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SPN fic: War Wounds Part I

This is the beta'd version (thanks StarWatcher!) of a Supernatural story I posted a few weeks ago. I wrote this before there were any 'spoilers' for the second season, so it's very much just my take on what might occur immediately following the cliffhanger of the season finale. The story is gen, begins immediately at the cliffhanger, and needs no warnings other than for angst and h/c. Feedback is always appreciated. It's posted in three parts. Hope you enjoy it.



WAR WOUNDS
by Arianna


A possible second season opener story

With thanks to Rhianne for helping me ensure I didn't drift too far from canon.




* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *



Sam groaned and wondered who had beaten him with an iron rod, and why. His head throbbed and his face felt raw and wet. Blearily, not yet fully conscious, he lifted his hand and felt warm stickiness. Blood stained the fingertips he held shakily before his eyes. Alarm flared, driving away the shadows as he jerked into full wakefulness, and all the memories crowded in, nearly swamping him with fearful confusion. Dean was hurt bad. He'd shot his father! They'd been rushing to the hospital when ... what? What had happened?

They were still in the old Impala, but it was off-balance, tilted slightly sideways on the verge of the highway. The windshield was cracked. Had they been in an accident? Stifling a moan at the effort, he turned his head to look at his father - and saw the semi's grill hard against that side of the car, its headlights casting everything into sharp relief.

"Shit!" he exclaimed, his heart thundering, and the small hairs on the back of his neck lifted as gooseflesh rose on his skin. He could feel evil pervading the air and knew it had been no accident. Cautiously, he gripped the antique pistol he'd stuck in his belt and lifted it, grating, "I have the gun and it's still loaded. You come near me or mine and you are so dead."

"S-sam? Sammy?" John moaned, wincing with pain as he struggled awake.

"Easy, Dad," he soothed even as his eyes raked the night, searching for signs of further threat. When he twisted in the seat, he saw Dean lying like a broken doll in the back seat, blood smearing his face and clothing, and snaking from his ear. "Oh, my God! Dean!" he cried, shifting around to pound and hammer at the car door that had been jammed by the force of the impact. Slamming his shoulder against it, and then again, he finally managed to dislodge it, and it creaked open with high, hideous scrape of metal. He nearly fell out of the tilted car, and then scrambled to the back, again looking all around, frantic and afraid. The night was so damned dark, the semi's headlights were blinding, and he could scarcely make out the cab of the truck looming over them. In the dim glint of starlight beyond the brightness, he could just barely see the shadow of the driver, sitting unmoving. His jaw clenched and he lifted the pistol, but when the shadow suddenly shuddered and a cloud blacker than the night spun into the air to disappear on the wind, he shivered, wondering where the damn demon would appear next.

But there was no time to worry about that now. "You, the driver!" he shouted, his voice hard and raw with emotion, "I need help down here. NOW!"

The man above moved slowly at first, as if he were stunned and not thinking clearly, but then he seemed to take in the situation and he hastily reached for his radio to call for help. After that, he backed the semi a few feet away from the smashed car before pushing his door open and leaping to the ground. Meanwhile, Sam had stuck the pistol back into his belt and was fighting the back door, cursing when he found that it, too, was jammed. Bracing one foot on the frame of the vehicle, digging in his other foot to gain purchase on the shoal of ground that had been pushed up along the side of the Impala, he heaved with all his strength and finally felt the door budge. Another heave and he had it open.

Bending, he stuck his upper body inside, but then didn't know what to do. In the bright glare cast by the semi's headlights, Dean looked so broken, so pale, that Sam was terrified he was dead. His hand shaking, he reached toward his brother's wrist, and felt weak with shattering relief to find a pulse. The driver's boots scuffed on the gravel of the ground around them, and he hastily straightened, his hand again tightly gripping the pistol's butt as he watched the man approach, though he kept the weapon hidden.

"Lordy, what happened?" the heavy-set man cried out to him as he drew closer.

"You hit us; drove us off the road," Sam snapped, fear for his family making him harsh. "Help my Dad, in the front seat. He's hurt, bleeding, from his leg and a wound on his head."

"I don't remember ..." the man murmured, aghast, as he raked fingers through his hair. But he seemed to swiftly pull himself together. "I've called for an ambulance," he said then, as he bent to open the front passenger door. "It'll be here in ten, fifteen minutes max."

Sam nodded soberly and returned his anxious attention to his brother. Again leaning into the car, he gently cupped Dean's cheek, but was afraid of moving him, of maybe doing more damage. Dean hadn't been buckled in, and Sam didn't want to think of how he would have been violently bounced around when they'd been hit by the force of a Mac truck. "Dean?" he called, gripping his brother's hand. "Can you hear me? Dean?"

Slowly, stiffly, John half-twisted in his seat to look at his sons. "How bad is he?" he rasped, his voice thin and reedy with effort.

Sam lifted eyes wide and dark with fear to his father's gaze. "I don't know," he replied tightly, struggling not to stammer. "But ... but he'd already lost so much blood and ..."

John glared at him in warning, and jerked his head back toward the driver behind him. Angrily, Sam frowned, furious that his father seemed more concerned about keeping secrets than about his firstborn's life. Once again, his jaw clenched as he fought for control, and his voice was cold, contemptuous, as he continued, "He's bad, Dad. Dean might be dying." Turning his face away, he added, "Like you'd care."

John winced at the words and the tone. "What do you mean by that?" he growled, stung. Defensive. But Sam ignored him. Behind John, the truck driver gave up on trying to open a door that had been welded closed by the tons of pressure exerted by the crushing grill of the truck. He hurried around the hood, and leaned in to help John ease his way out the driver's side.

With cautious gentleness, Sam felt his brother's neck, shoulders and chest, grimacing with worry at the blood that was soaking through Dean's clothing, saturating his shirt and soaking into his jeans. Dean moaned when Sam's hands ghosted over his chest and, swallowing hard, Sam left off his careful probing. "Dean?" he ventured again, not sure whether to hope his brother woke to reassure him or stayed unconscious, oblivious to the pain of his injuries. When his eyelids fluttered, Sam squatted and once again took his hand. "Easy, easy," he crooned, reaching in with his other hand to caress Dean's forehead and then lightly clasped his shoulder.

"S-sammy?" Dean whispered hoarsely, his gaze slowly sliding sideways as he sought his brother's face. "You ... you o-okay?"

"Yeah, yeah, I'm fine," he replied, his throat tight. Tears scalded his eyes and he had to blink them away. "Don't talk, Dean, okay? Just ... just rest. Help will be here soon."

Dean swallowed heavily and his lip curled at the sickening taste of blood in his throat. His gaze tracked to the front seat and he frowned, worry flaring in his eyes. "Dad? Is Dad alright?" he rasped urgently, again searching Sam's face.

"He's fine, Dean; we're both okay," Sam assured him steadily, as he gently stroked his brother's cheek. "You don't need to worry about us right now."

Relief softened Dean's gaze and he gave a slight, shallow nod before closing his eyes against the pain that raged like fire through his body and head. "'m tired, Sam," he murmured hoarsely, so softly Sam could hardly hear him.

"Don't go to sleep, Dean," he called sharply, afraid of the wistful, lost tone. Dean was a rock; the one abiding certainty he'd had in the whole of his life was that Dean would be there, would be strong. He didn't get tired, didn't complain. Sam's gut twisted in despair, scared that Dean was sinking away from him. "Stay with me, here. Don't you let go."

Dean's fingers twitched against his, holding on, if weakly, but then his grip loosened, his body releasing the brief taut tension of agonized consciousness as he slipped back into the darkness.

Scared by the sudden limp lifelessness, Sam again sought his brother's pulse, and was both relieved it was there and sick to find it so weak, too fast, uneven and thready. Dread rippled through his body and he exhaled with a half-sob of helplessness.

"Sam!" John called to him. "Sam, how's your brother?"

Bowing his head, fiercely gripping Dean's hand to anchor him to life, Sam struggled for words. He didn't want to voice the fear that gripped him, tightening in his chest, making it hard to breathe. He didn't want to admit that he was pretty sure Dean was dying.

In the distance, a siren's wail blossomed in the night.

"Hold on, Dean," he urged in a desperate, strangled whisper, reaching in to tenderly cradle his brother's blood-smeared face in one shaking hand, while his other hand continued to clutch Dean's cold fingers. "You hold on, you hear me? Don't you leave me, Dean. Don't you go."

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


Too wired to sit down and too weary to pace, Sam leaned against the wall in the Emergency waiting room of the local hospital. His face was pale and his eyes were wide and dark with fear for Dean's life. His arms were crossed and his jaw rigidly clenched in anxious worry and his desire to hold tight to his emotions. The cops had followed him and the ambulances into town. Only five minutes ago, they had given up trying to get more out of him than the family had been on holiday in the area and out for an evening hike in the woods when his father had been shot; Sam maintained it must've been a hunter or poacher. The cops had looked skeptical; not many hunters or poachers used a small caliber weapon and that was no hole from a rifle's heavier payload in the senior Winchester's leg. When they pointed that out, as well as the fact it wasn't hunting season, he just shrugged and was damned glad he'd concealed the antique handgun under his shirt before the cops had arrived on the scene. God, he couldn't even concoct a plausible story, like he'd been cleaning it and it had been an accident because he didn't have a permit for it in the first place, and sure couldn't afford to have it, and the single silver bullet left, confiscated. Instead, he redirected their attention by explaining that they'd been rushing back to town to get his father's wound treated when they'd been blindsided by the semi that seemed to come out of nowhere. Again the cops challenged his story, wondering how his brother had gotten so bloodied. He just stared flatly at them and, wishing he had Dean's finesse in spinning likely stories, only retorted impatiently, "We were in a massive accident. We were all almost killed."

Brazening it out, Sam knew his story was helped a bit by the truck driver who couldn't remember anything about what had happened, so he couldn't contradict anything. The man had been given a breathalyzer test and was now also somewhere behind the double doors, being examined for possible coronary or brain dysfunction, and to have blood tests taken to see if he had traces of illicit drugs in his system. Sam knew they'd find nothing wrong with the man, and they'd have to rely on skid marks at the scene without knowing why the accident had happened. The skid marks would bear out his version.

The cops had frowned thoughtfully, and looked at one another wordlessly. Finally, one of them said, "We'll have your vehicle towed into our impound lot. You can arrange to either have it junked or repaired once you have time to think about that." He nodded, thanked them, took their card and was grateful to watch them finally walk away and leave him the hell alone. And he hoped to God that nobody in the impound lot gave more than a casual glance into the trunk of the old Impala.

After they left, he alternately stared at the closed double swing doors that led into the Emergency treatment rooms, and then around the lounge, watching to see if any demons were making an appearance. He'd wanted to stay with Dean, but the staff had almost physically torn him from his brother's side, and warned they'd call security to remove him if he didn't settle down and wait in the lounge.

So, he was waiting. Had been waiting for over half an hour. Altogether, it was nearly two hours since they'd been hit by the semi. More than two hours since the demon had tortured Dean. He'd lost an awful lot of blood. And he'd looked so ... vulnerable, lying like a limp, bloodied rag-doll in the back seat.

Swallowing hard, Sam scraped his hands over his face. Except for Dean's fear of flying, when he'd still managed to function a few months back, he couldn't remember when he'd last seen Dean so vulnerable. Maybe when he'd been electrocuted, and ... and he would have died then, within a month, from the damage to his heart. Sammy shuddered and swallowed hard, pressed his lips closed. That had been the last, pretty much the only other time he'd seen his big brother so helpless in the face of fate. Even then, Dean had been stoic, strong, matter of fact and making his usual bad jokes to lighten the mood. Aching fear filled his chest and his hands trembled. What would he do if .... Dean had always been there. For the whole of his life. Strong, determined, reliable. Frowning, he pushed the thought away. Dean would be okay. He had to be okay.

It was another twenty minutes before a thirty-something woman in a white lab coat came through the doors and called, "Winchester family?"

Stiffening, he replied, "That would be me!" Launching himself off the wall, he fairly loped across the floor to her. "I'm Sam Winchester."

"Son of John?" she asked, looking at the clipboard she carried.

"Yeah, and brother of Dean," he replied breathlessly, wishing she'd just tell him something. "How -"

"I'm Dr. Cavanaugh," she interjected before he could complete his question. Looking up at him, she went on, "Your father will be fine. We've given him a unit of blood and sutured the wounds in his leg caused when the bullet passed through. There are torn muscles, of course, but with the right exercises, he should heal with no problem. We'll keep him overnight, to be certain no infection takes hold, but we've got him on antibiotics and there shouldn't be any complications. You can go up to see him in room two-sixty."

He nodded but asked urgently, "And my, brother? Dean? How's he?"

She frowned and drew him over to a couple of empty chairs by the wall. When she gestured for him to sit, he did so with grudging reluctance, his stomach sinking into the hollowness of his gut, certain she was going to give him bad news.

"Your brother was, as I'm sure you know, much more badly hurt," she began, and he nodded tightly, his eyes glued to her face.

"His injuries are complex," she went on soberly. "So, let's start from the top. He suffered a skull fracture in the accident, and a severe concussion. He's currently in a light coma."

"Oh, my God," he gasped, swallowing hard and, feeling cold, crossing his arms. "But he'll ... he'll be okay, right?" he asked, seeming younger than his years in his earnest hopefulness.

Her lips compressed and a slight frown puckered her brow. "It's ... too soon to say for sure, I'm afraid," she told him, her voice low and compassionate. Becoming more brisk, she went on, "We've given him medication to reduce the swelling and stop the bleeding inside his skull. And we've given him medication to keep him in a coma state to allow his brain to heal. It will be at least a day before he wakes up, and perhaps longer."

"But he will wake up," Sam persisted doggedly. "He will be fine, right?"

"Let's just take this a step at a time, okay?" she replied. "At this point, we can't tell if any permanent damage has occurred."

He stared at her, shock and horror flashing in his eyes before he subdued them. "He'll be fine," he insisted, having to tell himself what she wasn't prepared to guarantee. "He was awake for a few minutes after the accident. He knew what was going on. Moved his head, his hand. He'll be fine."

"I hope he will be," she allowed, not pressing him to face possibilities he wasn't ready to contemplate. Instead, she changed the subject. "Your brother also lost a lot of blood, so he was in deep shock when he got here. We've begun transfusions." Frowning, she studied him. "What caused those deep claw marks on his upper body?"

His gaze slipping away, Sam said flatly, "We were walking in the woods and ran into a bear." Raking his trembling fingers through his hair, he muttered, "Shit. I didn't tell the cops that."

Her head tilted, clearly not believing him. "Odd bear," she returned with a dry, ironic tone. "Usually they don't have opposable thumbs." When he neither replied nor looked at her, her gaze narrowed as she went on firmly, "His internal organs, lungs, liver, kidneys ... all show severe bruising and internal bleeding that can't be accounted for by the structural bone damage sustained in the accident."

Jaw tightening against the surge of nausea at the memories of what had been done to Dean at the cabin, he shrugged and forced himself to return her steady gaze. "It all happened so fast. Was so ... so horrible. He ... Dean ... it hurt a lot," he replied, deflecting her observation, unable to answer it. She'd never believe a demon had been brutalizing Dean, slowly digging into his brother's flesh, intending to rip his heart out.

She sighed and shook her head, but let it go. Glancing again, briefly, at the notes on her clipboard, she went on, "Your brother was very nearly in terminal shock from the blood loss, head injury and internal damage when they brought him in. As I said, we're transfusing him with plasma and whole blood. He also has a cracked collarbone and several cracked ribs. His right knee is badly bruised and sprained."

Sam nodded, taking it all in, and dared to hope. None of that was life-threatening if Dean could just ... if he could hold on, get past the shock of all that had happened to him. "When can I see him? I want ... I want to be able to stay with him."

"Dean is being transferred to our Intensive Care Unit as soon as he's stabilized enough to be moved, which should be within the next hour," she explained. "Why don't you go see your father first, and then maybe get yourself something to eat." Studying him, noting the residue of blood that he'd missed during a quick trip to the men's room to splash water on his face and wash his hands, she asked, "I wonder if we should check you out, too. You look like you also got a bit banged up, and you -"

"I'm fine, thank you," he assured her as he stood abruptly. "You said Dad is in room two-sixty?"

When she nodded, he held out his hand. "Thank you for taking care of my family," he said solemnly. "They're all I have."

Rising to her feet, she took his hand and smiled in understanding before returning to the treatment area as he went in search of the stairwell.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


Sam paused in the doorway for a moment, studying his father. John looked scruffy and disreputable with his unshaven, pallid, bruised face and hair awry. He also looked tired and irritable, the tightness of his twisted lips contrasting with the way he laid as if asleep, and Sam wondered if he was in pain. But for all his dishevelment and repose, he still radiated energy and strength. If Dean was the rock that Sam had clung to as a child, his father was a force of nature, loud and determined, aggressive, rarely gentle in word or touch, filled with anger, unrelenting anger.

And Sam understood that anger now, that helpless fury that could be blinding to everything else. They shared that, the loss of a woman they'd loved passionately, through acts of horrific brutality. He knew the cold taste of the hunger for revenge in his mouth, the heat of it in his soul. It had driven him for months, that and the guilt he felt, despite all Dean had tried to reassure him that what had happened wasn't his fault. But ... but now, more than ever, he knew that somehow he was responsible. The demon wanted him; had killed to get him.

But he didn't know why, or what made him so sought after by the forces of darkness and evil. Sure, he had some psychic ability, but so did a lot of other people. Why had the demon come after him and the people he loved?

Swallowing, he forced away his questions and his incipient feelings of guilt. And he did his best to harness the drive for revenge that rode him. Dean had forced him to see that it was about more than revenge, a lot more than sacrificing himself, if necessary, for that would be a hollow victory. When Dean had called him selfish, and said he was just like his father, it had been like being drenched in ice water. Shocking. He didn't ever want to be like his father. So remote and distant. So cold and ... even callous.

But maybe he wasn't being fair to John. Maybe he was still seeing him through the eyes of a child who'd often felt abandoned when Dean was left to care for him while John went 'hunting'. Maybe John, cursed with terrible knowledge and intent upon protecting as many innocents as he could while he pursued the demon, had only been doing his best. God knew, the brutal death of his wife and the loss of his own innocence and life as he'd known it - for he'd been hunting the murderer even before he learned that it was a monster much worse than a human killer - would have been enough to drive most other men mad. The burden had been even greater because his dad had two little kids to care for and protect from the literal manifestation of horrors from hell ... ever since the terrible night that Sam suspected also haunted Dean but that he, personally, would never be able to remember. He'd had nights, himself, when it was all he could do to cling to his own sanity. Could he really expect his father to have treated his sons 'normally', given such overwhelming pressures?

His steps light, he stepped quietly into the room. "Dad?" he called softly, as he moved close to the bed. "How're you doing?"

John opened his eyes and peered at him. After scrubbing a hand over his face, he shrugged. "I'll be fine," he grated, waving at his leg. "This won't slow me down for long."

A wry smile flitted over Sam's lips. "Nothing ever does," he replied as he sank onto the wooden chair by the bed. "You need anything for pain?"

John shook his head. "How's Dean?" he asked, his tone guarded, his body tight, as if bracing for a blow.

Sam's eyes dipped, and he slowly shook his head. "He's in a coma, Dad, from his head injury and ... and he was pretty wrecked inside," he sighed. "They aren't sure when he'll wake up, or if there will be ... will be permanent damage."

"Damn," John sighed, pressing his head back against the pillow as he stared up at the ceiling. Closing his eyes, he muttered, "You should have shot me. Should have killed that thing in me, and me with it."

Pain flitted across Sam's face, and abject weariness. "That's all you still care about, isn't it?" he husked. Lifting hard, searching eyes, he charged, "You don't give a damn about Dean."

Stunned by the charge, John jerked his head around to glare at him. "What are you talking about?" he nearly shouted, furious. "Of course I care about him. I'd rather be dead than see him hurt like this! If you'd ... if you'd shot me, killed that monster, there wouldn't have been an 'accident' - Dean wouldn't have been hurt so badly! Don't you see that?"

The force of the tirade slammed Sam against the back of the chair as he straightened and gaped at his father in surprise. He looked away briefly, re-ordering his thoughts, his judgments and perceptions. "Dean didn't want me to kill you," he offered bleakly. "And I didn't want to kill you, either. We'll get the demon, Dad. But we don't have to give it the pleasure of murdering one another to do it. We're all any of us has, you know? All any of us has."

John's expression gentled at the tired, wounded tone, and he sighed. He sometimes forgot his boys had grown up knowing nothing but the continuing battle against evil. He'd done his best to protect them, but it had never been enough. And now Sammy had lost his fiancée, and Dean ... God, Dean.

In the silence, Sam's gaze returned to his father's. "Why does it want me? Do you know? Could you ... when it was inside you ... could you read it as well as it seems to be able to read us?"

Dejectedly, John shook his head. "It took all I had to try to fight him ... and all my strength wasn't enough," he grated in reluctant admission. He didn't like to think about those hours of fruitless, desperate struggle. Didn't want to remember knowing that he'd been able to do virtually nothing to stop Dean from being tortured. His chest tightened and his throat thickened at the memory of the look in Dean's eyes and the desperate pleading tone when his son had begged him to help him - like a hurt little boy, scared and desperately hoping to be saved and yet ... yet so lost, so lost, as if he didn't really believe there'd ever be any help for him. His little boy. Moisture burned in his eyes and he blinked it away impatiently.

As if divining his thoughts, his terrible memories of helplessness, Sam laid a hand over his. "He was too much for me, too," he murmured hoarsely. "But ... when we fought him together, we overcame his hold. We can take him, Dad. If we do it together."

John's jaw tightened against his treacherous emotions, and he nodded stiffly. "I'm okay," he insisted. "You go to Dean. He needs you now."

"He needs both of us," Sam returned softly. But he stood to go. "I'll keep you posted on how he's doing. But they said there wouldn't be much change for at least a day. So, uh, try to rest."

John's gaze flickered around the room, and he frowned. "You still got the pistol?" he asked.

"Yeah, I've got it," Sam told him warily.

"Well, you keep a close watch, you hear me, son? That thing ... it hasn't given up," John insisted gruffly. "When you need to sleep, you come back here and I'll ... I'll watch over you."

Unexpectedly moved by his father's rough concern, Sam's eyes filled and he sniffed as he ducked his head away. "Okay, thanks," he rasped, and then strode briskly from the room. But as he headed down the hall, to the nurses' desk to ask the way to Intensive Care, it occurred to him with a shiver of dread that he was probably the safest of all of them.

Though he had no clue why, the demon wanted him alive.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


Once he found the small lounge that was cluttered with furniture to provide a place of rest and respite for families with loved ones teetering on the edge of the abyss between life and death, Sam used the phone to request admission to the closed ward. A woman said she'd be right out and, while he waited, he edgily watched the others in the cramped space. One man, elderly, looked pale with anxious worry. A young woman struggled to contain her tears while an older woman - her mother, maybe - held her hand. In the corner, a priest sat praying with an old woman dressed in black, as if she were already in mourning.

None of them looked possessed by demons.

"Mr. Winchester?" a calm voice asked from behind him, and he turned to see a thin, middle-aged nurse in a tired uniform looking at him.

"Yes, Sam Winchester," he replied earnestly. "Can I see my brother?"

She nodded and waved for him to follow, but when she punched the wall button to open the heavily-glassed double doors, she said, "Once you've seen him, you'll need to go down to Admitting, to deal with the paperwork." He looked at her with a frown of confusion, having given details to an officious clerk when he'd first been separated by his brother in Emergency. She shrugged and lifted a hand as if to wave off the concern in his eyes. "I'm sure it's just a mix-up somewhere, but apparently the official health records on your brother say he died months ago, so his insurance has been cancelled."

"What?" he exclaimed softly and then looked away. Dammit. They didn't need this now. Shaking his head, he insisted, "Well, obviously, you're right. Someone screwed up the file somewhere."

She paused before a glass-walled cubicle down the hall some distance from the open desk area where files were stored and the nurses made notes on the patients' charts. "Here he is," she told him, unnecessarily, as he could see Dean through the window. His mouth and throat went dry, and he had to force himself to swallow at the sight of his older brother lying so still, as if he were lashed to the bed by the tubes and wires that were connected to his body. A cardiac monitor hummed on its shelf on the wall, and there were other machines he didn't recognize but, given the sensors taped to his brother's head that were linked to one in the corner, he figured it had to be monitoring brain activity. He wished he knew how to read and understand the squiggly lines that ran in pale green horizontal columns on its screen. "You can stay with him for fifteen minutes," she went on. "Talk to him. People in comas often hear what's going on around them but are confused. A familiar voice can reassure them."

His jaw tight, he moved past her and walked slowly into the room, his eyes first on Dean's chest, to watch him breathe and then on his face, so pale and empty, devoid of vitality. Not like when Dean was sleeping, when he muttered and expressions flitted across his face as he dreamed. This was as if ... as if Dean wasn't in there. He shuddered at the thought and shoved it away. When he reached the narrow bed, he took Dean's limp hand in his own, and his lips thinned at how cold it felt. His gaze drifted around the room and, when he spotted a blanket rolled in the lower part of the bedside table, he pulled it out and opened it to carefully cover his brother, drawing it up and around his shoulders. Then he drew the single chair in the room close and, once he was seated, he slipped his hand under the blanket to again clasp Dean's still fingers. Clearing his throat, he said low and quiet, "Well, I gotta say, I've seen you look better. You, uh, you look a little scary, Dean - all these wires, like ...." But his voice drifted away. If Dean could hear him, if his brother was confused or scared about what was happening to him, then telling him he looked bad and was as wired as Frankenstein's Monster wasn't going to reassure him any.

Swallowing, closing his eyes, he began again. "Dad's okay. The wound was clean; they stitched him up and gave him some blood. They're just keeping him over night to make sure there's no infection. And, uh, I'm fine, too. Just a few bumps and scratches." Lowering his voice further and with a quick glance over his shoulder to be sure they were alone, he went on, "And the demon, well, it seems to have taken a hike, at least for now. So ... so you just need to concentrate on getting well, okay? No worrying about us." Sighing, he tightened his grip and reached to lightly brush his fingertips over Dean's brow and comb through his hair. "As for you, well, you didn't get off quite so lucky. You took a bad blow to the head, and you've got a concussion. And ... and the demon did a real number on you. You've lost a lot of blood, and your insides are kinda battered, I guess. But, um, you're getting the treatment you need and you'll ... you'll be okay, Dean. They said you might wake up tomorrow." Again he glanced over his shoulder as he said, "And when they ask what happened, you got mauled by a bear and Dad was shot by a hunter while we were walking in the woods."

He laughed with brittle bitterness and shook his head, wondering if Dean could hear anything or, if he did, could make sense of any of it. "I'm sorry, Dean," he murmured huskily, his voice hoarse with emotion. "I'm so sorry you got hurt so bad." His head bowed and he licked his lips. "I ... you can't believe anything it said, you know? It was just messing with your head. About me and Dad; about how we feel about you. You do know that, right? We do need you; more, I think, than you need us. Sometimes ... sometimes I think you're all that keeps us sane." He sniffed and swiped at his eyes. Looking up, he again studied his brother's blank features, the half-open unblinking lids and dull, staring eyes. A lump formed in his throat and his vision blurred. "We love you, Dean," he rasped. "Can you hear me? You're all we've got, too."

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


Dean wasn't sure where he was, just that he really hated being there. In front of him was amorphous, dull light; not a fog, exactly, more ambiguous than that. Just dull light. Everywhere else, there was darkness and he wondered if he was looking up a well, or out of a cave. The well made more sense. The light was like sky on a dreary day. He couldn't move, and that scared him, but he could feel pain, which was oddly reassuring because it meant he wasn't paralyzed, only restrained, though he couldn't feel any ropes or cuffs, or wire. Distantly, on the far edge of forever, he heard sounds, sometimes voices, and he'd tried to call out, but he was so tired, so confused, he didn't know if he'd made any sound or not. Occasionally, he felt as if he were being touched on his body, his hands, his face and he shuddered, wondering if he was trapped somewhere that was haunted, but the sensation was fleeting, mostly impersonal, so he tried not to worry about it.

Only ... he thought he could hear Sammy calling to him. Sam sounded scared of something. He recalled scattered, disturbing fragments of something bad happening: the haunted look in his brother's eyes and blood streaked on Sam's face. Struggling with his disjointed thoughts and muddled disorientation, he tried hard to remember what had happened but to no avail, so he gave it up as pointless. He should be trying to escape. There had to a way out of this hole, but he couldn't seem to move, or even summon up the strength to try very hard. What was Sammy saying? He could hear his brother's voice but ....

Someone was holding his hand tightly.

The cadences of Sammy's voice were soothing, reassuring ... but there was a distinct tone of worry, tinges of fear.

Someone was stroking his brow. Felt good. Gentle. Soothing.

Mixed messages, strange sensations, confusion, pain.

'Ah, shit. I'm hurt,' Dean realized with a bolt of blinding lucidity. 'Bad, I think. Damn. I'm in a hospital or ... or something.'

But the brief moment of clarity shattered as other images and memories pressed on his mind, confusing him, driving him toward panic. The pain was distracting and he desperately wanted it to go away. There was a demon ... and Dad. So much pain. Sammy and Dad were in danger. Deadly danger. The demon wanted Sammy. No. No. No way. A pistol and silver bullets. Not bullets. One bullet. They needed help ... he had to help. But ... but he was trapped, stuck, couldn't move. Useless. Damn. Slowing them down. They should leave him, go. Slowing them down. Useless. Didn't need him. Dad said ... demon said? Didn't need him. Never did. Never would. Useless. Never good enough. Tried. Tried so hard. Never ... never enough. Don't need him. Stuck, trapped. Hurt. Let go. Let go. Let them go. Only way ... Oh, God. Hurts ....

His mind felt mired in a maze, going round and round, and his heart ached with the certainty that he was slowing them down and was useless and he couldn't help them and they ... they didn't need him anyway. Grief welled up in his soul, and he knew - knew with bone-deep certainty - he knew he had to let go, had to set them free. But ... but ....

Sammy's hand holding his, holding onto him.

He couldn't let go of Sammy. Couldn't just leave him. Not ever. It was his job to take care of Sammy. His Dad ... his Dad trusted him to do a good job, to not foul up.

He didn't know what to do. Couldn't escape the pain. Couldn't see, couldn't move. He wanted to scream with frustration.

But he couldn't make a sound.

Part II: http://caarianna.livejournal.com/23647.html

Comments

( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
sallye
Aug. 13th, 2006 05:10 am (UTC)
SPN - I have to admit, I don't know what it is. I jumped in expecting to find Jim and Blair, and couldn't find them. I don't want to share you with another fandom! ::sniff sniff:
caarianna
Aug. 13th, 2006 05:16 am (UTC)
Oops, sorry, Sallye, I should probably have been clearer on the intro blurb. This is a Supernatural fic. Not sure how much I'll write for the show, but I really like the premise and the two brothers. Don't worry, though, I've got lots of TS stories in my head and two or three already started, so won't run out of them anytime soon!
sallye
Aug. 13th, 2006 05:24 am (UTC)
Supernatural - I should have realised that. Brain fart, what can I say? I remember there being a lot of songvids for that show at Revelcon, so it's picking up lots of fans. They'll love your fic, I'm sure, so expect some begging from new people. I'll keep my eyes open for more TS fic though. It's always a pleasure to read your stories.
caarianna
Aug. 13th, 2006 07:13 am (UTC)
Thanks, Sallye. Jess Riley tempted me into SPN about five eps from the end of the season and I was immediately hooked. You might want to give it a try. The first season dvds will be out in early Sept, and it's really a great show. The first one I've seen where I think the writers would actually be good at fanfic, in that there aren't many missing scenes, lots of angst, extremely good foreshadowing and backstory that gradually emerges, excellent characters and acting, and a fair amount of h/c. Oh, and the actors are pretty cute! ::grins::
jessriley
Aug. 13th, 2006 06:41 am (UTC)
Oh, very nice scenario of what 'could' happen in season two. Great characterisations and you even had me trusting John by the end of it. (Haven't quite made up my mind up about dear old dad yet - LOL) I won't give any spoilers away, but I think what Sam said at the end about Dean is very true. You should think about posting this on one of the SPN sites as well. I know Starwatcher has a list of them on her LJ.

caarianna
Aug. 13th, 2006 07:07 am (UTC)
Jess, I've sent this to the mod of Ghosthunters, and sent the info and url to an SPN board, both urls that StarWatcher gave me. So I hope it gets some notice, LOL. Er, feel free to rec it! Once the second season airs, this story will be redundant and who knows if I'll ever write another SPN fic!

I'm really pleased you liked it. I made modifications based on your reading of the draft, and Rhianne's feeling that more lead-in was necessary to bring Dean to the brink in the last part. Linda flagged the same point you did in your comments, that Sam's 'theory' made sense to her, too. As for John, if the spoilers are anything to go by, I guess we lose him early on ... I hope that's not true, as I think he's an important, if often off-scene character.

Well, I'm all packed except for the carry-on stuff like meds and toothpaste that I'll need in the morning. The limo comes at 10:45 for the four of us. LOL, we'll be going to the dock in style! I'm not taking my laptop as it's only a week (I feel the withdrawal shakes already!), but hopefully there will be some internet access on the ship, so I can check messages. I'll be back sometime on your Monday.

Take care, mate!
jessriley
Aug. 13th, 2006 08:03 am (UTC)
Jess, I've sent this to the mod of Ghosthunters, and sent the info and url to an SPN board, both urls that StarWatcher gave me. So I hope it gets some notice, LOL.

I'll pop over there and have a look and will definitely rec :0)

Well, I'm all packed except for the carry-on stuff like meds and toothpaste that I'll need in the morning. The limo comes at 10:45 for the four of us. LOL,

Very posh - LOL. Have a great time and don't forget to pack your thermal underwear. I hear it gets mighty cold where you're headed. See you in a week or so.
caarianna
Aug. 13th, 2006 08:16 am (UTC)
Jess, these are the places I sent the story, as I gather there are several options:

Ghost Hunters - http://ghosthunters.cairdean.com/

SPN Notice Board -
http://community.livejournal.com/supernatural_nb/profile

I didn't know how to upload or post messages on either site, so I sent the story to Ghost Hunters' listmom and sent both site listmoms the basic tombstone data, url to the LJ link and my email addy. So, I don't know if they'll get uploaded or posted or not. Haven't received a message back from either one yet.

And yes, I packed sweatshirts and socks, as I gather it's going to be fairly cold (12F) and rainy most of the week! And a fair number of books to read, in case we're locked into fog for most of the trip, which would be a shame, but weather will do whatever it wants to, LOL. The trip will be fun regardless. I love being on a ship! And we've sailed on the Norwegian Wind before, so we know we really like it.

If we get any good weather, I'll take some photos to send you. 'Bye for now!
iamstealthyone
Aug. 16th, 2006 04:09 am (UTC)
Good first part to this story. I’m a sucker for Dean h/c, so I’m a happy girl right now. *g*

Favorite lines:

"He's fine, Dean; we're both okay," Sam assured him steadily, as he gently stroked his brother's cheek. "You don't need to worry about us right now."

Aww. I love soothing!Sam. *pets Sam*

"Hold on, Dean," he urged in a desperate, strangled whisper, reaching in to tenderly cradle his brother's blood-smeared face in one shaking hand, while his other hand continued to clutch Dean's cold fingers. "You hold on, you hear me? Don't you leave me, Dean. Don't you go."

Great writing there. I can so clearly picture this in my head. I love how Sam is here, the way he touches Dean and the words he speaks. Nicely written angst.

Stunned by the charge, John jerked his head around to glare at him. "What are you talking about?" he nearly shouted, furious. "Of course I care about him. I'd rather be dead than see him hurt like this! If you'd ... if you'd shot me, killed that monster, there wouldn't have been an 'accident' - Dean wouldn't have been hurt so badly! Don't you see that?"

Ouch. You know, John can be a real jerk sometimes, but I can understand where he’s coming from here, even if he's not necessarily right.

His chest tightened and his throat thickened at the memory of the look in Dean's eyes and the desperate pleading tone when his son had begged him to help him - like a hurt little boy, scared and desperately hoping to be saved and yet ... yet so lost, so lost, as if he didn't really believe there'd ever be any help for him. His little boy.

Great take on that torture scene. I like “seeing” it through John’s eyes.

"Well, you keep a close watch, you hear me, son? That thing ... it hasn't given up," John insisted gruffly. "When you need to sleep, you come back here and I'll ... I'll watch over you."

I really like this, how even though John’s gruff and pissed off and worried, when it comes down to it, he loves Sam and will do whatever he can to protect him.

One man, elderly, looked pale with anxious worry. A young woman struggled to contain her tears while an older woman - her mother, maybe - held her hand. In the corner, a priest sat praying with an old woman dressed in black, as if she were already in mourning.

None of them looked possessed by demons.


Yeah, of course Sam would be looking for demons in the people he meets at the hospital. He can’t take any risks. Good details here.

His jaw tight, he moved past her and walked slowly into the room, his eyes first on Dean's chest, to watch him breathe and then on his face, so pale and empty, devoid of vitality. Not like when Dean was sleeping, when he muttered and expressions flitted across his face as he dreamed. This was as if ... as if Dean wasn't in there.

Nicely written there. I like how you made the comparison between how Dean looks while comatose to how he looks while sleeping. My poor Dean! *hugs Dean*

When he reached the narrow bed, he took Dean's limp hand in his own, and his lips thinned at how cold it felt. His gaze drifted around the room and, when he spotted a blanket rolled in the lower part of the bedside table, he pulled it out and opened it to carefully cover his brother, drawing it up and around his shoulders.

Aww, he covered Dean up with a blankie. So sweet. *pets Sam*

Off to read the next part …
caarianna
Aug. 16th, 2006 09:25 pm (UTC)
Your running commentary is GREAT! Thanks so much!

Arianna
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

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