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: ~5,100
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 7 Please Stop, Sammy
The early morning sun cast a slight blush of color over the eastern horizon as the young hunters made their shambling way back to the motel room. Sam half carried half dragged his brother along with one hand fisted in the front of Dean's shirt and the other arm around his waist, long fingers twined through a belt loop to provide leverage. Dean slung one arm over Sam's shoulders and leaned heavily upon his younger brother. He tried to help, but really only managed to hinder forward progress by tripping over his feet with every other step.
Commuters were already on the road leading past their motel. Sam silently urged them to 'move along, nothing to see here'.
Once back at the motel room, Sam guided Dean over to one of the beds and had him sit on the edge. Sam sat on the other bed with his elbows on his knees, facing his brother and wondering what to say to him. What would he be able to understand, what would be too much, what would not be enough? Where to even begin was a daunting question.
Dean sat heavy lidded, watching Sam, but asking no questions, his face devoid of curiosity or any other emotion.
The silence stretched on as Sam waged his internal debate, until Dean's gaze began to drift to a point just over his younger brother's right shoulder.
"Hey, Dean, over here, man. Stay with me, OK?" Sam swept his hand lightly over Dean's knee and used the tips of his fingers to scratch at the denim to get his brother's attention.
A non-committal grunt was the only answer he got, but Dean redirected his focus back to Sam's face.
Since Dean didn't seem to be worried about getting an explanation for where he was and why he couldn't remember, Sam decided to begin asking his own questions.
"Why did you leave the motel room?" Sam asked, keeping his face carefully neutral.
"'M sorry." Dean licked his bottom lip and shifted back on the bed, putting a little more distance between himself and Sam, and it was clear he was uncertain about Sam's reaction.
"No, no, it's all right. I just want to know so we can keep it from happening again. We need to make sure that doesn't happen again, right?" Sam smiled reassuringly as his stomach clenched at the raw vulnerability in Dean's eyes.
"I don' remember." Dean's husky voice took on a far away quality as if he was talking in his sleep.
A band made of barbed wire began to tighten around Sam's chest because Dean didn't remember why he had left the room less than a couple of hours ago and he hadn't been asleep during that time as far as Sam knew. Did that mean Dean was losing memory all the time now, awake or asleep?
"Dean, how do you feel? What's happening with you?"
After a slight pause Dean replied, "Umm, feels like dan'elions."
"Dandelions?" Sam looked sharply into his big brother's eyes, watching for any sign that Dean was more lucid than he seemed, but he saw no glint of amusement, no signal that he was being baited by his older sibling.
"Yeah, th' white, 'luffy par'."
When Dean made no effort to elaborate, Sam prodded, "I need more to go on than that. How is it like the white fluffy part of a dandelion?"
"Ya know, when th' wind blows, th' lil white par's fly in all diffren' dire'tions and ya can't cetch'em all no matter how hard ya try." Dean's dreamy voice continued.
"Riight." Sam was trying hard to make some kind of sense from his brother's ramblings.
"Well, i's a tornado in m' head, Sammy."
Christ! No wonder Dean couldn't remember. No wonder he was so distant. It must be like watching the movie of his life playing backwards and not being able to stop the film, with the snippets of film he had just watched destroyed along the way.
"Listen to me, Dean. You can't hold on to all of them...all your memories. I get that. But can you hold onto one? I need you to hold onto me...the memory of me, as I am right now. That way, no matter what else happens...no matter what else you forget, I'll be a constant for you."
Dean's head bobbed slowly up and down before coming to a rest against his chest. "'M tired." He began to list forward.
Sam moved in closer and grasped Dean's biceps, giving him a little shake. "I know you're tired, but don't go to sleep. How about a shower instead, huh? Might revive you a bit. Think you can stand?"
Dean had been in the shower for about fifteen minutes and Sam was trying to read about Stalkers and their Egyptian victims. The plain brown, hard-covered book was proving to be a wealth of knowledge, however, Sam was having a hard time concentrating.
Where're ya goin', Sammy? Please don' leave me.
His brother's words, spoken in that little boy voice, were playing over and over in his mind like a tape recording that someone kept hitting the rewind button on.
The sentiment behind them was heart wrenching, especially knowing they came from a place normally buried deep and hidden behind walls of iron.
Dean's walls were crumbling, all those layers of defenses that had been built up over a lifetime were being striped away. Isn't this what I've always wished for? A chance to get inside and really see what makes my brother tick. Now that it was happening, Sam felt like an intruder in some ways, trespassing in a private temple. The barriers had been carefully erected for a purpose and he knew how important they were to his older brother. Dean would do just about anything to preserve them. But in other ways he couldn't help but feel as though this might end up being a blessing in disguise. Maybe, if he could see the broken pieces inside his big brother, he could fix them. Sam was a huge proponent of healing by talking things out, sharing the burden, and he wanted to share Dean's.
Sam glanced nervously at the closed bathroom door, twenty minutes now. Suggesting that Dean take a shower may have been a mistake. Putting the book down with the pages tented on the table in front of him to save his place, Sam eased up from his chair to stand next to the bathroom door. The water falling in the shower blocked any other sounds.
"Dean, you OK in there?" He couldn't help but wince as the words passed his lips. A question like that would normally have received a caustic, sneering retort or a playful jibe depending on his brother's mood. This time, there was no reply at all.
The door was unlocked, he'd made sure of that before Dean had disappeared behind it. Now he pushed it open tentatively and peeked inside. "Dean?"
Dean was standing with a towel wrapped around his waist, water dripping down his face and the back of his neck from his wet hair. He wore a look of intense concentration as he stared at his reflection in the mirror which took up the entire wall behind the bathroom sink.
"Sammy, how old am I?" Dean squinted at himself.
It hadn't escaped Sam's attention that Dean had exclusively used his nick name to address him ever since the traumatic events of this morning. He assumed it had something to do with the familiarity of the pet name that was soothing to Dean when nothing else was familiar to him.
"How old do you think you are?" Sam wasn't trying to be cute or annoying. He honestly wanted to know in light of their previous conversation.
"Twenty." Dean spoke without taking his attention from the mirror.
Sam's heart skipped a beat as he quickly did some math in his head. That was six years lost. How much of that had been while Dean was asleep last night and how much had been this morning from the time he woke up? The time table for getting this taken care of had just escalated.
"Twenty six...you're twenty six." Sam moved around Dean to turn off the water still running in the shower.
Dean nodded matter-of-factly at Sam and went back to studying his likeness in the mirror. He ran a hand through his wet hair and then traced a scar along his shoulder.
The way that Dean was calmly taking this news in his stride almost made Sam want to laugh...almost. Because if someone told him that he didn't remember six years worth or memories, six year of his life, he was pretty sure he wouldn't be as calm. At least Dean didn't look sleepy anymore. The shower must have helped.
"How do you feel?"
"Hungry. Is there anything to eat?" Dean put a hand flat against his belly.
"I bet you are. We haven't eaten since yesterday's lunch. There's nothing in the motel room, but we can go out and get something in a while. Just let me do a little more reading before we go." Denying his brother food went against all the new 'I'll take care of you' impulses inside of him, but just as strong was the imagined clock ticking down the minutes until Dean was all out of memories and consequently all out of time.
Once Dean had dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, they settled down in two chairs, sitting opposite one another at the small table. Sam picked up the book and began reading from where he'd left off. There was a detailed account from a man whose experience paralleled Dean's. As he read, Sam's hands began to shake, the blood drained from his face, and spots danced in front of his eyes. He frantically shuffled through the pages, scanning them briefly and then flipping back to the most relevant passages to read them again.
It was his fault. Everything that had happened to Dean was his fault. He could have stopped it all so easily if he had just known. His research, the little of it he had done before the hunt, had been wrong. The Stalker had been feeding off his brother for days and it was all his fault.
Sam looked up guiltily and meet Dean's worried gaze. Dean was shifting uneasily in his chair and pulling at his bottom lip all the while staring at Sam with unbroken concentration.
"What's wrong, Sammy?"
He realized that Dean was doing just what he'd told him to do. His brother was using him as the one constant, firm, and reliable thing in his shifting, kaleidoscope of a world. Dean's sole focus was on Sam and since he was unable to judge for himself the appropriate emotion for the current situation, he was using Sam as a gauge. If Sam was calm, then Dean knew there was nothing to be concerned about and he was relaxed. If Sam was upset, then Dean was agitated without really knowing why. So right now, he was freaking the hell out of his big brother and he needed to pull himself together.
The complications of living life in reverse were mind-boggling. He constantly had to force himself to think about how the situation must feel for Dean. It didn't come naturally to him.
Drawing a deep cleansing breath he said, "It's OK. I found what I was looking for."
Sam surmised that Dean wasn't processing new information. Anything he saw, heard, or otherwise learned presently he might retain for a short period, but then it was swept away in the tornado that occupied his mind. Even with that knowledge, Sam felt the need to purge his conscious by explaining just how badly he'd screwed up. So, even though Dean wouldn't remember, he began his confession.
"The thing that's messing with your memories...the Stalker, I didn't kill it. I thought I did, but I just disrupted it's physical manifestation." He paused, waiting for Dean to ask a question or tell him he was an idiot, but his brother just nodded thoughtfully, a small frown creasing his brow.
Sam continued. "The Stalker is really more of a ...thought form, but it uses a physical manifestation to create a bond with its victims. Once the link is in place, the physical form is no longer necessary to continue the connection. It's been feeding off you, drawing on your energy and memories to become stronger and stronger." Sam stopped again to see what effect his admission was having.
"What happens when it gets stronger." Dean's low baritone sounded curious, but not particularly concerned.
"The stronger it gets, the faster it can drain you. In the final stages you won't be tired anymore 'cause the Stalker will be strong enough to take your memories without your being asleep. We have to break the bond between you and it and then find and burn its nest. The book explains the ritual we have to do to sever the bond. I'm so sorry, Dean. I didn't know until I read that book. I didn't realize the connection hadn't been severed. This whole thing is my fault." Sam's voice cracked at the end and he gazed into his brother's eyes, looking for the condemnation and recrimination he knew he deserved.
"It's not your fault, Sammy. You didn't know."
Dean had no memory of the Stalker or any of the events leading up to the hunt, but he had faith in Sam and the proof of that faith was awe inspiring. Sam felt a warmth suffuse his entire body at the idea that someone could love him so unconditionally.
The ritual wasn't difficult to perform, as far as rituals went, and the ingredients were commonplace, but Sam's hands began to sweat every time he thought about it. There were three parts to the rite and it was the first part that was causing Sam's discomfort.
During the first part of the ritual, a series of symbols had to be drawn on Dean's forehead in his own blood. OK, normally that would be no big deal. Dean had shed his own blood for less important reasons and they would only need a small amount.
The problem was that Dean's memories were visibly vanishing at a rapid pace now, leaving him in a younger and younger frame of mind, and Sam worried about how Dean would cope with a blood letting without the memories of similar experiences from his past. Also, with the pace of memory loss getting faster all the time it was impossible to know just where Dean was going to be age-wise by the time they were ready to perform the rite.
During the second part of the ritual, Dean had to drink an herbal tea made of herbs that were commonly grown in Egypt. Luckily, they were also easily found in any natural remedies store and many grocery stores as well. The concoction contained crushed spearmint leaves, chamomile and ground anise seeds. At least that part shouldn't be too bad.
During the third part of the ritual, Sam had to recite an ancient Egyptian prayer. The prayer was in the book and Sam could easily research the pronunciation and practice until he was able to complete the entire liturgy with no mistakes.
He needed to hurry to prepare for the ritual. It all had to be done in quick succession, but it also had to be done correctly on the first try. There wouldn't be time for a second try, not at the rate Dean was regressing.
Sam purposefully refrained from asking Dean how old he thought he was while they were out getting the ingredients for the tea and grabbing a quick bite to eat because he didn't want to bring the discrepancy between his real age and his memory age to Dean's attention again. He just wasn't sure that Dean would be as accepting as he had been earlier with the gap becoming larger and larger. By watching his brother's mannerisms, speech patterns and phrases, he estimated that Dean was mentally fourteen or fifteen.
By the time Sam had the pronunciation for the prayer memorized, Dean was acting like a nine or ten year old and Sam was nearly in tears over what he was about to do, because how in the hell was he going to explain this ritual to his brother as a little kid? He may look the same on the outside, but inside Dean had never even been on a hunt before.
There wasn't any other solution in the book and there wasn't time to do anything else anyway. It was either this or Dean was going to die and that was not an option. Sam needed to suck it up and act like the big brother he now officially was. He needed to do what was in Dean's best interests even if it hurt them both.
The book said Dean's memory loss would be temporarily slowed as soon as the ritual began. That would at least make it easier to have a full conversation with his brother instead of the partial conversations they had been having, Dean forgetting the beginning before they could get to the end. But the memory loss wouldn't be completely halted until the ceremony was finished and the connection to the Stalker was broken.
Dean was sitting on the floor and Sammy was there next to him. He knew it was Sammy even though the Sammy next to him was big and old, probably as old as Daddy. There was an image of this Sammy firmly etched in his mind and that's how he knew who it was. It was weird 'cause his Sammy was only three years old, but it felt right somehow, to trust this Sammy. The feeling was so strong that he believed it without a shadow of a doubt.
They were in a motel room, but not one he recognized. Daddy wasn't there, unless he was hiding. Daddy didn't play games like hide and seek much anymore so he'd probably gone out for a little while which meant that he was in charge. Whenever Daddy left he always said 'Dean, you're in charge. Take care of Sammy for me.'
There was a small hot plate on the floor next to Sammy with a mug on it and a bag of what looked like crushed leaves. There was also a knife, a small bowl, and a book.
Sammy looked scared and sad which made Dean scared and sad too.
"I'm sorry, Dean." Sammy's eyelashes were wet with unshed tears and his chin trembled slightly.
He'd never been able to bear that look of dejection on his little brother's face. This big Sammy had the same puppy dog eyes, slightly slanted and misty, as his Sammy. Besides, what could Sammy possibly have done to be all that sorry for. The worst thing Dean can ever remember Sammy doing was accidentally ripping up one of his comic books. He'd been mad about that for all of five minutes and then had forgiven him when Sammy brought him a picture he'd colored himself to try to make up for the loss.
He scooted over closer and put his arm around Sammy's shoulders like he'd done countless times before. "It's OK, Sammy. Don't worry."
He didn't know what he was telling Sammy not to worry about, but it didn't really matter. Sammy shouldn't have to worry about anything, not while he was around.
A tear rolled down Sammy's cheek as he turned his face away to stare at the knife lying beside him.
"Dean, we have to...I need you to..." Sammy gulped in some air and tried again. "Dean, this is really important and I know you won't understand it, but I have to...God this is hard!" Sammy broke off what he was trying to say and picked up the knife, twisting it absently in his hands as if it would help him to think of the right words.
The sight of Sammy holding a knife was just all kinds of wrong because Dean could see the grown up Sammy, but his mind was also telling him that the grown up Sammy and his three year old Sammy were the same person and three year old Sammy shouldn't be holding a knife.
"Give me that knife, Sammy. You're gonna hurt yourself." Dean said in his most authoritative voice, the one he had learned from Daddy.
Sammy continued to hold onto the knife, but he stopped twirling it through his fingers.
"You trust me, right Dean?"
What kinda question was that, of course he trusted Sammy. Always had and always would. Sammy was his little brother, his family. Daddy always said that family was more important than anything.
"Sure I do, Sammy." He scooted around so that he was sitting in front of Sammy and could see his face more clearly.
"I need some of your blood, not a lot, it's gonna hurt, but I'll be as careful as I can." The words came out in a rush, as though Sammy wanted to say them before he chickened out. And no wonder, it was the strangest thing Dean had ever heard.
"What in the world are you talking about?" Dean's frown deepened, but he maintained eye contact with his brother.
"Please, Dean, please. Don't make this any harder. I don't want to have to force you." The last part was said so quietly that Dean could barely make it out.
He wanted to help, but he was beginning to feel a little bit afraid of this big Sammy. Well, not afraid of Sammy so much as afraid of what was upsetting Sammy. He loved his little brother and he knew that his little brother loved him, but this was like nothing he had ever dealt with before. Sammy crawling into bed with him after a nightmare he could handle. Sammy crying because he didn't want Dean to go to school without him he knew what to do about. But this was a new one.
"OK." He squared his shoulders and lifted his chin.
Sammy let out a pent up burst of air and gave Dean a look of admiration. "You're a brave kid, Dean."
The compliment made Dean flash a heartfelt smile.
"Close your eyes, it'll be easier that way." Big Sammy instructed.
Dean complied, scrunching his eyes tightly closed and holding his breath when he felt Sammy take a hold of his arm.
"Owwww." The pain was sharp and intense, making his eyes fly open. Dean sucked his cheeks in and tried to snatch his arm back to nurse his injury, but Sammy wouldn't let go. "Let go Sammy, it hurts."
He wasn't sure what he had expected it to feel like, but this was way worse. He had thought that maybe, just maybe, Sammy had been pretending, wouldn't really use the knife to cut his arm. Tears began to gather in his eyes and course down his cheeks.
"I'm sorry, Dean. Just let me hold onto it for a second and then we'll get you patched up." Sammy's grip on his arm was firm, but gentle.
Dean watched as Sammy held his bleeding arm over the small bowl to let the dripping blood collect inside.
"You did really good. I'm so proud of you, kiddo." Sammy spoke while pressing a towel against the cut on his arm which turned out to be shallow for all the pain it had caused. Within moments it had stopped bleeding.
Wiping his wet face with the back of his hand, Dean tried to plaster his big brother mask back on.
"That was the hard part. The rest is gonna be easy. I just have to paint some symbols on your forehead and then you get to drink some tea before I say a prayer. Nothing to it." Sam looked over as if asking Dean's permission to continue.
"What are we doing, Sammy?" Dean's wasn't sure whether he should be amused or worried about this strange game his little brother had come up with.
"I'll tell you as soon as we're done. I promise."
Dean's eyes narrowed and then widened dramatically when Sammy lifted the bowl of blood onto his lap and consulted the book next to him before cupping a hand around the back of Dean's neck to hold him steady and dipping a finger into the blood.
Rearing back out of Sammy's loose grasp, Dean said, "You're not putting that blood on my forehead, Sammy. What's wrong with you?"
"Come on, it'll be over before you know it and then I'll let you in on the secret." Sammy gave him a sly look.
Dean couldn't resist the lure of a secret. "Fine." He grumbled and moved back into position.
It didn't take long for Sammy to finish with the symbols and then he held out the mug of steaming liquid.
"Drink this as fast as you can. I'll time you." Sammy waited until Dean had accepted the mug and then looked expectantly at his watch.
That sounded like a challenge and Dean couldn't refuse a challenge. He drank the liquid in five large gulps even though it scorched his throat going down. With a triumphant smile, he handed the mug back to big Sammy.
"How fast was that?" He asked.
"Wow, world record speed!" Sammy replied with a matching smile. "Now you stay right there while I say a prayer."
If you left out the knife and the blood, this game was kinda fun, in a very strange way. Dean stayed where he was and watched as Sammy turned a couple of pages in his book and began reading out loud.
The words Sammy was saying didn't sound like anything Dean had ever heard before. He knew some Latin and they were definitely not Latin. The fine hairs on the back of his neck and arms began to stand on end and he felt a building pressure surround him. There was a harsh crackling sound that felt like is was inside his head. He lifted his hands up to cover his ears and looked at Sammy in confusion.
"Sammy, what's happening?"
He wanted Sammy to stop saying the strange words, but even though Sammy's brow furrowed, he continued reading the unknown language.
The pain hit him out of the blue and rocked him backwards, slamming him to the ground. It was so sudden and so ferocious that he didn't even have time to cry out before he was totally enveloped in a world of anguish. His mouth opened in a silent scream of terror.
Sammy was doing this to him. He knew the words Sammy was saying and the pain were connected somehow. Why was Sammy hurting him?
There was no focal point to the pain, no one spot that hurt any more or less than any other. His entire body was burning, he could feel the flames licking every surface inside and out. It stole the air from his lungs, making it impossible for him to breathe.
Slowly the flames receded and he was able to draw in a shuddering breath. He opened eyes he didn't remember closing and searched his field of vision for Sammy, finding him close by, both hands reaching out towards him, a look of abject horror on his face.
"Why, Sammy?" The words barely had time to drift through his throbbing lips when the second round of excruciating pain closed in on him.
His back and neck arched off the floor. His arms and legs began to spasm. Every twitch of every muscle was pure agony, and he couldn't draw a breath in to plead for it to stop. He began a soundless litany in his head. 'Please stop, Sammy! Daddy, help me! Please stop, Sammy!' Time had no meaning for him, there was only endless, unrelenting pain. It cocooned him in misery and bathed him in torment.
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