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09 December 2015 @ 06:37 pm
But the Days and Nights are Long (Part 1)  
The last shreds of sunset crawl down the wall and onto the bed where Dean sleeps.






A/N: Because Live Journal has length limitations, this "one-shot" has been broken into two parts. There is a link to part 2 at the bottom of this page.
But the Days and Nights are Long



Part 1



 photo BTDANAL HOURGLASS 1_zpss5cxgsp3.jpg



NOW

The last shreds of sunset crawl down the wall and onto the bed where Dean sleeps. Sam sits at the table, head in his hands, rubbing the heel of his palm against his forehead. He drags his fingers through his hair, tugging the ends until his scalp burns. The starburst clock on the wall ticks, demanding his attention, and Sam acknowledges the time with a death-stare and a sigh. It's 8:30pm. It's late.

It's so late. And yet he lingers for another five minutes, staring at nothing, idly fingering the draw strings of the leather pouch that sits next to his gun on the table. He looks at the time again and picks up his weapon, checks the chamber to make sure it's loaded before easing it into his waistband.

He stands, follows his shadow across the room and sits on the edge of the bed. Dean's dead to the world. An oily sheen of deep sleep coats his face. Sweat curls the ends of his too-long hair. Sam should've taken care of that—should've at least had the decency to cut his brother's hair the way he always liked it. But he didn't. Dark, Rorschach-like pit-stains blot the underarms of Dean's shirt, and his breaths come ragged and heavy like they always do after a seizure. And last night's was particularly violent. It'd interrupted their movie—came on midway through Every Which Way but Loose—and had stolen the rest of the night and most of the next day from Dean…from Sam, too. In the past twenty-four hours Dean'd roused twice only, both times barely coherent, just enough energy to piss in a jar, take his pills and turn over before passing out again.

Sam'd let him sleep. Nothing else to do at this point—just keep his brother comfortable.

"Hey, man." Sam grips Dean's shoulder, doesn't shake it but rubs a circle into it instead. Dean's breath hitches; his good arm stretches above his head, fingers flex and twitch and then relax again. Beyond that, he doesn't rouse. "Dean, c'mon. Time to wake up."

One languid eye half-opens, and Sam shifts into its field of vision. Used to be Sam woke his brother like this at his peril, but that was then. Dean doesn't throw punches anymore, doesn't reach for the knife under his pillow—hell—probably doesn't remember he used to keep one there. Sam continues rubbing circles with his thumb.

Dean's lips work soundlessly at first, and when he does manage to speak, his dysarthria and apraxia garble the words beyond most people's ability to understand. But not Sam's. Sam's fluent in Dean-speak now.

"Huhh-heya, suh-suh-ssuh-Sammy," Dean says.

"There you are. You've been sleeping all day. How you feeling? Better? You hungry?"

Dean fixes a quizzical eye on his brother for a minute, digesting his questions. Sam says nothing, let's him process and work it out, offering a few more rubs to stimulate him. Dean's normally quicker than this, but everything takes more effort for him after a bad seizure. Sam tinkers with the idea of repeating himself but knows Dean hates that, so he keeps his mouth shut and waits.

"M'not angry, juhh-jus' thuh-thuh-thirssy. Still tire'. Wuh-wuh-wha' time ‘s'it?"

Sam's eyes flit between the clock and Dean. "The word's hungry, dude. And it's time you got up. You've slept all night and all day. We'll get you some water here in a sec, but after that, hungry or not, you're gonna eat."

"Nuhhh. Duh-duh-dun wannit. S'crap."

Sam snorts. "Oh, you'll want this." He tosses a thumb over his shoulder at the greasy sack on the table. "Got you a double-bacon-cheeseburger—heavy on the onions—fries and apple pie for desert." Dean's pupils saucer at the mention of his favorites, and Sam laughs.

"Dude, so predictable."

"S'it muh-muh-my…" Dean pauses, labors to extract the word from his broken brain. "Buh-buh-buhh-Bird-day?" he says at last.

"No, it's not your birthday. I just figured you deserved some," Sam draws air quotes, "real food for a change."

"Tuhhh-tomorrow's buhh-back t'nola an' flafluh?"

Sam closes his eyes, steeling himself. "No. No more granola, no more alfalfa. I promise." That does the trick. Dean grins from ear to ear, taps his chest with his hinged elbow and twisted fist. Spastic Elbow Flexion, Sam remembers the doctors calling it. Whatever the name, Dean's flapping the useless limb against his chest, and Sam knows what that means. He lays his head on his brother's beating heart while Dean embraces him with his good hand.

"Luhh-luhv muh-muh-my Sammy. Luhv mm-muh-my li'l buhh-brother."

Sam sighs, spends a precious minute sinking into the embrace, drawing comfort from its warmth. Of all the catastrophic changes in the past year, this is one Sam doesn't mind. "Love you, too, Dean," he says, twitches his nose then adds to cover up the lump in his throat, "but you need a bath, dude." Sam rises and manages a smile. "You stink."

Dean lifts a lone eyebrow, scoffs. "Pffpht. Smell luhh-like puhh-puh-ponies."

"I think you mean, posies," Sam says. "But ponies is closer to the truth. Trust me. That was a bad seizure. I timed it, it lasted almost four minutes, and even the short ones make you sweat like a pig. If you stay in bed much longer, you're gonna ferment. Let's get you clean."

"Buh-buh-but m'angry!"

"Oh sure, now you're hungry. Well, it'll keep. Shit, shave, and shower…then food." Sam braces his brother's back and helps him sit, gives him a minute to acclimate before swinging his legs off the side of the bed. It's a cumbersome transition. Dean's right foot is curled tighter than usual—Acquired Equinovarus foot—another indignity he's had to endure. Though, in truth it bothers Sam more. He stoops and rubs the twisted toes, trying to ease the knot. It does no good. Dean needs muscle relaxants, a lot of physical therapy and maybe some surgery, but none of that's going to happen. Sam tries not to think about it.

"Oww, suh-suh-Sammy. Hur's!"

"Sorry." Sam stops what he's doing, glances at the hooked limb, now pink and abraded from too much manhandling. "Sorry. Can you stand?"

Dean places his good hand on his brother's shoulder while Sam circles his waist. He pauses, allowing Dean to do his count—a ritual his brother finds soothing or meaningful in some way.

"Wuhhh-one—"

"I got it, Dean."

"Fuhh-fuhh-four—"

"I'm cramping, man. Hurry."

"Thuh-thuhh-three!"

Sam hoists his brother up, holds him until he's got his balance then scoots his walker close. The thing's a godsend—specially outfitted with high-frame, forearm platforms and a chest-support since Dean has only one working hand and a weak trunk.

He pivots the walker, angles it at Dean. "You got this?"

"Yuh-yeah." Sam helps Dean work his right arm into the cuff on the platform then tightens the grip so his arm doesn't slip out. After that, he moves back. Dean rarely gets angry these days, but if Sam tries to help him beyond this point, he will get pissed.

Dean rests his good arm on the other platform and holds the handlebar-like grip. Leaning against the chest support, he pivots his hip, dragging his right leg up then out in front of him in a cockeyed goosestep of sorts then hop-hitches along, making slow progress across the room.

Sam opens the bathroom door and backs his way in, watching as Dean approaches. "Got it?"

Dean nods. "Guhh-goddit."

"Okay, I'll get you on the can, give you some privacy and when you're done I'll draw your bath. Sound good?"

A smile parts Dean's lips. "Yuhh-yer a good buhh-brother, Sammy. Ruh-ruh-real good."

Sam closes his eyes against those words, against the implicit love and trust in them. He doesn't deserve the compliment. And he's not a good brother. Dean's life is fucked in every way because of him.



 photo BTDANAL HOURGLASS 2_zpshueuitbf.jpg


THEN

It happens on May 5th, during an average salt-and-burn of all things. Some pickled dick with a tight fist on his wallet has been going around killing his beneficiaries. Dean would appreciate the irony in the situation—kind of like getting cornered by a snarling beast and then being fatally bitten in the ass by a gnat. And it happens because Sam decides to argue in the middle of digging up Old-man Darby.

"Dean, you're being a dick about the whole thing."

Dean ignores him, thumps the lid of Mr. Darby's casket with his shovel, scraping away the last bits of dirt. "Found you, y'freak. Now, say hello to my little friends," he says with a smirk, shaking a box of stick matches.

Sam points his flashlight into the hole and continues to argue. "Dean, c'mon, man. This is important."

Dean grunts each word in time to his thrusts, the last few shovelfuls of dirt flying up and out of the grave in an angry arc. "We're…not…going…dude! Give it a damn rest. I told you. There's not a chance in hell. There's no debate here, Sam. It's off the table."

"But if we leave after this, we can be there by noon tomorrow."

"No we can't, because after this, I'mma go buy me a fifth a'whiskey and ring up them hot twins who gave me their number last night, huh? Yeah? Settle in for a cozy night of some double-mint fun." He pauses in his work, gives Sam a flippant once-over, eyes sparkling. "And you're gonna find yourself your own motel room, dude, spend the night with curlers in your hair, cotton between your toes, watching ‘The Notebook'—again—you know, the usual." He chuckles at his own joke.

But Sam doesn't laugh. It's all a big, affected show anyway, and it pisses Sam off. "S'not funny, Dean. I'm serious, and you should be, too. Let's leave tonight."

"It's not happening, Sam. Give it up." A final shovelful flies out of the grave, and Dean's aim is off—or it's dead on, Sam doesn't know which—but either way a spray of dirt pelts Sam's leg.

He spits out an angry blast of air. "Real mature, Dean." He tucks the sawed-off under his arm, pockets his flashlight and bends to dust off his pants.

And that's all the opening Old-man Darby needs. Before Sam says another word, the ghost is on him, a cold blast of energy wrenching the salt-gun up and away to his left.

"Sam!" Dean shouts as he jumps out of the grave in one fluid motion, cold determination on his face.

Mr. Darby aims another blow, but Dean pushes Sam out of harm's way, shoving him onto a fresh grave still mounded with funeral flowers and teddy bears. Dean dives for the gun, but the ghost blinks up behind and barrels into him like a linebacker. Sam's close enough to feel the whoosh of air leave Dean's lungs as he hurtles through the air and plows headfirst into a stone angel three graves away.

A thrill of panic shoots through Sam at the hollow crack of bone hitting stone. "Dean!"

Dean falls lifeless to the earth, leaving a dark streak of blood on the statue's marble robe.

Sam screams his brother's name again. "Dean!"

Old-man Darby smiles sadistically at the desperation in Sam's voice. The ghost wheels around and barrels toward him, stuttering and flickering like an old nickelodeon. And Sam's up with a primal growl. He lunges for the gun, grabs it and shoots Mr. Darby in the face. Every fiber of his being tells him to get to Dean, but he knows the salt-round won't keep the ghost away for long.

"God! Fuck!" Sam fumes and jumps into the grave, clawing away the dirt with his bare hands. He grabs the crowbar, opens the coffin and jumps out. Salt and lighter fluid go in next, and though Sam's breath freezes white when he strikes the match, Old-man Darby can go fuck himself. Sam drops the match, ignites the bones. Mr. Darby shrieks and is gone.

Sam loses time, loses all sense of self for a moment. One second he's standing at the lip of the grave, the next he's kneeling by the stone angel, flashlight in hand, calling his brother's name. Dean's lying on his back, blood seeping from the left side of his head and onto the earth. There's no movement, no sound, except a small gurgle deep in Dean's throat. He's choking on blood, Sam thinks.

"Shhh, shhh, shhh—I gotcha." When Sam eases his brother's head into the recovery position, bits of broken skull grind against one another under the scalp. Bloody pieces of hair and bone fragments fall into Sam's palm.

"Oh Fuck me! Fuck! Dean!"

Dean chokes again as a clear fluid—not blood—runs from his mouth. The same stuff drips from his nose and ears. Sam's brain shuts down at this point, and he loses more time.

He remembers nothing else, nothing at all until he's slamming on the brakes outside the Emergency room. The Impala's tires squeal as she comes to a full stop, and Sam lays on the horn until help arrives.



 photo BTDANAL HOURGLASS 2_zpshueuitbf.jpg


NOW

Sam draws Dean's bath while his brother sits on the toilet seat and brushes his teeth. Dean's all concentration and grunted effort as he raises a clumsy fist to his lips, toothbrush poking out between his thumb and forefinger. Even his good hand lacks agility and strength, and though Dean tries to stick it in his mouth, he misses several times, poking his cheek instead.

Sam swishes his hand in the bathwater. "Open wide, Dean. You need help?"

"Ah gahh'it," Dean says as he pries the brush under his cheek and industriously works it around his mouth. Toothpaste drips from his chin and onto the floor. Sam says nothing about it.

As soon as he finishes, Sam rises and lifts Dean's bad arm over his head and pokes his left. "Up," he says, and when Dean complies, Sam pulls off the dirty Henley.

He reaches for the string of Dean's sweatpants, but his brother squirms away, dragging his useless foot through the toothpaste. "I guhh-goddit, suhh-ss-Sam." He fumbles with the cord, determined to undo it himself, but only succeeds in tangling it worse.

Sam gives him a chance, glances at his watch. After a moment he pushes Dean's fingers away. "No you don't, dude. Let me just get this undone. You can do the rest."

"Nnuhh-no, Duhh-duh-dude!"

Sam unties the strings anyway. "There, see? Done. Now you can get them off on your own." He helps his brother stand, holding him steady while Dean shimmies out of the sweats. Sam doesn't help except to shove the garment away with his foot, using it to mop up the glob of toothpaste at the same time.

Dean pivots his hip and uses the sink and towel-rack on one side and Sam's shoulder on the other to get to the tub since his walker is useless in the bathroom. He knows he can't get into the tub without Sam's help, so he doesn't fuss when Sam lifts and settles him into the warm water.

"Ahhh," Dean relaxes, cups his good hand and releases a sluice of water over his chest and shoulders. "Guhh-good, Sammy. Yer a good buhh-brother."

Sam clamps his jaw, counts the pulse in his temple and ignores the comment. Kneeling, he scrapes a bar of soap against a washcloth and sets to work scrubbing his brother's bony shoulders and back. He uses the motion as an anchor, something to keep his brain from thinking beyond this moment.

As he massages shampoo into Dean's hair and scalp, his brother burbles in pleasure, eyes rolling, lips lifted in an ecstatic grin. "Muhh-myyy suhh-suh-Sammy," he whispers, and Sam's heart breaks.

He clears his throat, fending off tears. "Hey, do you remember when you used to wash my hair when I was little?"

Dean flutters his doe-lashes, jade eyes focused on his brother. Sam sees no real memory there, well, not the hair-washing memory, anyway. Dean genuinely remembers some things, but he's learned to fake the ones he doesn't. He so desperately wants to please Sam, so eager to share in the moment that he sometimes pretends.

He nods. "Muh-muh-memmer, Sammy. W-ww-when you were li'l."

Sam works the lather, taking care around the sensitive scar tissue. "When I was little you took care of me—real good care. And when it was bath-time, you always used to give me a shampoo mohawk."

"Hawk?" Dean laughs, flaps his good arm like a bird.

Sam begins sculpting. "No, not a hawk, a Mohawk, like a punk-rocker." He attempts to create the hairdo, but it doesn't last. Dean's locks are so long the tufted strip of hair soon wilts under its own weight. Without thinking, Sam bends in and kisses the spot just above his brother's temple where his scar peeks through the suds. He knows the misshapen indentation is the main reason he never cut Dean's hair this past year. There's no way he could deal with the constant reminder of yet another one of his failures.

Dean leans into the kiss, relishing the affection. When Sam breaks the half-hug, Dean points and laughs at the soap bubbles smeared on Sam's shirt.

The exchange warms Sam's heart for one brief second before raw grief and anger overtake him. Damn him. If Dean hadn't been hell-bent on saving Sam, if he hadn't sacrificed himself on that horrible night a year ago, they wouldn't be in this position now. Sam quivers with a fiery demon-rage, but he doesn't let it out, doesn't say one goddamn word. He rinses Dean's hair in silence, shaves his brother's face there in the tub and then pries up the stopper.

Dean frowns, thrashing his spastic limbs in and attempt to replace the rubber plug. "Nuhh-no Sammy, wuh-wuhh-wanna stay. S'warm."

Sam glances at his watch again. He hunches his shoulders and works his head back and forth, trying to relieve the tension. Grabbing a towel from the rack, he drapes it over Dean's head as the water drains. "How ‘bout I make you a deal? You let me get you out'a here, get you dressed—and then we can eat those burgers and have pie. I don't know about you, but I'm starved."

Dean's sold. "Duh-duhh-deal!" he says from underneath the towel.



 photo BTDANAL HOURGLASS 3_zpsv9esoltf.jpg


THEN

Sam demands they let him stay in the Emergency Room while they work on his brother, but two orderlies press him back with hasty warnings: You're not helping him. Let us work. We'll keep you updated.

He finds himself standing outside a pair of swinging doors, listening. The only clear words Sam hears from within come from an animated, male voice. Come on people, he's circling the drain! Move! The rest of the man's words get lost in the ensuing clamor. Thirty minutes later a harried doctor comes out, tells Sam that Dean's alive but his condition is grave and they're taking him to surgery. The doctor grips Sam's shoulder, gives it a compassionate tug and tells him to sit tight. But Sam doesn't sit. He paces, checks the clock every few minutes, and he doesn't stop for the next eight hours.



-


Morning sunlight stretches across the waiting room floor like a golden carpet when the tired surgeon finally returns. Dean's made it through surgery, but the prognosis is poor. Ten-dollar words fly past Sam, Intracranial Hypertension and Bilateral Frontotemporal Decompressive Craniectomy but the gist is clear. Swelling's caused too much cranial pressure, depriving Dean's brain and other vital organs of oxygen. They removed a piece of his skull in order to give his swollen brain some room, to get some much-needed oxygen to his heart and lungs. But the doctor says there's nothing else they can do at this point. Dean remains unresponsive, pupils fixed and dilated, his blood pressure perilously low.

He says Dean's a GCS-3 and goes into detail about what that means, but Sam doesn't listen to the explanation—something or other about a coma-scale. However, he hears loud and clear when the doctor tells him he doesn't expect his brother to last the day. He urges Sam to make whatever calls he needs and to prepare for the worst.

Time blips again and Sam finds himself in the ICU with no memory of having gotten there. He's sitting at Dean's bedside, cupping his brother's hand and begging him not to leave him. Stay with me, Dean—Don't leave me Dean—Not now—Not yet become his mantras. He repeats himself until his words become just another part of the white noise surrounding him in the ICU. Over and over he begs his brother, oblivious to the doctors and nurses working around him. They speak to each other in stage whispers so as not to disturb his vigil. He refuses to leave, refuses to eat. He watches the clock and continues his hushed but incessant babble, shift-change after shift-change.

-

Dean makes it through the day, but the doctors remain unencouraged. The prognosis does not change. Dean's not breathing on his own, his vitals are shit. It's a raw deal, and there's sympathy on their faces when they address Sam, but they don't sugarcoat it, either. Dean's close to death, and they don't think they can pull him back.


-


After three more days of this, Dean's still alive despite all the doctors' predictions. Now they say Dean will never open his eyes. When one of the doctors uses the phrase persistent vegetative state, Sam tells him to go fuck himself—refuses to let the man touch his brother. They remove Sam from the ICU at this point, suggest he cool off, go get some sleep, shower, eat, and they tell him not to come back until morning. Sam storms from the hospital, winds up at some grubby motel and uses the time to call Bobby. He tells him what happened to Dean—tells him everything. The conversation's brief; Bobby says he'll be there by morning, and he is.

They sit in the ICU for two days, Bobby watching over Dean, Sam on his laptop, researching a way out of the mess Dean's in. He only leaves to use the restroom and make some calls from his cell phone. On the second morning after Bobby's arrival, Sam produces a slip of paper with a name scrawled on it.

"I've been doing some digging, but I can't leave Dean like this. Can you go find her? It might take a while. I hear she's a recluse, moves from place to place within the French Quarter, but if you can track her, I think she can help with this kind of thing."

Bobby tears his eyes away from Dean, takes the slip of paper from Sam and reads it. He looks up, not comprehending. "Son?"

"She can get him out of this—save him. She lives in New Orleans. Priestess or something. Go see her, see if she can do anything."

Bobby's brows crease with sad, gentle judgment. "Son, I don't think anyone can help with that kind of thing."

"Bobby, please. He's in this mess because of me. I have to do something. We have to do something. I have to save him. I have to try."

Bobby nods his head and sighs. "All right. I'll go." His attention wanders to Dean lying inert and unaware, the focal point of a dozen bleeping machines. "Take care of him," is all he says and he's gone.

-
About ten days later Bobby still hasn't found the priestess when Dean's pupils begin to dilate. The doctors determine he's stable enough to undergo more surgery. Now that the edema has subsided, they want to replace the piece of skull they removed to reduce the pressure on his swollen brain. After surgery, they bring Dean back to the ICU and ween him off the ventilator. But he remains unresponsive, still categorized a GCS-3 despite the improvement in his pupil dilation. Sam spends most of his time researching from the recliner the ICU nurses provided. He dozes in fits while he waits for Bobby to contact him.



-


Bobby calls three days later and tells Sam the lead was a bust. The woman was a fraud. He says he'll be back by the next day, but Sam has another name, another address, this one in Oregon—a white witch who he's certain can help. The old hunter tries to talk some sense into him, but Sam won't have it. In the end, Bobby relents and says he'll be on the road headed west in an hour.

This pattern continues for weeks. Bobby drops by the hospital every time he's near, spends an afternoon or evening with Sam and Dean. Then he's off chasing another lead, hunting down every shaman, diviner, witch doctor or priestess—whatever or whomever Sam asks.



-


Bobby's off on another goose-chase when Dean opens his eyes, but the doctors tell Sam his brother isn't awake. And after the initial shock has passed, Sam knows they're right. Dean's eyes are open, but he's not there, not really. He's exhibits reflexive responses; sometimes he'll make a growling sound in his throat. If prodded, he'll twitch. He responds to pain, to loud noises, but there's no spark there, no awareness—no Dean. He stares straight through Sam.

They move Dean out of the ICU on the 4th of July. The bandages come off his head, but the peach fuzz of new growth does nothing to hide the noticeable crater and devastating scars left by the stone angel and ensuing surgeries.

The next time Bobby visits, he hints that Sam's obsession with saving Dean is doing more harm than good, but Sam's got a new name, a new address. Sam walks Bobby to the door, thanks him for everything. The old hunter gives him a lachrymose sigh but agrees to look into it. Sam knows Bobby's only humoring him. He doesn't believe Dean can be helped this way, doesn't believe the name on the paper will offer any kind of solution—not a good one anyway. Fixing something like this, after all, usually costs more than the seeker has to give—but to his credit Bobby doesn't refuse him. After he leaves, Sam shuts the door. When he turns toward the bed, he notices Dean's eyes are tracking his every move. Sam races to the door again, opens it and shouts for help.

-

When Dean wakes up, doctors say he'll never talk again, never walk again. The cognitive impairment sustained is too profound they say. But when Dean fools the doctors yet again and says his first words, a stilted and stuttered ‘Hheh-hehh-hey y-y-yuh, suh-suh-Sammy', the doctors are astounded and delighted. Yet, Sam's heart sinks. The doctors may be celebrating, but Sam's devastated. The cognitive impairment is profound. Most of the damage to Dean's brain occurred in his frontal and parietal lobes, which means much of what made Dean ‘Dean' has been irrevocably altered or lost.

His long-term memory is spotty at best. Dean has no recollection of the accident whatsoever, no memory of the week or so leading up to it, in fact. Sam doesn't know whether he's relieved by that or not. It complicates everything, that's for sure. Dean remembers some things, though. He remembers being a hunter, for instance, and he often mentions past cases at the most inappropriate times.

"Muhh-muh-memmer when wuh-we took down them puh-puh-punkhole v-vuh-vampires? Huh, suh-Sammy? Muh-memmer?" he says to Sam while his favorite nurse, Shelly, stands by reading a printout from one of the machines. She cocks her head at Sam.

Sam plasters a smile on his face. "Uh…we used to play a lot of Dungeons and Dragons," he says. Shelly raises a brow, mouths the word ‘oh' and accepts the explanation. She tells him not to be too concerned, tells him Traumatic Brain Injury patients often mix fantasy and reality. And Sam remembers to use that handy excuse anytime one of his doctors or nurses ask what a Wendigo or Tulpa is.

Dean remembers some things, has completely forgotten others. He remembers Sam, remembers Bobby, too, but when the old hunter comes to visit, Dean doesn't recognize him. They have to spend his whole visit convincing Dean the man in front of him is his old friend. Sam's not sure if Dean believes them in the end or if he pretends to for their sakes. It doesn't take long, though, before Bobby and Dean forge—or reforge—an unshakable bond.

Dean's short-term memory is no better. He often repeats himself. And his moods swing every which way, often alternating between tears and laughter—but rarely anger. Doctors say many TBI patients become combative and aggressive, but not Dean. Dean's personality presents as docile and affectionate—childlike. He only displays anger when Sam hovers excessively or does too much for him. And he has no emotional barriers, no inhibitions. He expresses himself in raw truths he never allowed himself to indulge in before the accident.

"Luh-luhh-luhv you, Sammy. Yyy-yeh-yer muh-my…" Dean pauses, asks for a hug by patting his chest. "…buh-best friend." When Sam bends down and embraces him, Dean adds, "Muh-my goo' luh-lover."

Shelly chokes, tries to pretend she didn't just hear that.

Sam looks up. "I think he means brother," he tells her.

Sam adds apraxia, aphasia and dysarthria to his day-to-day vocabulary. Apraxia makes it difficult for his brother to find his words. He gets hung up on them and stutters incessantly, sometimes taking up to a full minute to say one sentence. Some vital connection's been lost or broken due to oxygen deprivation, and the pathway from his brain to his mouth is unstable. Aphasia has him often picking the wrong word even after a long, apraxic battle to get it out in the first place—most instances aren't as egregious as ‘lover' instead of ‘brother', but ‘peas' become ‘pigs', ‘tomato' becomes ‘motato' and for some random reason, ‘spoon' becomes ‘harp'. Dysarthria affects his articulation and clarity of speech, making Dean sound like he's been shot up with Novocain. Combined, all three conditions make it difficult for anyone who isn't Sam to understand him.



-



Every time Bobby visits he brings disappointing news—the latest lead didn't pan out—the shaman or witch or seer or psychic couldn't help—nothing but dead-end after dead-end. And every time Sam responds by giving him a different name, a new address.

"Rumor has it, this guy's the real deal, has done this type of thing before—had good results, I hear," he says.

Bobby doesn't stay long—just long enough for Dean to become attached all over again. Dean has great love for the old man. When he shows up, Dean greets him with joy, garbling and laughing into Bobby's neck as they hug. When he leaves, Dean cries himself to sleep.



-



Dean has his first seizure a few weeks after he starts talking, and he has seizures nearly every day thereafter until the doctors bring them under control with medication. Though the seizures lessen in frequency, they're still tonic-clonic, grand mal episodes when they do occur. Because of this and despite the heavy-duty anticonvulsants he's on, the doctors outfit him with a helmet and line his bed with bumper pads to protect his still fragile skull. Another head injury at this point in his recovery, even a mild one, would likely prove fatal.

About the same time the seizures begin, spasticity starts to settle into Dean's right arm and foot. Day by day Dean's limbs tighten and twist inward. No matter how often or how hard Sam rubs them, Dean's wrist and foot flex up and in at an unnatural angle, first his fingers and then his toes curl into themselves, each becoming a fixed, rigid unit of braided digits.

The doctors say it's common—say it like it's not the huge fucking complication it is. They smile and give sterile explanations how Traumatic Brain Injuries can interrupt the delicate flow of nerve impulses between brain and muscle. They shrug, tell Sam it's the least of Dean's problems at this point. They put him on muscle relaxants that do diddlysquat and say there are some surgical procedures that can help. Of course that's all much further down the road—maybe in a year or two, they say, and even then, Dean'll likely never regain full use of those limbs—you know—no big whoop. They're dicks for being so nonchalant about it, and it's another goddamned cruel development.



-


One day in early October, Dean takes his first tottering steps. They have him down in the physical therapy room, rigged up like a marionette.

"On thuh-three," Dean says. His left hand grips the bar as he works himself up for the challenge. "Wuh-ww-one…fuh-ff-fuhh-five…thuh-three!" He lurches his right hip forward, nearly climbing over his own useless foot before finding his balance and swinging his left foot in front. Everyone in the room cheers for him. Everyone but Sam. He's in the corner with his head buried in his laptop, emailing a Hoodoo priest he heard about who might be able to help Dean.

After that, Dean spends an hour a day in PT, and he soon upgrades from the harness to a modified walker Sam's never seen the likes of before. It resembles a movable scaffold more than it does a walker, but Dean needs all the extra buzzers and whistles. The spasticity in his right side exacerbates his already ataxic gait, making walking even more cumbersome, but with the walker he manages to hold his balance most of the time. Over the next couple of weeks, as he builds up his leg and trunk muscles, his gait strengthens and smooths out. It's not anything close to normal, but it's progress. His therapist tells Dean he has a real shot of working his way up to a cane in a year or two but it'll mean a lot of hard work. Dean promises to do whatever it takes. Sam excuses himself and uses the time to go vomit in the restroom.



-


A week or so later, Dean's giddy when Shelly brings him an extra helping of pudding. He feeds himself for the first time but winds up dribbling more pudding on his bib than he manages to get into his mouth. It doesn't matter to him, though. It tickles him to no end to do this under his own steam. Shelly's delighted, too, and after Dean's down for his nap, she gushes about it to Sam.

"If you asked me when he first came here where he'd be today, I'd have said it was a million to one long shot if he even lived. But this?" She shakes her head, her voice breathy with awe. "Your brother must have an incredible cognitive reserve."

Sam quirks a brow. "What do you mean?"

"Well, it's a known medical fact the more intelligent the TBI patient is the better—the more successful—their recovery. Of course, persistence and internal drive are equally important components to rehabilitation. But I can tell Dean's a fighter, too—an intelligent, determined fighter."

Sam wants to believe her, wants to celebrate his brother's small victories, but he can't. He swallows bile thinking of Dean's future. It flashes before him like a Dante inspired Hellscape.

"I've worked with many TBI patients, Sam, and this? Dean? He's a miracle," she says, then pauses and touches Sam's arm. "I'm a nurse. I believe in Science. I've witnessed the power of medicine, but I also believe with my whole heart your brother's been touched by the hand of God himself."

Sam stiffens, wants to punch something. "Excuse me," he says and leaves the room before he does anything, says anything, he'll regret later.

Outside the room, he huffs and puffs through his rage. What…his brother taking half a dozen spastic steps while people cheer him on like he's two fucking years old is being touched by the hand of God? His brother struggling to get a couple of spoonfuls of pudding into his mouth by himself is being touched by the hand of God? Fuck Shelly. Fuck God, too, for that matter. Dean's brain is a storm of neurological malfunctions. Sam can't imagine what it must be like to be trapped in his own body the way Dean is trapped in his. It's a goddamned nightmare is what it is—it's hell.

Sam checks the time, walks off the ward, down the hall and out the building. When he enters the windy courtyard he's still seething mad. He paces around, tries to decompress. After a while he sits on a bench under a tree, watching the wind rip away withered leaves from their branches. Once he's collected himself, he gets out his phone to check in with Bobby.

But it's another letdown, another fucking dry lead. He cuts Bobby off when he says Sam needs to adjust his priorities—refocus his attention. Sam responds to that by giving him another name of a witch some hunter told him about, tells him to find her and see if she can help.

Bobby sighs. "You know I will, Sam. I'm just thinking of you, is all. If we can't fix this, you need to prepare yourself for how things are gonna be."

"You worry about finding that witch. I'll worry about me."

"Kid, you sound more ‘n more like your daddy every day, you know that?" And when Sam doesn't answer, he sighs. "All right, look, I'll do my best. I'll be in touch," he says and hangs up.

Sam's hair dances eerily in the wind as he continues to watch dead leaves fall. He takes several cleansing breaths. He needs to stop worrying about what Dean can or can't do at this point. That's a battle for another day. Despite what Bobby says, Sam does have his priorities straight. He's going to get Dean out of this. Nothing else matters.

(END PART 1)

Go to Part 2

 
 
 
(Anonymous) on December 10th, 2015 04:28 pm (UTC)
This was amazing. I have no words of how awesome this was.
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on December 10th, 2015 11:06 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! I'm so glad it worked for you. :)

Kat
cyanidesympathycyanidesympathy on December 10th, 2015 09:36 pm (UTC)
I'm only a little over a screenfull in and I am already fucking DECIMATED. I hope you're happy, jerk!

Kneeling, he scrapes a bar of soap against a washcloth and sets to work scrubbing his brother's bony shoulders and back.

Oh my God, the punches just keep coming! I was totally picturing Dean's old physique up until this point.

He so desperately wants to please Sam, so eager to share in the moment that he sometimes pretends.

No! NOOOOO! My poor heart ;~;

Bobby tears his eyes away from Dean, takes the slip of paper from Sam and reads it. He looks up, not comprehending. "Son?"

This fic is so fucking good man. Everyone's so REAL. You're doing Bobby so well.

I would recommend warning for gore, by the way. The initial injury was REALLY gnarly in a way that 'Graphic Violence' didn't prepare me for. And that's kind of saying something, since I mostly read Hellfics... A fic hasn't made me feel that weak in the knees since I read jamiekay's Black Turn to Red!

To clarify: It's great. But wow. I'm kind of impressed with my squeamish self for being able to take it.

All of your descriptions of the sun and shadows are beautiful. I don't know why, but I'm in love with the line where Sam "follows his shadow across the room."
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on December 10th, 2015 11:09 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for the feedback. I went and changed the master post here and on Hoodie Time to specifically warn for gore. I do have to ask, though...because from reading your comments, it doesn't look like you read part two. Did you read it? If you didn't...I want to caution you EXTRA HARD for gore in second part. If Dean's initial injury was on the edge for you, the second part will throw you hurtling into the abyss. No joke. Heh. So, just so you know...lots of gore in part two.

But thank you so much for all your encouraging words. I appreciate it very, very much!

Take care,

Kat
lidia1991_anlidia1991_an on December 11th, 2015 04:15 am (UTC)

Amazing and sad!Yay, a new brlliant work!

Hugs you.:))

sharlot1926sharlot1926 on December 11th, 2015 10:45 am (UTC)
*hugs you right back!*

Thanks so much. :)
jpgr: XMas Ornamentjpgr on December 14th, 2015 01:25 pm (UTC)
How did I miss this when you posted? OK there were those. Couple of days I never turned on the laptop and I usually don't visit LJ on my iPad.

This is so amazingly moving but it's different then your regular theme. Yes, there's Dean whumpage but you've concentrated on Sam.

Now to continue...
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on December 14th, 2015 03:14 pm (UTC)
Hey you! How the heck are you?

Yes, you're right...this is a little bit outside my norm. Sam is the main focus...but at the same time, he's the main focus in the same way he was in, say, "Mystery Spot"...in that he's the focus, sure, but HIS focus is Dean. So you can see my Dean-girl stripes no matter what. ;)

Kat