“Sir? Do you have a visitor's pass?"
Adam's eyes flickered around under their closed lids at the sound of a woman's voice. His ears were suddenly absorbing every sound around him; the soft metronomic beeping noise of a machine, the tiny scratch of pen against paper, the internal rustle of air filling his own lungs... But there was mostly silence. Gentle silence and the distinct smell of sterilization. The kind of scent that only existed in hospitals.
“I don't need one. I'm not a visitor.”
The deep voice that answered belonged to a man, that much Adam knew for sure. It was low and hard and steady, the kind of tone that commanded a room. But it wasn't familiar at all. Adam had no idea who the two voices belonged to, nor what they were talking about. In fact, Adam didn't even know where the hell he was. Why did his body feel so weak? Why did opening his own eyes feel like such a difficult task? The young man struggled to lift his heavy eyelids while the voices started up again.
“I'm sorry, sir, but all visitors must get a pass from the front desk. For safety reasons, you know,” the lady continued, sounding like she was trying her best to be persuasive, “You wouldn't want your son to get hurt by someone who waltzed in here without a visitor's pass, would you?”
Adam's eyelids tightened in confusion. Son? Was she referring to Adam as the man's son? Was the man... John Winchester?
“He's not my son,” the deep voice replied, causing Adam to breathe with relief.
The lady huffed in aggravation and there was a brief sound of rustling papers, as if she was putting down whatever she had been holding. Adam was trying his best to open his eyes, to try and see who these people were and what they were doing. But he was terribly weak and his body wouldn't obey his internal commands.
“Please come with me and get a visitor's pass, sir. For the boy's safety,” she insisted, sounding like she was making the man get up from a chair, “It will only take a few minutes. Come on. Up you go. That's it. The front desk is this way.”
Though his eyes were still closed, Adam could sense that the man had paused by his bed. Heavy, warm fingers briefly rested against the back of Adam's left hand, which was cast limply at his side. Adam knew it was an affectionate gesture, probably meant as a way of saying 'I'll be right back.' But who was doing it? What man would be kind enough to gently clasp Adam's hand in a firm grip before leaving the room? Adam never really had a male role model in his life. No father, no grandfathers, no uncles... No brothers... So, who could it possibly be?
At the sound of a curtain being pulled shut, Adam finally succeeded in opening his eyes. The fluorescent lights shining from the ceiling were harsh on his vision, making him blink repeatedly. Once his sight finally focused, Adam could see that he was, in fact, laying in a hospital bed. The two people were gone now, leaving him to lay alone in a confined space. An empty chair was positioned on his left side and a heart monitor was beeping softly on his right. Adam glanced down and struggled to lift his arms, seeing that one of his wrists had an IV.
The thin, nineteen-year-old boy carefully inspected his own body, trying to figure out what had happened to him. He didn't seem to be injured at all; no broken bones or missing limbs. Hell, there wasn't even a scratch on him. Why was he in the hospital if there was nothing wrong with him? Maybe he had gotten too drunk at a college party and passed out or something. Or maybe he had been in a coma for a while. Because the last thing Adam could remember was giving his mom a goodbye hug before she left his dorm room with a bag of his laundry. And that felt like weeks ago...
Adam carefully raised his eyes to glance around the empty room. Where was his mother? Someone must have told her that her son was in the hospital, right? Was she at work? Was this the same hospital she worked in? A mix of panic and homesickness melted together in Adam's empty stomach as he glanced toward the small gap of the curtains to see the hospital buzzing with activity beyond. He missed his mom like crazy all of the sudden.
“Hey,” Adam wheezed.
The teenager instantly went into a fit of coughs afterward, hacking weakly on the bed. Ugh, his throat was so dry. When was the last time he had a drink? Geez, his tongue felt like sandpaper or something. Adam smacked his cracked lips together as his eyes darted around the boxed-in area. Where was a glass of water when he needed one?
Luckily, it seemed that someone heard his call. Footsteps rapidly approached from the right side of the curtain, along with a joyful whistle. It sounded like whoever was coming over was whistling a tune similar to the oompa-loompa song from Willy Wonka. Though he found the noise a bit strange, Adam tried to ready his words as the sounds drew nearer to his bed. His first question was going to be, 'Can I have some water, please?' The second was going to be, 'Where is my mom?'
Unfortunately, Adam didn't get to ask either of these questions. Because the guy who popped his head into the curtain kind of startled him. The man was short and petite with shaggy blonde hair and eyes that held too much mischief to belong to an adult. The very second the man looked down at Adam, his jolly whistle cut short and his golden eyes blew wide. Adam gulped, unsure of why this complete stranger was looking at him as if he were a ghost. The blonde man at the curtain blinked once, his face filling with irritation, before he mumbled,
Adam's eyebrows drew together. Oh, shit? What did that mean? Adam glanced down at himself again, thinking that his IV was loose or he had accidentally wet the bed or something. But no. The blonde man hadn't said 'oh, shit' because something was wrong. He had said it for some other reason.
“Um,” Adam breathed, “Do I know y – ?”
Before Adam could even finish his raspy sentence, the blonde man was gone. Literally gone. Vanished into thin air like some sort of magic trick. Adam gasped and blinked toward the vacant spot, feeling a tad bit frightened. Holy shit! How did that guy do that?! Was Adam seeing things?! The teenager forced himself to lay back on his bed, trying his best not to freak out. You're probably on some hallucinogenic meds, he told himself, Don't worry about it. Mom will fix it when she gets here.
Adam was back to thinking about his mom again as he stared blankly up at the white ceiling. She had been a nurse for at least twenty years, working her ass off during graveyard shifts while still trying to be a good mother during the day. And Adam was damn proud of her for it. He strongly admired her ability to manage being a full-time nurse and a full-time mom. In fact, watching her work was part of the reason he was currently in pre-med at the University of Wisconsin. He loved his mother's ability to heal sick and wounded people and even bring a few back from the brink of death. Helping people must have been a strong family trait of theirs, because Adam always did his best to help anyone in need...
But now, as he lay motionless in his own hospital bed, Adam was feeling utterly useless. Which was probably why he craved to see his mother so badly. If he couldn't fix this, then she sure as hell could. His mother could adjust his medicine at least, so that he wouldn't keep seeing guys who could disappear at random.
A slight sound of breezing air – kind of like a rustle of wings – briefly filled the hospital. Adam glanced toward the sound, seeing the curtain around his bed swaying as if the subtle gust of air had moved it. Just beyond the curtain, a cluster of footsteps were suddenly making their way toward Adam's bed. The teenager's heart rate began to increase when he listened to the large number of feet walking straight for him. A voice was talking, too. The same voice that had been whistling that stupid oompa-loompa song.
“I'm telling you! It's Mikey's vessel! Except it's all empty and stuff!” the voice exclaimed.
“Humans aren't just empty vessels, Gabe,” a different voice said, sounding annoyed, “They're living, breathing people.”
“Okay, fine. Then it's a living, breathing, empty vessel. Does that make you feel better, moose?”
“Both of you shut up,” another, much deeper voice interrupted, “Look, I don't care what you say, shorty. Whoever is in there cannot be Adam. We saw him fall into the pit with our own eyes. He was locked up tight in the cage, remember? He fell right in with Michael and Lucifer and all of that shit is history. Hell, I was just starting to forget about that kid.”
“Ladies and gentleman, the 'Shittiest Brother of the Year' award goes to...” the whistling man cooed.
“That's not what I meant,” the deeper voice said instantly, as if trying to regain composure, “What I meant was... I just now started to forget about that kid's screams. I just now stopped seeing his face in my mind every time I close my damn eyes. I just now stopped hearing dad's voice in my head, yelling at me for letting his youngest child – the one he tried to protect the most – die in my place. I just now got used to baring all the damn guilt, okay?!”
There was a small silence on the other side of the curtain. Adam shifted slightly in his uncomfortable bed as he eyed the pastel patterns on the fabric. What the absolute hell were those men talking about? And why did they keep mentioning his name as if they knew him?
“Look,” the deep voice eventually said, “All I'm saying is, if that's really Adam in there, I'm gonna feel like total shit.”
Adam barely had time to brace himself before the curtain to his right was suddenly yanked back. Four men, including the blonde whistler from earlier, were now standing at Adam's bed side. They all had very different appearances. One was really tall with shaggy dark hair and a calm look about him. Another was shorter and more stout, wearing freckles and a no-bullshit expression. The third man looked like he was on his way to a business meeting or something; full suit and tie, with a heavy trench coat to match. And the fourth was the whistling man of course, the blonde with the golden eyes. They were all staring down at Adam as if he was a long-lost cousin or something, large eyes and open mouths all around. Adam wasn't sure what to say or do at the moment. He only laid there and received looks of absolute shock.
“... I feel like total shit...” the freckle-faced man mumbled, seeming pale.
Adam casually attempted to clear his throat, which resulted in a few hard coughs because his mouth was so dry, before glancing among the men. He had never seen any of them before and he was sure that he would have remembered them if he did. Their blank stares of shock were kind of starting to freak him out...
“Uh... Who the hell are you?” Adam eventually breathed, his voice still weak.
All of the men seemed astounded by this question, like Adam had just asked if they were aliens or something. The stout one – the one with the spiky hair, who kept rambling on about feeling guilty – took a step closer to Adam's bed, making the teenager lean away with discomfort.
“Who – who are we? You mean, you don't remember us?” he asked, green eyes full of confusion.
Adam's heart was starting to beat faster as his discomfort was shifting into nervousness. The urge to call for a nurse was pressing at the back of his tongue but he held it down. These guys didn't seem like they wanted to hurt him. Maybe they were just mistaking him for someone else.
“Um, no,” Adam replied carefully, “Am I supposed to?”
They might have been talking about nonsense behind the curtain, but maybe these men could tell Adam what had happened to him. It would be nice if someone could let him know why he was in a hospital bed. All four of the guys glanced at each other, the tallest one in plaid giving a shrug.
“Maybe the cage messed with his memory,” he suggested to the bow-legged man.
Cage? What cage were they talking about? Was it some kind of prison reference? The spiky-haired guy spun back to give Adam a hopeful look.
“What do you remember?” he asked, sounding curious.
Adam used his weak limbs to try to sit up in bed as he racked his brain for an answer. Still, the only thing he could remember was waving goodbye to his mom at college. The men were all still staring at him, waiting impatiently for an answer as if the fate of the world depended on it or something...
“Well, the last thing I remember was saying goodbye to my mom,” he admitted, glancing around at them all, “She came by to pick up my laundry at school. I go to the University of Wisconsin. Do – do any of you go there? Did you see what happened to me?”
Adam was hoping that at least one of these men knew what had happened to him and how he had ended up in the hospital. The teenager was still under the assumption that he had gotten drunk at a party or something, because he didn't have any visible injuries. But unfortunately, the curiosity on the men's faces quickly turned to defeat. They all glanced around at each other like Adam's answer made them upset.
“He doesn't remember any of it,” the tall man nearly whispered, “Not even the ghouls.”
“Son of a bitch,” Bow-legs mumbled, face palming.
Adam's eyes narrowed. Ghouls? It wasn't close to Halloween, was it? Were the men referring to a horror movie?
“Perhaps his memory was effected by the explosion,” the man in the trench coat suggested.
“Yeah? Then, how can we know for sure?” another asked.
Adam watched as the business man took a few steps closer to his bed. Though the teenager leaned farther away, the man in the trench coat reached out to tap his forehead with two fingers. Adam was completely shocked. Didn't that guy have any sense of personal space?! Adam was okay with these men babbling nonsense, but touching him? That shit was just over the line.
“Don't touch me,” Adam said, smacking the man's hand away.
But it seemed like the man had accomplished whatever he was trying to do. After huffing a sigh, he turned back to the others to give them a raised eyebrow.
“It appears that his memory was erased on purpose,” he informed, “I suspect it was Michael's handiwork. His grace is still lingering in the boy's subconscious.”
Adam was done with all of this bullshit. His mouth was dry, his mother wasn't there, and these four guys were standing around his hospital bed yacking about weird shit. His level of discomfort was gradually beginning to peak, making his temper rise with it.
“Hey,” Adam snapped, making all the eyes fall back to him, “I don't know any of you guys. So, unless you can tell me how I ended up in here, then I suggest you leave. Before I... call the nurse or something...”
Adam knew his threat sounded totally lame, but it was all he could really say. He was obviously outnumbered and too weak to run. Calling the nurse was the only reliable option that he had. And after hearing her bitch at the first guy that was here, Adam was sure she would escort the rest of these guy to the front desk to get visitor's passes, too.
After the teenager's remark, though, the tallest man in the line seemed to soften instantly. He held up both hands in defense and carefully rounded the end of the bed, headed for the vacant chair on the left side. Adam's eyes stayed locked on him, hoping the guy wasn't coming close to hurt him.
“Hey, man. I understand that you're confused,” the giant man said gently as he eased into the chair, “but you can relax. We are honestly not here to hurt you.”
“Then what do you want?” Adam asked, “How do you know me?”
The two men in plaid shirts – the freckle-face, and the tall one – met eyes briefly. The freckle-face gave a nod before the tall one looked back at Adam. His eyes were large and apologetic, staring at Adam as if he was about to tell him some terrible news.
“I'm Sam. And that's Dean,” he said carefully, pointing toward freckle-face, “We're brothers. And our last name is... Winchester.”
Adam's heart seemed to beat erratically for a few moments. Winchester? As in 'John Winchester'? The teenager's eyes flickered between the two men, instantly able to see the family resemblance. Yep. They were related to Adam's father alright. Same plaid outfits, same stern expressions, same thick muscles and mysterious eyes.
“We're John's sons,” Dean added, “Which makes you our half-brother.”
Adam wasn't exactly sure how to take this news. He always assumed that he had relatives on his father's side of the family that he never knew about. But brothers? Sam and Dean both looked much older than him, so why didn't they ever look for him? Why didn't they ever stop by and ask to be part of his life? Was it possible that they didn't even know that he existed?
“Um. Well. It's nice to finally meet you, I guess,” Adam mumbled, still too surprised to properly respond.
“Actually, the thing is, we've already met before,” Sam explained, leaning closer to his bed, “I know you're gonna think this sounds crazy... But you helped us stop the apocalypse.”
Adam blink hard once, trying to let the words sink in. The apocalypse? What the hell was he talking about? These men were totally nuts! The urge to call a nurse was growing stronger in Adam's stomach. These guys were obviously Doom's Day preparers or something. And they were probably going to kidnap Adam to sacrifice him to the gods...
“Way to go, Sammy-boy. You broke the kid,” the blonde man said, gesturing to Adam's unmoving form.
“No, it's true,” Sam said, able to see Adam's disbelief, “Adam, please listen. Three years ago, the angels – angels from heaven – came to Earth and opened Lucifer's cage -”
“Sam, you're freaking him out,” Dean interrupted, obviously able to see the total shock on Adam's face.
“But it's the truth. He needs to know it, Dean,” Sam argued, before turning his sight back to Adam, “I know this must sound like a story from some psychedelic comic book, but we... you and I... we were vessels for Lucifer and Michael. They were going to fight each other in our bodies, but we stopped them. We fell into the pit together and we were locked in the cage in hell -”
“Stop,” Adam demanded, feeling lightheaded, “Just stop. I don't know what kind of drugs you're on, pal, but you need to leave before I call a nurse.”
Uncomfortable silence rested around the space for a moment after Adam's threat. The blonde guy – the one that Adam saw first – strolled closer to the bed and reached out a small hand to pat his shoulder. His golden eyes were playful, but Adam still didn't like being touched.
“Oh, simmer down, little Winchester,” the blonde guy sang, “Everything's gonna be okay.”
“My last name is Milligan,” Adam corrected, shooting him a glare.
“Okay, fine. Simmer down, Milli-Vanilli,” he revised, “Sammy's not on drugs. You really were possessed by my brother three years ago.”
“I was a junior in high school three years ago,” Adam spat, starting to feel angry.
“Sorry, kid. But you are missing a huge chunk of your time line,” Dean insisted, “We stopped the apocalypse three years ago and we met you a year before that. And you were already in college by then, and you and your mom were killed by ghouls...”
Dean kept talking but Adam had stopped listening. The teenager was suddenly outraged. How dare they talk about his mother that way! She wasn't dead! He just saw her carrying his laundry! She was perfectly fine!
“My mom's not dead,” Adam said flatly, interrupting Dean's absurd rant.
“Uh, I hate to break it to you, kid. But, yeah. She is. She was eaten to death,” the blonde said, shrugging.
Adam's mouth fell open. Eaten to death?! What the hell was he talking about?! Were all of these men crazy?!
“Dammit, Gabriel,” Dean growled lowly across the space, “Would you shut up and let us do the talking?!”
“Hey! You were the one who said he needed to know the truth,” Gabriel retorted.
“No, Sam said that,” Dean spat.
“Both of you stop,” Sam requested, getting up from the chair to walk back over to the group, “This kid isn't going to believe any of us if we keep telling him everything at once.”
“Cas, do you think you could put the memories back in his head?” Dean asked.
“Sorry, Dean,” the business man answered, shaking his head, “Michael's grace is much stronger than mine. I cannot undo whatever he has done to Adam's head.”
Adam was listening to all of this and feeling sicker by the second. These crazy men were coming up with the most ridiculous stories and the most outlandish theories. And the worst part was that they were trying to tell him that his mother was dead. She couldn't be dead! The thought alone made Adam raw with fury.
The teenager noticed, as he lay on the edge of his bed, that the four men weren't paying attention to him anymore. They were all in a huddle, voices whispering about ways to get Adam to remember things he had never heard of. And Adam was glad that they were distracted. Because he recognized that it was a golden opportunity to sneak away. Adam kept his eyes fixed on the four of them as he carefully lowered his blankets and crept his legs off the side of the bed. He was not going to listen to another word from any of them. He was done hearing about the end of the world, and half-brothers, and angels. Screw all that shit. Adam just wanted to see his mother again...
Being as slow and agile as possible, Adam maneuvered himself into the ice-cold hospital floor. He was only wearing a thin gown that was tied up in the back and the glossy floor was freezing against his bare feet and hands. But he ignored his body's discomfort in order to crawl away from the men. They were still arguing with each other by the time Adam removed his IV and unplugged his heart monitor from the wall. He ripped all the wires from his body and slid his way carefully under the curtain. And once he was on the other side, Adam stood up in a bustling hospital area and quickly blended into the scene.
Nurses and doctors were breezing passed him as Adam started quickly down the hall. He knew his way around a hospital, given that his mother took him to work with her several times. As a matter of fact, this hospital seemed like the same one she worked in. A few familiar faces caught his attention as he dashed toward a supply closet. It was one in which they kept extra scrubs, in case the nurses needed a fresh set of clothes during work hours. Adam jumped into the small room and immediately started changing, tugging off the gown and yanking on some green scrubs and white tennis shoes. He thought that changing his appearance might help him get out of the hospital, especially if those weird guys started to look for him.
Once he was fully dressed, Adam exited the closet and made a b-line for the stairs. He didn't want to risk being seen by one of the Winchesters just because he had to wait for an elevator. So, instead, he galloped down the stairs two at a time, making his way to the first floor in a hurry. His plan was to go to the head nurses' station and ask for his mom, or at least ask when her shift was. He was so looking forward to seeing her face; to finally see someone familiar after his uncomfortable conversation with the Winchesters. Boy, he couldn't wait to hear what his mother had to say about his father's side of the family.
The ground floor of the hospital was bright with daylight when Adam strolled in from the stairwell. The nurses' station was just ahead of him and the desk was thankfully full of people. Relief was already beginning to crest in Adam's mind. Oh, thank God. These people actually seemed familiar. The teenager strode up to the desk and gave a polite smile to the nurse seated there, who offered a kind smile in return.
“Can I help you, sir?” she asked sweetly.
“I'm looking for my mom,” Adam said, his voice still raspy from lack of moisture.
“What's her name, sweetheart?” the nurse asked.
“Kate Milligan,” Adam replied, “She works here on the night shift.”
Adam's heart plummeted when he saw pure confusion light up the woman's eyes. She glanced around for a moment like she was studying the other nurses before she looked back at him. There was apology in her expression.
“I'm so sorry, sweetie. But I've never heard that name before,” she said quietly.
“This is Windom Area Hospital, right?” Adam asked, making sure.
“Yes,” she answered, “But I've worked here for two years and I've never met anyone by that name, honey.”
Adam's heart was beating awkwardly all of the sudden. How could someone have worked at the same place for two years and not have met a coworker that had been there for twenty? Was this nurse mistaken, too?
Or was it Adam who was mistaken?
“If she works on the night shift, then maybe she's at home right now,” the nurse suggested, pulling Adam from his worried thoughts, “Have you tried calling her?”
For some reason, Adam's throat felt even drier than before. The teenager coughed again and rubbed his neck as he carefully backed away from the desk.
“N – no,” he wheezed, “but I will. Thank you.”
“You're welcome,” the nurse smiled, “Have a nice day, sweetie.”
Though he had just received kind words, Adam didn't feel comforted at all. He still felt sick with worry. But the nurse was right. If his mom wasn't here, then she was probably at home, trying to get as much sleep as possible before her shift started. Adam spun around to start for the exit at once. Now that he had a good idea of where his mother was, his next plan was clear. All he needed to do was catch the next bus into town.
And avoid those crazy Winchesters at all costs.