Central Montana Medical Center
Lewistown, Montana

Their arrival at the medical center in Lewistown was quite a bit different from the one in Fort Belknap. Two orderlies, a nurse and a doctor were standing by and rushed Sam away while Dean met up with Greg to get his keys back and stash his gun in the trunk of the Impala before heading in after his brother.

By the time he got there, the doctor was already busy assessing Sam's condition and he was practically tearing his hair out in frustration.

"God damn it," he hissed through clenched teeth while inspecting the wound. "What the hell are they, butchers?" he continued. "I've seen better needlework from a five-year-old kid with Parkinson's."

The nurse was checking Sam's vitals and gave the doctor a dark look. "Temperature's 104, pressure is 85 over 52," she stated and glanced at Sam with a slight frown. "He must be bleeding internally. There's no other reason for the low pressure. What do you think, Dr. Faulkner?"

Dr. Faulkner made a face. "I hate to do this so soon after he's had it done once, but we have to open that up again," he growled. "And his pressure is bound to be low. The boy's unconscious," he added with a pointed look at his nurse. "But we'll see what's what when we open this up again. There's definitely some sort of infection going on there and it's not going to get better until we find out what exactly is causing it." Then he suddenly turned around to face Dean. "You the brother?" he asked.

Dean nodded once, a little taken aback by the man's sudden change of attention.

"What exactly happened here? Where did it happen? How did it happen? And why the hell didn't you bring him here at once?" Dr. Faulkner demanded.

Dean just stared at him for a moment. "A lunatic gutted him alive," he countered coldly. "He cut his stomach open while he was awake and aware and started pulling his intestines out. He did this in a dirty, dank factory basement with rust dripping from the ceiling. And I didn't bring him here at once because I didn't know there was a frigging hospital in this town," he added angrily.

Dr. Faulkner eyed him for a moment. "Are you shitting me?" he demanded, his tone a bit stunned.

The way this man talked was not what Dean expected from a professional medical doctor, but it made him that much more likable. "No, I'm not," Dean countered. "It took me two damned hours to get him to Fort Belknap, because I knew they had a critical access hospital there."

"Critical access my ass," Dr. Faulkner growled. "Butchers. That's what they are. Damned butchers." Then he focused on Dean again. "Okay, here's the deal. Your brother is in deep shit. I don't believe in cushioning the blows, so that's what this is. Abdominal wounds are a bitch to deal with. On top of that your brother is suffering from hypotension and I would be very surprised if the trauma he has been through isn't adding to this mess as well. So here's what we have to do." He held up one finger. "First and foremost, we open him up again, but this time in a sterile and controlled environment," he said, then unfolded the second finger. "Then we figure out if there is any internal bleeding and if there is, we control it," he continued, then held up a third finger. "Following that, your brother will have to be in this hospital for at least a month, baring complications, and after that," he went on and unfolded finger number four, "he needs physical rehabilitation. He's young, so that shouldn't take too long. A month extra, maybe two."

Dean paled a little. There was no way they could get away with three months of recuperation on that fake insurance card. "Three months?" he asked and the doctor nodded. "Are you sure that's going to be necessary?"

"Fairly sure. Now, your brother may be some kind of miracle and heal overnight, but I don't believe in fairytales. I believe in cold hard facts and his temperature and the swollen inflamed edges of this wound speak for themselves," Dr. Faulkner said and waved toward the uncovered wound.

Dean glanced at it and flinched. He could take anything except when it came to injuries inflicted on his brother. "Okay," he said. For now, he had to go with the flow. There was no other option. Sam needed to get as much treatment as he could before they were found out and had to leave in a hurry. He just hoped that this time came later rather than sooner. "Do whatever you have to do to make him better," he added.


Some time later

The feeling of having cotton in his mouth was what pulled him out of a deep dark nothing and it took him a good long time to understand that there was really nothing in his mouth, that all he felt was a mind-bending thirst.

He tried to swallow, but his throat wouldn't cooperate. His eyelids felt heavy as lead and he couldn't even bring up the strength to move his hands, let alone his arms. His mind was sluggish and completely fixed on the here and now. He had no memories of before and no idea what lay ahead and right now, he didn't care either. All he cared about was water.

Somehow, he managed to make a sound, but even in his own ears it sounded weak and wounded, barely perceptible, barely there. Just like he felt; as if he was barely there.


There was urgency in that voice, fear even, and he had to struggle to remember who's voice that was. Oh so slowly, he managed to pry his eyelids apart and squinted at the brightness that was the world right now, then fixed his gritty eyes on the dark shadow in all the light. Then the light went off and soothing twilight settled on his aching eyes. He blinked, once, twice, but his eyes felt like they had sand in them and blinking only made it worse, so he closed them again to spare himself the misery.

"Sam? Can you hear me?"

He tried to control his tongue, tried to speak, but nothing seemed to work. A coolness that was shocking in its suddenness hit his brow and he knew he would have flinched away from it if he had been able to.

"Easy, Sammy. It's okay. You'll be fine."

Balm on an open wound, a warm comforter on a cold night, a protective embrace when it got scary, all those things floated out of that phrase and he managed to smile.

"Hey, dude. You with me?"

Fingers through his hair, a cool hand briefly against his cheek, then the icy coldness on his brow again. He knew the routine like he knew the back of his hand. "Dean," he managed.

"Yeah, little brother, that's right," Dean said and now he sounded less scared, less urgent, more like himself. "Can I get you anything?"

The more aware he became, the less he wanted to be aware. There was something dark and dangerous tugging at the edges of his conscious memory, something he feared to remember but knew he would. "Water," he whispered.

A hand slipped behind his head and raised it, then cold wetness filled his mouth and he swallowed greedily. It felt so good, so right, but as the water trickled down his throat, it brought sensation with it like a slow-moving tidal wave that spread throughout his body, awakening dormant nerve endings, and he suddenly felt anxious, aware that the darkness, the dangerous things, would be awakened by his rising awareness.

Apprehension made him tense up and that in turn sent a ripple of nauseating pain through him. Like a blow to the face, the whole sordid thing came back to him in one foul sweep and he clamped his teeth together to keep the urge to scream in.

"Wow, wow, easy, Sammy," Dean said and the urgency, the fear was back in his voice as he eased Sam's head back down on the pillow.

Something beeped angrily to the left while he felt his heart contract painfully in his chest. Blindly, he lashed out, searching for something to hold onto, and got a hold of Dean's arm. He clamped his hand around it, squeezing without thought, and heard his brother grunt. "Make ... it ... stop," he gasped, unable to think straight around the brutal agony that spread upward through his torso like wildfire.

Reality succumbed to the overwhelming presence of that pain and all was chaos for an eternity. But then the pain subsided, retreated, and became a dull, distant roar while the rushing in his ears stilled and his heart stopped hurting so much. And then he heard voices.

"... not good for his heart." A woman's voice and she sounded upset, agitated.

"I know that. Why the hell isn't he on some kind of pain treatment if you know it's going to be so bad?" Dean's voice and he sounded angry, but Sam could hear the pain underneath, the fear, and his brother's fear was never a good thing.

"He is. That's what worries me. Dr. Faulkner will have to take a look at him in the morning," the woman replied, her voice now soothing. "Don't worry. I'll monitor him and give him another shot when he needs it."

Footsteps receding and a door clicking shut told Sam that the nurse had left. Dean was still with him and Sam was still holding onto his arm. Everybody left, but not Dean. With that on his mind, he drifted off, back into the dark nothing that had swallowed him before. Down there he was safe from the pain, safe from the memories.


Dean eased back down on the chair he had spent the better part of this day on and leaned back with a light sigh. Sam had been conscious for a moment. That was better than nothing. But that the poor kid had dissolved into agonizing pain moments later had taken the fun right out of it and Dean was really beginning to fear that Dr. Faulkner was right in his predictions of how long this procedure would take.

Hell, they hadn't even closed the wound up again. The nurse had given him a long, scientific explanation as to why not, but all Dean could focus on was the gaping hole in his brother's stomach that was packed with gauze, covered with a sterile cloth and monitored every half hour. According to the nurse, the wound would have to remain open for at least three days because of the onset of the infection and it was considered best to not close it up until the infection was gone.

He closed his eyes briefly and suppressed a yawn, then scrubbed both hands over his face and shifted. The adrenaline rush was gone and he was nearing the end of his stamina, but he would not leave Sam's side. At least not until he could tell Sam where he was going and when he would be back. On the other hand, he hadn't slept at all for two nights and was rapidly heading toward a third sleepless night. He shifted again, arched his back and yawned. "Damn," he muttered. With the drugs keeping Sam under right now, he could at least head out to find some coffee. He needed a kick to stay awake.


He looked up in surprise and realized he hadn't heard the nurse come back in. She was watching him thoughtfully from where she stood just inside the door. "What?" he asked and eyed her.

She was pretty in a quiet way, more than a few years older than him by the looks of it, and very married if the pale shadow on her otherwise tanned ring finger was anything to go by. She was short, filled out in all the right places and her cheeks were rosy, complementing her dark brown eyes. Her hair was shockingly auburn and he couldn't for the life of him remember her name.

"Your insurance," she said. She had a clipboard with some papers on. "Uh ... I'm sure it cleared in Fort Belknap, but ... protocol ..."

"What is it?" he asked and leaned forward, hoping desperately that the card hadn't been rejected or something along those line. That would really be bad.

"The papers state that your name is Daniel, not Dean," she said and gave him an almost apologetic smile.

He almost sighed. "That's cause it is. Dean's something he calls me," Dean countered and nodded toward Sam. "Goes back to when we were kids and he couldn't pronounce Daniel."

"Oh, that makes sense," she said with a smile. "Guess it stuck, huh?"

"Yeah," Dean agreed and raked all ten fingers through his hair. "Good thing he didn't call me Bubba or something along those lines," he added and gave her a disarming grin.

"I know you probably don't want to hear this right now, Daniel," she said, pointedly calling him what she thought he preferred, "but you should really get some rest. You look worse than Sam here."

"I'm not leaving him. Not until he understands what's happening and where he is," he countered, then smirked tiredly, "and call me Dean. I'm so used to it, it's like it is my name." Sometimes he really understood why the lying got to Sam. On some level, it got to him too. It was tiring to always have to keep up the charade, to always remember who he was supposed to be according to his papers and insurance cards and so on. Right now, he just didn't like lying to her because she was nice.

"Alright, Dean it is," she agreed with a brief glance at Sam before she returned her attention to him. "And I really do think you should get out of here, get a few hours of sleep," she said and eyed him pointedly, "and a bath."

For a long second he just stared at her. Then he glanced down himself. His t-shirt was bloody, his shirt rumpled and dirty, his jeans stained with god knew what, and he assumed his face wasn't too clean either. A little self-consciously he rubbed a palm against his stubbled cheek. "I smell, don't I?" he finally asked.

She arched both eyebrows. "Far be it from me to say such a thing," she said, then grimaced, "but yes, you do. Do you have a hotel room somewhere in the area?"

"Yeah, not too far from here," he said and got up, then wavered again. "I really don't want to leave him for any length of time, though."

That made her smile once more. "Your dedication to your brother is endearing, Dean, but you can't help him if you collapse. And the way you look right now ... that's not too far away." She glanced at her watch. "It's three thirty now. Why don't you go back to the motel, take a shower and sleep for a few hours, then come back here around eight or so? I'll have a cot set up for you in here so you can stay with him."

His assumption was correct, then. She was nice. What really got to him was that she was right, too. He knew he wouldn't be of any help to Sam if he wasn't at least marginally rested. And him being dirty and this close to his brother didn't exactly improve on Sam's chances of getting better right now, so he nodded. "Okay," he conceded. "Thanks," he added and stepped around the bed. "Let me give you my cell number. Just in case he wakes up before I get back here," he said. "It might help him to just talk to me."

She handed him the clipboard and pulled a pen from one pocket. "Don't worry. He is in good hands," she said, checked her watch again and then went through the routine of checking up on Sam.

Dean lingered for a moment, not wanting to go but knowing he had to, and then finally left the room and headed down the hall toward the elevators and the exit.


Grandview Motel
Lewistown, Montana

Just the sight of the beds made the fatigue drag at him the second he laid eyes on them, but at the same time it gave him a bad feeling too. That prick had come here, into this room, drugged Sam and dragged him out of here, and it had been no more than two days ago. It felt like forever, like it had been years ago and he was only now returning to the scene of the crime.

A part of him considered changing rooms, or even the motel, but in the end it didn't matter. The perp was dead. That thought stirred something new in him. "Damn," he muttered. He would have to go back out there and clean up this mess, bury the evidence and make damned sure that psycho didn't come back as a ghost to haunt them or something. After all, weirder things had happened.

But there were more important issues first. He knew where to find the body and it was probably not very likely that anybody else would beat him to it. It could wait a few days until he was able to make Sam understand where he was going. Until then, that basement was pretty much a meat locker and would prevent the body from rotting too much. Not that rot made any big difference apart from making it hard for him to control his gag-reflex. There was fairly little in this world that upset his stomach, but the smell of rotting corpses and the sight of his brother's injury, those two things really made it hard for him to keep anything down.

"Enough," he muttered to himself. He locked the door to the room and put the safety chain on, then snorted halfheartedly. There was really nothing less sturdy than a motel room door, but right now he really didn't care too much. He stripped off his soiled clothes on the way to the bathroom and reminded himself to take it with him and burn it when he burned the body. Although it could probably get clean again, he wasn't interested in keeping the memento. Besides, it was easier to ditch it and buy new stuff anyway.

Yawning heartily, stepped into the shower stall, cranked the water up as hot as he could stand it and then braced himself against the wall while the water pounded down over him. The gash on the back of his head stung, but he ignored it. The water would rise it out, would remove the dried blood clinging to the side of his face too, and work some of the tension out of his body.

As he stood there, letting the water work on him, his mind drifted while he tried to put things in perspective, and it struck him that even if Dad had still been around, the man wouldn't have shown up anyway. The heavy feeling in his chest rose once more. His eyes stung and he squeezed his lids shut, trying to somehow control the wave of suffocating emotion that washed over him. Throughout all of this, a mantra had formed in the back of his head, one he realized he'd repeated to himself over and over again through the years. 'I can't lose Sam.' Losing Mom had been the first blow in his life. Losing Dad had been unbearable. But Sam? He couldn't lose his little brother. That just wasn't going to happen.

He balled his right hand into a fist and pressed it against the cool tiles while he struggled against the surging emotions. Why had Dad given him this job in the first place? He wasn't good enough to look out for Sam, wasn't nearly good enough to protect him. He raised his head and blinked into the water streaming down over him. "Look at what happened to him," he whispered hoarsely. "I couldn't even protect him from a frigging lunatic. How the hell am I going to protect him from true evil?"

Of course there was no answer forthcoming. He was all alone in this, without anyone to rely on other than himself. A bitter groan escaped him as he squeezed his eyes shut again and pressed his brow against the tiles. Throughout all of this, all the self-doubt and the self-accusations, he knew deep down that even if he wasn't good enough, even if he didn't have what it took, he had to keep on trying. Because he had promised Dad that he would. And he had sworn it to himself as well. He would protect Sam or he would die trying. There was no in-between.

Half an hour later he had stumbled into bed, convinced he wouldn't be able to sleep, yet he had passed out the second his head had touched the pillow. He might be able to fight off disease and fatigue and everything evil that came his way, but he could do none of these things forever. He had to stop on occasion. And Dean had an ability that most people lacked. When he slept, he slept like the dead. Whatever his dreams were, they were his own and were never shared with the outside world. He could never remember any dreams when he woke up and he usually always felt rested when he came to again. In other words, he simply managed to disconnect his brain completely and leave it to his subconsciousness to sort through all the rubbish.


Central Montana Medical Center
Lewistown, Montana

He didn't know exactly how long he had been awake and at least marginally aware of his surroundings, but he sure felt anything but up to the challenge. What had awoken him was the fear and not even a fear he could explain.

The ceiling above him was white, tiles with pin holes in them. Here and there he could make out straws which indicated the make of the tiles. And that was the extent of his view. His eyeballs seemed to be stuck. He could blink, but that was all. Nothing else seemed to work and it scared the hell out of him.

There were sounds around him and it had taken him a fair amount of time to discern what at least some of them were. Like that annoying, constant beeping. It had been slow and steady at first, but now it was erratic and fast and it cut through his skull. Some part of his mind insisted that it was a cardiac monitor, but he couldn't really connect those words to anything.

Time seemed to crawl if it was moving at all and he could feel every beat of his heart, could almost sense the rush of blood in his veins, and he was cold, oh so cold. His skin hurt from the cold and his stomach felt frozen. He couldn't think, because all he could feel was that bone-deep cold and the fear.

And then a face suddenly appeared above him, but he didn't recognize it. "Sam? Can you hear me?" It was a woman and her voice sounded familiar, but he had no idea who she was.

His comfort zone had been compromised, his security blanket was gone. Something was deeply wrong with the world around him, because ... Dean! His brother wasn't here. Where the hell was Dean? He blinked furiously and suddenly regained some mobility, although it felt like his spine was made of crushed glass when he rolled his head to the left and found nothing but a wall and an empty chair there.

"Your brother has gone back to the hotel to get cleaned up and rest a little. He'll be back later," the woman said as if she could read his mind.

His breath was coming too fast. It was making him dizzy. And he realized what the fear was – at least part of it. He was scared stiff of being here alone. Something had happened to him, something fluttering just at the edge of memories, something he needed to remember but was scared of, and Dean wasn't here to make it all go away. And he couldn't speak, couldn't ask questions, couldn't demand answers. He felt weak as a newborn baby, weak and wounded. Suddenly, it all loomed incredibly largely in his mind, that thing he didn't want to remember, and his breathing became labored. It hurt to breath, the air was burning his lungs, and every intake of breath sent a shudder of pain through him, pain that became stronger with every ripple, every wave washing through him.

"Easy," the woman soothed. "It's too early for more drugs, Sam. You have to calm down. You have to slow down your breathing."

Drugs? He was being drugged? He couldn't think straight, couldn't make sense of anything other than the nauseating fear, the pain and the fact that Dean wasn't here.

A cool hand slipped onto his brow and he stopped hyperventilating for a few heartbeats. The beeping was frantic, rapid, sounding like a nervous rabbit beating out a warning with its foot.

He focused on her face, on her eyes, dark brown and kind. "It's okay," she said quietly, her voice soothing. "It's alright. You'll be fine. You just have to take it easy," she insisted. She wasn't saying the right words, but they were close enough right now.

He tried to pull in a deep, steadying breath, but it hurt so bad that he stopped in the middle and exhaled instead. His vision wavered. He was still dizzy, still nauseous. 'If nothing else works, just close your eyes and sleep,' a voice whispered in the back of his head. 'Just shut your eyes, real tight, and stop thinking. Let your mind go blanc. Sleep.'

He let his lids close, tried to follow that advice, and the pain began to recede. With every beat of his heart, it became less. The beeping slowed down and after a while it became a soothing rhythm that lulled him back to sleep. A voice followed him into the darkness, a voice he knew so well. It was only in his head, but that was good enough right now.