Sam sat and stared helplessly at the silent, impassive figure before him. Dean was sitting on the side of his bed, in exactly the spot that Sam had manoeuvred him into, hands laying limply in his lap, staring glassily back through Sam as if he were invisible.
Beside Sam lay the evidence of unsuccessful attempts to find out what was wrong with his brother; a silver knife, an iron knife and a bottle of holy water.
Dean's forearm bore the faint marks of two scratches, one from each blade, both of which had not gleaned the slightest reaction. Sam had simply watched in perplexed horror as watery, greenish-brown blood had trickled freely from each wound which had then closed over almost instantly.
Similarly, splashing holy water into his brother's face had been met with a total lack of response, not even a blink.
Sam's head dropped into his hands. In his abject despair there was only one person he could think to turn to.
Watery green eyes fluttered open, blinking blearily through a hazy dawn light.
Sitting up, the bewildered man rubbed his head and groaned as a wave of dizziness overtook him, forcing him to flop back down onto the cot and swallow back a creeping nausea.
"Shit, what the hell was I drinking last night?"
He rolled onto his back, panting miserably and flopped an arm limply over his teary eyes, sighing as his spinning head pounded and throbbed.
It was a few more minutes before he felt robust enough to try to sit up again, this time his weary body stiffly co-operated.
Almost instantly his addled mind began to race; this SO wasn't the room he went to sleep in last night.
Blinking through the dappled sunlight, he sat, scanning his surroundings and tried to take stock of what was, it had to be said, a bizzare situation.
The boundaries of the space around him were marked by six ancient oak trees; tortuously gnarled and knotted, twisting and arching into each other like tormented souls reaching out for salvation. The spaces between them were draped with rich silken hangings, some heavy and beautifully decorated with cords of gold and silver, others gossamer thin, glistening and sparkling in the soft breeze like the wings of a dragonfly. The whole effect created a strangely dreamy enclosed space.
He gradually realised was sitting on a low cot, covered with the skanky hide of some dead animal. His nose wrinkled in disgust and he felt an itch tickle it's way up his back just at the thought.
Looking up he could see the canopies of two of the oaks entwined way above his head forming a high vaulted ceiling, through which the diffused sunlight filtered, mottling everything around it in a flickering patchwork of light and shadow.
As he attempted to stand for the first time, he became aware of the cool, dewey dampness of a patch of clover beneath his bare feet. Scanning the floor, he saw that the clover extended in a lush green carpet across the whole glade.
Vivid dots of colour peppered the expanse of green around him where wild flowers had forced their brightly coloured heads through the rich carpet of clover. Above them, golden tendrils of honeysuckle clung tightly to the grotesque, weathered trunks of the oaks, and around the edges of the whole clearing, a ring of swaying ferns softly whispered and sighed in the breeze.
Suddenly, the dappled sunlight which flickered across his swimming vision, the whispering of the canopy above him, the rich loamy scent of the soil, and the sweetly suffocating fragrances of the flowers around him all became crushingly overwhelming and he began to tremble, feeling the gooseflesh skittering across his back.
Was this a dream? It couldn't be a dream; you can't smell things in goddamn dreams …
His heart began to race, forcing his breaths to come faster and harsher, making his head spin as fear and confusion overtook him; the clearing around him blurred and darkened.
Feeling his knees buckle, he staggered backwards, and his fall to the ground became a slow descent as two arms encircled him and lowered him carefully back onto the cot.
Sam sighed in relief as the phone picked up the other end.
Without even waiting for the other man to speak, Sam began; the words tumbling out of his mouth in a desperate babbling panic.
"Bobby, something's really badly wrong with Dean, he wouldn't wake up this morning, and when I eventually woke him up he's in some sorta trance, he hasn't said one word to me, and he's freezing cold, but he's not shivering, and he won't talk to me, and he's green, and I've done all the drill, and he ain't a shifter, or a demon or a revenant or a ghoul or anything else we know about, but he's got the tattoo and nothing can get into him with that anyway, and I don't know what's wrong with him, and I don't think if I took him to a hospital they would know what it is, and I wondered if you've ever come across anything like this and … and …"
The torrent of words slowed to a trickle then stopped as Sam ran out of breath. Bobby patiently allowed the distressed man to speak his piece, and considered what he had heard for a moment. Eventually he found his voice.
"Did you say he was GREEN?"
"Yeah," Sam muttered, "not bright green, like Kermit the Frog green, but a very faint sorta horrible greeny tinge. He looks really, really sick."
Sam sat on the bed fidgeting and fretting as he heard Bobby's muffled voice on the end of the phone talking away from the handset as if to another person. He couldn't pick out individual words except to hear the other person exclaim; "green?"
Bobby's voice sounded again, and the sense of urgency was unmistakeable.
"I've jus' got back from a fishin' weekend with Tom. He's here right now, get Dean over here right away".
"You got it Bobby," Sam replied and turned the phone off.
"C'mon Dean," Sam stepped across to his silent brother and crouched down, giving the empty man a gentle hug; "lets get you ready dude, we're goin' for a ride."
Sam and Bobby stood staring at the hollow-eyed figure in front of them as he sat placidly on a chair in Bobby's kitchen, allowing an utterly nonplussed Tom to examine him.
Tom crouched in front of him, muttering reassurances to the silent, still figure as he gently pressed a stethoscope to his chest. His brow furrowed in confusion, as he picked up Dean's wrist for the third time to check his pulse.
As he stood holding Dean's folded T-shirt, Sam noticed for the first time in the daylight of Bobby's kitchen that the faint tint of green was stronger over some parts of Dean's body than others. It seemed more pronounced over his cheekbones and the bridge of his nose and across his shoulders and chest. It was then Sam realised; his freckles. The darker shade was Dean's freckles – it followed, they were a darker golden shade when his skin was its normal colour, now they are a darker shade of green.
He scrunched his hand into the crumpled shirt and lifted it to his face, inhaling the fading scent of his real brother. He felt as if he wanted to cry.
It had been surprisingly easy for Sam to work this new compliant version of his brother into his T-shirt, and slowly and carefully walk him to the Impala. In the whole six hour journey Dean had neither spoken or looked anywhere except straight out of the windscreen, nor had he expressed a wish to eat, drink, or stop for any other reason.
Bobby slid a hand under his hat as he watched Tom work and scratched his head: "ain't never seen anything like this before," he huffed out on a long breath, "the hell kind of condition turns a man green?" Sam and Bobby both turned to Tom.
Tom replied; "I only know of two conditions that can have that effect; an extremely acute and severe form of anaemia and arsenic poisoning."
Bobby looked back to Dean; "well it can't be friggin' anaemia – not with the amount of red meat he gets down his neck," he turned to Sam; "Sam, you said you went to a really rough bar last night, you don't suppose someone could have slipped something in his drink?"
Before Sam had a chance to answer, Tom turned round shaking his head.
"No, it's not any kind of poisoning; this isn't a medical problem, it has got to be something supernatural." He visibly wilted in front of the two men, letting out a sigh of frustration; "whatever this is, it's breaking every rule of anatomy, physiology, biology – heck – every rule of nature I know. His temperature is just over sixty degrees. For that reason alone he should be dead. But here he is with a heartbeat and a pulse as strong as a mule sitting there looking at me. None of this makes a lick of damn sense …" He shrugged miserably, "I just don't know, I really don't."
Sam eyes widened as he looked up at Tom; "he looked at you?"
"Yeah," Tom nodded, "his eyes were following every move I made."
"Huh? He just stares straight through me, like I'm not there," Sam felt a bristle of pained jealousy – why should Dean respond to positively to someone they've only met a handful of times but not at his own brother?
"Me too," added Bobby sadly.
"C'mon, lets get him settled in his bed and comfortable until we can figure out what to do," Bobby gently coaxed, seeing how close to the edge Sam was.
Tenderly wrapping an arm around Dean's back, Sam helped him to his feet, and together they made a slow and methodical way up the stairs, followed by Tom and Bobby.
As they reached the top of the stairs, Dean stopped; the first independent movement he had made since he had gone to bed last night, and turned to look at the men behind him.
"Tom," he whispered.
Comforted by the calming darkness of his closed eyes, he lay limply in the cot, slowly breathing away the nausea that had gripped him as he fainted.
Soothed by the gentle attentions of a cool facecloth pressed against his forehead, he began to relax; "s'nice S'mmy…" he moaned softly, shifting as the cloth worked it's way down either side of his neck.
"Be still. It will pass."
Didn't sound like Sammy.
"The transition between our worlds is harsh, soon you will recover."
He let out a sigh, and burrowed further down into the cot, hearing the tinkling of water as the cloth was rinsed, and once again pressed against his forehead.
A cool thumb reached up and wiped away a trickle of water that escaped down his temple, just as he cautiously opened his eyes to look up into the face of his caregiver.