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"One toe over the line" chapter two
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Dean opened his eyes and blinked against the harsh floresant light. As his eyes focused Dean saw two men standing at the foot of his hospital bed.

One was a doctor, the other was wearing a dark brown suit, white shirt and a brown tie, obviously a police detective.

Dean placed a hand on his forehead as he struggled to remember why he was flat on his back in a hospital. He glanced around the room and found there was no sign of Sam.

At the thought of his brother memories of what happened came back with brutal force.

Sam was dead, gone forever.

Dean closed his eyes and leaned back against the pillow.

"What happened?"Dean asked the doctor.

Sam Weston stepped forward and began to examine his patient. "You fainted, Mr. Winchester."

"I don't faint."

"Nothing to be ashamed of."Weston replied as he finished his examination. "With all you've been through tonight I was surprised you stayed on your feet as long as you did."

"Who is he?"Dean asked tiredly.

"This is Detective Peter Hurst."Weston said as he stepped back from the bed and the blond man stepped forward. "He needs to ask you some questions about your brother."

"Fine."Dean acknowledged his eyes remaining closed. His heart was racing. Why was this happening?

"I have a few other patients to check on."Weston stated as he moved toward the door. "I'll look in on you in an hour or so."

After the doctor left Hurst pulled a chair over to Dean's bed and sat down. He took out a small pad of paper and a pen and opened the pad to a clean sheet.

"I'm sorry for your loss, Mr. Winchester."Hurst began as he took the cap off the pen.

Dean winced at the condolence. He'd never get used to hearing that. Not about Sam. He remained silent.

"The owner of the bed and breakfast said you were brothers from Kansas."

"Yeah, Lawerence."

"Passing through or visiting realitves?"

"Passing through."

"What happened in the basement?"Hurst asked as he leaned back in the chair. The owner of the bed and breakfast had been dodgy so he couldn't wait to hear what Winchester came up with.

Dean swallowed hard and opened his eyes wondering if the detective would believe the truth. One look at Hurst's face nixed that idea.

"Reise's wife was fixing us a midnight snack in the kitchen."Dean explained. "She heard something in the basement and asked us to take a look."

"Where was her husband?"

"Asleep."Dean replied quietly. "We went downstairs and flipped on the light switch. We must've blown a fuse because there was no light, it was pitch black. Something attacked Sam as soon as we reached the last step."

"Something?"Hurst asked not being able to keep the suspicion out of his voice.

Dean shrugged. "Some kind of animal, didn't see what it was."

"Where did this animal go?"Hurst inquired he'd seen the crimescene. There was no exit that wasn't supposed to be there.

Dean shook his head as a lump began to form in his throat. "No idea. I was trying to keep my brother alive."

"What about the fire?"

"Trying to scare it away."

"Okay."Hurst acknowledged as he stood and put the pad of paper away. "Are you staying in town?"

Dean nodded though he hadn't really had time to think of what needed to be done. He had to get Sam home somehow.

"I'll be staying at the bed and breakfast until I can get a hold of my father and we can make arrangements."

"We may have a few more questions once the autopsy is complete."

Dean sat staight up in bed his eyes narrowing sharply. "You are not cuttng my brother open!"

"I'm sorry but state regulations require that any suspicious death have an autopsy conducted."

"It was an animal attack."Dean protested. "There's no need..."

Hurst started toward the door. "I'm sorry, but it's procedure."

As the detective left Dean cursed and slumped back onto the bed. Dean closed his eyes and tried to gather his thoughts and emotions but failed miserably.

He'd never felt more alone.

*******

Duncan arrived at the hospital around five thirty having broken several state laws and speed limits to do so. As he rushed into a side entrance Duncan could only hope he wasn't too late.

New awakenings were usually late but one never could truly predict when they occurred.

Entering the hallway Duncan snuck past a nurse's station and ducked into a supply closet. Once there he quickly grabbed two pairs of scrubs and a lab coat.

Checking to make sure the coast was clear Duncan reentered the hallway and headed toward the morgue.

********

At the Reise's insistence Dean had returned to the bed and breakfast around five that morning. However returning to the room he had shared with Sam and seeing his brother's suitcase and clothes had been more than he could handle. Dean retreated to the small inn's kitchen and sat at a chair at the left side of the table.

Dean rested his elbows on the oak table and rubbed his eyes with the palms of his hands. His eyes felt dry and scratchy same state his throat was in. More than likely from the crying.

Something he wasn't used to.

Dean couldn't remember crying like that when his Mom died.
He felt like half of his soul had been torn away.
How was he going to go on without Sam?

Renee Reise placed a plate of toast and eggs and a cup of coffee in front of Dean as she slid into the chair across from the young man. She was a petite woman in her late fifties with blonde hair streaked with gray. Blue eyes teared behind wire rim glasses.

"Dean, you need to eat something. I know you don't feel like it but you need to try to keep something down."

Dean met the kind woman's gaze for a long moment before he half heartedly reached for a wedge of toast.

"If you don't mind I'm going to go up to your room and gather your laundry so you can have something to wear besides those hospital scrubs."

Halfway through a bite of toast Dean blinked and looked down at his attire. He had completely forgotten he was still wearing the dark blue scrubs.

Dean swallowed the bread as he replied. "Thank you."

Renee stood and walked around the table and placed a comforting hand on Dean's left shoulder.

"You're welcome, honey. Least I can do. You have no idea how sorry Mark and I are about Sam."

Dean ducked his head and nodded so she wouldn't see the fresh tears.

Renee squeezed Dean's shoulder once before she turned and headed up the stairs leaving Dean alone.

********

Sharp air filled Sam Winchester's lungs like a locomotive hitting a mountain boulder. He sat straight up nearly gagging as the oxygen filled his once dead lungs.

"Take easy, deep breaths."A soft Scottish voice instructed from Sam's left.

Sam did as he was told and the pain in his chest started to ease. He collasped back against the stainless steel table.

After a few moments Sam looked around the room he was in and couldn't believe what he was seeing. Of all places he had expected to wake up that day the morgue wasn't one of them.

Sam looked to his left and saw a black haired man sporting a pony tail standing a few feet away wearing a lab coat and holding a bundle of blue fabric.

"Where?"Sam asked as he glanced from the man to the tray of surgical instruments. Memories were returning but not nearly fast enough. "Who?"

Duncan grinned as he stepped forward. "Why don't you throw in when and why and we can cover all the bases at once."

At Sam's blank look Duncan continued. "You're in a morgue in Mcgregor, Iowa."

Sam looked down at his naked chest as he remembered the ghost's attack. His wounds were completely healed. He wasn't liking this, not one bit. Why wasn't he in a hospital room? Where was Dean?

"What the hell is going on?"

Duncan tossed him the spare pair of scrubs as he glanced at the empty doorway. "I know you have a million questions, but we don't have time right now to answer them. Put those on and follow me."

Sam frowned none of this was making sense. The coldness of the room was starting to seep into his skin so Sam quickly put on the shirt and hopped off the table so he could pull the pants on. Something about this guy he just didn't trust.

"You didn't answer my question."Sam pointed out wishing he had shoes. "Who are you?"

"My name is Duncan MacLeod and I assure you that you can trust me. Right now we need to move before somebody discovers that you're awake."

"Why?"Sam asked trying not to look at the corpse on another table a few feet away.

Duncan sighed he should've known this one was going to be complicated. "You're not in this room by mistake, Sam. You died last night."

Sam's hand once again went to where his wounds should be and shook his head. His mind was swimming. He wasn't comprehending any of this. "You mean they thought I was dead."

Duncan took several steps forward. "The paramedics pronounced you dead at twelve thirty. And since the death was violent and premature you were given another chance. So please trust me and lets get out of here before the medical examiner returns."

Sam blinked once, twice, three times struggling to take in this new situation. With all the weird things he and his brother had seen in their lives Sam couldn't dismiss what the stranger was saying outright. If it was true, if he had been given a second chance why the need for secrecy? Why not just tell the medical examiner it was a freak occurrence and that everything was alright now?

Footsteps echoed through a nearby hallway causing Duncan to once again look toward the doorway then back at his young pupil. "Sam, I know this is a lot to take in, but we need to go."

Instincts from being in many close scraps with Dean told Sam that he didn't have a choice.

Reluctantly Sam followed the stranger out of the morgue.
They paused in the doorway and looked both ways.

"This way."Duncan ordered as he moved them away from the main section of the hospital and toward a back entrance.

***********

After eating half a wedge of toast Dean pushed the plate aside and stood. He walked into the living room adjacent to the kitchen.

The room was cozy with colonel style furniture and light blue paint. The gas fireplace in the corner was on warming the room.

Dean moved to the bay window. He folded his arms across his chest as he looked out at the Mississippi river barely visible in the early dawn light.

The inn was quiet. Dean and Sam had been the only guests even though it was peak fall foliage season. The ghost had scared off any potential customers.

At the thought of the ghost Dean tried to keep the memories of her attack at bay but his defenses weren't as strong as they normally were.

Images flashed fast and furious through Dean's mind.
Images he'd never forget.
Sam bleeding and still.
Sam taking his last breathe.

Dean shuddered and walked to the sofa and sat down. Why hadn't he moved faster?

All he had to do was drop that match half a second quicker and Sam would be here now.

/God, Sammy, I'm sorry./

Absently Dean pulled his cell phone out of his pocket and checked the display. He wasn't surprised to see that there were no messages.

His father hadn't contacted them in months so Dean hadn't really expected an emergency to bring him out of the wood work.

But Dean had hoped against hope that it would.

The Winchester family was shattered and Dean had no idea how to put it back together.
Or even if there was a hope of putting the family back together without his baby brother.

A familiar lump formed in Dean's throat as he leaned his head back against the sofa and closed his eyes.

Why did this happen? Dean wondered for the millionth time.
It wasn't like they hadn't been in tight spots before.
Why take Sam and not him?

Exhaustion finally won out and Dean fell into a troubled sleep.

Passing through the living room Renee spotted Dean asleep on the sofa. Shaking her head sadly the older woman pulled a green and blue plaid quilt out of a cedar chest and covered Dean with it.

She didn't understand why bad things happened to good people.

As she left the living room Renee could only hope that Dean would some day recover from his brother's death.

*********

As they reached the hospital parking lot Duncan passed Sam the lab coat as the youth's teeth had started to chatter as soon as his bare feet had hit the cold cement.

They were almost to the car when Duncan's cell phone rang. MacLeod pulled the device out and glanced at the caller ID.

"Yeah, Joe,"Duncan answered forgoing any pleasantries. "Everything's fine. Yes, I'm sure. Just going to have to smooth things with the local police. Yes, that too. Let me know when things are taken care of."

Sam gratefully got into the passenger seat of the late model dark blue mustang and closed the door. He swore he'd never take shoes for granted again. His feet had never felt so cold.

"I'm sorry I don't have any spare clothes your size."Duncan apologized as he climbed into the car and shut the door. "I left in a bit of a hurry and I didn't know who I was coming to see. We'll get you some as soon as possible. The heat will kick on here in a minute."

"You're probably not going to let me use your cell phone, are you?"Sam asked as the car started and some heat slowly crept into the compartment.

"No."Duncan replied as he put the car into drive and pulled out of the parking lot.

"Mr. MacLeod..."

"Duncan."

"Duncan."Sam corrected as he shifted in his seat to face the older man. Though Sam suspected if what MacLeod said was true age was relative. "Look, I don't know how much to believe right now but I need to make one phone call."

"You can't contact anybody, Sam."Duncan explained patiently. "That's how it works."

"I was traveling with my older brother."Sam pleaded. "I just need him to know that I'm okay."

Duncan shook his head. "I'm sorry, Sam, but to the rest of the world Sam Winchester is dead. Everything and everyone gets left behind."

Sam knew he was losing this argument but had to give it one last shot. For Dean's sake. He could only imagine what his brother was going through. "Mr. MacL----Duncan, my mother died in a fire when we were kids. My father never really recovered from it. He's been in and out of our lives ever since. I'm all Dean has."

"Losing our mortal ties is unfortunately the price we pay for getting a second chance. The answer is still no, Sam."

Sam sighed and slumped back against the seat as Duncan pulled onto the main street and headed toward the edge of town.

***********

It was just past nine by the time Dean awoke to someone shaking his left shoulder. He blinked against the bright morning sunlight to see Mark Reise.

"Sorry to wake you, but the police are here."Reise explained as he stepped away from the sofa.

"They're insisting on talking to you."

Dean sighed as he sat up and rubbed a hand over his face. "Why?"

"Wouldn't tell me."

"Of course they wouldn't."Dean replied not bothering to hide the sarcasm in his voice as he pulled off the quilt and stood. "Where are they?"

"Dining room."

"Thanks."

As he walked the short distance Dean struggled to collect his thoughts but it was impossible. His head felt worse than it did after a three day drinking binge. His neck was throbbing after the awkward angle he had fallen asleep in.

Shaking his head in a last ditch effort to clear it, Dean stepped into the dining room and saw Hurst sitting in one of the chairs.

A uniformed officer stood a few feet behind the blond detective.

"You wanted to see me?"Dean asked as he moved toward the table.

Hurst nodded waving a hand toward a nearby chair. "Yeah, have a seat."

Dean shook his head. "I'll stand, thanks."

The detective motioned for the uniformed officer to move forward as he said. "These are your brother's personal belongings."

As he took the small clear plastic bag from the cop Dean did take a seat. He felt like his knees were about to buckle. The bag contained Sam's cell phone, wallet and watch.

"Mr. Winchester,"Hurst began dragging Dean's attention away from the bag. "The district attorney has ruled your brother's death suspicious pending the results of an autopsy. I need you to come down to the station for further questioning."

Dean blinked. "Why? I told you what happened."

"And we found no evidence of an animal attack."

"That doesn't mean it didn't happen."Dean countered anger starting to creep into his voice.

Hurst leaned back in the chair. "That's what we need you to clear up."

Dean stood clutching the precious bag tightly. "If you're implying that I had anything to do with Sam's death, you couldn't be more wrong."Dean's voice wavered and threatened to break. "I'd give anything to trade places with him. I wish I had seen what attacked him, but I didn't."

"Mr. Winchester..."

"If you have evidence enough to arrest me, arrest me."Dean stated as he moved toward the doorway. "Otherewise, get the hell out."

Not waiting for the two men to leave Dean turned on his heel and quickly headed up the stairs.

*********

It was the next town before Duncan had found an open department store. Half an hour later Sam had a partial new wardrobe consisting of two pairs of jeans, three long sleeved shirts, one hooded sweatshirt, a denim jacket, underwear, socks, and most importantly a pair of sneakers.

Shoving his hands deep into the pockets of his new jacket Sam eyed the store's payphone as they left. He wondered how much a collect call cost these days. And if he could even get a call through to Dean before Duncan noticed.

Seeing where Sam's gaze was Duncan shot him a warning look. "Sam."

"Alright."The youngest Winchester acknowledged begrudgingly.

As they got into the car Duncan's cell phone beeped indicating a waiting text message. Sitting down Duncan flipped open the phone and accessed the message.

Once again it was from Joe.

Next time Duncan saw the man he was going to have to tease him about becoming tech-savy.

'Things with morgue taken care of.'The message read.'You're clear to head for home.'

"Something important?"Sam asked watching MacLeod's face as he read the message.

Duncan shook his head and smiled. "Nope. We're good to go."

Sam fastened the seatbelt as he asked. "Where exactly are we going?"

"Chicago."

"Why?"

"It's where I live."Duncan replied simply as he pulled the car back onto the interstate.

Sam unhooked the seatbelt and grabbed the doorhandle and opened it. "I'm not leaving until I know Dean's alright."

"Close the door,Sam."Duncan replied as he slowed the car. "We've been over this."

"I'm not going to make contact with him."Sam argued not closing the door and pushing it open a bit farther. "I just want to see him."

"Sam."

"If I jump from this car what does it matter? I'm supposedly immortal, right?"

"You'll still feel pain."Duncan replied starting to feel a little angry. "Close the damn door, Sam."

Instead Sam opened the door further placing one foot outside.

Duncan sighed. "If I give you seventy-two hours will you try to abide by the rules?"

"Fine."

"Good."Duncan replied as he settled back in his seat then he looked over at the youth. "Sam, the door, if you please."

Sam pulled himself back into the car and slammed the door shut. At least he could see for himself that his brother was alright.

Even if was for only seventy-two hours.

********

Reaching the second floor of the inn, Dean headed for the first guest room that hadn't belonged to him and his brother.

Dean slammed the door shut and collapsed onto the bed. The bag of Sam's things still clutched in his right hand.

Dean threw the bag as far from him as possible. It hit the Tiffiany lamp on the dresser knocking it to the floor in a thousand pieces.

With a sigh Dean rested his right forearm across his face and closed his eyes. He'd probably have to replace that, or work it off somehow.

The Reise's had been nothing but nice to him, they didn't deserve to have their good things destroyed.

Destroyed.

The word echoed around his numb mind as Dean fought to control his breathing and racing heart. How had he gotten here?

How had his life turned so far upside down that some idiot was practically accusing him of killing his brother?

Don't they realize that protecting Sam was ingrained in his soul?
It was the reason he got up every day.
It was the reason he drew breathe.

From the cops' point of view Dean could almost understand their perspective. They had a young man dead from unknown causes and only one witness who had blood on his shirt.

Blood.

Dean squeezed his eyes shut at the memory. This time his defenses won out and the memory was held back. But holding the memory back only brought him the inevitable.

His brother was gone.

There were things that needed to be taken care of.
Sam needed to be taken care of.
Dean needed to take his brother home; one last time.

With a sigh Dean opened his eyes and struggled into a sitting position. He pulled out his cell phone and started dialing.

*********

In the same town as Duncan had found the department store they pulled into a hotel with a vacancy sign. To Sam it looked like any other two-bit hotel he and Dean had stayed in over the last few months. A thought that made him miss his brother even more.

Duncan turned the car off and pocketed the keys. A fact that Sam didn't miss.

Sam smiled wryly. "You could've left the car on."

"Uh huh."Duncan replied knowingly as he opened the door and got out. "I've been doing this a long time, Sam. Start getting our stuff out of the trunk and I'll check us in."

"Okay."Sam acknowledged as he reached over and hit the trunk release.

Duncan closed the door and headed toward the main office.

Sam was just unloading the third bag when Duncan returned carrying two room keys. He handed one to Sam..

"We're around the corner."Duncan stated. "I'm going to go to that fast food place across the street. You want anything?"

Sam's stomach growled but he shook his head. "No, thanks."

"Sam, don't be stupid."Duncan chided. "I know you haven't eaten in at least twelve hours."

"Alright,"Sam replied giving in. He couldn't ever remember being this hungry and that included some all night study sessions where he'd skipped meals entirely. "Couple burritos, hashbrown and the largest thing that has caffine in it that you can buy."

Duncan chuckled as Sam took the last bag out and closed the trunk. "Coffee or soda?"

"Doesn't matter."Sam replied as he started to pick up some of the bags. "I just need something to jump start my brain."

"Okay. I'll be back in ten minutes."Duncan stated as he got into the driver's seat and started the car. "Remember the rules."

"Yeah,yeah."Sam muttered as he turned and started toward the room.

As Sam let himself into the room and closed the door behind him. His gaze fell on the telephone. More than anything he wanted to call Dean.

But instincts were telling Sam he'd have to find another way to let his older brother know he was alright.

All Sam could do now was wait for MacLeod's return and hopefully find some answers to the mess that was now his life.

**********

After finishing the phone calls Dean reluctantly returned to the room he had once shared with Sam. The only reason he was even considering setting foot inside it was that his cell phone battery was just about to die. And the charger was plugged in and resting on the nightstand by his bed.

Dean wearily trudged into the room and closed the door behind him. He retrieved the cord from the floor and plugged it into the phone. The phone chirped and Dean placed it on the nightstand.

A knock on the door almost made Dean jump. Forcing himself to relax Dean turned toward the door.

"Yeah?"

Renee poked her head into the room freshly washed and folded laundry in the crook of her right arm. "I have the first load of laundry done. Thought I'd see if you were awake before I dropped it off."

A genuine smile almost crossed Dean's face as he walked toward the older woman and reached for the clothes. "Thank you."He replied and then added. "For everything you and your husband have done."

Renee sat down on the corner of what had been Sam's bed as she met Dean's gaze. "This inn has been in my family for generations. We were to the point of selling it when we came across you and your brother. We can never thank you enough for that. I'm just so sorry that it came with such a sacrifice"

Dean sat down heavily on the side of his bed as he shook his head slightly. "I still can't believe it. I know it's a cliché but I still expect him to walk through that door going on about a friend of his from college or a lead on our next case."

Renee reached out and gently covered Dean's right hand with hers. "Sam was an exceptional young man. Just from the brief time I knew him I could see that. Any word from your father?"

"No."Dean replied not quite being able to keep the bitterness out of his voice. "And I'm not really expecting to hear from him."

"Its a shame that some parents decide to keep their distance."Renee stated with a sad shake of her head as she stood. "Families should draw closer in times like these not splinter further."she paused briefly as she looked out the window and then added. "I'll be back in a half hour with the rest of the clothes."

Dean nodded deciding to let the comment about his father go. He wasn't his Dad's biggest fan right now anyway. "Thanks."

Renee paused in the doorway. "Oh, I heard a crash earlier. Did you come across anything that might have fallen over?"

"I'm afraid that was my fault."Dean said ruefully. "I accidentally knocked the lamp off the dresser in the room across the way. Let me know what it'll cost to replace it."

"The red one?"Renee asked and Dean nodded. "Don't worry about it. It was a replica of a Tiffany lamp I found a few years back at a rummage sale."

"Are you sure?"Dean asked.

Renee smiled. "It was an ugly thing anyway. Was never really sure why I hung on to it. Try to get some rest. I'll check back in a little while."

"Thank you."Dean replied as Renee left closing the door behind her.

chapter three