Title: Consumed Memories
Characters: Sam, Dean, John
Genre: Gen, hurt/comfort
Disclaimer: I don't own Supernatural except in my dreams where schmoop abounds.
Warnings: Rated for show level violence and language. Spoilers for Season 1.
Word Count: ~3,600
Summary: After a seemingly sucessful hunt, Dean begins acting strangly and it gets progessively worse. Will Sam be able to solve the mystery and fix the problem in time to save him? hurt!Dean caring!Sam
Chapter 1 Go Dean
If he was honest with himself, Dean didn't actually remember being attacked by the Stalker. He was nothing if not confident in his abilities and he hadn't even seen the damn thing, which was just fucking weird. Hello, invisible could have something to do with it. He'd been about one third of the way down the hall, a turn coming up just ahead of him, alert and in full-on hunter mode, moving cautiously with his back up against the wall, just like he always did when forced to hunt solo. He'd gotten good at it during the times he and his Dad had split up to go on separate hunts after Sam left for college and it came in handy now when Sam was getting the Stalker's latest victim to safety. He was the fucking poster child for 'stealth and lethal grace' with both hands gripping his pistol, closing the door to each office once he had cleared it, and moving on to the next office keeping only closed doors and cleared spaces behind him as he went.
The next thing he knew, he was lying on the floor, looking up into his baby brother's worried face. Yay, go Dean! So yeah, he was confused and a little bit embarrassed, but also genuinely proud when he learned that Sam had taken out the Stalker single handed. His little brother totally kicked ass. And he was still just trying to figure out how it happened while answering Sam's questions when Sam pointed out that he was still lying on the ground, having made no attempt whatsoever to regain his feet. It had nothing to do with the lethargy that was creeping over him or the fact that he felt a tiny bit dizzy. Really.
Sam seemed somewhat reassured at Dean's embarrassed chuckle as he unbent his long legs from his concerned crouch and reached a hand down to pull Dean into an upright position.
"Thanks, Sammy. You really came through." Dean slapped his brother's shoulder good-naturedly and watched Sam through lowered lashes, trying to judge how upset his brother was that he hadn't waited for Sam to get back before going after the Stalker as he'd said he would. But Sam was riding the high of a successful kill.
"Hey, no problem, it's not like you haven't done the same thing for me about a million times." Sam was excited and obviously self-satisfied. The hunt had gone well, no one had gotten hurt including the man they had rescued from the Stalker moments ago, fugly's done for, and it had even dissipated leaving no clean up for a change. It was like the Winchester version of paradise on earth. No reason to spoil the mood by mentioning that now, once he was standing, Dean wasn't so sure about his ability to walk in a straight line unassisted. Nothing to worry about, he probably just needed a good meal and some down time.
"How about we hit that Irish pub we saw over on Granby Street, grab some dinner and a few beers before we head back to the motel? I could go for something hot and sweet if you know what I mean." Dean smirked, eyes crinkling merrily. He could always get enthusiastic about food and what better way to distract Sammy from his lingering anxiety and keep the kid from hovering over him too much, noticing the less than purposeful way he was moving, than a suggestive comment or two.
"Sounds like a plan." Sam complied easily as he made one more sweep of the office and bent down to retrieve the bullet casings and erase any other signs of their presence.
Dean carefully waited until Sam led the way out of the room and followed after him where Sam couldn't see his hand trailing along the hallway wall, keeping him from weaving around too much. Once they reached the stairwell it was even easier to hide the signs of his dizziness as he held on to the railing the entire way down to the 1st floor. The activity seemed to revive him and by the time they walked out of the office building into the fresh air, Dean was steady enough to make it to the Impala without drawing Sam's unwanted attention.
It was just a couple of blocks ride to Sullivan's Pub and the streets of downtown Norfolk were relatively deserted at 9:30PM. The pub was doing a steady trade though, so the young men found themselves a booth in a secluded corner where they could blend in unobserved. When the waitress came to take their order, Dean flashed his most charming smile accompanied by a cocky wink and asked for a serving of shepherd's pie and whatever beer was on tap.
"Sam, its dinner and its pie!" Dean chortled.
"Yeah, that's great. I'm really happy for you." Sam deadpanned, although he couldn't completly hide the upward twitch of his lips.
Sam ordered Brunswick stew and some imported Irish beer that Dean had never heard of.
While they ate they discussed the hunt quietly. The pub was busy enough and loud enough to keep individual conversations from being overheard by the surrounding tables. Their conversation morphed to encompass the sights they had taken in during the last couple of days. They laughed about the painted mermaids the city seemed obsessed with. The easy camaraderie felt good, really good. It was partly the afterglow of a successful hunt, knowing that the fugly would no longer be hurting innocent people, but it was more than just that. They had always been close as brothers, closer than most due to the circumstances of their childhoods. They were never more at ease than when they were with each other. God help him, but Dean just felt more like himself when Sam was there.
Dinner and a few beers behind them and Dean began to feel the exhaustion from earlier in the evening make a reappearance. Unfortunately the warm, stuffy bar and the heavy beer that had been on tap were not helping the situation and Dean felt his eyelids begin to get heavy. Suddenly he jerked slightly and looked up to see Sam watching him with an amused expression on his goofy face. OK, awkward much?
"You gettin' your jollies over there?" Dean asked, voice rough with exhaustion.
"Yup, it's a real treat watching you fall asleep. I was just waiting to see if your head would actually hit the table this time."
"Yeah, well. You ready to get out of here? Pass me the keys, I'm driving."
Dean didn't put up a fight, just reached into his pocket and handed over his baby's keys. There was no way he would be able to win that argument, not after getting caught dozing. The idea of relaxing in the passenger seat and letting his brother get them back to the motel was sounding pretty good anyway.
The purr of the engine, the vibration of the road under the tires, and Dean was almost completely asleep, slumped over against the passenger door with his head resting lightly on the cool window, soon after getting into the car. Sam parked right in front of their room and made a ton of noise getting out of the car. Huh, is that Sam's way of letting me save a little face by waking me up without letting on? If so, it was appreciated, big brother image had already taken enough of a beating today.
By the time they made it back to the motel, Sam had gone from being tolerantly amused by his big brother's unwitting attempt to fall asleep with his face in his beer mug to being slightly anxious. Dean was normally energy personified, lightning in a bottle would be a good description. He was constantly in motion, pacing, tapping, or working, but always doing something. Even when he was just watching TV his leg would be bouncing or his fingers drumming. The only time Sam ever saw Dean just flake out in the car was when he was hurt or they had gone several nights without sleep as sometimes happened in the middle of a difficult hunt. This hunt hadn't been difficult, they had both gotten a good night's sleep last night and Dean wasn't hurt, was he? Now Sam was beginning to wonder. After all, when he'd found Dean the Stalker was standing over him and Dean had been limp, completely out of it. Once the Stalker was taken care of, Dean had bounced right back though, OK, maybe not so much bounced, but he had appeared to recover by the time they got out of the building.
As he made a loud production out of getting his laptop and jacket from the back seat, he watched Dean out of the corner of his eye. What did they know about Stalkers? He remembered doing the research. There hadn't been a lot of information available. There weren't many survivors of Stalker attacks. In fact, the one man they had saved earlier this evening was only one of two known people who had walked away from an attack by a Stalker and Dean made three. Both of the other survivors suffered memory loss, but so far as Sam had been able to ascertain, Dean's memory was completely intact. Probably because the Stalker was dead and any memories it might have stolen from Dean's head had been released, at least that's what his research told him would happen. Sam began to run through the events of the last several days since the beginning of the hunt, searching for clues to Dean's unusual behavior.
Two days previously.
Sam was perusing the internet from their motel room in Cosby, Tennessee, looking for unexplained occurrences, when he came across a recent article that sounded like it was right up their alley.
"Listen to this. Police Stumped by Second Mysterious Office Building Death." He read the headline out loud for Dean's benefit.
"Police stumped." Dean scoffed. "It doesn't take much to do that, but what else does it say?"
"Seems that both office workers died in the evening and their bodies were found by other office workers after the building had been locked up for the night in one case and the next morning in the other case. The deaths occurred five days apart. The second one was just found yesterday. ME can't find any cause of death, no trauma, no heart failure, it looks as though they just stopped breathing."
"What about a gas leak? Couldn't that account for the deaths?"
"The police already ruled that out. Great minds think alike." Sam teased.
Frowning at the comparison, Dean made a 'continue' motion with one hand.
"Ummm, both victims were known work-a-holics, one male one female. They worked in the same office building, but on different floors and for different companies. The police haven't found anything to connect the victims."
"OK, I'll bite, where is all this going down?"
"Norfolk, Virginia. I've never heard of it, you and Dad ever go there?" Sam looked up expectantly.
"Sounds kinda familiar. Pull up a map and let's take a look." Dean indicated the laptop with a quick jab of his finger.
"Here it is, over on the southeastern coast of Virginia. Ummmm, Dean…" Sam's voice trailed off.
"What's the matter?"
"Look at the name of this area just to the south of Norfolk in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. It's called Kill Devil Hills. You think there could be anything to that?"
"Nah, Sammy. Dad and I already spent quite a bit of time checking it out while you were, you know, at Stanford." Dean looked away and the muscles in his jaw worked silently. He cleared his throat self consciously. "Been there, done that, got the t-shirt. It turned out to be nothing."
"So, Norfolk then. We can probably get there by tomorrow late afternoon if we leave first thing in the morning." Sam came to the rescue, moving the topic back to the hunt and away from the difficult time when Dean had been left with only their Dad for back up.
Next morning, Sam woke up to the sound of humming coming from the bathroom. He stretched and scratched absently at his bare chest while contemplating the long day of driving they had ahead of them.
Just then Dean's head poked around the doorframe as if his 'little brother radar' had gone off and he didn't want to miss an opportunity to get a jab in. "Morning Princess, nice of you to join us in the land of the living."
"Whatever, you could've woken me up earlier if you were in a hurry." Sam wasn't in the mood for banter first thing in the morning even though he'd come to expect it.
"Nah, no hurry, but I did want to stop at that bakery down the street to grab breakfast while the donuts are still fresh. They'll have those muffins and croissants you go for too, Geekboy." Dean's eyes sparkled with mirth and Sam threw a sock in his general direction.
Sam dressed in his most comfortable pair of jeans, a faded green t-shirt, and a warm hoodie in preparation for a day spent in the car. He took his turn in the bathroom and then made a thorough check under beds and in drawers to make sure everything had been packed up. With their limited belongings they couldn't afford to leave anything behind. Dean had gone to check them out of the motel and turn in the keys, so Sam took the bags out to the car. It was a familiar routine. As he waited for Dean to get back to the car, Sam stood looking out on the lush green Tennessee landscape. It had rained most of the time they'd been here, but this morning the sun was shining and it lit up the peaks of the surrounding hills. There was a thick layer of fog in the valleys, but it would soon be burned away as the sun got higher in the sky.
He would be glad to leave this place behind, as beautiful as it was. Too many bad memories from the hunt they'd just completed flashed through his mind when he looked at the heavily wooded hills. Fucking hillbilly moonshiners. He was still moving gingerly even though they had stayed a couple of extra days to give him a chance to recuperate.
"Whatcha lookin at?" Dean wanted to know as he arrived back at the car.
"Just admiring the view." Sam turned and moved back toward the passenger door.
"Well, if you're done admiring we should get a move on. Sooner we get started, the sooner we'll get there."
"Gee, Dean, really? Cause I woulda never thought of that."
Dean just cracked a grin and said, "Yeah, I could really use some coffee too. Let's get over to that bakery before they sell out of everything."
The bakery was obviously a locals' hang out. The proprietor knew all his customers by name and the atmosphere was friendly. It was just the kind of place where Sam felt at home. He would have liked to stay while they ate breakfast, but Dean placed their order to go. Sam just sighed, he recognized Dean's mood immediately. It was his 'nothing stands in the way of a new hunt' mood. Predictably, Dean didn't want to slow down until they reached their destination and could begin planning their steps to find out what was killing people in Norfolk.
After nine hours in the car with stops only to eat lunch and fuel up the Impala, they arrived. The city was an interesting mix of urban and residential areas with a strong military presence evident from the Naval Shipyard. They found a cheap motel that catered to young military families.
"What did you find out about the two people who died so far?" Dean asked once they had settled into their room and Sam had opened his laptop to begin his search for information relevant to the case.
"I have names and addresses for next of kin. The first victim was Scott Old, age 54. He was an attorney and his body was found by a paralegal in his office on the 10th floor the following morning. The second victim was Ellen Salter, age 43. She worked for an accounting firm on the 4th floor. Coworkers found her body near the elevator as they were leaving the office late at night. We could start off by interviewing family members. I also have the address for the office building where they were killed. There won't be many people there now since it's after five o'clock, but we could still go check it out. What do you think?"
Dean thought about the choices and came to a decision. "We should start by interviewing the family members today and then head over to the office building, see what security is like in the evening."
Sam nodded slowly. Interviews with people who had recently lost loved ones were difficult. Remembering the days immediately following Jess's death, he sat heavily on the edge of the bed. He hadn't wanted to talk to anyone and luckily, Dean had been there to do most of his talking for him.
Shaking his head to clear the unwelcome memories, Sam asked, "Who do you think they'll be willing to talk to?"
"We could do the priest thing, like at the Miller's." Dean suggested.
"Hmmm, but we don't even know if these people are religious. Besides, I don't ever feel real good about impersonating a priest. Makes me feel like a creep."
"OK, how about the CDC. The deaths don't seem violent, so a logical possibility might be some sort of disease or contaminant that got into the office building. Of course, you and I know there are a lot of other not-so-logical possibilities." Dean shrugged.
"That might work."
They dressed in their all-purpose suits. Since they each only had one, the same suit had to suffice whether they were pretending to be law enforcement, going to a funeral, or hanging out in an office building trying not to stand out like a sore thumb. Dean's distress was evident the moment he realized that this job was likely to require much more disguise time than the average job. Dean hated wearing his suit because it hindered his movements and made it more difficult for him to get to his ever present weapons, a knife strapped to his ankle and his pistol stashed in the waistband of his pants. Even a fraction of a second could mean the difference between saving a life and watching that life expire in front of his eyes bringing a sense of crushing failure.
"This sucks, Sam." Dean fidgeted with his tie before taking it off and throwing it on the bed.
The best way to handle this was to just wait it out. There was no way Dean would allow his own comfort to get in the way of saving other people. Sam didn't say a word, just continued to put on his shoes and adjust his tie. After a couple of minutes, Dean grunted and continued with his own preparations. A few minutes later they were headed out of the motel room in complete business suits with CDC badges stuffed in their pockets.
On to ( Chapter 2 )