Consumed Memories 8/8
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: ~5,200
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
A/N: This chapter backs things up and tells about the ritual from Sam's POV.
Chapter 8 You're an Awesome Big Brother
Sam settled the book on his knee to begin reading the prayer, the worn pages almost velvety under his fingers.
Before he began he glanced up at Dean, meeting his eyes and raising his eyebrows in a question, you ready? He received a tentative smile in return. Dean had taken this whole ritual much better than Sam could have ever hoped. His older brother had the heart of a protector and a warrior even at the tender age of seven.
The inspiration for making the ritual into a game had come from childhood memories of two bored boys stuck in various motels and apartments without many toys. They'd made their own fun by challenging each other to see who could hop up and down the stairs the fastest or who could dribble a ball the longest. Any kind of challenge that could be thrown down by one had been quickly picked up by the other, sibling rivalry at its best. Sam gave himself a mental congratulatory pat on the back for coming up with the idea on the fly.
As soon as he started reading, a smell like that of burning ozone assaulted his nose. The smell quickly overrode the herbal scent of the tea in the confined space of the motel room. Sam extended his senses outward, trying to determine if there was a threat associated with the smell. Even as he did so, he continued to read the prayer. He was so close to finishing the ritual, so much was riding on his successful completion of just a few more lines.
Although he didn't hear anything, he saw Dean's hands go to his ears and he heard the frightened, "Sammy, what's happening?" His attention skipped for a beat and then settled back on the book he held in front of him. Dean was OK and he literally had only two more lines to read. He dared not stop yet.
That's when his brother was thrown backwards onto the ground by an unseen force. No fucking way! Sam dropped the book and made a grab for Dean's leg, the closest part he could reach. Before he could touch the denim clad extremity, his hand was stopped by a shimmery, sheer substance pulsing all around his brother.
Dean's eyelids were scrunched tightly together, his eyelashes hidden in the creases created by the expression. The tense lines around his forehead spoke of acute pain even though no sound escaped his open mouth. The tight way he held his body gave the impression of paralysis and Sam couldn't even see his chest rising with the intake of air.
Sam's mind was racing, desperately seeking answers even as he cataloged Dean's symptoms. The vaporous material covering every inch of Dean's body was deceptive in its solidity. It throbbed in time to a mysterious cadence all its own. Sam was reminded of the way the Stalker had dissipated after Sam had shot its physical form. This had to be the Stalker's attempt to maintain the connection with its energy source, Dean.
Sam saw the tension in Dean's body and face begin to ease up a bit. He tried pushing his hands through the substance. If he could just pull it off his brother. But his hands were effectively blocked well before he could burrow through the stuff.
Dean's eyes opened and he sluggishly moved his head until he found Sam. "Why, Sammy?"
The words were an accusation, simple yet harsh. Sam's hands clenched convulsively at the substance covering his brother, trying to reach him in more ways than one. No, Dean, no, its not like that!
It was useless. He was making no progress, the filmy stuff showed no signs of weakening its hold.
Think, he had to think! This assault had started the moment he began reading the prayer. Obviously, the Stalker didn't want him to finish reading the prayer, so that's what he had to do.
His heart heavy with the realization of the possible backlash against his brother, Sam snatched the book from the floor where he had dropped it and read the liturgy from the beginning. He didn't stop when Dean convulsed wildly. He fought his nearly overpowering urge to protect his brother at all costs when Dean began to whimper piteously. Instead, he tuned out the sight and sound of suffering and concentrated on the book, the words, the prayer, the ritual.
As soon as he uttered the last word, there was a whistling snap that sounded like the crack of a whip. The glittering, translucent sheet around Dean flashed in and out of existence twice before disappearing for good.
It was over. The ritual was complete. The link between Dean and the Stalker had been broken in a very physical way that had been unexpected, unprepared for, and devastating.
And Dean, well... Dean was pissed. He was as pissed as a seven year old Dean ever got which was very different from how pissed an adult Dean got. A pissed adult Dean meant flying fists and flying curses, slamming doors, and squealing tires. A pissed child Dean meant the silent treatment and pouting lips, hurt-filled glares, and a much larger than usual personal space bubble which became an isolation chamber.
Sam preferred pissed adult Dean, because adult Dean burned hot and fast with no grudges held, especially not against Sam. On the other hand, pissed child Dean had been sitting in the corner jammed up against the bed with his knees pulled possessively into his torso for the last half hour with no end in sight.
It had taken Sam all of one heartbeat to reach Dean's side once he had finished reading the prayer. Dean had blinked blearily up at him while sucking in huge lungfuls of air. But when he'd grabbed hold of Dean's hand, needing to feel that Dean was all right, and hoping to offer some consolation, Dean had flinched violently away from him.
"Easy, easy, it's over now." Sam had crooned while reaching out again, slower this time, to touch Dean reassuringly.
His attempt had been met with a jerk of the head and a low groan that Sam had interpreted as 'If you touch me, I'm gonna lose it.''
Dean had then pushed himself up onto hands and knees and crawled, apparently too wobbly to walk, over to the corner where he now resided.
Although it was killing him, Sam had decided to give Dean his space and some time to come to terms with what had happened. He had studied Dean from a healthy distance and had ascertained that Dean was shaky, but otherwise uninjured, at least physically. Yeah, he's fine. He's just a traumatized kid!
Sam had then roamed around the room, cleaning out the bowl and the mug in the bathroom sink, unplugging the hotplate and placing it on the dresser, washing the knife and stashing it under his pillow. He'd made no direct moves toward Dean, had ignored him while surreptitiously keeping him in his peripheral vision. He'd waited for Dean to relax his guard, to show some sign that he was ready for Sam to approach, but Dean's icy glare never wavered.
Half of him wanted to fall down on his knees and beg Dean's forgiveness. The other half felt that what he had done was unforgivable. He had asked for Dean's trust and received it, no questions asked. He had then turned around and, in a matter of mere moments, he'd betrayed that trust. It didn't matter that the betrayal had been unintentional. It didn't matter that he hadn't known the Stalker would fight to keep the connection, that he hadn't known Dean would be tortured in the process. It didn't matter that he was sorry. Sometimes 'sorry' wasn't good enough.
But it was getting late and he needed to take care of Dean, check him over more thoroughly for injuries. Yeah, there were those reasons for approaching Dean and then there were the real reasons. Reasons like Sam felt as though he was suffocating under the weight of Dean's silence. Hadn't taken a full breath since Dean had rejected him. Dean had also been unnaturally still for too long. Dean didn't do 'still', ever. Something was wrong.
Sam sat down cross legged on the floor and inched his way closer to Dean until he saw his brother cringe back into the wall behind him. There was still a good six feet separating them. He then hunched his shoulders down and lowered his head, making himself as small as possible.
"Mad at me, huh?" He whispered while looking up through a fringe of lashes and scruffy bangs.
Dean pressed his lips together and looked away.
"I don't blame you. That was a pretty terrible thing that happened to you and I didn't keep it from happening." Sam shifted to catch Dean's gaze.
The look he received was all indignation and disapproval.
Well, okay, so Dean wasn't talking, but his eyes were speaking volumes.
"You're right, I didn't just not stop it, I caused it. It wasn't on purpose though, Dean. I'd never hurt you on purpose." He infused his voice with conviction.
Dean was trembling. Sam realized he'd been trembling all along, but he'd been holding himself so ramrod stiff that Sam hadn't noticed until just now. That must have been why he'd been so still this entire time, he was trying to hide the tremors.
"Does it still hurt?" Sam's worry caused him to scoot closer and he got within three feet before Dean shied away.
"Please, Dean, talk to me. I'm all you've got, kiddo." Sam pleaded.
Sam didn't know why, but he didn't have any trouble seeing the child Dean was on the inside now as opposed to the man he was on the outside. It must be the facial expressions and body language that screamed 'little boy'.
Dean's eyes cut to the front door of the motel room and they flashed with...hope...longing.
That's when Sam got it, Dean was holding out for someone else. He was expecting someone else to come through that door and rescue him. Who was he waiting for?
"Oh God, Dean." Sam breathed before he could stop himself. "You're waiting for Dad aren't you?"
With an almost guilty jolt, Dean's head swiveled around until he was staring wide-eyed at Sam.
"He's not coming, Dean. I'm sorry. It's just you and me."
Oh, how he wished Dad was coming. He wished he could just call their Dad and tell him Dean needed him and he would come. But he'd done that before when Dean had been electrocuted and they thought he was dying and never even received a return phone call. Sam didn't want to test their Dad's love again and have him fail...again.
"Daddy'll come." Dean was the picture of defiance, jaw clenched and eyes narrowed.
Sam shook his head sorrowfully. "He won't. I wish he would, too."
There was a hollowness in his lungs, like the air he was breathing didn't have enough oxygen in it. If this was a competition between him and his Dad then he might as well go ahead and concede right now. Dean would sit here and wait until doomsday if he thought his Dad was on the way. The choice between his Dad - big, strong – who Dean had always idolized, and his baby brother who had just proven to be untrustworthy and unable to protect him, was a no brainer.
"I need you, Dean." Sam said, voice rough with emotion.
And there it was, the little brother card, played right out in the open without an ounce of remorse.
The trembling increased prominently. Dean's throat worked, his chin quivered, and he took a deep hitching breath. Then, with one last look at the door, he abandoned his vigil in the corner and moved to sit shoulder to shoulder, thigh to thigh, next to Sam.
"It's okay, Sammy." Dean's voice was tremulous as he settled his hand on Sam's leg.
Sam felt his jaw drop in awed disbelief. He'd underestimated his brother's loyalty.
"Thanks, Dean. You're an awesome big brother. I don't tell you that enough." Although he spoke quietly, Sam bumped his brother's shoulder playfully, trying to lighten the mood.
With his gaze fastened on the floor, Dean just nodded solemnly.
"Does it still hurt?" Sam tried again to get an answer to his previous question.
"Yeah, 'm sore." And with that, Dean leaned over to rest his head on Sam's shoulder.
As though he was afraid to break a spell, Sam slowly brought his hand up to rub along Dean's back while he asked, "Any sharp pains anywhere?"
He felt Dean move his head from side to side against his shoulder. Well, muscle soreness was an easy fix anyway.
"You tired, buddy?" Sam asked gently.
It had been a long day already, even though it was only early afternoon. They'd gotten an early start, Sam snorted softly to himself, remembering the pre-dawn struggle with his disoriented older brother.
"Yeah." Dean sighed.
"You can lie down in bed and rest. I'll get you something for that soreness." Giving his brother's back a last pat, he maneuvered reluctantly out from under Dean's head and went to the sink for a plastic cup of water and to the first aid kit for the Tylenol.
By the time he got back, Dean was sitting on the bed, elbows on his knees and chin cupped in his hands. The wistful pout on Dean's face twisted Sam's heart into a knot.
Instead of asking what was wrong, Sam handed Dean the cup of water and the Tylenol. "Take these."
After a moments hesitation, Dean reached out and took the pills and water, holding them uncertainly.
"Do you know how to take them?" Sam tried to remember how old he'd been when he graduated from liquid medicine to other forms.
A shake of the head from Dean had him coaching his brother on how to place the pills in the back of his throat and use the water to help swallow them down.
"All right, lie down."
Dean stretched out on his stomach, hands over his head clutching the pillow, facing the closed motel room door.
"Sammy, why isn't Daddy coming back? Did I do something wrong?"
Rage at their father swamped him, covering him like a familiar blanket. He walked around to the other side of the bed, where there was more room, and sat next to Dean, using the time it took to calm his inner turmoil before answering his brother.
"Of course you didn't do anything wrong, Dean. You can't possibly think that." But he knew with blinding clarity that his brother did think it was somehow his fault when their Dad left, each and every time.
"I try to be good, I really do. I do what he tells me to." Dean murmured as though he was trying to understand where he had failed.
All those times he had accused his brother of being the good little soldier and blindly following their Dad's orders came back to hit him squarely in the face, making him flinch at the thought.
Sam ran his fingers through Dean's hair and when Dean didn't complain or shift away, he continued the soothing motion. "It's not you, Dean. You're a good son...the best. You're the best brother, too."
"I try." Dean whispered sleepily and burrowed deeper into the pillow.
They were going to end this today. Sam wanted Dean to get his memories back and the only way to do that was to kill the Stalker, this time the right way. That meant finding the nest and burning it. Finding the nest posed a bit of a problem, however, it wasn't an insurmountable one, not by a long shot. The nest would be somewhere in that office building. If he had to tear the place apart floor by floor, he would do it.
He put the hard-covered book of Stalker lore on the table in front of him and ran his hand wearily over his face. He'd read the damn thing from cover to cover while Dean was sleeping, searching for a clue as to the best place to locate the Stalker's nest without much luck.
Dean had fallen asleep quickly and Sam was grateful. It had only been a couple of hours, but it would be time to wake him up shortly and get ready to go into the office building. If only there was someplace to leave Dean where he would be safe while I go in to burn the nest. That would be ideal.
As if he'd been struck by lightning, Sam reeled with sudden insight. This had been his Dad's dilemma the entire time he was hunting the thing that had killed his wife while his kids were young. Some of Sam's pent up anger at their father melted away, because Sam had to go up against the Stalker, but Dean was too young, mentally at least, to be there in harm's way. All those times their Dad had left them with Pastor Jim or 'Uncle' Bobby or by themselves with Dean as the responible party now seemed much more logical. Dad hadn't known about the gaping abandonment issues he was creating in his oldest child. Of course, if he'd paid any attention he would have been able to see it. Sam wasn't about to let his Dad completely off the hook, but some of his choices made a little more sense now that he was facing the same dilemma.
There wasn't anywhere Sam could leave Dean though and even if he could, he wouldn't. They would go in together and he would just have to be vigilant enough to keep Dean out of danger.
Looking at his watch to confirm the time, Sam walked over to the bed where Dean was still fast asleep and sat down on the edge.
"Dean, it's time to wake up."
Dean didn't come awake like a well trained hunter, instantly alert and fully battle ready. His journey to awareness was gradual. At the sound of his name, his nose wrinkled briefly before smoothing again in relaxation. Sam tried again, this time shaking his shoulder. Dean rolled over closer to him and flung an arm out, encircling his waist. On the third try, he was rewarded with a glimpse of green through slitted eyes and a garbled, "Go back to sleep, Sammy." The fourth attempt turned out to be the lucky winner. Dean looked up at him and a smile stretched across his face starting at the corners of his mouth and spreading up to his eyes like the sun coming out from behind the clouds.
"Hey, yourself. You look like you're feeling better." Sam returned the smile.
"Yup." Dean sat up and rubbed his eyes.
"You need to put on another shirt and some socks and your boots so we can go out." As he spoke, Sam pulled the requisite clothing out of Dean's bag and tossed it onto the bed.
They would be entering the building right as it was closing down for the night as they had done before. Sam wasn't concerned about their attire anymore. Now it was all about the hunt and keeping Dean safe. He couldn't care less about how they were dressed.
"Where are we going?" Dean asked with mild curiosity while he obediently finished putting on his boots.
Unsure as to how much to tell his brother, Sam answered non-committally, "We're going downtown."
Dean nodded silently and Sam wondered how often he had been dragged around on obscure missions and errands with little explanation. How much did he know at this age about what his Dad did and why?
His own jacket on, he handed Dean his and stopped by the drawer where all the weapons were stashed to pull out the pistol and consecrated iron rounds. While making sure the pistol was loaded and ready, Sam looked up to see Dean watching with interest.
"We gonna go practice shooting targets, Sammy?"
Huh, so Dad had already started Dean's training and Dean didn't seem upset by Sam handling weapons anymore.
"No, there's a nest we have to destroy." Sam answered with as much honesty as he could muster.
"What kind of nest? A bird's nest? A hornet's nest?" Dean's eyebrows went up in childish excitement.
The words sparked a vague feeling that he should remember something...something important. The niggling sensation wouldn't leave him be. There was a flashback to a recent event hovering just on the other side of his conscious perception.
There's a hornet's nest or something up in the corner over there and I want to knock it down.
The service stairwell. Dean's playful banter. His own dismissive retort.
Yeah, 'cause that sounds like a really good idea. Leave it alone, Dean.
Dean's hunter instincts had zeroed in on the vital key without him even realizing the importance of his find.
It couldn't be that easy, could it? Just waltz into that same service stairwell and burn the hornet's nest looking thing up in the top corner. Well, they were about to find out.
"Yeah Dean, it's kinda like a hornet's nest." Sam's accompanying grin contained all his hope for an easy conclusion to this hellish hunt. He was more than ready for Dean to take back the role of big brother. Dean was much better at it anyway.
They left the motel room shortly thereafter and Sam went around to the trunk of the Impala to get the modified butane torch, effective against Wendigos and, hopefully, Stalkers. Dean was just opening the back door, apparently about to take his accustomed place in the back seat.
"Dean, front seat, buddy. This isn't a taxi ride." Sam poked his brother in the ribs even as the reminder of Dean's young mind-set caused him to wince.
"Really?" Dean's delighted squeal would be one of the few things from this experience he remembered fondly in the future.
People were streaming out of the building by the time they arrived. It was just after 5 o'clock. No one spared them a second glace as they fought their way in against the tide of home bound masses.
Once inside the service stairwell Sam faced Dean with a steely and grim countenance. "You stay behind me and close at all times. Don't move away from me unless I tell you to. Got it?"
"Yes, I got it, Sammy." Dean moved closer as if to prove his willingness to accept Sam's leadership, just as he had always accepted their Dad's.
The stairwell was just as brightly lit as before, but seemed more ominous now with the knowledge of evil lurking above. They climbed the stairs cautiously, Sam in the point position, Dean walking directly behind clutching a fistful of the back of Sam's jacket in each hand.
Sam had the pistol nestled inside his front waistband for easy access and the butane torch gripped tightly in his right hand. This particular torch had been modified by Dean to project flames to a distance of three feet. With Sam's height and long arm reach, it should be more than enough to set the nest ablaze without having to knock it down first, giving them the advantage of a surprise attack.
They slowed as they mounted the last flight of stairs. Sam craned his neck to see the nest before they made the last turn, putting his left arm behind him to signal that Dean should stay put. He was expecting the Stalker to come screeching towards them at any second, defending its territory. Nothing moved. The nest stayed still and silent.
It did indeed look like nothing more that a overly large hornet's nest. Nondescript in color, bumpy and uneven on the surface, it was attached to the wall with something that managed to look both slimy and sticky.
Less than a dozen steps brought them as close as they needed to be. Sam pulled out his lighter and opened the gas value on the torch.
"Get ready to run back down the stairs if I tell you to." He whispered.
Dean released one handful of Sam's jacket in preparation.
With a whoosh the torch was lit and a nice long fan of flame was aimed unerringly at the Stalker's nest. The crackle and pop of burning...paper...wood...whatever the nest was made of, had never sounded so sweet. The paint on the cinder block walls nearest the nest blistered and blackened, but the fire didn't spread.
A thick black oil dripped out of the nest forming small pools of liquid on the stairs. Sam didn't think much of it until the puddles coalesced into one much larger puddle and began to take the shape of a person.
"Run, Dean, run!" Sam yelled as he redirected his aim from the nest to the rapidly forming Stalker in front of him.
Dean turned to run, eyes wide. He made it down several steps before he halted to face Sam again, unwilling to leave his brother behind.
Sam was backing slowly down the stairs with a now flaming Stalker advancing toward him. The Stalker let out an unearthly howl and lunged for Sam. Needing no further impetus, Dean grabbed Sam's arm and pulled him along as he surged down the remaining steps to the nearest landing. Turning together, the brothers stood and watched in fascinated horror as the Stalker faltered and the flames finally did their job. By the time the last of the sparks had died out the Stalker was nothing more than a pile of soot on the stairs.
When Sam next looked at Dean, his face was slack and his eyes were blank.
"Dean? You with me?" Sam's already racing heart stuttered with anxiety. He made a pass with his hand in front of Dean's eyes and saw light return along with the familiar barriers that he only now realized had been missing all day.
"Dude, I was seven." Dean's voice was soft and almost reverent.
"You remember it all then?"
After a short pause Dean replied, "Yeah, I think so." And then a frowning, "Sam, did you call me buddy?"
"What can I say, Dean? It just seemed to fit you." Sam answered lightly.
Putting one hand up to his head and one hand on the wall to steady himself, Dean closed his eyes.
"You okay? Do you need to sit down?" Sam put a hand under his brother's elbow to steady him.
"No, it's just a lot, you know...all at once." Dean swallowed before continuing. "One thing I don't get though. Why did Jack get his memories back if the Stalker wasn't dead?"
"I've been wondering about that too. I think it's because the Stalker could only have one connection at a time and between you and Jack it chose you."
"Hell yeah. That's the only good thing I have to say about the sonovabitch. It had good taste."
Sam was amazed to see the layers of defenses being erected right before his eyes. The transformation of seven year old Dean into twenty-six year old Dean within a matter of seconds.
"Dean, what was it like? Didn't you wonder why you looked like an adult when you only remembered being seven?" Sam knew it was now or never to get an honest answer for this type of question.
"It was...strange, really fucking strange, don't get me wrong, but... I didn't worry about it too much. I mean...you were there...and..." Dean snapped his mouth shut as if afraid to say anything more.
The last brick in Dean's 'I'm tough as shit and I don't need anyone' wall was shoved into place and the sharing and caring was over, for Dean at least.
"Yeah, you're stuck with me, buddy. I'm not going anywhere, kiddo." Sam grinned.