Ice Cold in LA
Warning: swearing. Plus, terrible misuse of medical terminology.
Many thanks for all your reviews so far, and again I'm terribly sorry for not having replied to absolutely everyone. Time has been getting away from me, but I have tried to get around to most people at some point.
Oh, and some of you might not be aware, but I couldn't reply because your private messaging had been disabled. Just thought it might be worth pointing out.
On with the show...
Minute, distant sounds filtered through the darkness, a surprise after so much time spent in relative peace and tranquillity. Someone was talking, voice soft, scared... familiar. It grated on his nerves, his aching head.
Sam moaned and rolled his head away, seeking tranquillity once more, but it was lost to him now.
That voice grew urgent, louder, more demanding.
"Sam... Sammy... c'mon dude... time to wake up."
Leave me alone... Eyes won't open...
Don't wanna open...
Can't... just can't... too tired...
"Look, I know I've been a shitty brother..." the voice sounded hurt, guilty and remorseful.
Sam cracked open his eyes, and took a tentative, long breath.
A white ceiling met his confused gaze, and a sharp smell of disinfectant wafted up his nose.
His first instinct was to run... or maybe scream. Except, he had no energy, no clue where he was, apart from being in a hellhole... er... hospital, and... what the hell was that?
His vision was pretty blurred and he felt ridiculously helpless, but the hairy creature sitting next to him, with the wide, anxious green eyes, was freaking him the hell out.
When the creature moved closer to the bed, reaching out to him, Sam whimpered and tried to shrink away. He was tempted to throw the blankets over his head, but his body refused to cooperate with absolutely any requests for movement. All it seemed interested in was the boilinghotfreezingcold that had him sweating his ass off one moment and freezing it off the next. It angered, confused and scared him all in one go, which was quite the achievement.
Beads of moisture ran down the sides of his face and over his nose, which when combined with some plastic tube he found hooked there only served to heighten his irritation.
"Sammy?" the hairy creature spoke up, sounding kind and worried, withdrew its hand in light of Sam's obvious distress, but made a gesture to its own nose. "Leave that on, kiddo. S'helping you... " It shrugged despondently, in way that gave Sam's memory a twinge and made his heart ache. "You got pretty sick, dude."
Sam frowned as he worked it out.
"D-Dean?" he breathed out, and just the effort of using his vocal cords had him panting with exertion. "Y-you're all..." his frown deepened. "...f-furry," he finished on a sigh, head rolling helplessly across his pillow.
Dean chuckled sadly and rubbed his stubbled jaw line. "Yeah. Not been back to the motel since we brought you in."
Sam blinked slowly and raised an index finger, waggling it weakly at the room. "H-how... l-long?"
Dean appeared to hesitate, as though not sure how much to tell him, then seemed to give in.
"Four, nearly five days. You got pneumonia." This time when he reached out, his hand rested on Sam's shoulder, gently rubbing and squeezing. "Do... do you remember anything, Sam?"
Sam stared at his brother as the memories came flooding forth, and swallowed back bile under a rising wave of nausea.
Oh, he remembered, alright. He remembered all too well. And Dean must have understood from the look on his face or something, because he nodded sadly.
"No room at the inn, so on a freezing cold night you got shitfaced and slept in the car," his mouth twisted in self-derision. "Found you almost frozen to death the next morning. Had to pour boiling water on my baby just to get you out, dumbass."
But though his words were harsh, his voice was gentle and tinged with amusement.
Sam smiled wearily.
"W-was s-s'posed to be g-gone... b-by then," he whispered and closed his eyes for a second. "F-figured it w-was for the b-best if I l-left."
"What?" Dean didn't sound too happy hearing that. "You were gonna walk away... again?"
Sam's eyes flew open at the harsh sound of a chair being scraped across the floor. He flinched when he looked up and saw his very angry looking older brother on his feet and looming over him.
"You sure do give up on family easy, ya know that?" Dean fumed, eyes sparking. "You're a hypocrite, Sam. The slightest difficulty, or the smallest mistake, and you turn tail and run."
Sam's eyes widened, his own anger triggered. "I w-wasn't r-runnin'... you m-made it p-plain h-how you felt..." adrenaline helped him get out the last few words but at a hefty price. "Since Roosevelt... y-you d-dint want me hanging around!"
He slumped, exhausted, breathing heavily through his nose, hoping that was the end of it because, in spite of the oxygen tube, he just couldn't seem to get enough air.
But Dean wasn't anywhere near finished.
"You would have shot me, with my own gun, and you think that just gets forgiven over night? Relationships are hard for a reason, Sam! They take work, and courage, and sacrifice, that's what makes them worthwhile." He suddenly sneered and shook his head. "Gotta say I'm amazed you lasted with Jess as long as you did without walking out and abandoning her. She must've been pretty damn perfect, huh?"
Sam froze, felt the bile rise in his throat once more. He stared, wide-eyed at his brother, the air driven from his lungs. Dean's words tore into his soul, and feasted upon the huge platter of guilt and remorse that had haunted him since Jessica's demise.
The ability to breathe escaped him.
The room dimmed at the edges.
It's all true.
"Sam..." Dean's voice now sounded muffled, and the tone had changed. "Sammy, I'm sorry, dude." Gone was the anger, replaced by deep concern and regret. "I had no right to say that to you... shouldn't have brought Jess into it... not your fault... Sam? Sammy, breathe!"
Sam got to witness Dean's face lose all colour, before a sharp pain suddenly arced through his chest and radiated out down his left arm. He bit back a moan. His chest felt like it was being crushed under a heavy weight.
He felt movement and heard Dean yelling for help. Heard a beeping noise, and realised it had been there all along, but only just registered in his brain now it had gone berserk...
Somehow, someone else had come into his room without him noticing, because they were standing over him, talking to him, asking him questions he couldn't understand or answer. In the background, Dean paced, hands behind his head, face twisted with worry and grief... Sam wanted to know why. He wanted to call out to his brother, but the pain sharpened, making him gasp for a breath that just wouldn't come.
The room faded amid beeps and raised voices; peace and tranquillity became his refuge once again.
Oh holy hell what the fuck have I done to him?
Dean was horrified the very moment the rant escaped, and he wanted to chase after the words, grab them from the air before they entered Sam's ears, and stuff them back in his own mouth.
He hadn't meant it, not that like that anyway, but when he heard Sam talk about leaving, so soon after almost losing him to hypothermia, his internal panic alarm went haywire and shut off all reason, leaving his brain in the grip of fearangerfearangerfearanger.
He was exhausted and scared half to death. Sleep deprivation, from his four day long vigil at his little brother's bedside, had taken its toll and spilled out shit all over Sammy.
Kid hadn't deserved it. Any of it.
Dean watched helplessly as Sam struggled to breathe, only the whites of his eyes showing. The cardiac monitor went insane, and before Dean could even reach for the call button, the door to Sam's room was flung open, admitting a grey haired, white coated, middle aged guy, wearing a stethoscope round his neck.
"Sam? Can you hear me?" he ignored Dean, went straight to his patient and gently thumbed open Sam's eyes one at a time, shining a small penlight in each. "Sam, I know you're not feeling too good right now, but I need you to stay awake and talk to me, ok? Sam?"
Dean's heart sank.
Sam's face was a mask of pain, and white as the snow outside the hospital room window. His breathing sounded harsh, as though every draw of air was a gargantuan effort.
"Sam?" the doctor, whose voice had been gentle but clipped, now became laced with worry. "Sam, can you hear me?" he repeated.
Dean was horrified when Sam's head rolled to one side, mouth suddenly slackened, as though he'd completely given up.
"He's coding," the doc muttered and whipped the pillow out from under Sam's head. A quick press of the call button invited several more medical professionals into the room, one of them pushing what Dean recognised as a crash cart.
He guessed he'd seen way too many medical dramas.
"Sir, I need you to step outside..."
Yep. That too.
He left without putting up a fight. He figured he owed Sammy at least that.
Out in the hall, feeling lost, guilty and lonely, Dean sniffed, sobbed and paced. This had to be a record. Two screw-ups in the same week, both resulting in his brother's pain.
As for the self-flagellation, if he thought the first one was bad from earlier in the week when they first admitted Sam, this time around was going to be a real humdinger.
If Sam didn't survive this, Dean wouldn't either. John Winchester was going to lose both his sons, one way or another, and Dean couldn't bring himself to feel guilty about that.
God! Roosevelt was a bad enough memory on its own for Dean, without all this. By pushing Sam away he'd only made things a thousand times worse, rather than better. And to think he'd just accused Sam of giving up on his family.
Dean's pacing sped up, his stride lengthened. Over the last four days, he'd debated calling his dad, but knew from experience there wouldn't be a response. He'd just end up leaving a voicemail message that he wasn't even sure would ever be heard. Pastor Jim, Bobby Singer, and Caleb were too far away, and in any case what could any of them do that the doctors couldn't?
He sent his dad a text. Just in case.
Having finally worn himself out, Dean leaned up against the wall of Sam's room, and sank down until his butt was resting on the floor, head on knees.
This was his chance to really reflect on the last few days, anything to take his mind off what was happening in the next room.
Dean's first good look at Sam, after he was carted away into the ER four days ago, came when the middle aged doctor approached him in the waiting room and introduced himself. Dr Morvant had been kind and congratulatory over the lengths Dean had gone to for Sam.
They'd quietly entered Sam's room, and watched the kid from the end of his bed. Sam's breath had fogged up the oxygen mask with a reassuring, regular pattern, and Dean had breathed right along with him for the first time in what seemed like hours. The kid was still pale, but looked less like a corpse, and his body was covered with a heating blanket.
The doctor assured Dean that Sam was warming up slowly and his blood pressure was almost back to normal. His piercing blue eyes had twinkled when he smiled and patted the older brother on the shoulder.
Well done, Son. You saved his life.
Twelve hours after Sam came out of ICU he went straight back in again with pneumonia, and there he stayed, with Dean camped out in the chair next to his bed.
Dean snorted into a knee cap, feeling the denim of his jeans grow suspiciously wet.
Saved his life.
Saved him just to poleaxe him in his own sick bed. Dean was disgusted with himself.
If... when Sam got better, Dean was going to get down on his knees and beg for forgiveness from the kid, and he didn't care how long it took. He wasn't giving up. Not this time.
It seemed like hours before Dean heard the door to Sam's room open.
"Dean," Doc Morvant appeared beside him, dropped into a crouch. "We need to talk, Son."
Dean glanced up, filled with dread. "Is he...?"
The doc immediately shook his head, and Dean sagged with relief. "Sorry I scared you. Sam's alive, but there are a few things we have to discuss."
Dean rubbed both hands up and down his face and nodded. "Uh... sure. Shoot."
The doctor smiled. "Not here. Let's go somewhere more private."
His manner seemed congenial enough, courteous, and all friendly concern, so Dean took that as a good sign. He wearily climbed to his feet, straightened his jacket and trudged after the guy.
Nothing was said in the short walk to the guy's office. Doc Morvant gestured to a chair and closed the office door. Dean nodded, wondered at the strange 'called to the Principal's office' feeling, and sat down while the doc perched on the corner of his desk.
"So, how's he doing? When can I see him?" asked Dean, anxiously. "Is he gonna be ok? Is he awake?"
"Sam suffered a cardiac arrest," the doctor murmured, softly, then held up a hand when Dean's mouth dropped open in dismay. "He's going to be fine, so long as he takes certain precautions. I've intubated him for now, and although it will look pretty scary to you, it's just to help him so he doesn't have to work too hard at this stage. We're going to monitor him very closely over the coming week, make sure his heart's going to be ok, and not under too much stress."
"Do you think...?" mind latching on to the word 'stress', Dean swallowed back his nervousness and tried again. "Do you think I might have been the cause of it? I mean, we'd been fighting a lot recently."
The doc tilted his head. "Sam's body has been under some considerable strain from the hypothermia, closely followed by pneumonia," he said, gently. "There's a chance it might've happened anyway, regardless of whatever transpired between you two in his room just now."
So the doc knew something had been said or done to upset Sam. And although he was trying to put Dean's mind at rest, it was telling that he hadn't confirmed or denied the older brother's suspicions.
"Shit!" Dean suddenlt felt dizzy and sick. "This is my fault. When he woke up... I yelled at him. Said some things... oh God! I'm gonna hurl..."
And he did. But a trashcan was already there under his nose, held by the doctor who was watching him with concern. He waited patiently for Dean to finish then pushed a box of tissues under his nose.
Dean nodded and wiped his mouth, grimacing at the bitter taste of bile.
"Thanks," he mumbled, flushing with embarrassment. "Sorry 'bout that."
"Not a problem," the doc answered. "But this is partly what I wanted to talk to you about."
"Huh?" Dean blinked. "Did I miss something? I thought we were talking about Sam."
"We are," Dr Morvant settled back, one leg crossed over a knee. "Neither of you are in a particularly fit state. Both of you have recently been drinking heavily – I tested Sam's blood for medical reasons, and smelled alcohol on your breath when you came in with him. You're both exhausted and malnourished. You should have been eating far more over the last few days." He pointed an accusing finger at Dean. "In fact, I've hardly seen you eat at all. That's not good for someone of your stature. Your brother even less so, given his height, and something tells me this has been going on for far too long."
Dean stared at him, utterly speechless. He was twenty six years old and having his knuckled rapped like a school boy.
"I can't force you two to eat properly or stay off the booze," the doc continued, either blind to Dean's indignant reaction or just plain ignoring it. "But I will advise you as best I can. Sam needs plenty of rest, and healthy food. And you," he suddenly got up and crossed the room. A familiar looking duffle lay on top of a dull, grey filing cabinet. The doc picked it up and strode back over, dumping it in Dean's lap, "need a change of clothes. There's a visitor's bathroom just down the hall. It's even got a shower. Use it."
He grinned at the incredulous look on Dean's face. "Courtesy of Tarquin."
Dean raised an eyebrow. "Excuse me? Who the hell is Tarquin?"
"Motel owner? Surfer guy? Keeps saying everything's 'sweeeet, dude!'?" The doc folded his arms, amused. "He came by earlier this afternoon, but you'd fallen asleep so I asked him not to disturb you. He says hi, hopes your 'little bro is cool' – no pun intended - and that your 'sweeeet ride' is all locked up safe, ready for you to collect."
"Uh..." Dean shook his head, a little overwhelmed. "Thanks. I don't know what to say."
Seriously, who the hell names their kid Tarquin?
"Don't mention it," said the doc. "Just go get that shower and something to eat before you go see your brother. He'll be out cold from sedatives while on the ventilator anyhow, so take your time."
Dean gathered, from the look on his face, the doc knew that last comment was a complete waste of breath.
Freshly shaved, clean clothes, stomach, if not full, certainly a little less empty than it had been, Dean felt in better spirits by the time he poked his head round Sam's door. But it soon faded and his heart sank with dismay. Kid looked so helpless and vulnerable on the vent.
He slipped inside the room and slunk over to the bed, like a dog with its tail right down.
Dean stared at his silent little brother's face, reached out and smoothed a few stray locks of hair over Sam's ears.
"Need to get your hair trimmed one of these days, kiddo," he murmured, softly, letting the back of his fingers trail gently over Sam's cheek, something he hadn't allowed himself to do since the kid turned twelve. Winchesters abandoned all displays of affection once they hit their double figures, but with Sam he had made an exception for two more years. His little brother always was a lot more touchy feely than the rest of their little clan, so Dean knew he wouldn't mind.
If he was honest, the gesture was more to comfort himself than Sam, who was currently drugged up to the gills and probably couldn't feel it anyhow.
With that in mind, Dean felt it was the perfect time to start practicing his apologetics, and if Sam did, by chance, manage to hear them, then all the better.
He sat down on the edge of the bed and grasped one of Sam's huge paws.
"You still feel a little cold, buddy," he whispered, softly, rubbing Sam's fingers. With a sigh, he hung his head. "I don't really know where to begin. There's so much I need to apologise for, yet there's nothing I can really say to make it all better."
Dean placed his other hand on Sam's chest, feeling the rise and fall as the vent did its work.
"I'm so sorry, kiddo," he said, letting the tears go. They dripped down his face and off the end of his nose, but he did nothing to wipe them away. "I've treated you like shit, I know that. I over-reacted after Roosevelt. It wasn't you, not really. Sure, you and I have issues, who doesn't? But I know, in my heart, that you wouldn't have hurt me if you'd been in your right mind. God knows what I might've done if I'd gotten the full dose! So it's NOT ok for me to stand in judgment over you, and it sure as hell ain't my place to either."
He felt a light squeeze on the hand holding Sam's, and glanced down.
Sam's fingers were moving slightly, rubbing gently against Dean's.
It seemed the sedatives weren't quite powerful enough to knock the kid out all the way. Dean smiled a little. Sam's a big guy, after all.
"And as for what I said when you woke up, hell…" Dean continued, squeezing Sam's hand with more confidence. "That was a really shitty thing to do to you; kicking you when you were down. And for the record? I don't blame you for wanting to leave. After this, I wouldn't blame you if you decided you never wanted to see me again."
There came a slightly harder squeeze on Dean's hand, and this time it didn't let up, as though Sam was desperate to keep him there.
"Don't worry, Sammy," Dean answered his brother's silent plea. "I'm staying right here until you wake up, I promise." He leaned over and lowered his mouth to Sam's ear. "I know I've never said it, mainly because I always hoped you just knew, but I fucking love you, kid. You hearin' me Sammy? You're my little brother, and I love you so damn much it hurts sometimes. So you get better, ok? You get better, you wake all the way up, and we'll talk this out."
Dean woke up to an insistent vibrating in his jacket pocket. His eyes widened when he saw the caller ID.
"Pastor Jim," he said with false levity. "Long time no see."
"Indeed," said the Pastor, quietly. "I received an email from an unknown source this morning. It told me some disturbing news about Sam."
The last sentence sounded more like a question.
"Seriously?" asked Dean, a little shocked. "I didn't realise Dad knew about email. They haven't covered it in Luddite Monthly yet."
There was a soft, muffled snort down the line and Dean grinned. Jim Murphy always tried to play down his wicked sense of humour, but he'd never managed to fool the Winchesters.
"How is he?" asked the Pastor, after he'd composed himself. "Sam, I mean."
Dean looked at his brother, took in the pale features and the sunken shadows under his eyes.
"Not great, but he's getting there," he answered as honestly as he could. "It… it was too close, Pastor Jim. I nearly lost the kid this time. And it was my fault."
He heard a long, slow breath exhaled on the other end before the guy spoke again.
"Tell me everything…"
When Dean finished off-loading all his transgressions, in a weird kind of Phone Confessional, i.e. the bathroom next door, Jim clucked his tongue and chuckled.
"You boys don't do anything by halves, just like your father," he murmured. "But you say that Sam's going to be ok?"
"Yeah," said Dean, feeling marginally better. He didn't believe in God, and he certainly didn't go to church but, somehow, talking to Pastor Jim had made a difference. Made him feel more able to cope. "He's still on assisted breathing, and they're monitoring his heart just in case, but his doc insists Sam will recover given time. He just needs to take it easy for a spell."
"Do you boys have any thoughts on where you're going to rest up?" Jim inquired.
"I was thinking 'bout heading to the Pacific Coast Highway, maybe find a half decent motel with a view and plenty of heating," replied Dean. He'd been warming to the idea more and more after Dr Morvant suggested it. "Figured the fresh sea air will do Sammy the world of good. Just gotta keep the kid wrapped up."
"Excellent idea," the Pastor said, approvingly. "There's a very nice little place not far along the coast from where you are right now, in fact. I'll book you in. A couple of weeks to start off with, then we'll take it from there."
"W-what?" Dean spluttered in amazement. "Two weeks? Dude, that's… that's awesome."
Pastor Jim laughed. "You're quite welcome. And your father has taken care of Sam's medical insurance, made sure it's all 'properly' covered," his voice grew serious. "I wasn't supposed to tell you, but I thought it was worth mentioning. It was all filed anonymously so it couldn't be traced; that way, you boys wouldn't be implicated if there was any come back. He couldn't come to you because it was too dangerous. But he's been there for you both all along, son."
Dean had to swallow several times to lose the huge lump in his throat. "Right. Thanks for letting me know."
"You know where I am if you need anything else," Jim Murphy paused and then added. "Dean, you know Sam will forgive you anything. But you have to forgive yourself, son. That's the only way to true peace of mind."
"Yeah, sure," easier said than done. "And thanks again, Pastor Jim."
"You boys take good care of each other, now."
After the call ended, Dean sat back down next to Sam's bed, cell phone in hand, staring at the floor.
"Wow. Now that I wasn't expecting."
Sam was awake and in the middle of being exubated by the time Dean returned from his coffee run. Seeing the pain and discomfort on his little brother's face, Dean inwardly cursed himself for having stepped out at the wrong time. He winced when the tube was pulled free, leaving Sam choking and gasping painfully, and headed for the water jug on the nightstand.
There was at least something he could do for his brother.
Dr Morant stood over Sam's bed, rubbing the kid's shoulder and smiling.
"That's it, nice and easy now," said the doc, encouragingly. "You're gonna be sore for a while, but I can give you something for that. Just try not to talk for a while, huh?"
"Geggg…gaaggggatch…" Sam nearly choked again, grasped desperately at the straw being held out, shoved it into his mouth and began gulping ice cold water greedily. His eyes closed for a second in bliss, then opened again and travelled down the straw, over the cup of water, and up the leather clad arm of his big brother. Sam, still sucking eagerly on the water like a four year old, blinked up at Dean, head wobbling sleepily.
"Take it easy, little bro," Dean murmured and gently palmed the back of Sam's scull. "Don't go making yourself sick now."
Sam's red-rimmed eyes remained fixed on him until he drained the cup.
"Thanks," he croaked, and sank back against the pillows.
"Anytime, dude," Dean replied, kindly. "Anytime."
Sam stared at up at Dean, mouth opening and closing as though wanting to talk and not having the energy.
Dean smiled and rested a hand on Sam's chest, rubbing carefully. "Later. We'll talk later, Sammy," he spotted the anxiety in the kid's eyes and nodded. "Ain't nothing for you to worry about, dude. Just got some apologising to do. Me, that is."
Sam slowly shook his head. "N-no. Y-you already did that," he raised a finger to his ear and grinned tiredly. "I heard you."
Sam slapped a hand clumsily over his brother's. "No buts."
But Dean couldn't leave it alone. "I can't... Sammy what I said about Jess..."
"S'ok. Forget it."
"Ahem," Doc Morvant, who had remained tactfully quiet while checking Sam's vitals and administering more pain meds into his IV, cleared his throat before the brothers could start laying into each other. "Your fever's dropped a little and your last cardiac marker profile showed improvement. I'll be by later for your next examination, Sam, but in the meantime, I suggest you both get some sleep."
Dean waited until he left the room, a couple of scrub-clad nurses in his wake, before rounding on Sam again.
"What I said was stupid and cruel," he said quickly, cutting Sam off before he could even open his mouth. "And I hope that one day you'll be able to forgive me."
"Already done and dusted, man." Sam sighed and gazed at Dean with a tired, half-smile. "And I guess it makes us even. After what I did at Roosevelt..."
"Sam, don't you go there!" Dean snapped. "You were possessed by that bastard Ellicot, what was my excuse? Huh? You tell me that! My anger and vindictiveness almost got you killed, for fuck sake! How the hell can you forgive me so easy?"
Sam nodded slowly, eyes wide and moist, then struggled up into a sitting position, still clutching Dean's hand to his chest. "'Cos you're my big brother, and I love you so damn much that sometimes it hurts," he whispered, rendering Dean speechless.
Having your own words thrown back at you wasn't supposed to make feel good about yourself, yet Sam had managed it, in spite of all the drugs.
Dean stared at him for a long, long time. Taking the kid completely by surprise, he leaned over and wrapped him up in his arms, ignoring the urge to squeeze him tight in case he hurt him... again.
"Never said that, bitch!" he finally replied, petulantly, pulling away and wiping his nose.
"Sure you did, jerk!" Sam grinned suddenly. "And we were holding hands at the time. What's it gonna be next? Chocolates and flowers?"
"No, but I might just get you a knuckle sandwich, heavy on the knuckles, if you don't shut the hell up!" growled Dean, good naturedly.
Sam's chuckle was a little drowsy, indicative of his pending sleep. "Aw man. S'sweet, Dean. You luuurrrve me!"
"I said shut up, Sam, or no two week vacation on the coast!"
"And you're taking me away from all this? Oh my!"
"Alright, that's the last time I'm letting them give you morphine, I swear it!"
Thanks for reading and reviewing everyone.
I apologise for not finishing and posting this sooner, as I had intended.
Unfortunately, our black labrador pup, Nelson, got a bit of a tummy bug and kept throwing up everywhere.
Possible epilogue for this coming up, involving their vacation.
Haven't fully decided yet, mainly depends on how busy things get over the next few days, so it might not be until next week.
Hope that's ok.
Big Sam and Dean cuddles to you all.