Title: The L Word
Season: 1 – sometime after the episode Faith
Category: General, Action
Tagline: Some things are just too hard to say
Total Word Count: 11,374
Total Chapters: 2
Chapter 2 Word Count: 6387
Story Banner: Chasidern
Award Banner: deny1984
Winner: SN.TV 2008 Awards – Best Short Story
This second chapter actually inspired a good friend of mine, BlueEyedDemonLiz, to write a great one-shot called Dean Winchester Vs Plastic Hospital Chair - check it out on the dreaded ff.net.
Dean made it to the Impala in record time. He wrenched the trunk open and rummaged quickly through the weapons cache, pulling out a crowbar and an axe. Slamming the lid down, he sprinted back inside the building, the shotgun in one hand and the tools in the other as he clattered down the stairs to the basement. The dull boom of a shotgun and a shrill screech lent speed to his movements, and he gave a wild yell as he slid around the corner of the corridor. “Josh, don’t shoot!”
The middle-aged coroner lowered the smoking shotgun, his shoulders sagging in relief as the tall hunter sprinted into view. “Dean – thank God.”
“You got him?” Quickly, Dean set the shotgun and the axe down on the floor at his feet and wedged the crowbar against the slight crack between the cold room door and the wall. He peered through the glass at his brother, biting his lip when he noted Sam’s shambling, uneven steps.
“Yes. I got him – I think. He’s gone, anyway.”
“For now,” the hunter muttered grimly. He shifted his stance on the floor, settling his feet firmly as he grasped the crowbar, pushing against it with all his strength. Tendons stood out in stark relief down Dean’s neck, and hard muscles writhed beneath his shirt. His body trembled with the effort he was exerting. After a long moment Dean slumped, gasping for air, and wiped the thin sheen of sweat from his brow as he checked on his sibling again.
Sam was standing in the middle of the cold room, fumbling for the zipper on his hooded jacket. As Dean watched, Sam’s frozen hands slipped again and again in his attempt to grasp the small metal tab. The elder hunter could see his brother’s lips moving. Finally Sam gave up and staggered to the far wall, sliding down its icy surface to the floor. Dean slammed his fists against the glass. “Sam! Sammy! Get up, little brother! Get your ass up!”
Sam’s head lolled, and for a moment his glazed eyes met the panicked gaze of his elder sibling. Sam gave a half smile and closed his eyes, nodding to himself. Dean swallowed nervously as he saw his brother give a brief laugh. The younger hunter’s blue-tinged lips began moving again, and Dean realised Sam was confused and talking to himself. “Hypothermia. Crap, crap, crap!”
He renewed his attack on the door as his brother staggered to his feet and resumed his stumbling, weaving walk across the floor of the cold room. Dean grunted with the effort, his teeth grinding together, but the door remained jammed closed. His gaze ran down the thin seam, trying to find a weakness, and he stiffened as he saw that someone had turned the room thermostat was to its lowest setting before smashing the controls. Dean threw his weight against the crowbar once more. “Come on, come on!”
The shotgun boomed again and the hunter jumped, letting go of the crowbar as he spun around to face the ghost. He scooped his own shotgun off the floor, cocking and aiming in one fluid move. But the shot from the coroner’s weapon had done its job, and the ghost was repelled once more. Dean dug a hand in his pocket and handed the elder man the last two rock salt cartridges. He turned back to study the door, his eyes straying constantly to his brother.
Sam was standing in between the middle two rows of beef carcasses, staring up at the ceiling and pulling clumsily at his jacket. Dean could see that Sam’s hands and face had turned blue from the intense cold. The young hunter was shivering so violently that his whole body was shaking. To Dean’s dismay, Sam managed to get his jacket off and dropped it near his feet as he staggered drunkenly toward the far wall.
Dean pounded futilely on the glass panel, knowing his brother couldn’t hear him, but needing to try. “Sam! Sammy – no! Put your jacket back on! Sammy!” Bending down, he snatched the axe off the floor and swung it up, aiming for the glass panel. He shaded his eyes with one arm just before the head of the axe made contact with the panel. The weapon bounced off without damaging the glass, and Dean reeled back in shock as the axe almost hit him in the face on the recoil. “Son of a bitch!”
Sam’s shivers tapered off, and he slowly sank to his knees on the frost-covered floor.
“Jeez!” Turning back to the watchful coroner, Dean reviewed what Josh had told him outside. “Josh – you said that the plant manager called you? You sure it was him?”
“Yeah, I’m definitely sure.”
“It didn’t just sound like him?” Dean insisted, thinking of the ghostly Doctor Ellicott’s phone call to his little brother at the Roosevelt asylum in Illinois. “You’re one hundred percent sure it was him?”
“Yes, I’m one hundred percent sure. Why?”
Dean’s tall frame stiffened as a horrifying thought took shape. He grasped the shorter man by the shoulder, spinning him around. “Son of a bitch! Where’s his office?”
“Uh, it’s on the second floor.” Josh blinked in astonishment as he found himself being steered toward the stairs. “What – where…”
“You come with me. And keep your finger on that trigger.” Dean hurried the man up the stairs.
Josh was breathing hard by the time he and Dean burst out of the stairwell on the second floor. He indicated a door to the left and tried the handle, finding it locked. Turning to face the hunter, Josh felt his jaw drop as Dean raised his booted foot and drove it into the door, splintering the wood and springing the lock. The door crashed back against the wall and Dean sprang into the room, pulling the EMF meter from his pocket.
Dean swept the EMF meter around the office, and grinned humourlessly when the device suddenly gave out its familiar warble. The row of led lights across the top of the meter flashed wildly as the needle swung into the red zone, and Dean put the device away while he studied the section of wall it had indicated. His sharp gaze picked out a fine dark line and he hefted the axe, driving the razor sharp blade against the timber panelling.
Josh jumped, startled, as the wall splintered. His eyes widened as the tall hunter pulled a small glass phial from a hidden compartment behind the panelling. “What the hell’s that?”
“This is what’s keeping Mandeville’s spirit here.” Dean grasped the phial tightly in one hand. “You got your cell? Call 911 – get an ambulance out here. Then get back to the basement and keep an eye on my brother.”
“Where are you going?” Josh frowned, spreading his hands out from his sides as Dean strode from the office.
Dean held up the phial and glanced at the dark, sooty substance contained inside. “I’m gonna burn what’s left of Mandeville’s remains. With him gone, I’m betting we can get to Sammy.” Dean narrowed his eyes to green slits, and his lips twisted into a snarl. “And once my brother’s safe, I’m gonna pay your buddy the plant manager a little visit.”
Sprinting down the stairs two at a time, Dean hurried to the staff entry door, the butt of the shotgun pressed against his side and his finger curled around the trigger. As he reached for the door handle, a cold breeze wafted across the back of his neck and he spun on his heel, his finger tightening on the trigger before he came to a complete stop. The ghost shrieked as the rock salt broke its cohesion, and then Dean was running for the Impala with desperate speed. He smashed the phial on the ground, pulled the salt and lighter fluid from the weapons bag and poured them over the ashy remains. With shaking hands, he drew another book of matches from his pocket, struck one and torched the tiny pile, stepping back as a small tongue of flame licked across the concrete toward his boot.
* * * * *
Josh heard the boom of Dean’s shotgun as he ended his call and slid his cell phone back into his jacket pocket. Holding the borrowed shotgun to his shoulder, he made his way back to the basement. He tried the handle on the cold room door once more, grimacing in frustration as it turned, but the door stayed stubbornly closed. The coroner peered through the glass panel and hissed between his teeth.
Inside the freezing room, Sam had succumbed to the next stage of severe hypothermia. He had curled into a foetal position on the icy floor as his body began to shut down.
The coroner glanced at his watch, and then his head snapped up when he heard a soft click. Josh’s eyes widened in surprise as the door slowly swung open, letting out a wall of freezing air. Transferring the shotgun to one hand, Josh leaped into the cold room and dropped to his knees as he reached for Sam’s neck, his fingers frantically but gently searching for a pulse beneath the puffy blue-tinged skin.
* * * * *
The pile of remains took seconds to burn, and Dean heard a siren wailing in the distance as he made sure the flames had died down before running back inside. Hurtling down the stairs, he jumped the last few feet and sprinted back to his brother. As he rounded the corner, he saw the cold room door standing wide open. Moments later, Josh appeared in the doorway and beckoned frantically to the approaching hunter.
Josh stepped aside as Dean sped into the freezing room. “He’s in a bad way, Dean. I called 911 – they should be here in a couple of minutes.” Swallowing nervously, the coroner watched as Dean knelt at his brother’s side.
“They’re almost here. I heard the sirens.” Dean’s hands shook as he reached out to grasp Sam’s shoulder and turn him over. The shaggy haired young hunter’s face and hands felt like ice, and he was breathing erratically, his half-closed eyes glazed and unfocussed, his pupils dilated. Dean glanced up at the hovering coroner. “We gotta get him out of here. Josh, grab that blanket I gave you – fold it in half and spread it out on the floor.”
Gently, being careful not to bruise Sam’s skin or jar him unnecessarily, Dean slipped his hands under his brother’s knees and around his back and lifted him off the floor. He carried the insensate young man out of the cold room and laid him on the blanket, and then he stripped off his jacket, wrapping it around Sam’s torso. Striding back into the cold room, Dean snatched Sam’s discarded jacket from the floor and shook it out, spreading it across his own jacket and tucking the edges in around his brother’s ice-cold body.
The young psychic didn’t stir when Dean knelt back at his side. Dean brushed his hand against Sam’s long bangs, gently pushing them off his forehead.
“Sammy, come on, little brother. Show me your eyes. It’s all over now – I gotcha.” Dean bent over his near-comatose brother as he heard a commotion upstairs. Leaving Josh to direct the paramedics down to the basement, he concentrated on his brother. Careful not to touch Sam’s face and risk damaging the puffy blue skin, Dean stroked his hand across his brother’s frost-rimmed hair. “Sammy, I’m here, I gotcha. You’re safe now, kiddo. Come on, now, look at me, dude. Show me those puppy dog eyes, huh?”
Sam remained unaware of his brother and his surroundings.
“Come on, dude, wake up for me, huh? Sammy…” Dean’s lower lip trembled as he stared at his unresponsive sibling. He heard the clatter of a gurney hitting the floor, and glanced up to see the paramedics hurrying toward him. Reluctantly he got to his feet and stepped aside, watching with his hands curled into fists while the paramedics worked on his brother, checking his pulse and reflexes. Dean winced as one of the men made a fist and dug his knuckles into Sam’s sternum, but the young hunter didn’t flinch.
“No response to pain,” the paramedic muttered.
This is bad – this is so bad… Vaguely Dean became aware of Josh’s voice, but he couldn’t make out the words. Dean’s focus drilled down to his brother’s too-pale face, and the painfully slow rise and fall of Sam’s chest. He followed wordlessly as Sam was loaded onto the gurney and wheeled toward the stairs.
Josh picked up the discarded shotguns and the crowbar, and with a last glance around, he hurried up the stairs in the wake of the stricken hunter.
* * * * *
Dean glanced up as a doctor approached the nurses’ station. The man spoke briefly with the nurse behind the desk and then he straightened, looking around the tiny waiting room. Dean got to his feet, Josh by his side, as the doctor approached.
“Mister Berkowitz? I’m Doctor Miller.”
“How’s my brother?” Dean blurted.
The doctor rested a hand on the tall hunter’s shoulder. “Let’s sit down, shall we?”
A cold fear gripped Dean’s heart, and he swallowed repeatedly as he was steered back to the hard plastic chairs.
Doctor Miller settled on the chair next to Dean. “Your brother has severe hypothermia, as you probably already guessed. Currently, we’re treating him with heated oxygen and warm IV fluids to slowly increase his core temperature. His chest and abdominal x-rays came back clear, so there’s no internal damage. Now, he’s responding well, although he is still unconscious. I don’t think we need to put him through haemodialysis.”
“Haemo…” Dean shook his head in confusion.
“Haemodialysis is the process of filtering the blood through an artificial kidney to warm it up outside the body. But we’re getting a nice steady response to the inhalation warming and the IV’s, so we’ll stick with that.”
“But – you said he’s still unconscious?”
“Yes, he is, but his vital signs are stabilising.” The doctor held up a hand. “Now, don’t get me wrong – he’s still on the critical list. But he’s young and healthy, so there’s a good chance he’ll make a full recovery.”
Dean scrubbed his hands over his face. He felt the pressure of Josh’s hand on his shoulder, and he flashed the elder man a grateful glance. Josh had stowed the recovered weapons in his own car, followed the ambulance to the hospital, and had sat with Dean for the last four hours waiting to hear how Sam was doing. He turned back to the kindly doctor. “Can – can I see him?”
“I think that will be okay. But – just prepare yourself. There’s a lot of equipment hooked up to your brother. Some people could find that distressing.”
Dean’s jaw firmed in determination. “I’ll be fine.”
Doctor Miller got to his feet and smiled as he beckoned for Dean to follow him. “Well, come with me. I think you know the drill – be careful when you touch his skin, and don’t try to wake him up – severe hypothermia can cause cardiac arrest, so we need to keep any shocks to a minimum for the next few hours.”
“I promise I won’t do anything – I just need to see him – make sure he’s okay.”
Miller patted Dean’s shoulder as he stopped outside a closed door just down from the nurses’ station. “I know, young man.” He pushed open the door, allowing the young hunter to step inside.
The room was in semi darkness, and Dean blinked rapidly to adjust his vision. The first thing he became aware of was that the temperature of the room was a lot higher than out in the waiting area. Squaring his shoulders, the hunter turned his gaze to the bed in the middle of the room. The handrails on both sides of the bed were locked in the upright position, but Dean could see his brother between the bars. Sam lay cocooned in blankets, tubes and wires trailing from his body. His chest rose and fell steadily with the soft whoosh of the ventilator, his lanky frame seeming smaller somehow.
A monitor on the wall at the side of the bed caught Dean’s eye, and he studied the lines scrolling across the screen for a moment. Slowly he moved closer, his gaze following two electrical cords running from the monitor. One cord went to a little tan box lying on the bed near his brother’s shoulder. The other disappeared under the blankets near Sam’s hand, and Dean carefully lifted the edge of the blanket, to find a small white plastic device like a bandaid slipped over the tip of Sam’s index finger. A tiny red light glowed over his fingernail. Dean growled low in his throat when he noticed the padded cloth strap wrapped around his brother’s wrist and secured to the frame of the bed.
Dean gripped the handrail and glared at the doctor hovering in the doorway. “Why is he strapped down?” he snarled softly.
Miller raised a hand in a placating gesture. “When he wakes up, his natural inclination will be to try to rip the tubes and wires off before he’s fully aware. The wrist restraints are to stop him from hurting himself.”
“Oh.” Dean twitched his shoulders, swallowed a few times, and finally directed his gaze to his brother’s pale face. His heart lurched, and his fingers tightened around the handrail until his knuckles went white.
A thin, clear plastic tube snaked from Sam’s left nostril up to a canister attached to the wall by a metal ring. A strip of tape wrapped around the tube and across the ridge of his nose to hold it in place. Dean’s eyes followed a second tube extending from the top of the canister, ending in a hard plastic tip with a hook at the end. The hook was draped over the handrail of the bed. Dean glanced back at the nasal tube hooked up to his brother, and grimaced at the small amount of mucus pooled in a dip in the tube.
A larger tube extended from the young hunter’s mouth, ending in a white valve. Two corrugated tubes trailed from the valve to the ventilator on the floor on the opposite side of the bed. A long strip of white tape wound around the tube, holding it in the corner of Sam’s mouth, the ends of the tape stretching across his face almost to the corners of his jaw.
Dean clenched his hands into fists, dropping his gaze from the distressing sight of his brother’s sensitive lips distorted by the intubation tube. His eyes narrowed as they swept down Sam’s still frame to the EKG leads taped to his chest, the leads running to the little tan box near his shoulder. An IV line ran from the side of his neck, held in place by two small black sutures. Three ports ran from the IV, allowing multiple bags to be hooked up at the same time. Only one bag was running, and Dean flicked his gaze from the excess tubing coiled neatly and taped to Sam’s shoulder, up to the bag hooked on a metal pole at the head of the bed.
Slowly, Dean walked around to the opposite side of the bed, glancing down briefly at the catheter tube winding from under the blankets near Sam’s knee and draining into a bag hung from the bed frame. He waved a hand at his brother’s unmoving form surrounded by the frightening array of equipment as he glanced back at the doctor.
Doctor Miller smiled gently, walking forward to stand beside the tall young hunter. He pointed to the various pieces of equipment. “The ventilator you probably guessed – that’s pumping warm oxygen. The nasogastric tube is for getting warm fluids directly into his stomach – part of the core rewarming process. As for the rest – well, it’s pretty standard – EKG leads on his chest and side, pulse/oxygen sensor on his finger – they monitor his vitals. The warm IV running into his neck is dextrose in saline. The catheter is there to keep his bladder drained, so that his system isn’t wasting body heat and energy keeping the urine warm.”
Dean reached carefully across the bed and picked up the hooked tube. “And this?”
“That’s to clean out his mouth if it gets a build-up of fluids or mucus.”
Grimacing, Dean quickly put the tube back down and wiped his fingers on his jeans, his gaze straying to the canister on the wall and the small amount of gunk in the bottom of it. He swallowed convulsively, thrusting his hands into his pockets. “How long does he have to be – like this?”
“Until he’s stabilised. I know it looks a little frightening, but your brother’s a fighter. He’s got a good chance of coming out of this.”
“He’s still so pale…” the green-eyed hunter whispered, his worried gaze returning to his brother’s face. The tip of the younger man’s nose, the tops of his ears, and his fingers were a tinged a faint blue-grey.
“His colour will return as his core temperature comes back up.” Miller laid a hand on Dean’s shoulder. “If he wakes up, he’ll be disoriented – maybe a little scared at all the tubes and wires. Keep him as calm as you can.”
The door closed softly, leaving the brothers alone in the quiet room.
Sighing softly, Dean pulled a chair from the wall and set it near the head of the bed, being careful to avoid the ventilator tubes. He sank down onto its seat, his gaze never leaving his brother’s waxen face. “Sammy,” he whispered. “Sammy, I’m sorry. I should have protected you. Hell, I should have listened when you told me you had a bad feeling.”
Dean rubbed a hand across his face, and pinched the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger for a few moments. Dropping his arm, he sighed again and leaned closer to the bed. He rested a hand gently on his brother’s blanket-wrapped forearm, being careful not to put too much pressure on Sam’s slowly warming skin.
“I don’t know if you can hear me, little brother, but I want you to know – I’m right here. And I’m not goin’ anywhere until I know you’re gonna be okay.”
Folding his arms, Dean leaned back in the chair, keeping his eyes on Sam’s still, pale face. “Guess now I know how you felt after we tackled that Rawhead, huh? Can’t have been easy for you – seeing me hooked up to all those freakin’ monitors and crap. But I gotta tell you, dude – you got way more crap stickin’ out of you than I had.”
Dean fell silent, biting his lip as he kept his gaze on his brother’s face. Sam looked like a life-sized wax doll – the only signs of animation being the steady rise and fall of his chest as the ventilator pumped warm oxygen into his lungs. The elder hunter’s fingers curled into fists as a feeling of helplessness welled up in his gut. He sat on the hard chair, listening to the whoosh and beep of the equipment, and wishing he could hear his brother’s deep, gentle voice instead.
* * * * *
Half an hour later the kindly doctor returned. He checked the young psychic’s vitals and gave a smile of encouragement to the worried hunter. “He’s improving nice and slowly – just the way we like it.”
“So – he’s gonna be okay?”
“I think so. We’ll know more when he comes to, but his vitals are good, considering what he’s been through.” Miller smiled when the young man slumped in relief. He patted Dean’s shoulder as he walked toward the door. “I’ll let the nurses know you’re staying for a while longer, shall I?”
“Thanks, Doc.” Dean watched the doctor leave the room, relieved that he was being allowed to stay with his brother. He chewed on his lower lip and faced the still figure on the bed.
“Hey, Sammy? I know I promised the doc I wouldn’t wake you, but I just wish you’d open your eyes for me, kiddo – just for a minute. Just let me know you’re gonna be okay, you know? I’ve been sittin’ in this freakin’ chair for so long, I think my ass went to sleep. So come on, how about you wake up and laugh at your big brother’s sleepy ass, huh?”
Sam didn’t stir.
“Okay, time to bring out the big bribes, huh?” Dean tried to smile and failed miserably. “Okay. If you open your eyes, I’ll – I’ll let you pick the music for a whole week. Okay? Sammy? Please, kiddo, open your eyes.”
Sam’s chest hitched as another breath of warm oxygen puffed down the intubation tube. His eyes rolled beneath his pale lids, and Dean held his breath as he fixed his gaze on the frozen mask that was his brother’s face.
“Come on, dude, that’s it. Show me those eyes.”
The young hunter’s long fingers twitched slightly under the blankets, and his brows drew together in a faint frown.
“Okay, all right. You win, okay? I swear, if you open your eyes just for a little bit, I’ll say it. I’ll say the ‘L’ word, so help me God.”
Sam’s sooty lashes fluttered and he grunted softly, rolling his head toward the sound of his brother’s voice. Slowly, his eyes opened, and he peered groggily at his beaming sibling. Suddenly his eyes flew wide in a panicked, glassy stare and he pulled weakly at his restraints, gagging a little on the tube down his throat.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa! Don’t fight it, dude – just take it easy.” Dean rested a hand on Sam’s forehead. “You’re in the hospital, Sammy. You’re safe, it’s okay. Don’t fight the ventilator, okay? Just go with it, kiddo.”
Slowly, Sam relaxed as his big brother’s words penetrated the fog in his brain. He gazed sleepily up at his hovering sibling, the slight adrenaline rush caused by his panic attack leaving him exhausted.
“That’s it, Sammy – just go with it – breathe with it.” Dean felt his spirits soar as he looked into his brother’s glassy, half-closed eyes. “Hey, little brother.” He was rewarded by a faint twitch of the pale lips around the intubation tube. The shadow of a dimple appeared on the sunken cheek. “Hell of a way to catch up on your sleep, dude. Or were you hoping some hot nurse would give you a sponge bath, huh?”
One corner of the young hunter’s mouth twitched up into a tiny grin, and he wrinkled his nose slightly.
Dean smiled in relief as he leaned over the bed. “It’s gonna be okay, Sammy. You’re safe now – you’re gonna be just fine. I’m here – I gotcha. You go back to sleep, and I’ll be right here when you wake up, okay? And I’ll say it – I’ll say the ‘L’ word, just like I promised, okay?”
Sam blinked slowly and closed his eyes, falling asleep almost instantly. His face seemed a little less pale, a little more animated; instead of the waxy, lifeless mask that Dean had seen when he’d first entered the room.
Dean ghosted his fingers across Sam’s unruly locks, brushing them gently away from his brow. “I just gotta take care of something first, but it won’t take long. Then I’ll be back, okay, kiddo?” he whispered softly, before tiptoeing from the room.
Nodding to the nurse on duty as he quietly closed the door to Sam’s room, Dean strode into the waiting area. Josh climbed to his feet, his face a mask of concern as the hunter came to a halt in front of him.
“Dean, is he all right?”
Dean nodded abruptly. “He’ll be fine. Josh – I need you to do something for me. Can you take me back to my car?”
“Sure, no problem. But are you sure you want to leave the hospital right now?”
“Yeah, I’m sure. I gotta take care of somethin’.”
As they walked side by side to the parking lot, Dean glanced at the shorter man. “Josh – thanks – for hanging around, and for earlier.”
Josh waved a hand in dismissal as he palmed his keys and unlocked the car. “Hey, don’t mention it. It’s the least I can do for you – you saved my life back there. If there’s anything else you need, just let me know.”
Dean nodded as he settled into the passenger seat. “Thanks. I might do just that.”
* * * * *
Evan Carey leapt from his leather armchair in shock as his front door was kicked open. He froze, staring at the tall young man who entered, recognising him as the insurance investigator who had been to see him earlier that morning. Evan’s puffy face drained of all colour as the man pulled a silver pistol from his waistband and aimed it at his head. “I got – money – take…”
“I don’t want your money, you son of a bitch!” Dean snarled, flicking the safety catch off the pistol. “You almost got my little brother killed tonight. That’s a death sentence in my book.”
“Your brother – what – I don’t – I don’t know your brother!” Evan backed up against the bookcase, his body shaking uncontrollably. He stared into the remorseless green eyes of the tall hunter. “Please – please…”
“You sent the ghost of Jackson Mandeville after Josh Allen. But Jackson grabbed my brother instead. Sam almost died because of you, you piece of crap. No one gets away with hurting my brother like that – no one.” Dean’s finger slowly tightened on the trigger.
* * * * *
“So, Evan Carey is Jackson Mandeville’s son?” Sam inquired softly, his husky voice barely above a whisper.
“Yeah. When Jackson was murdered, his wife took their baby son and moved away – changed their name. She knew about the murder, but she didn’t want to get involved. Maybe she had enough of the womanising bastard.”
“Huh. So – how did the coroner get involved? I mean Josh’s dad, not Josh.”
“Allen’s wife was one of Mandeville’s conquests. Allen found out about it, and he confronted Mandeville at the end of his shift on the Friday night. They got into an argument, and Allen beat Mandeville’s head in with a crowbar. He pushed him into the cold room and left him there to freeze over the weekend, knowing that no one would find him until the Tuesday, because the Monday was the Fourth of July holiday.”
“And then he lied on his report, and got away with murder.” Sam shook his head in wonder. “But, the local cop must have been in on it too.”
Dean nodded as he leaned back in the hard plastic chair. He looked at his brother sitting propped up in the hospital bed, and quirked a faint grin.
Sam no longer had the intubation and nasal tubes, or the catheter. The IV had also been removed, and only the EKG leads on his chest and the pulse/oxygen sensor on his finger remained. He was still pale, but the blue tinge on his extremities had finally transformed back to a healthy pink. His hazel eyes glittered with curiosity as he gazed at his big brother.
“He was in it up to his neck, same as the coroner. Josh’s mom was the cop’s sister. So he was only too happy to cover it up.”
“So, how come the ghost started killing people?”
“Well, that’s the interesting part. Mrs Carey died a few years ago. She told Evan on her deathbed what his real name was, and how his father had died. So Evan came up with the gangbusters idea to get revenge for what he saw as his lost heritage. His first step was moving back here and getting a job with the plant, then working his way up till he was appointed plant manager. He got into some dark magic stuff and dug up his father’s corpse, taking some of the remains. He used a black magic spell to summon Jackson’s ghost, and bind him to do Evan’s will. Evan chose the victims, and Daddy dearest killed them – locking them in the cold room to die. Remember I told you the two victims’ fathers worked at the meat packing plant in the sixties?”
“They were buddies of Allen. The two guys died some years ago, so when Evan started his little cycle of revenge killings, he decided to take it out on their sons instead. Sins of the father crap.”
“So, when we salted and burned the corpse…”
“We didn’t get all of him, ‘cause his loving son had a piece of him in a hidden compartment in the wall of his office.”
“Huh. So – how did you find out all this?”
Dean scratched the back of his head, cleared his throat and looked out the window.
“Dean? What did you do?” Sam wrapped his hand around the bed rail and leaned forward, his intent gaze on his brother’s face.
“What? Nothin’.” The elder hunter sighed and raised a hand as his sibling opened his mouth to argue. “Okay, okay. After I made sure you were gonna be okay, I went round to Evan’s house. I’d already guessed that Evan had to be controlling the ghost somehow. So I broke in, pulled my gun and threatened to shoot him. He peed his pants and told me everything.”
A faint, disbelieving grin tugged at Sam’s mouth.
“Honest to God, Sammy, he peed himself.”
“And then what happened?” Sam’s face lost its smile. “Dean – you didn’t – did you?”
Dean rolled his eyes. “No! Of course not. Didn’t want you getting all emo ‘cause I shot a human. I had Josh outside as a witness – he heard everything, and turned Evan over to the cops. He kept me out of it.”
“Huh.” Sam lay back against the pillows and sighed tiredly. “Did Josh know any of this?”
“He had no clue. Evan called him up that night, told him he’d found something that could lead to a breakthrough in the investigation of the other two deaths, and asked Josh to meet him at the plant. Of course, Evan sent Mandeville’s ghost to meet Josh instead. That’s how I figured out Evan had to be the one controlling Mandeville.”
The young hunter shivered, rubbing his hands up and down his arms.
Dean scooted his chair closer to the bed. “Hey, you okay?”
Sam nodded, and drew in a ragged breath. “I’m all right. Guess I can still feel the cold, you know?” He dropped his gaze for a moment, before meeting his brother’s concerned look. “Dean, I – thanks. I thought I was a goner. I thought…” Sam fell silent, his gaze turning inward as he dropped his head, letting his long bangs hide his eyes.
“You thought what?” Dean frowned when his brother didn’t answer. “Sammy?”
“I thought – you wouldn’t find me in time,” Sam whispered, plucking nervously at the edge of the thermal blanket. He glanced up when Dean laid a firm hand on his shoulder and squeezed.
Dean’s face was solemn as he gazed into his brother’s soulful eyes. “I’ll always find you, Sammy. That’s a promise.”
Sam relaxed, a soft smile tugging at his lips. “Speaking of promises – didn’t I hear you promise me something else?”
“What was that?” Dean raised his eyebrows, a look of innocence on his lightly freckled face.
“The ‘L’ word?”
“Nah, you must have been hallucinating. There’s no way I’d say that.”
Sam stared his brother down. “You promised.”
Dean fidgeted, cursing under his breath as he felt his resolve weakening under the barrage of his sibling’s puppy dog eyes. “Okay, all right!” He glanced up at his brother, relieved to see a tiny hint of colour slowly creeping back into Sam’s pale cheeks. Dean could still feel the icy fingers of panic ghosting along his spine whenever he remembered seeing Sam lying curled on the frosty floor of the cold room, almost frozen to death. He sighed, figuring that a little embarrassment was a small price to pay for getting his little brother back in one piece.
“Okay, okay! God, you’re such a bitch sometimes.” Dean blew out a sigh, and ran his tongue over his dry lips. “I – uh – I…”
Sam raised his eyebrows. “I – lo…”
“I’m getting to it!” The elder hunter cleared his throat and shuffled his feet. “I – lost.”
“All of it.”
“Oh, man – you’re gonna make me say all of it?”
“It’s humiliating, is what it is.”
“Ahh, Jeez... I – lost – a pool game – to a chick.” Dean hung his head in embarrassment.
“How many games?”
“Aww, come on, dude…” the elder hunter sighed heavily, rolling his eyes. “All right – I lost three games. Satisfied?”
“Extremely.” Smiling gently, Sam pulled the blankets up to his chin and closed his eyes. “Don’t you feel so much better?”
“No,” Dean growled. “I don’t. But as soon as your ass is out of this hospital bed, I’ll feel better about winning the rematch.”
“What if she kicks your ass again?”
“Dude, have a little faith.” Dean glared at his brother in mock annoyance.
Chuckling softly, Sam relaxed under the warmth of the covers and the comfort of his big brother’s presence. Just before sleep claimed him, he mused that at least he hadn’t forced his brother to say the other ‘L’ word. But then, Sam realised, Dean didn’t need to say it. His actions screamed it, loud and clear, every day of their lives. Every time he took the bed nearest the door in the motel rooms, every time he stepped in front of Sam when they were on a hunt, every time Sam got hurt and Dean got that look in his eyes.
A calloused hand brushed gently across Sam’s forehead, sweeping his bangs away from his eyes. No, Sam decided, Dean never did have to say the other ‘L’ word. He lived it, instead.
“Dude, you seriously need a haircut,” Dean murmured softly, amusement in his deep tone.
“Bite me.” Sam drifted off to sleep, a tiny smile hovering about his lips.