Episode : Altered

By: BurstynOut

Part Two

 

“Dean!” Sam cried, snapping the phone shut and shoving it into the pocket of his baggy jeans. The fact that there was no service on the phone in question completely escaped his mind. At the moment, all he could think of was Dean threatening to leave and go to the bar down the road, Dean, who’d had at least one too many beers to make that a good idea, and the fact that he’d been in the bathroom entirely too long to rule out that possibility.

Sam spun around abruptly and forced his long legs to weave him through the crowded bar. Any other time, when he forced himself to stand upright and dispatched the slouching, weighed-down by layers of flannel, hoodie, and weight of the world posture he usually assumed, he moved with an almost gazelle-like grace. Panic, half a beer, and almost no sleep for the past two days made him far less than adequately prepared to maneuver across the floor, however.

Halfway between the now-empty corner table and the door to the restroom, Sam felt an almost imperceptible bump on his hip, and a waif-like, leather skirt clad, blonde went sprawling unceremoniously onto the planks. Whatever fruity little drink she’d been nursing rained down on top of her and the boots of her more than PO’d boyfriend.

“Oh geez, uh, I’m really sorry,” Sam stammered, eyes distractedly searching the back of the bar for his brother as he held out his hand to help the girl up.

“I think that would be an understatement,” a baritone growl retorted from behind him. Before he could turn, Sam felt himself lift off the floor as the collar of his undershirt became unbearably tight around his throat. To his surprise and chagrin, he was lifted off his feet. Just the toes of his beat-up sneakers grazed the splintered wood beneath as his hands flailed up to claw at the strangling shirt collar.

His vision began to cloud around the periphery as he gagged, blood rushing in his ears. In desperation, he did the only thing he could think of and swung one of his big feet back and up. He connected with a solid thump into yielding flesh that was punctuated by his attacker’s stifled groan of pain. Sam felt himself fall to the ground in a haze.

Still grasping at his burning throat as air rushed back into his lungs, Sam turned. He couldn’t help but raise a pleased eyebrow to find a giant of a man with a shaved head and python-sized biceps kneeling on the floor with both hands cupped between his legs, face bright red. The guy looked almost pathetic enough that Sam expected to hear him whine, “Oh man, why’d ya have to go and do that?” Dean loves that movie. Shit! Dean!

Sam backed up a few steps to give the angry man a wide berth as he headed back toward the restrooms. Once he stepped back, however, the severity of his current situation became all-too apparent. Kneeling Dude had friends, lots of ‘em, and they didn’t seem to like Sam all that well. Three more men, almost the size of the guy on the floor and dressed in matching jackets and biker boots, stood elbow-to-elbow, blocking any passage Sam might have in that direction. Looking around, Sam spotted several more Hell’s Angels wannabes, still seated at their tables and booths but obviously aware of the situation.

“Uh, look fellas,” Sam stammered, hands out in a placating gesture, “I didn’t mean to cause any trouble. It’s just…my uh, my wife, she called me, see we’re expecting our first baby any day now, and she called to tell me that she thinks it’s time. So, if you’ll just let me…”

“What kind of sorry SOB goes out drinking and leaves his wife at home alone when she’d due to pop any day?”

Well, whattya know, skinheads with real family values. Just my luck. Oh, and pregnant women about to pop, always the choicest expression. “Well, that’s the thing, see, it’s my brother…my brother’s birthday, and I promised him months ago that we’d do something…So, if you’ll all let me go by so I can get him. We’ll just leave.”

“Your brother, eh?” A third rogue asked, standing from his stool at the bar. “Shorter than you, leather jacket, military cut, boots?”

“Uh, yeah, that sounds like him,” Sam answered, confused. “Why?”

“Cuz the punk was hitting on my woman,” Barstool Man answered, pulling the redhead from earlier tightly against his side. “I been thinking I need to teach him to keep his hands to hisself.”

Now, if Dean had been there to defend his own honor, or lack thereof, Sam would’ve probably sat back and enjoyed the show. His brother would give up his life without blinking, but God help any poor bastard with the audacity to insult the one thing for which he had any pride, other than the Impala, which was the fact that Dean did not HAVE to pick up women. They offered, and he either accepted or declined. The glove box of the Impala had as many napkins inside with phone numbers written in hooker-red lipstick as it had badges and fake IDs. Most of the numbers had never been dialed.

In hindsight, Sam would wonder if defending Dean’s tomcatting was really the wisest decision, or for that matter, even justifiable, but then, Dean wasn’t there to defend himself, which was why Sam was in this predicament to begin with. The thought of his brother possibly bleeding to death somewhere while some drunken jackass threatened him didn’t sit too well with Sam.

“Look, I did see my brother talking to your better half over there earlier, but I think you might wanna check your facts as to who was hitting on whom before you go and do anything you can’t take back.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t worry my shaggy head about that if I was you,” the punk said, leaning forward with daggers in his eyes. “I don’t take anything back. See, I’m always right. If I was you, I’d be worried abut the fact that I just called that pretty young lady a liar right in front of her big, strong man.” He smashed his fist into his other open hand a few times suggestively.

“Man, I really don’t have time for this,” Sam waffled, stepping back. As he moved, he felt the heavy weight of what he knew to be the rest of the biker gang pressing in behind him. God, I’m so screwed. Aw, the hell with it

Sam ducked and dove for the gap beneath his attacker’s raised fist. He lunged forward like a quarterback diving for the end zone. With a start, he realized he’d cleared the frontline only to find several more assailants closing in the flank.

“Can’t get away that easy, pretty boy,” a raspy voice growled as Sam felt a hand fist in his jacket.

He reacted on instinct, curled his left hand around his right, and sent his right elbow up and into a fairly large but none-too-soft beer belly. He heard the attacker grunt and felt the grip loosen on his jacket. Just as he prepared to stand to full height and race for the restrooms, a light exploded behind his eyes, and he fell to the floor in a shower of brown, broken glass.

* * * *

“SS-Oww!” Sam hissed sharply. He immediately regretted the sudden sound and movement as a wave of searing pain sliced through his skull. His eyes, which had ventured open slightly as he edged toward consciousness, squeezed tightly shut in protest at the flickering fluorescent light that streamed through the open bathroom door to the foot of the bed he was sprawled over.


“Sorry,” Dean’s voice soothed from behind him. Realizing that his brother was there, and that he was apparently okay, not broken in a wrecked car somewhere, Sam let himself sink into the mattress as Dean’s hand worked tentatively at the back of his head. “I had to use alcohol to clean it. Peroxide would sting less, but I don’t think you’d look too good as a bleached blonde.”

Sam groaned slightly as the evening’s events began filing through his brain in random order.

“You with me there, little brother? I don’t want you to get too comfortable. They hit you hard enough to leave part of the bottle in your head. I’d say there’s a pretty good chance you’ve got a concussion.”

“I don’t have a concussion,” Sam protested weakly, “just one whale of a headache.”

“Thank you, Dr. Winchester, for your expert opinion.”

“I’ve had concussions before…Ah! What’re you doing back there?”

“I’m trying to decide how many stitches it’s gonna take to close up this gash.”

“Don’t need stitches either, Dean,” he said, disgusted at the fact that even he could hear the slur in his words.

“Oh, fine then. We’ll just let it heal on its own so it can leave a nasty scar on your head where hair will never, ever grow again. Then, every time you get busy with a chick and she runs her fingers through your hair, you can relive the night you tried to take on twenty bikers in some backroad, hicktown bar for no apparent reason.”

“Wait, my hair?” He almost sat up in alarm but sunk back into the mattress where Dean had placed him on his stomach so that his wound could be treated. “Maybe stitches would be okay…”

“Thought so. Just let me get a few things.”

Sam nodded slightly and listened as his brother’s footsteps retreated into the bathroom, the sound of the squeaking medicine cabinet door grating on his hypersensitive nerve endings. “So what happened to those guys anyway?” He asked into the pillow.

“They rode away on their bikes,” Dean answered casually.

“Why would they?...Shit, Dean!” He rolled onto his side to see his brother as Dean returned from the bathroom with the supplies. The left side of Dean’s face was purple and swollen, his eye blood red, and even in the shadow of his own silhouette, Sam could tell his knuckles were raw and badly bandaged. “So you got beat to hell falling off the toilet in the restroom?”

Dean shrugged stiffly. “Yeah, well, they were outta T.P., so I had to wrestle one of those bears in the woods for some Charmin Ultra.”

“Oh well, so long as you didn’t go all Legends of the Fall on my account,” Sam snickered half-heartedly and hissed.

“Dude, you call me Tristan, and I’m gonna knock your ass back out.”

“So, if I was unconscious, and you were drunk, how the hell did we get back here?”

Dean put on some latex gloves and began parting Sam’s hair gingerly. “After the Apple Dumpling Gang rode away, I carried you out to the car and drove here. Finding your brother on the floor in a pool of his own blood is apparently as good as drinking a whole pot of coffee. Besides, the designated driver was feeling a little under the weather.”

“God, we’re poster boys for Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Our faces are gonna be plastered on every high school bulletin board in the country with the words, Don’t Let This Be You, painted under ‘em.”

“Yeah,” Dean agreed distractedly as started parting Sam’s hair with his fingers. “So you wanna tell me what that was about back there?”

Sam shrugged with the one shoulder he wasn’t lying on. “Nothing to tell. I was going to look for you and ran into some trouble.”

“Looking for me? Sam, I might’ve been a little tipsy, but I’ve been able to manage going to the bathroom on my own since before you were born.”

“I know,” Sam sighed, “but I was just worried. You were in there a long time... Ow!” He barked as Dean pulled a few hairs a little too tightly.

“There’s more to it than that,” Dean observed, focusing on the cut while his mind worked to put two and two together. “You were acting strange before we even went there tonight. Hell, that’s half the reason I decided we needed to get out. So spill.”

Sam considered telling his brother about the strange video messages, but he couldn’t think of a way to say it without sounding like he was completely off his rocker. It wasn’t rational, but he felt like he was telling Dean about his prophetic nightmares all over again, and that wasn’t something he really cared to relive. Not anymore than the rest of this miserable night. “Like I said, you were gone quite awhile, and I started looking around, didn’t really like the looks of some of those guys, so I got worried.”

“Uh-huh…” Dean flicked the switch on the clippers he’d fetched from the bathroom. Sam recognized the buzz of the hair-cutting tool, though he hadn’t had one near him since he was fourteen and stopped letting his Dad cut his hair into the same military cut that Dean sported.

“What’re you?...” Sam twisted around until Dean’s hand came out of his hair. He met his brother’s gaze, a gaze that was now framed with an all-too-familiar cocked brow and knowingly pursed lips.

“That the story you’re gonna stick with?” Dean asked, flicking the clippers on and off a few times. “Cuz I gotta trim a little away from the cut to get the stitches in clean. Now if I’m nice and calm, I can get real precise and make it so no one will be able to see the little bit of missing hair. But if my little brother wants to piss me off and get me on edge, my hands might shake…”

Apparently demons weren’t the only masters of manipulation that Sam had to learn to deal with. Sam let out a defeated huff, because no way could he escape with the room spinning, and well, even Sam had one thing he was a little proud of. He let his head fall onto the pillow and shut his eyes as he said, “I saw you in car wreck. I’m not sure, but I think,” he swallowed hard, “I think you died.”

The clippers snapped off again as Dean sat on the edge of the bed beside his prone brother. “Saw? Like a vision?”

“No, not like a vision…” Sam’s voice fell off as he realized how stupid the next part was going sound.

“Like what then, exactly?”

“The phone,” Sam sighed, “video message.”

“Sam, I didn’t send you any video,” Dean objected, confused.

“I know. And you couldn’t have even if you’d wanted to,” he added. “There’s no service on that phone.”

Dean twisted around on the bed to face his brother, the movement jostling the younger Winchester and making him grimace. “Wait a minute? THAT phone? The one from earlier with the messages from Jess on it?”

“Yeah, Dean. THAT phone.”

“A message you’ve never seen before on a phone with no service,” Dean extrapolated flatly, “and you believed it?”

“Ugh,” Sam said with a roll of his eyes, disgusted that he had no excuse for his strange behavior. He couldn’t believe he was even going to say this. “I thought maybe it was a message I never got, you know, when the phone had service, like it was lost or something, or I just missed it.”

“Why? Has that ever happened before?”

“Sort of…”

“Sort of HOW, Sam?” Dean was getting more than a little irritated at his brother’s fondness for half-assed explanations. He flicked the clippers on and off a few times and leaned closer to the mop of bloody hair.

“Earlier,” Sam said quickly, trying to roll away. “When I played the messages earlier, I found one on there from the weekend Jess died, one I’d never seen before, and I thought I’d just missed it, what with everything that happened. And I figured if I missed one, then maybe I could’ve missed others…”

Dean flicked the clippers back off. “Look, Sam, I’m no expert, but I don’t think it’s possible for messages you never got to just suddenly appear on a phone with no service. How do you know the message from Jess was real? And how would that explain you seeing me in car wreck I’ve never been in?”

That was the problem, it didn’t, but if it wasn’t real, well, Sam really didn’t want to go there either. “I dunno. Just something she said…” Alea Iacta Est, Samuel. “And when I got the video with you in the wreck, I just sorta spaced on the part about there being no service.”

“Huh,” Dean said thoughtfully as he flicked the clippers back on. Sam tried to move away, but Dean held him still as he went to work carefully trimming the hair around the cut. “Well, that means both messages were probably not real.”

“Dean?” Sam asked hesitantly as the clippers fell silent and Dean placed them on the nightstand next to the phone in question.

“This is the phone?” Dean asked.

“Uh-huh,” Sam agreed, already knowing instinctively that if Dean tried to find the messages, they’d be gone.

Dean pushed a few buttons, gazing at the screen expectantly, then shook his head, and let his hand fall to his lap. “Battery’s dead.”

“I knew it,” Sam said. “You don’t believe me.”

Dean pushed his head back into the pillow. “That’s the thing. I do believe you, because you didn’t start acting strange until you got it in your head to charge this puppy up and go digging up bones. I’m just trying to wrap my head around it.”

“So what does your head think?”

Dean shrugged slightly. “I’m not sure yet, but I don’t like it. You said you had false visions in Missouri, right? When we crashed the car? And at the hospital?”

“So you think this is tied to the Demon somehow?”

“Could be,” Dean surmised. “We know Haris is also called ‘The Whisperer.’ He lies and manipulates: that’s his M.O. If that was one of his kids that messed with your mind in Missouri, who’s to say this isn’t another one?”

“Through my phone?”

“Yeah, I dunno.” Dean fell into a silent contemplation as he carefully stitched up the gash in Sam’s head, then stood, removed his gloves with a snap and went into the bathroom. He returned a few minutes later with a glass of water and some ibuprofen. “You catch a couple winks. I’m gonna see what I can scrounge up about demonic manifestations on the internet. I’ll wake you up in a couple hours.”

Knowing that Dean was gonna stay up all night worrying about him, Sam protested, “I don’t have a concussion, Dean. Go to bed yourself. We’ll figure this out together in the morning.”

“I still got plenty of charge left in those clippers,” Dean replied, tilting his head suggestively, eyes widening with authority.

Sam was too tired to argue, so he begrudgingly shut his eyes and let himself slide into sleep. He could argue just as well in two hours as he could now.

Dean watched as sleep overtook his brother, then gently tugged off Sam’s shoes and socks before pulling the comforter off his own bed and covering him with it so that he wouldn’t have to move Sam back to the head of the bed. He bit the inside of his lip thoughtfully as he observed the younger Winchester for several long minutes to make sure he was resting comfortably before firing up the laptop.

As much as he hated research, he hated the fact that something could be toying with his brother’s head even more. A part of him wanted to just dismiss the whole thing as the confused rambling of a concussed man, but he couldn’t take the chance. Besides, it was a little too coincidental that this had all started when Sam dug up the old phone.

Dean glanced at the innocuous looking phone where it lay dead on the nightstand. He considered taking it out and smashing it, just in case, but like Sam had said, it was all he had left of Jess. Besides, he was pretty sure that if it was the Demon calling, it wasn’t attached to the actual phone. If he could find some way to break the connection and spare the phone, well, he didn’t want to take away his brother’s memories for no reason.

There was something about the fact that this phone had no service on it that touched a nerve in the back of his mind somewhere.

They’re heeeerrrreee.

The voice of that kid from Poltergeist floated out of his subconscious mind. He recalled the scene exactly. The national anthem had played, the television station had gone off the air, and then… Shit! It was like Electronic Voice Phenomena, the voices they sometimes picked up on audio equipment that the human ear hadn’t picked up at the time of the recording.

Dean quickly dragged up all the information he could on EVPs, most of which he’d read before, but refreshed his memory nonetheless. There was a whole school of parapsychologists who did nothing but search through static in search of EVPs with high-tech recording equipment. The static was apparently the best media because it meant there was no background signal interference. No signal.

Dean leaned back in his chair as he tried to put the pieces together. It made sense that if the Demon was communicating with Sam, he was doing it on a phone with no signal. But that didn’t really help. Didn’t tell him where the signal was coming from, or if there was any way to stop it without taking away Sam’s only connection to Jess.

Now Dean remembered why he had so few possessions. He didn’t do sentimental. Outside of his necklace, his car, and his journal, he didn’t place much importance on things. The things that were attached to people were the hardest to dismiss, though. And Sam didn’t have a car, a necklace, or a journal. What he had was burned to ash like the mother he never knew.

Dang, now Dean was just depressed. He ran his hand over his head roughly and glanced at his watch. Almost 5:30. Time to wake Sam, and too late to get some sleep himself.

He rested his hand on Sam’s shoulder and shook him gently. “Hey, Sammy…”

“Huh?” Sam asked tiredly, his eyes opening a slit.

Dean held up three fingers. “How many fingers, dude?”

Sam grumbled and shut his eyes again. “One, dork wad,” he said, flipping his brother the bird. “I don’t have a concussion, Dean. Let me go back to sleep.”

Dean laughed softly. “No problem. I’m just gonna go out for coffee. If I’m gonna be too long, I’ll give you a call to make sure you’re okay.”

“Whatever,” Sam said, snuggling back into his pillow and tugging the covers up to his chin.

Dean shrugged and snatched his keys off the table before heading out the door.

* * * *

The shrill tones of the phone ringing cut into Sam’s sleep with an intensity that made him want to push the pillow over his head. “Dean!” He groaned. “Dean, answer the damned phone.” When the ringing continued, he pushed the covers back roughly, and reached for the end table. The phone vibrated in his hand as he picked it up.

He pushed the talk button and put it to his ear without checking to see who it was.

“Sammy.”

Sam tried to open his eyes, but the glare of the early morning light filtering through the blinds kept him squinting painfully. “Dad? Dad, we’ve been trying to get ahold of you for days. Where the hell have you been? Why haven’t you answered your calls?”

“Sammy, I need you to shut up and listen for a minute, son,” the familiar voice said. “Your brother is coming to get you at school.”

“Wait,” Sam said, confused. “School? Dad, I haven’t been in school for over a year. What’s…”

“Quiet! I only have a few minutes. Now your brother is coming to get you. Don’t go with him, Sam. It isn’t safe.”

Sam’s heart clenched in his chest. “Why isn’t it safe, Dad? Why shouldn’t I go with him?”

“Sam, your brother…he’s not himself. He’s different. I don’t want to go into detail over the phone, but he’s not to be trusted. Sam? Sam, do you understand me?”

Sam pressed a hand to his forehead as his head began to throb anew. Before he could answer, the reception cut out, static crackling over the line. “Dad?” He prodded. “Dad, you still there?” Silence. “Dad?!”

“Alea Iacta Est, Samuel.”

Eyes shooting open despite the glare, Sam jerked the phone away from his ear and swallowed the gag that threatened to choke him as he realized that he’d just been talking to his father on the phone with no signal. Blood dripped onto the number pad, and Sam placed a hand to his nose as a flash of blinding pain pierced his head.

“Alea Iacta Est, Samuel.”

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