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24 January 2013 @ 06:30 am
While Angels Watched: Give Us This Day (Chapter 2)  
As the waning moon, its dusty ring now a brighter and tighter band around the disk, sloped toward the west, the sun began its slow surge from the east.

A/N: I know nothing about medicine that I did not learn from Google or from Numpty. This story is three-parts research, one-part guess work, and one-part pure and utter bullshit. Watch your step. This fic should never be used as a diagnostic tool! :)

A/N: My undying thanks go to NongPradu and Numpty for their incredibly thorough beta work. More to the point, I thank them both for not pointing, laughing, and snorting at all of my really embarrassing errors. Always the professionals! They rock! Thanks girls! Thanks also to my chipper reader and great friend, Beckydaspatz, for all of her time and attention to this story!

While Angels Watched

Chapter Two
Give Us This Day



**O**

As the waning moon, its dusty ring now a brighter and tighter band around the disk, sloped toward the west, the sun began its slow surge from the east. At the same time, the Impala sped north toward Utah Valley Regional Medical Center with Dean balled in the back seat, his head on Sam’s lap.

The pain in the back of his head was like nothing he’d ever felt before, and Dean couldn’t help but cry out as he clung desperately to Sam’s hand. His awareness was constantly fading and surging; one minute he’d be present, gripping Sam’s hand, the next darkness would come and both consciousness and pain would recede to nothing more than echoes. Then, suddenly he would be flung back, and he could feel the car-seat beneath him, and the whole loop would begin again. Streetlights seared his eyelids every two seconds, rotating on a sheave as the car sped down the road, making the pain just that much more unbearable. The lights pushed him down, down, down into the deep dark, until there was no car and no Sammy. And then, suddenly, there he was again, another loop completed—Sammy still holding him, Dad still driving like a madman—over and over. Dean heard the two talking, but he couldn’t make any sense of their words.

It sounded like English, but it was just to the left—or maybe the right of the language he’d grown up with. Either way, it was off—comprised of words that weren’t real and words that were real but strung in such random order that they were completely nonsensical. And they were slippery suckers, too. Right when he thought he could understand, he’d grab hold of a word only to find that it wasn’t what he thought it was. Imposters, all of them—words draped in sounds that approximated language but weren’t the real deal—rising and falling like sentences were supposed to, but all ending up turning to gibberish right under his nose. It was so frustrating, but his head hurt too badly to keep trying to understand them. He stopped reaching for the words and allowed them to fly over and past him.

Dean felt Sam’s small hand on his back, rubbing circles like he always did whenever Sam was sick. Dean wasn’t sure if he was sick or not, but it felt nice, and he wasn’t about to give the little squirt any shit over doing it, either. He’d play it cool—say nothing at all, pretend that he wasn’t really enjoying the soothing touch. If he just lay there like a possum, hopefully Sam wouldn’t stop. Just like with howling and clutching Sammy’s hand, he could always deny everything later if he had to.

He must have lost the thread of his thought or been pushed back down into the dark echoes, because the next thing he knew, he was being lifted into the cold air. He could smell his dad’s leather jacket, could even faintly make out the scent of whiskey still clinging to the old man’s pores. The blanket was draped all wrong, though, and the cold was biting him in tender places, brittling his bits. He hoped to Christ he wasn’t naked. He did remember to get dressed before getting in the car, didn’t he? How and why did he get in the car, anyway? He couldn’t spare any more thought for those questions because there were suddenly more imposter words being jabbered at a very rapid pace all around him—words barked so loudly that he felt nauseous from the pain they caused. Hello! Having the worst headache of my life, here, people! A little quiet might be nice! Next there were hands, so many damned icy hands, all over him—turning, twisting, spinning, yanking him down, down, down, down, down—pulling at his legs, pressing against his arms. What kind of creature had that many hands? Suddenly he was moving, and it felt like riding a horse on a carousel, up and down, up and down. The rhythm became too much. He felt stretched and anchorless, and he stopped thinking at all.

Whatever peace he’d found in oblivion, it didn’t last very long, and he groaned out his displeasure. Awareness continued to intrude, albeit fragmented and spliced back together—a patchwork reality. It was hard to keep track of what was happening. He felt himself lifted again, and there was more babble around him. He didn’t recognize these voices, but again, just as with Sammy and Dad, there was no ‘English’ in their English. This was even worse, though. Before, he’d at least had the solace of his family’s presence. Here, he was entirely lost and alone on foreign soil. He called out for his dad and brother, but they didn’t answer, and he started to panic. He wanted to get up, wanted to find his way back to the right voices, wanted Sammy to rub his back again. Hands held him down, though—strong hands and loud voices that refused to make sense. Enough was enough. He forced his eyes open and faced his captors.

“Get off of me, you sonsabitches!” He yelled angrily. “Dad! Sammy! Please help me! Don’t leave me here. Please!” he begged. Oh god, did that hurt his head—like twisting razorwire in his brain, and he was sorry he’d tried to call out at all. Besides, the only thing it had accomplished was to make the hands hold him tighter and the voices chatter louder.

“Tender on the center bite!” one of the voices commanded loudly.

Dean felt a prick on his arm, and, suddenly, the table beneath him began to tilt and pitch back and forth, his head swiveling and pivoting like a ball turret as he glanced from warped figure to warped figure. Try as he might, he couldn’t do anything to balance or orient himself. He struggled to get up and leave, but he just stayed right where he was like a sluggish piece of meat, limbs too heavy to maneuver. His eyes slipped shut and his tongue felt huge. He was getting really tired. More needles were pressed into the crook of his arm. He tried to open his eyes again, but they wouldn’t lift. The hands that held him down took pity on him, maybe, because they actually opened his lids for him. The kindness was short-lived, however, because the bastards flashed bright lights right into his eyes. And that was it. He was out of there—adios amigos! He didn’t just fall into the echoes this time, hell, he’d practically augered his way on down, seeking the shelter of that cool, black shaft. Fucking hands and their lights. Disembodied phantom words—words—words—words—chased him down into the dark. But he was getting cold and it was too hard to worry about it all anymore. Once the voices and lights faded, he found himself in a starless, moonless void, and Dean was left with nothing to think, to do, or to be.

**O**

The electronic door to the Emergency room snipped shut, leaving John and Sam on the wrong side, breathless and shocky. One nurse lingered behind to gather information and began rattling off questions.

“What was he doing before he collapsed?” she asked.

“I’m not sure,” John admitted. “We were all sleeping. Dean woke up and was talking to his brother.”

“He was exercising—hard,” Sam broke in. “He wanted me to go running, but I didn’t want to. It was the middle of the night.” Sam’s eyes started to water. “I hit him. Kicked him in his stomach. I was sleepy. I didn’t mean it.” John held the boy’s shoulders.

“Don’t do that, Sam. You didn’t hurt him,” he said. The hunter looked at the nurse. “They were rough-housing like boys do.” She nodded.

Sam went on. “Then he started to talk crazy. Nothing made sense.”

“Was he slurring his words? Did he sound drunk?” she asked. Sam thought about it.

“No,” he said. “He was talking to me just like he always does, only his words weren’t making any sense. Then he grabbed his head and started to moan. That’s when I got my dad.”

“We got him here as fast as we could,” John said. “It’s only been about 30 minutes since it all started.”

“Did he complain of anything else? Was he dizzy or nauseous? Did he complain of any strange smells or a sense of tingling?”

“No, not that I know of,” John said. “Wait. He said he had a stiff neck—before he went to bed. Other than that, he’s been in perfect health.”

“What’s his name?”

John swallowed. “Dean. His name is Dean Winchester,” John said, knowing that he couldn’t give them false information now. Getting stitched up or setting a broken bone was one thing, something they could drop a fake card on and skip town fast afterwards. This though—he couldn’t take the chance. He had no idea how long they’d be here. They’d been in Provo for a couple of months, letting the boys stay in one school for a while. He’d taken a job at a garage, but Kelly, the owner, was paying him under the table. There was no real insurance, and John could already feel the weight of that bearing down upon him.

“How old is he?” the nurse asked.

“He’s fifteen,” John said.

Sam piped up immediately. “He’s sixteen,” he corrected.

“He’s fifteen, Sam.” John looked at his son like he was crazy.

The child shook his head. “No dad. He’s not. Today’s the 24th. He’s sixteen. You forgot.” Shock and shame tumbled down John’s face like an avalanche.

“Jesus,” he said under his breath. He stood there for a few seconds shaking his head at himself. “Dammit” he muttered, fingers clawing through his stubble. He looked up at the nurse with stricken eyes. “Sixteen. Today’s his birthday. He’s sixteen,” he confessed. She nodded and hit the button for the door.

“Have a seat. Someone will be out to get you started on the paperwork in just a minute,” she said as she disappeared.

John looked down at Sam who was fighting to keep it together.

“Let’s go take a seat, buddy. They’ll take good care of him.”

“What if it was the skinwalker? What if it did something to him?” the boy asked.

“I told you, Sam, the skinwalker never touched him. This doesn’t have anything to do with that.”

“What if it cast a spell on him?” Sam refused to relent. “What if the doctors can’t help him? We should call Uncle Bobby. He can look in his books to make sure.” He pulled away from John, looking around for a phone.

“We’re not calling Bobby right now. He can’t help. Now, dammit, Sam, sit down and be quiet. Wait and find out what the doctors have to say.”

“Dad…!” Sam nearly shouted.

“I mean it, Sam,” John demanded. “Now sit down.” Sam had no choice but to do as his father said. John set his hands on the boy’s shoulders until he was compliant.

“I need to go make a few phone calls,” John said. “I have to call Kelly and let him know that I won’t be in to work. And I need to call both schools, tell them what happened and that neither of you will be in today.” He turned to Sam. “Stay here. I’ll be right back.”

**O**

“I told you twice already. I don’t have insurance, so you’re just going to have to let me talk to someone in your financial department to work things out. But right now, madam,” John barked the last word in a hollow parody of respect. “Right now, I’m going to go sit down and wait to find out if the doctors can save my son’s life.” The dowdy receptionist winced as his final words bellowed and bounced around the emergency reception area.

“Please keep your voice down, Mr. Winchester or I’ll be forced to call security,” the woman said, attempting to regain control of the situation. “As soon as the billing department is open, I’ll send someone out to talk to you. Until then, please take a seat.”

John found his way back to Sam and sat down beside him. He didn’t say a word as the boy uncharacteristically huddled close. The hunter quietly lifted his arm and let the boy settle into the crook, draping his arm loosely across Sam’s shoulders.

“How much longer, do you think?” the boy asked.

“Soon, Sam. Soon. Just hang in there, bud.”

It wasn’t soon, though. Time stretched interminably, minutes into hours, and even then they only received news that wasn’t news: They’re getting him stabilized. We’ll let you know more as soon as possible. They’re taking him down to Imaging for scans. They’re waiting for results. They’re doing an angiogram; that will take a few hours. The doctor will be with you just as soon as he can. Why don’t you grab a cup of coffee?

The billing department came to see John and promised to send a financial advisor out to him later to help him apply for children’s charities. John merely waved them away.

He looked at his watch again and stood up. He’d had enough. It was almost 3:00 pm, and they’d been given no usable information. Just as he was about to go into full-on hunter mode, a couple of white-coats approached them.

“Mr. Winchester? I’m Dr. Bruce Michaels. I’ve been assigned as your son’s neurologist. This is Dabria Carr from Visitor Services.” The plump, but smartly dressed woman bent down to Sam.

“Hi honey. My name’s Dab. What’s yours?” Sam looked up at his dad, waiting for the OK to talk to the stranger. John nodded.

“Sam,” he said hesitantly.

“Well, Sam. How about you and I go down to the canteen and get some hot chocolate while your dad talks to the doctor?” She reached out her hand. John’s blood ran cold. Knowing the doctor didn’t want Sam around for the consultation made the all the saliva in John’s mouth turn to dust. Sam backed away, shaking his head.

“No, I want to stay. I want to see Dean,” he said emphatically.

“You’ll see him, sweetheart. I promise. Let’s just go get a little refreshment and let your dad talk to the doctor,” Dab said again, looking to John for support.

“Go with her, Sam,” John said in a voice that left no room for argument. “Go on,” he said when Sam hesitated one more time. Sam sighed and let the woman lead him away.

“I’ll come get you in just a minute,” John said as the child looked back at him pleadingly. “Go on.” Once Sam had turned the corner, John looked at the doctor. “Where’s my son? What’s wrong with him?”

“Dean’s stable. He’s resting,” the doctor said, giving the most important assurance he could give. Dean was alive, and ‘resting’ sounded hopeful. “We had to run quite a few tests, and it was stressful for him,” the doctor went on. “He was in a lot of pain and panicking a bit, so we had to sedate him. They’re going to be sending him up to the PICU in just a bit, and then you can see him. Let’s head down to my office so we can talk.” he said, turning and beckoning John to follow him. John moved silently, biting the insides of his cheeks until he tasted blood.

The doctor led him into his office and closed the door. “I wanted to do this here so that I can show you Dean’s angiogram and CT scan and explain everything to you. We have a lot to discuss.”

“What’s wrong with him? Did he have a stroke?” John asked, voicing his fear now that Sam was safely out of hearing range.

“No,” the doctor said. “Actually, he didn’t. Here,” he said, turning on a white screen and pinning the angiogram and some other scans to it.

John was handy at first-aid and had a broad working knowledge, but he’d had no real medical training. Just the same, he didn’t need any expertise to tell him that what he was looking at wasn’t normal. Down toward the bottom part of the photo a nearly thumb-sized blob appeared rising from a mass of tangled veins and arteries. “What is that?” he asked.

“That’s a saccular cerebral aneurysm,” the neurologist said, studying the image alongside John. “And it’s a monster. One of the largest I’ve ever seen.” He pointed to the screen. “What’s happened is the wall of this artery has weakened, and it has ballooned out, creating a little sac that’s filled with blood. The good news is that it hasn’t ruptured or bled yet,” he said looking at John. “That’s really good news. A bleed with an aneurysm this size would be catastrophic.”

John swallowed and raked his hand through his hair. “If it hasn’t bled yet, then what’s happening to him?”

Dr. Michaels nodded. “The aneurysm has just grown too large, and my guess is that it’s grown extremely rapidly. With slower growth, symptoms would have likely presented at a much earlier stage. Now, see how it’s sitting right here at the base of the brain? It’s grown so large that it is pushing against his temporal lobe. That pressure is what has suddenly created his symptoms, the aphasia and temporal seizures.”

“I have no idea what aphasia is,” John said. He paced a few steps and came back. “What’s going to happen to him? What’s the bottom line, here?”

“I’ll get there, John—may I call you that?” The hunter nodded. “John, sit down a moment.” The doctor picked up a large model of the brain, like a 3-D puzzle with removable bits and pieces and set it on the desk in front of the hunter. He removed the whole top half and side, leaving a quartered version. He pointed. “This is the temporal lobe. This is the part of the brain that handles speech, our understanding of words and the ability to create them. The pressure that the aneurysm is creating is making things short-circuit a bit, which is causing a classic case of profound Receptive Aphasia. So everything he says is coming out like a ‘word salad’, right?” John nodded. The doctor went on. “Now, Dean sincerely believes he’s saying the correct words, but what comes out is a scramble of nonsense and words that just don’t belong.”

“How do you fix it?” John said, his anxiety rising. His leg started to shake, and it bounced up and down as the doctor held up a finger, nodding.

“Once we can get the pressure reduced, the aphasia should hopefully clear up given a little recovery time. The pressure is also causing some mild temporal seizures. These can go almost unnoticed if you don’t know what you’re looking at. He’ll twitch his fingers or start doing a chewing motion with his mouth, and just kind of be ‘gone’ or ‘absent’ for a moment or two. And just like the aphasia, this should all clear up once we get the aneurysm away from that area of the brain.” The doctor watched John. “You with me so far?”

“How do you get the aneurysm out? Are you going to have to do brain surgery?” John asked.

The doctor hesitated a bit. “This is where it gets a little sticky, John. You can’t get there,” he tapped on the base of the brain. “From here.” He pointed to the skull. “Well, not easily, anyway. The aneurysm is sitting toward the bottom, protruding from this junction of arteries right here in the center and expanding upwards,” he sighed. “We can’t operate without disrupting blood-flow to the rest of this arterial cluster. Now, normally when the aneurysm is near the skull we can perform a craniotomy, cut a small opening in the skull and clip the aneurysm, pinching off the wall of the artery so that no more blood can enter the sac. Chance of a rupture after clipping is quite small, and patients have a very high probability of making a complete recovery. Unfortunately this aneurysm is too deep, and frankly too large. We can’t perform the conventional craniotomy here. With some aneurysms in this part of the brain, we simply let them be if they haven’t ruptured. But, again, this one is too big. It’s already causing insult to the brain. Also, given its size and rapid growth, it is a ticking time-bomb. I have no doubt that if something is not done, and done soon, it will rupture. A rupture in this area of the brain, even in a much smaller aneurysm would likely be fatal.”

“Well, what can you do for him, then?” John asked, fear rising off of him in waves, now. “Is there anything…?”

Dr. Michaels nodded. “We want to perform a coil embolization procedure. This is a newer procedure, but it’s actually minimally invasive compared to brain surgery. We’ll not have to touch or cut through the skull at all, actually.” The doctor smiled. “Dean should be happy that we won’t have to shave his head,” he said. “Instead we’ll thread a ‘coil’, a platinum wire, through the femoral artery in his leg and guide it up and into the aneurysm. We’ll displace the blood, reduce the size of the aneurysm and fill the sac with the coil, creating a small, tight clot. Recovery time is much quicker than with a craniotomy. The only downside here as opposed to clipping the aneurysm is that there is a higher chance of a subsequent bleed after the coil is in place. In Dean’s case, the chance of a bleed will be a bit higher given the size of the aneurysm. We’re not going to be able to fill the entire sac with the coil, since we have to reduce the size to stop the pressure, but this is the only shot we have. There is nothing further to decide. It’s either the coil embolization or nothing. We’ll perform the procedure and watch him closely for the first several days. The chances of a bleed will be highest in the days directly following the implant.”

John blew out a long breath. He got up and began to pace in front of the doctor. “What sort of percentages are we talking here?”

“I’m cautiously optimistic, John. Dean is young and healthy—athletic. On the other hand, I’m not going to lie either. Any aneurysm is a serious thing, and Dean’s aneurysm is as bad as they can get without actually rupturing. Like I said, its size is something that I have not seen but maybe once or twice in my career, and I’m very surprised that it hasn’t ruptured yet. All of that said, with the coil embolization procedure, I give Dean a seventy percent chance of a complete recovery. But we need to get this done as soon as possible, so I’ve scheduled the procedure for first thing tomorrow morning.” The doctor rose. “In the meantime, I’ll page Dab and have her bring Sam up to the PICU waiting room, and you two can go spend time with Dean.”

“What happens to the other thirty percent?” John said huskily.

“If there is a bleed, then things could deteriorate very rapidly,” he said truthfully. “A bleed would cause a stroke, resulting in brain damage and, potentially, death.”

“Have you told him anything? Does Dean know what’s happening to him?” John asked. The doctor shook his head with a sigh.

“Unfortunately, there is no way to communicate with him right now. He’s pretty doped up with some heavy duty pain meds and sedatives, but more than that, his aphasia is disrupting normal lines of communication. The word-salad he’s experiencing is a two-way street. When he speaks he makes no sense, right? Well, likewise, when you speak to him, you are also creating a word-salad. It’s all nonsense to him. This extends also to reading and writing. He can do neither right now. It may also take a little therapy after the procedure to get him back on track. Don’t be discouraged if he is still experiencing the aphasia and seizures even after the embolization. Once the pressure is reduced, it may take some time for his brain to come back online as far as language goes. But I have every reason to believe that both the seizures and the aphasia will clear up.” John rubbed his stubbled chin, trying to digest everything. “Come on, John. Let’s get you upstairs. I need to make all the preparations for tomorrow and assemble the best team possible. I’ll be back to see Dean later before I leave this evening. We’ll get him through the night, and then once the procedure is over tomorrow, all three of you will be feeling much better. I know it’s frightening. I have a boy of my own that’s Dean’s age. If this were my son, I’d be going crazy right about now, too.”

John stood there blinking numbly. He was a hunter. He’d killed so many creatures he could no longer keep count. He’d even killed four humans, all demon possessed at the time, yes, but nevertheless, human. He’d been a goddamned Marine—he’d survived his tour without a scratch, was trained to handle pressure. He’d survived shitstorm after shitstorm. At no time…in no place had John Winchester ever stood, lost and hollow, like a deer in headlights, but that’s exactly how he stood now. He felt the doctor grip his shoulder and gently guide him awkwardly through the door. Like some kind of zombie or goddamned death-echo unaware of its surroundings, he shuffled through the halls, up elevators, around bends and through double doors. It wasn’t until he saw Dab waiting with Sam that he seemed to snap out of his trance.

“You can go in,” Dab said in greeting. “I know you are supposed to meet with someone from Financial Support. I’ll make sure they know to come here to find you,” she said with a compassionate smile. “I’ll leave you two to see Dean. He’s right through those glass doors, first bed on the left.” John silently nodded his thanks. Dab patted Sam’s head. “Thanks for spending some time with me, Sam. I really enjoyed our visit.” Without another word, the woman was gone, leaving the Winchesters standing outside the PICU.

“What’s wrong with him, Dad? What did the doctor say?” Sam piped up after Dab had disappeared. John looked down at Sam.

“It’s good news, Sam. He’s going to be fine. He has a problem with an artery in his brain, but they are going to fix it.” He put his hand on Sam’s shoulder. “Come on. Let’s go see him and I can explain more inside.” Sam looked both dubious and frightened.

“Then why would they make Dab take me to the cafeteria if it was such good news?” he said. The kid was too smart for his own good, but he didn’t have the time for this right now.

“Honestly, Sam. The doctor said he’s going to be OK. Let’s go.”

**O**

Dean didn’t seem aware that they’d entered. He was flat on his back, staring off to the side, listless and droopy eyed. Sweaty hair matted his forehead, and there was a syrupy strand of drool on his chin that made Sam squirm. It terrified him. Dean was never supposed to look that fragile and vulnerable. Still, Sam couldn’t take his eyes off his brother’s slack face and glassy eyes. It was so wrong—so completely un-Dean-like.

“Dean?” he called finally, walking up and trying to get in his brother’s line of sight. “Dean, it’s me, Sam,” he said, reaching for his brother’s hand. Dean blinked and twitched a little, looking through his brother before his eyes started to hone in, attempting repeatedly to focus. He stared for a few seconds before his sleepy eyes widened a little.

“Sibbin!” he said. The word came out a husky croak. Dean’s brow pooled and he cleared his throat, trying again. “Sibbin?” Stronger this time.

“Yeah, Dean. I guess that’s me, huh? You know me, right Dean?” Sam shook his hand out of his sleeve and gently wiped the drool from Dean’s chin with it.

John walked up on the other side of the bed and rested his hand as gently as he could on Dean’s head, watching his sons watch each other. “We’re here, son,” he said. Dean’s eyes sought out the sound of his father’s voice.

“Re—Remur? Cry pool nor tweak sane shingle?” he asked with languid confusion, his eyes slightly crossing and falling shut in between attempts to reopen them.

“Shhhh,” John caressed his son’s head. He didn’t bother to say anything else. He softly thumbed Dean’s eyebrow, soothing strokes following the grain of the blond hairs.

“Why’s he talking like that, Dad?” Sam whispered. “What’s wrong? It sounds like he’s under a spell or something,” he said. “What if the sk…”

“No Sam. Enough. It’s not that.” John continued to caress Dean’s head for a moment.

Sam heaved out a sigh. “Does he even know who we are?”

“Of course he knows us, Sam. Did you see how happy he was to see you? He’s going to be fine; this isn’t permanent. The doctor said so. One of his blood vessels is pushing on the speech center of his brain. They’re going to fix him up tomorrow, and he’ll be back to his old self in a day or two.”

Sam studied his brother suspiciously. “Christo!” he whispered. John groaned and thwapped the boy upside the head, lightly.

“Jesus, Sam. He’s not possessed.”

Sam was unapologetic. “We had to be sure, Dad.”

“But me by no firs big, pensch,” Dean scolded, holding up his hand in a halting motion before it fell against his chest.

“It sounds so freaky when he talks,” Sam confessed, before turning to Dean and noticing his big brother was watching him intently. “Sorry, Dean. You’re not a freak. It just sounds weird,” he tried to qualify his statement. Dean studied Sam, his face growing concerned and anxious.

“Sibbin?” he said. “Almond nohr keeper?”

“Shhhh,” John said again. “He can’t understand us anymore than we can understand him right now.” Dean’s foot stretched out and he tried to twist in the bed, wanting to rise and face his father.

“Remur, bats mown—mown—mown over? Bats hrrrrnh but me by for the rockstreen?” Dean said, his voice rising as he reached out toward his dad. His back started arching off the bed in an attempt to rise. John forced him back down firmly but gently.

“Don’t do that, Dean. Stay in bed, son. Calm down.” But that only increased the boy’s frustration and fear. Dean started to panic.

“Naaahhhuhh! Remur, link is over saying high and high!” The heart monitor began shrieking out a warning. One of the ICU nurses immediately swept down on them, eyeing John and Sam with irritation.

She gently restrained the boy while studying the monitor. “What’s happening here? He can’t be raising his head for a few more hours yet,” she trumpeted, her aura protective and hostile at the same time.

“Happening?” John glared at the woman, his eyes polar, his voice glacial and raspy with anger of his own. “My boy has an aneurysm. He’s frightened and in pain, and I can’t even tell him everything will be all right because he can’t understand me,” the hunter snarled out. The nurse deflated and her eyes softened.

“I understand, Mr. Winchester, but he’s stressing, and he can’t be moving around like this after the angiogram. He has to remain flat,” she harped in a kind but emphatic tone. She emptied a vial into Dean’s IV and patted the boy’s chest, pressing her finger to her lips and quietly making the shushing sound until Dean’s eyes lost their luster and became vacant and passive again.

“What the hell did you give him? He hates being snowed like that,” John said, his voice still barbed.

“I know this is hard on you all,” she whispered. “But we’re going to have to keep him sedated. We can’t let him get excited at all—at all; it is absolutely critical. His blood pressure needs to remain low and steady. This aneurysm is extremely dangerous, and right now his life depends on him staying calm.” It was John’s turn to back down a little, and the hunter sighed and nodded, ceding the point. “It may be better for you to talk as little as possible, since it’s disorienting and upsetting for him,” she advised. “Just sit with him. If he talks, simply smile and nod and give him lots of physical contact.”

Sam rested his cheek on Dean’s shoulder and rubbed his chest. Dean leaned in, almost involuntarily and rested his chin against his brother’s head.

“Sibbin,” Sam whispered, using Dean’s vocabulary. “Shhhh, shhhh, Sibbin,” he pointed to himself. “I’m right here, Dean.” Dean smiled and let the drugs force his eyes closed.

**O**

John’s brain was damn near scrambled by the time he made it back to the PICU. The financial advisor had found him a couple of hours ago, and she’d swept him away to her office, stuffed toys, felt flowers and Hallmark angels overrunning her desk, as she promised to find ‘creative solutions’ for his financial problems that would adequately fit both his and the hospital’s needs. She’d loaded him down with so many pamphlets and applications, ranging from the Shriners to the Mormon Church—surely you are Mormon, aren’t you Mr. Winchester?—to governmental health grants, that she wound up having to store everything in a pink, be-flowered folder. Handing it to him with a dazzling smile, she suggested that he toe through it all when he had the time, and she promised to follow up daily, so that all the I’s were dotted and the T’s were crossed, and, why, if he needed any help—just any help at all—in filling out applications for assistance, she’d be more than happy to oblige. He thought that he probably should have felt hopelessly inadequate that he couldn’t get his son medical attention any other way without committing outright fraud, but he just didn’t care. The only thing on his mind was getting Dean through this. It didn’t matter what he had to do or how many treacly, cloying people he had to endure. Just the same, by the time he left Little Mary Sunshine’s office he was seeing double from condescension and sugar-shock. When he finally wandered back into the PICU, Sam was frantic.

“Dad!” Sam practically yelled, causing the nurses to hush him severely. Sam lowered his voice. “He’s better! Dean…he can talk! Watch! Listen! I was trying to cheer him up by singing and he just—well, he started to sing!” He dragged John over to Dean.

“Sing, Dean! Do it again,” he coaxed. “Come on! With me, now. Like before…” Sam started singing, and astonishingly enough, Dean, although sloppy with drugs, started singing along, word for word, note for note. Well, as note for note as Dean ever sang. Truth to tell, John never did have the heart to tell the kid just how painfully tone-deaf he was, and the drugs weren’t making it any better. But this was music to his ears.

Cryin’ won’t help you, prayin’ won’t do you no good,
Now, cryin’ won’t help you, prayin’ won’t do you no good,
When the levee breaks, mama, you got to move…

The boys sang on and as the last lines wound down, Dr. Michaels entered the ICU and stood, listening.

Sorry but I can’t take you.
Going down, going down now, going down.

John looked from Dean to the doctor. “Is he…?” But the doctor immediately shook his head. He strode over and looked at the groggy boy.

“Dean, can you understand me? Squeeze my hand once if you understand,” he said. The boy looked at the doctor with tired curiosity but never squeezed back.

“Tube album isn’t for nor?” He murmured, his eyes spacy, his energy flagging. “Hand hole flavor candle-bean piracy grow shundur?” Sam looked defeated. John strode up looking at the doctor.

“What’s going on? What’s happening to him?” he asked.

The doctor watched the monitors. “It’s a very fascinating phenomenon. Aphasia patients are often able sing or recite. Your son a big Led Zeppelin fan?” John nodded.

“Like father, like son,” he said with a hint of a smile.

Dr. Michaels nodded. “Dean has those words down cold. He’s singing them from memory. A recitation. Aphasic patients can often do this since memory is stored in more than just one part of the brain. He’d likely be able to say the Pledge of Allegiance as well.”

“I wouldn’t count on that,” Sam said. “Dean’s never been much of a joiner. I don’t think he could say that before anything happened,” he explained with a naughty smirk.

“Young rebel, eh?” Dr. Michaels smiled. “Well, anything he has memorized he would probably be able to say with no difficulty. Original or current thoughts, on the other hand, are likely to be more problematic.” Sam slumped in the chair, disappointed and scared.

“It’s all right, Sam,” John said. “They’re going to fix him.” Sam snorted.

“Yeaaahh…if it’s something the doctors can fix,” he said, giving his father a knowing look. “What if it’s something else?” The doctor turned toward Sam.

“We know what this is, Sam. We’re going to take good care of him in the morning.” He said, but Sam continued to regard the doctor skeptically. The doctor turned to John. “In the meantime, he’s stable and you two should head home early tonight and get plenty of rest. It will be a big day for all three of you tomorrow.”

John nodded. “We’ll be ready,” he said but made no move to leave. Dr. Michaels could only nod. He finished his examination and left with the promise that he’d be available if Dean’s condition changed.

As soon as the doctor left, Sam reached for his brother’s hand and stroked it, turning it over in his own. He noticed the small puncture wound in Dean’s palm for the first time.

“What’s this?” he said, lifting the palm for his father to see. “When did this happen? Did the skinwalker bite him?”

John looked at the small mark. “No, the skinwalker didn’t bite him, Sam. It doesn’t look like anything. He could have done that anytime. It’s just a scratch. It’s nothing.” Sam wasn’t convinced. His hands went to his hips and he looked around, speaking to John in a quiet whisper, low enough to keep his brother calm and the nurses from overhearing.

“None of this seems right, Dad,” he lectured. “It doesn’t seem natural. What if they can’t help him? What if we’re only hurting him more by not calling Uncle Bobby?” John’s jaw clenched as he tried to rein in his frustration.

“Don’t start with me again, Sam. I’m done discussing this with you,” the hunter said, but the look of judgment in Sam’s eyes practically gave John freezer-burn.

“He was fine until he went on that hunt,” he hissed out. “Dad, if anything happens to Dean and we could have done something…” He didn’t get a chance to finish before Dean moaned out. The hand that Sam was holding began to twitch, and Dean started tapping his index finger and thumb together, making that odd ‘OK’ sign again. Sam looked at Dean, wondering what his brother was trying to tell him.

Dean’s face was ticking a little, his eyes vacant, slightly rolled and fluttering, just like they’d done in the car on the way to the hospital, Sam remembered. His lips were pursed, the lower lip protruding almost like a toddler’s pout.

“Dean?” Sam called his name. “You all right, Dean?” John also bent in, touching his son’s head.

“Dean?” he called.

The ICU nurse winged over and watched a moment and then quietly moved in. “It’s all right,” she said serenely. She stroked Dean’s cheek with a graceful hand and patted his chest, watching the monitors. “It’s all right, sweetie,” she soothed.

“What’s happening to him?” Sam asked, terrified.

“He’s all right. He’s just having a wee bit of a seizure. It’ll pass in a minute.”

They silently watched Dean. His eyes quivered a bit and wandered the ceiling. His mouth opened slightly and saliva began running down, and he started to make a rumbling sound in his throat. The nurse gently turned him on his side a bit, allowing his mouth to empty and his airway to clear. After minute or so, his face and hands went slack, and he opened and closed his eyes several times before they sparked back to life. Dean sleepily glanced from Sam to John and then just closed his eyes with a tired sigh. Sam started to choke back tears. It was all too much for the little boy. He hated seeing his hero like this. He wanted his brother fixed right now. The nagging worry that this was something that the skinwalker had done was overwhelming him. His felt his dad put a calming hand on his shoulder, but it didn’t help much.

“There, it’s over,” the nurse whispered. She ran her fingers through the teen’s sweaty hair. “I’ll page the doctor and see if he wants us to increase his anticonvulsants.” She looked at John. “He should sleep for a while now. You two should think about getting some rest yourselves. I know the procedure is set for early tomorrow. You need to be fresh and rested for Dean,” she said. John nodded and thanked her. After she left, Sam turned to his father with a pleading look on his face. John gave a nudging nod to the large chair by the bed.

“Settle in, Sport,” he said, taking off his jacket and handing it to the boy. “Use this as a blanket and your coat as a pillow.” Sam heaved a sigh of relief and thanks before settling into the chair, never taking his eyes off his brother until he simply couldn’t keep them open any longer.

When Sam was finally out, John quietly padded over to the side of the bed and stood there for some time. Finally he spoke.

“Happy Birthday, kiddo,” he whispered. “I’ll make it up to you. I swear I will. But you have to promise me that you’ll get better so that I can, yeah? You wouldn’t take that chance away from your old man, would you?” he said as he knelt in. He wanted to say more—a lot more—but he suddenly couldn’t find the breath to do so. His understanding of English was just fine, but all his words simply balled and clotted in his throat. Reaching out, he laid the flat of his palm on Dean’s head. Standing up, he reached back, pulling up the small chair and quietly situated himself, letting his legs stretch out under the bed. “Promise me, Dean.”

When John dozed off for a moment he dreamt that his son was running madly from a monster that was chasing him through the forest, while all around him the snow was rising and falling in scoops and peaks like frosting on a birthday cake. Startled awake, he sat up and remained utterly sleepless until they arrived to take his son downstairs for the delicate procedure.

Translations:

“Tender on the center bite!”—Need a little help here!

“Sibbin!”—Sammy!

“Re—Remur? Cry pool nor tweak sane shingle?”—Dad? Why won’t you speak plain English?

“But me by no firs big, pensch.”—Don’t fight you two, please.

“Sibbin? Almond nohr keeper?”—Sammy? Are you OK?

“Remur, bats mown—mown—mown over? Bats hrrrrnh but me by for the rockstreen?”—Dad, what’s going on? What’s wrong with me?

“Naaahhhuhh! Remur, link is over saying high and high!”—Naaahhhuhh! Dad, let me up!

“Tube album isn’t for nor?”—Who are you?

“Hand hole flavor candle-bean piracy grow shundur?”—When can I go home?

 
 
 
tifachingtifaching on January 24th, 2013 03:12 am (UTC)
An aneurysm? That's mean! Poor Winchesters, all of them.
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on January 24th, 2013 03:36 am (UTC)
I'm really not to be trusted with this poor boy. /wiggle mustache!
(Deleted comment)
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on January 24th, 2013 11:22 am (UTC)
It really does seem like a reasonable leap for a young hunter to make, doesn't it?
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - sharlot1926 on January 24th, 2013 06:42 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Jo: Hurt Deanapieceofcake on January 24th, 2013 01:01 pm (UTC)
I did wonder in the first chapter if that injury to his hand was something to do with this, but no LOL!

How awful for them that they can't communicate and for Dean especially to be in that much pain and not knowing what is going on.
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on January 24th, 2013 06:40 pm (UTC)
Oh yeah. It's a good thing they're keeping him sedated, because if Dean were "with it", I think he would be VERY upset with all of the nonsense being spoken around him. I think he'd be just like Sam, thinking that there was something supernatural at the bottom of it!
thruterryseyesthruterryseyes on January 24th, 2013 09:18 pm (UTC)
really fascinating. Will watch for more.
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on January 25th, 2013 03:10 am (UTC)
Aw! Thanks so much. I was kind of sweating this chapter. I'm never particularly keen (nor competent) with big honkin' info-dump chapters (so easy to come out sounding like a wiki rather than gripping drama). Not my favorite to read or to write. But more will be comin' (less disease-of-the-week and more Dean-in-peril!) on Monday. Thanks so much for reading and for taking the time to comment. :)
Kallielkalliel on January 25th, 2013 01:29 am (UTC)
Omg, I loved Sam so much in this. Poor terrified child. He really brought home the emotions and the realism of this chapter. I'd forgotten how much I enjoyed multi-part stories. Looking forward to the next installment!
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on January 25th, 2013 03:15 am (UTC)
Yay. Poor wee!Sam. This is all very hard on him. There is only so much he can process and quantify at this age...especially given his hunter instincts and indoctrination.

I'm so glad you're enjoying. Thank you for letting me know. :)
(Anonymous) on January 25th, 2013 05:16 am (UTC)
An aneurysm huh? You got me, I was thinking a meningitis type thing. I love hurt!young!Dean stories like this because it gives him a chance to be taken cared of and worried about and reminds Sam and John how lucky they are to have him. Seeing John and little Sammy holding his hand and comforting him, just does something to me. Especially John. He was far from perfect but he loved his boys, he loved Dean, and I love fics that actually show that. Now comes the whine - Why do I have to wait till Monday??? Do you know how far away that is when you're in love with a story??? Pouts.
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on January 25th, 2013 05:38 am (UTC)
I agree with you about John. Yeah, he is complex and very flawed, but he truly did love his boys. I mean...he sold his soul for Dean, right? He wasn't perfect...perhaps neglectful at times, certainly obsessed, harsh, etc etc...but when it comes right down to it...he cared very, very deeply about his family (why else would he completely lose his shit when Mary died?). I remember him in the pilot...holding Dean in his arms, happy and devoted. That was John, too. And that man, I believe was still buried in there. So, yeah...I wanted to somewhat poke that part of him, here. Given other circumstances, I might have written John with a sharper edge (though we certainly do see his prickly side when dealing with the medical staff), had this been a case-fic or some other story that didn't have him worried about his son's survival. The story, here, guided my *version* of John.

Aw! Monday's not so far away! I hate to post on the weekends because most people are off and running and not reading. So that's why I do that. I don't mean to be KROOL! :) Hope the wait isn't TOO awful. Go read one of Numpty's stories or NongPradu's...have you ever read her story "My Father's Favourite"? It is EXQUISITE sick!Dean, loving!John. If you haven't read it...you will go nuts for it. It's definitely one of my all-time favorite fics. And Nong is just...well...she's just a brilliant writer. You won't regret the rec! I promise!
(no subject) - (Anonymous) on January 26th, 2013 08:56 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - sharlot1926 on January 26th, 2013 10:06 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Haleh KV_HaleH_V on January 25th, 2013 01:25 pm (UTC)
I'm a big hurt,sick/Dean junkie! But even I'm having a hard time reading this...it's too much! :( Thank you for updating regularly...it's really comforting to know u won't leave us hanging!
Why I have this feeling that things will get worse? Winchester luck, right?
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on January 25th, 2013 03:55 pm (UTC)
Winchester luck...indeed! :P

Awww! I know this is a toughie to read. But, hey, listen...I always rough up my dean-dolls (smack 'im up against walls, poke eyes out, gnaw the feet off and slobber all over it), but I promise that I always put him back not too much rougher for the wear. So like the regular updates...be comforted. I'll put him back together before I'm done. I always try and remember the "comfort" part of h/c! :) But...um...that part won't be coming for a while. /duck.

Edited at 2013-01-25 03:56 pm (UTC)
(no subject) - V_HaleH_V on January 25th, 2013 11:25 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - sharlot1926 on January 26th, 2013 12:33 am (UTC) (Expand)
jpgrjpgr on January 25th, 2013 10:58 pm (UTC)
OK, what do you have planned for this poor boy, eh, missy? A "mere" aneurysm is too simple for you!
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on January 26th, 2013 12:31 am (UTC)
Behh...whhuuuhh...? Moi? Have something more planned? Would *I* do that?

/halo ;)
kcrenegadekcrenegade on January 26th, 2013 02:12 am (UTC)
I am enjoying this very much! And I totally missed the first part. Lol

And because I do this sort of thing all the time, Dean (insurance wise) is eligible for Medicaid and CHIP. Its a wonderful service that provides very good insurance for children from low income homes.

And I say this cause I JUST WANT DEAN TO BE OKAY. lol

Great story, I love it already. :-)
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on January 26th, 2013 05:40 am (UTC)
Aw, doggone it! I hate that dumb LJ wouldn't allow me to post the whole thing in one go. My husband tried to make it work for HOURS. And it wasn't like it was all that long. I had 10k chapters in another story that went in just fine, and the dumb site wouldn't take this 7k chapter. Grar! /hyperventilate.

Sorry that you had to read the story sideways! Hopefully it won't be a problem for future chapters; although, you will probably do well to make sure they aren't broken into two different parts in the future, because you never freakin' know...

All that aside, thanks for the comment! Oh yes, yes...I'm just CERTAIN that the paperwork for all of those government programs are inside that pretty little folder, LOL! That's my story, and I'm stickin' to it!

I want Dean to be OK, too! But there are 8 chapters to the story...so on't-day ook-lay or-fay it-ay oo-tay oon-say! ;) ;) If y'know what I mean! Glad you're liking the story. :)
doneitalldoneitall on January 31st, 2013 06:12 pm (UTC)
Even in a life or death situation he's still being the mediator. Wow. I'm kind of tearing up. This is getting interesting. I'm glad I started reading.
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on January 31st, 2013 06:44 pm (UTC)
You are so right! He really is stuck in the middle even here. Poor kid...can't catch a break even here!

I'm glad you're liking it! Thank you so much for reading and especially for the encouraging comment. I appreciate it so much!
stazzijenstazzijen on February 4th, 2013 06:32 pm (UTC)
Fantastic to have you writing again. This is going to be a journey that I'm thoroughly looking forward to. You have been away far too long. Welcome back and thank you. loving this already x.

sharlot1926sharlot1926 on February 4th, 2013 09:36 pm (UTC)
What an incredibly KIND thing to say to me. You haven't made my day...you've made my week. :) You really have. Thank you so much. I truly hope you enjoy the story!

/hugs
maguiemaguie on September 6th, 2013 07:24 am (UTC)
I loved this:

"Dean couldn’t help but cry out as he clung desperately to Sam’s hand."

"Dean felt Sam’s small hand on his back, rubbing circles like he always did whenever Sam was sick. Dean wasn’t sure if he was sick or not, but it felt nice, and he wasn’t about to give the little squirt any shit over doing it, either."

and they singing together <3

I really thought Dean speaking in "tongues", was because a spell :P
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on September 6th, 2013 12:41 pm (UTC)
Yes, it makes sense to draw that conclusion, especially given their lives. One can't fault Sammy for thinking that. And Wernicke's Aphasia is really, REALLY fascinating to listen to. When I was doing research, I came across a youtube recording of a woman with that form of aphasia and it was just so strange and completely out of my normal understanding of how language sounds. It really is a "word soup". My heart goes out to anyone who is truly affected.

Thanks again, maguie. You're spoiling me! :)
JJ1564jj1564 on October 27th, 2013 03:40 pm (UTC)
My head hurts in empathy with poor Dean! Bless him, I'm guessing there's no quick fix to this. I think it's great that you've translated Dean's 'word salads' as it gives more insight into what he's experiencing. And little Sammy understanding that sibbin is him & singing with Dean, aw, he's so sweet
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on October 27th, 2013 04:40 pm (UTC)
I think Sam would be the one person that would be able to translate Dean's aphasia. Poor little guys...both of them.

It's so interesting how the brain works...how many aphasia sufferers can recite but cannot make any new connections. I remember watching a man who could only say the word "Tonoh"...everything he said was "Tonoh" and yet the cadence of his voice was just as if he were speaking normally. Very odd. And then, they asked him to count from 1 to 20 and he did just fine...saying "one, two, three," etc., until he got to the teens "thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, tonoh...tonoh...tonoh..." It was really, interesting and sad. I don't know much about neurology, but this kind of stuff makes me want to learn!

Kat