Title: Consumed Memories
Characters: Sam, Dean
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: ~4,400
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 5 Melt Down
Dean didn't let go of his brother's sleeve until they pulled into the pharmacy parking lot. Even then it wasn't without effort. As soon as he released his death grip, Sam was out of the car and around to the passenger side, reaching in to grab Dean's elbow to help him out of the car. He had to huff out a laugh because his little brother was in what Dean liked to refer to as his Golden Retriever mode, all eager helpfulness and devotion. A picture of Sam sitting at the edge of the bed with a pair of slippers in his mouth jumped into his mind.
They walked into the pharmacy side by side, Sam keeping pace with Dean's slow guarded stride. Trembling legs would only move but so fast and he had to focus on staying upright while also holding on to the fragments of his day still belonging to him. He relied on Sam to guide him down the correct aisle, which Sam did dutifully with a nudge or a redirecting pull on his arm.
There was a large selection of energy boosting products including energy gum and energy shot drinks that advertized 6 hours of increased productivity and increased concentration. Perfect. Flavors of the drinks ranged from coffee flavored to berry flavored to chocolate flavored. Not knowing how long he would need a supply of energy or how well any of it would work, he loaded up a hand held basket with several different brands and flavors of the small bottles of liquid and five packs of Jolt gum.
On the way back to the check out counter, he stumbled forward and was unable to catch himself, but Sam was right there with a hand against his chest and a murmured, "Whoa, steady." Sounded kinda like Sam was talking to a horse.
Before they even got back to the car, Dean popped a piece of gum into his mouth and began chewing. It had a citrus flavor and made his tongue tingle. Even though he had built up quite a caffeine tolerance over the years, he still noticed that his head began to clear of cobwebs marginally. This shit might actually work. Feeling a surge of hope, he pulled one of the chocolate flavored energy shot drinks out of the plastic bag the cashier had placed them in and drank the entire bottle in one swig.
Sam stayed by his side until he was all the way in the passenger seat, then closed his door, and jogged around to the driver's side. Once inside the car, Sam turned a questioning stare on him.
"How is it now?" Sam finally broke the silence that had fallen on them ever since Dean's plea for caffeine.
"Better...it's better. I can focus more, hold onto…my thoughts, I guess." Was his voice quivering? It must have been because here came Sam's large hand giving his knee a reassuring squeeze.
"So, you're still losing memory and its worse when you fall asleep, is that it?" Sam's stare continued to bore right through him.
Dean nodded sharply, grateful that he didn't have to explain, that Sam just seemed to know, to understand.
"It's insidious the way it works, draining your strength to make you sleep so you can't consciously hold onto your thoughts and memories." Sam was thinking out loud as he turned his attention back to pulling out of the parking lot and into traffic.
"Mmm hmm, hey Sam, where are we going anyway?" He asked while reaching for another of the energy bottles, this time berry flavored.
That's when Sam started talking. He explained where they were going, why they were going there, and what they had done so far. He couldn't know what Dean had lost so he covered all the bases. He didn't stop talking until they reached Jack's house. Dean soaked it all in, listening intently to every word like the words were a tether, holding him firmly in the present.
The houses lining the blocks in Jack's neighborhood were all two story brick homes with well manicured lawns and nicely tended flower beds. Jack's house was no exception. As he pulled up in front of the beautiful home, Sam turned his head to take stock of his older brother's condition. He's wired. Dean's eyes were glassy and his movements were jerky.
"Don't you think you should pace yourself?" He asked and snagged the box of Jolt gum away from his hyped-up brother before he could get a second yellow rectangle into his mouth. "It says on the box that one of those energy shot bottles should last for six hours and you've had three of them plus a piece of gum in the last half hour."
"Yeah, but they don't, Sam." Dean spoke fast and clipped his words off almost before he'd even gotten them out.
"They don't what?"
"They don't last six hours." Dean made a swipe for the box of gum, even though there were four other boxes in the bag at his feet.
"Dean, I just think you'd better slow down. Have you thought about what's gonna happen when you crash off this caffeine high you've got going? 'Cause I'm thinking that's not going to be a good thing."
Dean glared, but didn't contradict him.
This amped up version of his brother was a far sight better than the shuffling, stumbling version from the pharmacy, but Sam still wondered what the Bastion family was going to make of him. He couldn't leave Dean alone in the car though, not while they were still unsure about what was happening. The symptoms Dean was currently displaying might not be all there was, might not even be the worst of it. He needed to keep Dean nearby, just in case.
Sam led the way up the stone walkway to the front door and rang the bell. They didn't have to wait long before the door was answered by a statuesque brunette wearing a tailored jumpsuit.
"Hello." Her tone was politely inquiring, but her gaze lingered on Dean, and not in the 'be still my beating heart' way that many women regarded his brother, more in the 'are his eyes dialated' way that someone might regard a cocaine addict.
"Hi, my name is Sam and this is Dean. Does Jack Bastian live here?" Even as he spoke to the woman, Sam reached a restraining hand over to still the frenetic tapping of Dean's foot.
"Yes, he does. Hold on and I'll get him for you." She closed the door, leaving them standing on the front porch.
Moments later the door opened again and Jack regarded them both curiously. "Can I help you?" Dawning recognition. "Oh wait, you're those two guys from last night, right? Wow, that was really weird wasn't it?"
"We just wanted to come by and make sure you were all right. You were pretty out of it." Sam offered an understanding smile.
"You're telling me. Hey, sorry, I'm being rude. Come on in." The door was held wide open and Jack ushered them into what looked like a formal sitting room. "Can I get you anything? Coffee?"
Dean's face lit up at the word. "Sure."
Sam cringed internally but let it go. Taking the opportunity to study his brother while Jack was getting the coffee, he noticed two things. First was the way Dean occasionally rubbed a hand against his forehead and then pushed his palm hard into the side of his head. The gesture didn't indicate 'I have a splitting headache' so much as it did 'Stay in there, stay in there'. Second was the fact that Dean was vibrating, honest to God vibrating, from the tips of his fingers, through his arms, his torso, and his legs. Could be the caffeine, but it was definitely something to keep an eye on.
Jack returned with three cups of coffee. Dean's hands shook as he accepted his cup and Jack watched him appraisingly.
In order to divert his attention, Sam asked, "So, you made it home last night all right?"
"Yes, but it was the strangest thing. You know, when you found me I honestly thought I was still in college. I graduated from college nine years ago! I didn't remember moving to Norfolk or getting a job here. Hell, I didn't even remember I was married, but don't tell Cindy that part." Jack pointed towards the back of the house, presumably where Cindy had gone.
"Then how did you get home?" Dean surfaced from his cup of coffee, raising his eyebrows in interest.
"My friend, Mark, was trying to drive me here, but I kept telling him I needed to get back to school. I think Mark was beginning to think he needed to take me directly to the emergency room. I was so insistent that I didn't live anywhere around here, didn't know who Cindy was. Then all of a sudden, it was like a light switch went on inside my head and everything came back to me at once."
"How long was it from the time I left you with Mark until the time you got all your memories back?" Sam inquired.
"Not long at all, maybe ten - fifteen minutes tops."
Just about the time I shot the Stalker. That fits with the limited amount of Stalker lore.
The young hunters left the Bastian house soon after, having obtained the information they'd gone for. It helped to know killing the Stalker had released Jack's memories instantly. Now they just needed to find out why Dean was still losing his.
The caffeine was making Dean jittery and talkative, but much of what he said didn't make a whole lot of sense. He would comment on what was directly in front of him whether it was relevant to the conversation or not. Most of the time is wasn't. Complex thoughts and abstract thinking were now beyond him.
Normally during a hunt, Dean took the initiative with planning the strategy. His practical experience and passion for the job made him a natural leader.
Not now though. Now, he was depending on Sam to tell him what to do and where to go. He was oddly compliant, content to follow Sam's lead, trusting Sam to know what needed to be done. The younger hunter was determined to step into that role and be worthy of his brother's trust.
"What now, Sam?"
They were back in their motel room and Sam was on the laptop.
"I found a common thread among all the accounts of Stalkers. They can all be traced back to Egyptian origins. Most of the legends I've found involving memories being stolen, either by objects or creatures are also from Egypt." Sam sat back from the laptop and watched as Dean tried to blow a bubble with the Jolt gum.
"This gum's no good for blowing bubbles."
"No, it's not." Sam agreed. "I also found references to some first hand accounts on Stalkers, but they aren't available on the internet. Copies of the texts are located at the Gelman Library in Washington D.C."
"Dad's journal doesn't mention Stalkers." Dean commented. This coming as he noticed the journal where it lay on the bedside table.
"Right." Sam acknowledged. "So its still early, we have time to get to D.C. and back today."
"There are museums in Washington D.C., Sam."
"That's true, Dean."
Washington, D. C. was a four hour drive from Norfolk. Four long hours.
Dean continued to chew his gum and drink his caffeine shots, but as time went by the caffeine had less and less effect of him. He stopped bouncing up and down in his seat, stopped tapping out rhythms on his leg, eventually he was all but completely still. The inane observations about everything he saw out the window and every thought that came into his head began to taper off until he was only speaking to answer Sam's questions, the answers themselves becoming shorter and shorter.
It was possible that the caffeine-generated energy was being siphoned off supernaturally. It was also possible that the caffeine had simply ceased to have an effect on Dean's system. Sam couldn't be sure what accounted for the change.
About an hour out from their destination, Dean began to inch his way closer and closer to Sam. Sam had been keeping an eye on him, talking to him, asking questions to better judge his condition, so he noticed Dean's slow but steady migration from the right side of the passenger seat to the left side. Personal space seemed to have lost its importance as Dean continued to sidle closer until his arm was brushing against Sam's. It was then that Sam began to understand how truly bad things were in Dean-land because no way would Dean ever, ever let his insecurity show this way if he could help it.
"What if we don't find any answers at this library?" Dean's voice was low, shaky.
"We will." Say it like you believe it.
"What if we don't? I don't know how much more of this I can take." Both hands came up to scrub at his face and rub his eyes.
A sudden thought made Sam reach past Dean to pull one of the energy bottles out of the bag in the passenger foot well. The small print on the back of the label read, 'may cause anxiety'. No shit.
The moan that escaped his normally stoic brother's lips brought a surge of overpowering protectiveness bubbling up within him. Sam pulled the car off at the nearest exit and eased over to the side of the road so he could focus on his brother.
"It's pretty overwhelming, huh?" Not expecting an answer and not getting one. Sam reached out, placing his hand against the back of Dean's head, moving down to his neck. As he kneaded the tight muscles of Dean's neck and shoulders, Dean closed his eyes and leaned back, pressing into the reassurance Sam was offering.
The combination of anxiety from the overdose in caffeine and the constant assault on his memories was breaking his older brother. What must that be like? Having your memories ripped away, forcibly wrenched out of your mind unless you could hold onto them? Although he couldn't really imagine how horrifying it must be, Sam thought it would probably be tantamount to being mentally violated. It must feel like losing the very essence of who he was. Sam shuddered at the thought.
Closely following his shudder, so closely that it may have been in response to it, Dean tucked his head down and wrapped both arms tightly against his skull. It looked as though he was trying to hold the contents of his head together, and not too successfully. Fingers dug into his short hair, tugging painfully. The soft keening noise that filled the interior of the Impala brought goose bumps to Sam's skin, but it was the violent rocking, backward and forward, on the leather seat that was the last straw.
His brother was having a full blown melt down and who could blame him really. No way was he just going to sit there and watch it happen.
"No, no, don't do that." Sam added the protection of his own arms around Dean's head and shoulders and pulled his brother's quaking form against his chest.
"Come on, it's not that bad. I'm going to help you." The platitudes fell from his lips in an endless loop. He murmured the words into his brother's hair knowing the phrases were meaningless, but hoping they conveyed a sense of serenity. "We'll figure it out soon. Not too much longer."
He wasn't sure how long it took, but at some point Dean began to relax against him. Almost imperceptibly at first, he began to let Sam take more of his weight and then his head shifted to fall more heavily against Sam's collar bone. The quaking was replaced by intermittent shivers until at last those faded away as well.
"Hey, don't fall asleep. You have to stay awake, OK? Sam cautioned.
"Yeah, I know." Dean straightened up sluggishly and faced forward again, but not before Sam caught a glimpse of his desolate expression. Embarrassment he had expected, or maybe chagrin, but not this hopeless resignation. Don't give up. He couldn't stand to see his older brother in this kind of mental anguish. It made his heart ache and his blood boil. Whatever was doing this to his brother was going to pay dearly.
With a new determination, Sam got the car back on the expressway leading to the library and hopefully the answers they desperately needed.
Sam's attention was torn between keeping his brother awake and finding the Egyptian text he was searching for in the back rooms of the extensive library.
Traffic getting into Washington D.C. had been brutal. They'd had to drive around in widening circles once they found the library in order to locate an open parking space. The closest available parking space had been seven blocks from the library. During the time it took to creep through traffic and park the Impala, Dean had gotten increasingly lethargic. Sam had instructed Dean to sit forward, no slouching, and each time his brother began to list to the side, Sam had reached over to shake his shoulder with a 'Dean, wake up!'.
It seemed cruel, but if Dean fell asleep, he would lose some of his memories. Depending on which memories he lost, he could become terribly confused or violent. Plus, Sam needed to take Dean with him into the library. He wasn't going to leave him in the car on his own, asleep or awake. Dean was much too vulnerable in his current condition.
The seven block walk from the car to the library had been torturous for them both. Other pedestrians had stared openly as Dean had stumbled docilely along beside him, eyes only half way open. They probably thought he was drunk or worse. Sam had hoped to avoid making a scene by letting Dean walk unassisted. He gave up on that idea when Dean nearly toppled into a small group of tourists walking in the opposite direction. At that point, Sam had settled Dean's arm over his shoulder and, glaring daggers at anyone who dared to stare, had supported Dean the rest of the way to the library.
The librarian at the help desk, a matronly woman with a kind face, directed them to the rooms at the back of the library when Sam had asked about foreign occult reference books. She gave Dean a worried look, but didn't comment on her obvious concerns.
Books on the occult were located on the right side of the back wall. They were sorted by Country and then alphabetically by author's last name.
Dean was fading fast, visibly losing his fight to stay conscious. He hadn't said a word since they had parked the car. His eyes were mere slits. His face, a blank slate, betrayed no awareness of anything going on around him.
It was as if he had checked out. No, not checked out, but retreated, taking the battle to hold onto his memories deep within himself, hunkering down behind some hastily erected barriers.
Outwardly, he appeared to have left himself with only one directive 'follow Sam, do what Sam says to do'.
"Stand right here while I find the book we need." Sam spoke quietly. They were in a library after all.
Dean stood, swaying. His eyes slid closed all the way.
"Stay awake, Dean. Can you do that for me? Open your eyes." Sam coaxed.
Dean opened his eyes, but they were unfocused, unseeing.
Sam gave him a long measuring look and then turned to the bookshelves. The faster he could find the book and get Dean out of here, the better. Dean was trying, but he wasn't going to last much longer.
The shelves were well organized, the book should be easy to find, but Sam kept turning around to check on Dean. He saw Dean begin to crumple as if it were happening in slow motion. Dean's legs just gave way, refusing to hold his weight any longer. He made a grab for his collapsing brother and managed to catch him in a controlled slide to the floor.
Sam surveyed the room. No one was nearby. No one was watching him sit on the floor with his nearly unconscious brother in his lap. Thank goodness for small favors.
"Dean, you can't go to sleep yet. Come on, stay with me a little longer." Sam rubbed a hand vigorously against Dean's check until his eyes fluttered open. "That's it, we don't need some well meaning soul to call an ambulance, now do we?"
Dean blinked a couple of times and his gaze roamed around the room, resting on nothing. His only response to the urgency in Sam's voice was to roll his head back and forth once against the crook of Sam's elbow.
The book they had come for was on the next to bottom shelf, within easy reach. Sam slipped it into the waistband of his jeans and pulled his shirt out to cover it the rest of the way. They didn't have time to check the book out of the library formally and he could always return it once they had fixed this mess. For now, he needed to get Dean back to the car while drawing the minimum amount of scrutiny.
"See, I told you the crash off that caffeine high was gonna be a bitch."
He used a nearby chair and then a table as props to pull himself and his brother upright. It wasn't graceful, but it was effective.
They made their uncertain, wavering way to the front of the library with Dean's arm draped over Sam's shouder and Sam's arm around Dean's waist. Before they could reach the front door, the kindly libarian intercepted their progress.
"Is he all right? Do you need me to call for help?" Her concerned stare took in Dean's lolling head.
"No, he's OK. He's going to be OK." Sam pulled his brother closer against his side and stepped around her with difficulty, making his escape outside.
Speed was more of a factor than appearances now that they were on their way out of the city. Sam pulled Dean along as quickly as he could, taking all his weight. He kept his head down, not returning any of the stares he was sure were turned their way. The seven blocks back to the Impala were a blur.
He huffed a sigh of relief as they drove out of the city and got back on the highway leading to Norfolk. Sam almost expected the flashing lights of cop cars to pursue them, but either no one had cared that he had stuffed a very limp man into the passenger seat of his car or he had been fast enough to avoid pursuit.
The sun was just getting ready to set, streaks of pink, orange and red decorated the horizon.
Sam debated with himself over the need to wake Dean up, to try to keep him awake for the ride back to the motel. But it was a moot point as Dean was too far gone now. If last night was any example, Dean would be impossible to wake up all night and would awaken in the morning with serveral more months worth of his memories gone, more time lost. At least now he knew what to expect and would be ready for the confusion with some answers and proof to allay his brother's suspicions and fears in the morning.
Feeling isolated and alone in the quiet of the darkening car, Sam pulled Dean over so that his brother's head was in his lap for the four hour drive back. Sam needed the contact and Dean would never know the difference.
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