with only three people -- all of who had blood inside as opposed to outside their bodies—all he was doing was waiting waiting waiting…
Everyone was waiting for the accidents to happen. It looked like they didn't occur very often in… The name of the city he had ended up in came to him from no where and then left again. The ghost of it on his lips as he squeezed his eyes shut.
In a town with its resident living souls spread out for miles, all days were slow days. The nurse behind the desk used the silent phone to prop her magazine as she drank her coffee. Orderlies dutifully organized and reorganized. The tinny PA announced in that a doctor had a call on line 2.
These people were waiting for a heart to stop, a water to break, or a head on collision. Not him.
They'd asked him over and over about drugs. He didn't know what they had meant by that and he wasn't sure just exactly why he had been forced to the ground, the tense hard point of a pistol leveled almost in his face. He didn't know why their voices were so loud.
All he knew was that these men had been scared of him. When he spoke and waved his heavy firearm he saw it in their eyes. He hadn't fought back when they knocked him to the ground, crushing his wrists under the heels of their boots while they struck his body.
He wondered what he might look like. Walking through the fields and wandering rest stops had started to make him feel a keen edge of desperation. He was looking for something but he wasn't sure what it was.
They asked him his name.
They asked him where he was from.
He said they should call someone. But he didn't know whom.
The officer who'd brought him in was still engrossed in conversation with the man who had taken his vitals and drawn his blood. They were discussing him.
There seemed to be a debate going on. A drunk. Schizophrenic. Some meth addict. Maybe all three.
Worms in his head. Chewing. Something hovering, wanting in. Something drifted in and around him. Hungry like a circling bird waiting for him to get too weak to push it away. His head ached so bad he could barely blink the blur of the agony from his vision. He lifted his hands wearily to his forehead, rubbing out the pain with his knuckles.
"Okay buddy, let's go. Up." The cop snapped his fingers.
Slowly, a hand lifted him under his elbow up off his chair. He hoped that maybe he was headed for a bed. If he could just lay down for a little while maybe he could pull it together.
Maybe he could recall what it was that he had been looking for.
Sam woke suddenly to the rustle of leaves around him.
Outside it was already dark though he had no memory of it. Eyes watering, he blinked painfully at the sharp beams of light shining through the window, a sharp and slightly annoyed midwestern accent demanding to know what the hell he thought this was.
"Sorry." He cleared his throat, voice slurred and still half asleep.
He had slept but only a little. It wasn't even dawn yet. He had meant only to rest his eyes, get them off the asphalt before he nodded off and caught himself waking up driving about 90 on the shoulder again. Putting his head down on the steering wheel and shutting his eyes, he noted with vague alarm that he had not closed them for quite that long in almost two days.
Yes. He agreed tiredly with the old man waving the flashlight. This was a cornfield. Not a motel.
"Day's Inn just up the road, son." The old farmer informed him, shaking his head as though he were crazy.
"Thank you." He said, gathering his awareness and focusing enough to fumble for his keys.
Sam wanted sleep, needed it. His body was crashing without his permission. Blearily, he weighed the decision, grimly opting to drive right past the Day's Inn and forgo resting for a few more hours. Sam knew that this whole thing was just one matter of time against the other.
He had to get there before some shrink dotted all the right Is and crossed all their Ts. Because in the time it would take to track Dean to some other facility, Sam knew the image in the mirror would be just as long gone.
Sam felt his heart pounding before he even stepped over the threshold.
Dean had always approached these charades with a confident sense of necessity. Where Dean lacked credibility, he made up for in charm and that did the work just as well, especially when anyone susceptible was concerned. Even having him by his side on these jobs, Sam felt better in what he did.
Wearing the scrubs from a hospital miles away, he was surprised and alarmed to find the place deserted. Standing in the middle of the small white reception office, Sam's anxiety flared. It was easier to blend in when there was a bustle of activity. But the ER was silent and, for the most part, unoccupied. A couple of nurses stood by the reception desk talking.
A quick glance at the bulletin board gave him all he needed to know. An easy grin did the rest.
"Scuse me. What room did they put the John Doe in?"
"Moved up to Psyche." One answered absently.
That was the easy part.
Sam felt his jaw clench. Psyche would mean Dean was on his way to a state ward. His time in this place was not infinite. Sam could only hope he was all right, the details on just exactly any injuries he may have sustained from his arrest were not stated on the police station's server. Stepping out of the elevator, he tried not to be obvious as he checked each open door, and glimpsed behind curtains.
He did not have to look very far. The psyche floor, like the rest of the hospital, was pretty quiet. The shift nurse at her desk deeply engrossed in filing her nails. He nodded politely to her as he passed by.
"You the resident from Ohio State?" She wanted to know without looking up.
"Sure am." He replied, adrenaline racing through his system.
"Don't forget to sign off on all your charts." The woman warned with a long suffering sigh. "You med students always leave your paperwork like some kind of--"
"Gotcha, I won't forget." Sam assured her before he quickened his steps down the dim hallway.
Not even halfway down, he stopped short, skidding to a halt.
Sam had almost passed him.
He had to look twice and assure himself. Yes, that was his brother sitting on that bed. Dean looked a little worse for wear but otherwise sound. He hadn't known what to expect at first but he was relieved to see his brother alert, lying in a large bed with one of those rolling bed tables over it. There was a plastic spoon sitting in a cup of lime Jell-O and a television that was broadcasting a fuzzy station up in the corner of the room.
"Dean?" Sam asked hopefully before he could stop himself.
Sam felt something cold twist down deep when he saw that they had placed four point restraints on him. His wrists and ankles were all secured snugly to the bed he was on. Briefly he wondered who had left food right in front of someone who couldn't move their hands to eat it. Had his brother even eaten a thing since that night in the diner? The flare of his anger was tempered by his relief. Sam was so happy to see him relatively safe and completely alive that he would have hugged the cranky nurse down the hall.
His brother turned and noticed him wearily. "More blood?"
Sam's small smile faltered and died. There went the tiny hope that Dean would say his name or even if he had lost that, at least give some type of smile in glad welcome. The sight of Sam caused no recognition, fearful or other. It looked like Dean had forgot even forgetting his own brother's face. He had only turned at the sound of his name as some response to being addressed. Like an Excuse Me or a Hey You. As far as Dean was concerned, Sam was just some other appropriately attired member of the medical staff.
"Already took twice." Dean murmured up at the television. "Should charge you."
Sam bit at his lip, his heart speeding up when he heard what was left still sounded like his brother. That frustration unmistakably belonged to Dean--The tone and shade of his speech and his distant annoyance with how he was being handled. He studied Dean's slack features, trying to gauge just exactly what was left there. He started to wish he had gotten here before they had sedated him.
But something had inexplicably and radically changed. It was as though he was seeing him in brand new clothes or a different hair cut. Something vital had been displaced. Something was very gone from his eyes. Not lost, not confused, just simply gone. Sam knew what it was, and he knew it was all in that mirror he had left out in the desert.
He cleared his throat and trained his voice, trying not to let his unease show.
"H-How are you feeling?"
Dean shifted uncomfortably but not very defiantly in his medical restraints.
"Tired." He answered. "Head hurts."
Glancing quickly at the chart on the foot of Dean's bed, he found what he needed. After he'd cleared the drug screening it turned out he'd had a high but not outrageous blood alcohol level. Not even enough to warrant a public intoxication charge. He had been given a sedative this morning, admitted for slight dehydration and possible psychosis. A MRI had even been scheduled. Dean's second in a week.
Sam flipped the metal folder closed.
"We are taking a little trip. Lab wants to run a MRI. Get you all better."
"Okay." Dean responded dully, holding up his wrist when Sam started to unbuckle the straps.
Sam swallowed nervously. The fact that Dean was being so cooperative was a good sign for what Sam had to do next, but it was still horrible to know the reason why. Gesturing him towards the wheelchair next to his bed, Dean obeyed, settling into it with a small groan. Sam quickly grabbed the plastic bag filled with his brother's clothes that sat in the room's storage closet. He set it in Dean's lap before covering it up with a blanket he snagged off the bed. Dean seemed weakened from the drugs, all his movements slow and uncertain.
Waiting for the staff nurse to turn and pick up the phone call he'd placed to her station, Sam waited for the right moment to wheel the chair quickly down the hallway and through an elevator. Slow and uncertain might be unusual but Sam was never the kind of guy that didn't know when to count his blessings.
As long as Dean wasn't trying to kill him, Sam decided that for the moment that was good enough for him.
Dean didn't question their haste or destination until they emerged out the back of the hospital and next to a parking lot dumpster. But the only question he formed was in the simple body language of taking in his surroundings when he previously hadn't shown any interest before.
"We have to go to another hospital to take the tests." Sam explained lamely as he pushed the chair to a stop up along side the car's passenger side.
He hurriedly helped Dean get into the seat and shut the door. He knew it wouldn't take long for them to discover that his brother was missing. They would waste some time looking for him on the hospital floors and then eventually the surrounding grounds. He counted on that giving them at least a decent head start.
They'd be on the highway before the medical staff got their shit together enough to even consider that Dean was that far away already. Some homeless drifter on his own would be more likely wandering downtown once again. This time unarmed and in nothing but a hospital gown.
Dean didn't say a thing as they drove. The oddness of having been put into this strange black car by an even odder stranger seemed to warrant a few questions that Dean wasn't asking. Sam gripped the wheel hard and chanced a question of his own.
"Do you know ... do you know who you are?"
It wasn't the question he wanted but he wasn't sure of how to phrase the one he wanted to ask. How much could you lose and still be alive and breathing? Did Dean forget his name but at least know he was a human being that didn't have one?
Sam saw that Dean was looking at him.
"Do you know where you are?" Sam would settle for anything right now. Just the words ‘a car’ would be good.
"Dean? What do you mean?"
Sam fought the urge to pull over because he knew he had to put some good amounts of space between them and the county he'd just sprung an incarcerated mental patient from. But his brother's words chilled him down to his core. Was there still some connection that lingered between Dean's body and where that thing had been reassembling his mind and thoughts?
"Hard to see." Dean simply said. "Not alone."
Sam glanced away from the road to see one small flash in the slack expression, the lost cast to his brother's face that he had watched grow for weeks surfacing and fighting before settling back into blank.
He wasn't sure if that made him hopeful or more scared.
Sam had got them a room one state over and cleared it about ten times before he felt that it was safe to relax even a little bit in. Door locked. Chain on. Phone disconnected. No shot guns in sight. Sam had even made sure anything remotely sharp or blunt was removed from the space.
He had dug out some clean clothes for Dean while he sent him with a towel and soap into the shower. Whatever and wherever his brother had been over the course of the last few days had left him fairly filthy. After a considerable amount of time had gone by and the water was still going, Sam let himself into the bathroom to see what was going on.
Dean was standing in the shower spray and rubbing what was left of the sliver of soap against his chest. Sam eased the now cold water off and led him out, toweling him off and showing him his clothes. It was as if he needed to be prompted to do just about any task at all. As soon as Sam had gotten the T-shirt over Dean's head, Dean pulled it down and slid his arms in himself. As soon as Sam had gotten one foot through the boxer shorts, Dean took over and yanked them up to his hips as if the demonstration was like some reminder of what to do next.
Next he made sure Dean ate something.
The Chinese takeout in the small cartons was cold but Sam was so tired and hungry himself that he was fairly sure his brother wouldn't mind either. Unsure of what was going to happen, Sam handed his brother the plastic container of won ton soup. Not knowing what state Dean's stomach was in after who knew how many hours of no food in it, he'd figure he'd might as well start with something simple.
Sam started gulping down his own dinner, his hunger pains easing with heaps of house fried rice, that cold or no was pretty much like the best thing he'd tasted in his entire life. He looked up when he realized Dean hadn't lifted his spoon, and had seemed to be distracted by the motel window streaming with the rain that fell outside.
"Hey, here." Sam set his food aside and spooned out some of the liquid and put it to his older brother's lips. "Come on."
Dean opened his mouth like a child and swallowed it.
Sam felt a little bit of his weight lift when Dean took the spoon from his hand when it came back up the third time and started to feed himself. Hungrily and quickly, he finished the broth and then looked hopefully at Sam's rice. There was something there that was hanging on. The physical body. The needs and requirements were still around.
With the first real grin he'd felt in a while, Sam dumped all of his rice into Dean's plastic container.
"It's all yours man."
"Who are you?"
Sam's grin faded as he remembered the last time his brother had asked him that question.
"Here, have some egg rolls." Sam emptied a foil bag of the things into Dean's rice. "You don't know it but you love ‘em."
Sam didn't want to do it.
In fact his eyes burned a little when he told Dean to lay down. His throat worked when his brother didn't object or say a thing as Sam clicked the steel handcuff around his wrist, loose enough not to bite, but tight enough that there was no way he could slip out of it. Sam secured the other end onto the sturdy and tested metal piping of headboard that was available.
"Sorry man." Sam said more for himself than for the man that watched him do it silently.
He couldn't afford to lose his brother again. They'd been lucky this time Dean had somehow held onto his cell phone and had enabled Sam to even find him in the first place. Even more incredibly Dean hadn't been mowed down and shot by twitchy police. He also hadn't been anonymously swallowed into some barely funded and staffed mental ward that Sam would never find.
"I'm not going anywhere." Sam told him. "If you need the bathroom or whatever, you just tell me okay?"
Dean was looking at his wrist encircled in the shiny steel but he nodded absently as if Sam had only been reminding him about something he had to get up for in the morning.
"It's just that..." Sam scrubbed his face. "I-I have to get some sleep. Just for a few hours okay?"
He didn't turn off any of the lights or even get under a blanket. Sam just lay down wearily back onto his bed and rubbed at his eyes.
And before he could even wonder if he'd have trouble slipping under, he was already away.
When he opened his eyes he swore out loud when he saw that the sun was already coming through the curtains. His watch was beeping, chiming on to itself for about a full three hours after he had set the alarm to wake him.
He quickly shifted his just waking gaze over to check on Dean who might have tried to wake him up and failed.
But Dean was sleeping. Somewhat more peacefully than Sam liked considering what was going on. His brother had rolled the motel quilt over himself and was steadily breathing in and out in a deep restful slumber. Sam wondered if Dean had gotten any more sleep than he had in the past few days.
Stumbling to the bathroom, Sam got a good look of his face in the mirror. The bruises from their fight had settled into that healing dark phase. The shadows under his eyes were starting to look like bruises themselves. But all in all he'd looked worse in better situations. He ran some warm water and washed his face with it, slowly splashing the flow against his closed eyes as he thought.
Sam would get Dean back over into Utah.
They could go back to that little trailer in the canyon and maybe Dad's friend would know what to do. Where to point them next. He'd go back to the mirror and tell Dean that he had found ... well... Dean. But something told him that maybe Dean already knew, maybe there was some lingering tenuous strand that still linked himself to himself.
A noise, metal on metal made him swiftly turn his attention back to where he'd left his sleeping brother. Dean was awake, his trapped wrist making sounds as he tried unsuccessfully to stretch out as he was used to doing.
"Looks like we both slept in." Sam tried to joke in some attempt to make this seem all like some normal morning.
The look that Dean returned to Sam almost made him step back.
It wasn't vacant or dazed. It wasn't unfocused or indifferent. It was concentrated right at Sam. It was searching. It was alive. It was interested and a little wary. Hope surged up from the pit of his stomach. Was he back? Was this process doing some self transposition of itself all on its own?
All that was returned was a meaningless strange slur. Like Dean had little to no control over his mouth.
Something empty. Gets filled.
"Who are you?" Sam asked quietly. The ironic reversal of the question wasn't lost on him even now.
Dean smiled a small smile that somehow in all its subtly wasn’t his at all. It was half formed and strange, like someone who had first ever discovered they had a face and body. An entire network of muscle and tissue that they had no idea just exactly how to communicate with yet.
With a blink it was gone.
Dean was once again what was left of Dean, his tired eyes empty of anything but question. And vague discomfort.
Sam let out the breath he was holding.
"Come on man, time to get up and get going all right? Don’t worry," Sam quickly babbled to himself as he tried to wrap his mind around what he'd just seen. He unlocked the cuff and tossed it aside. "I think we're gonna skip the shave..."
Sam watched on in mounting concern when Dean paused as he stood to clutch at his head with both hands.
"You okay?" Sam asked softly, unwilling to witness that strange alien look return to his brother's gaze. Not alone. His brother's words echoed in his mind.
"Hurts." Dean mumbled. "Tired."
Sam sat him back down onto the bed he had just gotten up from.
"Dark." Dean repeated what he had said yesterday in the car.
Sam thought of the hand that had reached out from the black of the mirror’s depths and swallowed back the horrible tightness that was forming in his throat.
"Can't see." Dean’s voice broke a little.
"We’ll fix it." Sam said quietly, his jaw aching from how hard he was clenching it, his grip too strong on Dean’s arm. "Can you hear me?"
"Yes." Was all his brother said.
Sam slumped down into a chair and covered his face with his hands. He heard the sink come on and the sounds of Dean brushing his teeth. He heard the slow and methodical movements of what little was left of an engrained routine. They were going to have get back to that mirror a lot faster than he had anticipated.
But this time he thought he just might have an idea of what to do when they got there.
To be continued…