radiumgirl: (sam + panic room = mangst)
[personal profile] radiumgirl
Title: Something Borrowed
Author: [livejournal.com profile] radiumgirl
Rating: PG-13/mild R
Genre/pairing: Gen, H/C, angst, AU
Characters: Sam, Dean, Cas, Bobby
Word count: 6,577
Summary:  Written for the [livejournal.com profile] ohsam  H/C challenge. Based on the following prompt by [livejournal.com profile] vail_kagami :

Dean thought he wanted his brother back.

When they manage to get Sam's soul back into his body, he isn't so sure anymore. Instead of a cold, unfeeling shell he gets an insane wreck who is completely overwhelmed by the memories of centuries of neverending physical and emotional torture. Cas tried to warn Dean that this would happen, but Dean thought he could deal - and anything's better than leaving Sam's soul in hell forever.

Unfortunately, Dean can't deal with this on his own and eventually Sam ends up in a mental hospital, drugged and restrained to keep him from hurting himself and others in his madness. Unable to tell reality from his memories to begin with, the restrains make Sam freak out even more. Completely refusing food, plagued by horrific nightmares whenever they drug him to sleep and under constant emotional stress, he wastes away and falls sick. Castiel sticks around to help him as best he can, because he somehow feels responsible for Sam, or just because Sam is his friend. Dean can't bear to see his brother suffer like that but stays anyway because he's an awesome big brother.

Spoilers: season 6
Warnings: Angst. Slight gore. Seriously serious trauma. Sam is very much not okay.
Disclaimer: Not my sandbox.

1.

…for the first time in my life, I understand the end of that poem.

Sam ended up at Westover because one day, while Dean was in the kitchen slapping sandwiches together and Bobby was out of town, hunting a Wendigo with Rufus, Sam slipped outside and picked the lock on the Impala’s trunk.

Dismayed when the holy water and the silver knives had no effect on him, he dug further into the arsenal, uncapping the ceramic jug of holy oil and liberally coating his chest, his shoulders, his arms.

And then he lit a match.

*

Bobby was surprised by the silence that surrounded the salvage yard. Only a moment earlier, Castiel had appeared in the hotel room he shared with Rufus and with a terse, “The boys need you,” pressed his fingertips to Bobby’s forehead.

The Impala’s trunk was open, a small ceramic jug spilled its contents in the gravel. Bobby picked up the container, examined the Enochian symbols etched into the surface, and sniffed at the lip. He frowned when he recognized the familiar scent of holy oil.

“Dean? Sam?”

There was evidence of some sort of tussle next to the Impala: two deep gorges heading towards the porch like something was dragged, an interruption as though whatever was being dragged fought back. Bobby knelt beside the mess, his stomach knotting as he took in the splashes of red painting the rocks in the yard, the remnants of a gray cotton t-shirt, ripped and singed and bloody.

Bobby stepped around a pile of discarded jeans in the middle of the kitchen floor, followed the trail of socks and a crumbled pair of boxers to the basement door that hung wide open. He peered down the stairs, straight into the bruised and tear-streaked face of Dean Winchester. Dean was seated on the fifth step down, a green and orange quilt, one of the last Bobby’s wife made, was folded across his lap.

“Dean? What the hell—“

Dean shuddered and held the quilt out to Bobby, “Take it down to Sammy, would you?” Dean’s face twisted and something like a short, bitter laugh escaped his throat, “He’s buck naked and its freezing and he won’t let me near him.”

“What do you mean—“

“Please, Bobby. I don’t want him to get sick.”

Bobby bit his tongue and nodded quietly. He took the downy blanket in his hands and side-stepped Dean on his way down the steps. He paused outside the heavy iron door opposite the steps and raised an eyebrow, “He put himself in the panic room?”

Dean went back to studying the dirty floor between his feet. He shook his head when Bobby asked him if he was coming inside too.

It took a moment to actually find Sam, who had somehow managed to cram his long body beneath the cot against the wall. Bobby knelt on the floor and inched towards the cot and the pile of pale limbs stuffed beneath its lumpy mattress. In the dim light, Sam’s eyes glistened in fevered terror. He flinched and pressed himself further against the wall at his back when Bobby’s face loomed. He whispered, “You can’t have Bobby either.”

“It’s just me, son.” Bobby whispered back. He unfolded the quilt and spread it between them. “Your brother says you’re naked as a jay-bird down here. You wanna explain that?”

“You were there.” Sam was trying for defiant, but Bobby couldn’t see past the uncertainty that marred Sam’s sharp features; sharper now since he decided to stop eating most of the food he and Dean placed in front of him. Sam’s expressions shifted as though he were trying different masks on, searching for the perfect one. “No.” Sam snapped, tangling his fingers in his hair and tugging, “No no no no.”

Bobby sighed, slipped closer yet to the cot, carefully reached out to touch Sam’s arm.

“No!” A shout. Sam flinched as though slapped. He pressed his face into his arm and keened into the floor, “Leave me alone!” There were long scratches on his arms and legs. The knuckles on his right hand were bruised. Bobby drew back, but pushed the green and orange blanket close enough to brush against Sam’s fingertips and he flinched as though the soft material burned.

“Now, don’t be like that, Sam. This one here was Karen’s favorite. She made it in our high school colors. We was high school sweethearts. Did you know that?”

Bobby slowly reached beneath the cot, only to retreat when a wayward foot shot out and missed his face by an inch. “A mallard. Stupidest mascot I’ve ever seen. But Karen was sentimental like that. We met in the lunch room. Tenth grade. She was new in town and wanted to know where the Dairy Queen was. I had a car.”

Bobby waited again, but the only sound he could hear in the cavernous room was Sam’s uneven breathing. Then, stiffly and painfully slow, Sam emerged from beneath the army cot. His bottom lip was split and started oozing fresh blood when Sam smiled and the scab ripped, “The devil doesn’t care what your high school mascot was.”

“No. I reckon he wouldn’t.”

“Bobby…” Sam’s voice hitched and he swayed on his knees. Bobby looked him up and down, quickly and discretely; tossed the worn quilt over Sam’s shoulders. “Let’s get you upstairs, boy.”

Sam nodded into Bobby’s shoulder, “I burned the devil out of me.”

“You did, didja?”

Sam fingered the wound marring his lip and shuddered, “I lit a match….Was Dean here?”

He slumped against Bobby, who quickly dumped him onto the army cot. Sam drew his knees up and burrowed into Bobby’s quilt. With his mussed hair and fever-bright eyes and the way his chin never stopped trembling, he looked for all the world like an overgrown six year old. “He was scared?”

Bobby smoothed Sam’s hair back, “Who? Sammy, Dean’s been here the whole time.”

Sam’s eyes rolled and he shook his head, “No. He can’t be here. He promised….but the silver didn’t work and I don’t taste like a demon anymore.” Sam was checking out. He ran his tongue over the scab on his lip, brought his arm up and made the move to lick at one of the scratches before Bobby gently pulled it away. Sam tensed and curled further into himself. “Out.” He whispered. “I need to be out. Out. Out. Out.”

Bobby shot a glance over his shoulder. Dean hovered near the door. “What the hell happened?”

Dean shook his head, wiped at his eyes with the back of his hand, “He lit a match.”


...And I never wanted to. You have to believe me.


2.


You don’t have a soul. You ARE a soul...

Sam’s soul was trapped in the cage for nine-hundred and seventy-two years, eight months, nine days, fifteen hours, thirty-two minutes, and seven seconds. Demon or no, Crowley prided himself on getting his clients the best goods and services a deal could muster. Upon further inspection, he deemed the article that Dean Winchester demanded to be faulty, damaged well beyond repair, and he was reluctant to send it off with his name on it. You see, Crowley didn’t peddle shoddy merchandise.

But Dean was adamant. He said that it was a one-of-a-kind piece; that no other would do, and when he pulled out the holy water and the Latin, Crowley rolled his eyes, snapped his fingers, and said, “No refunds, returns, or exchanges.”

Dean of course, wanted a second opinion. He kept Sam’s soul in an RC Cola bottle until Castiel got around to answering his “Get your feathery ass down here.” He kept the bottle sitting on the dresser in Asbury Park, New Jersey’s Motel 3, right next to the boxy, antiquated television that boasted “Color!” and “Free HBO!” on a little placard next to the antenna. Sam didn’t seem to pay it much mind, bitching and moaning that they should find a hunt or something to occupy their time until Castiel showed up.

On the second day of their wait, Dean came out of the shower to the see Sam hunched on the edge of his bed, the pop bottle cradled in his hands, eyes crinkled in scrutiny of its contents. Dean stopped toweling his hair off and leaned against the doorframe as casually as he could. Part of him was pleased that Sam finally appeared to take some sort of interest in, well, himself, but part of him was terrified that Sam was going to do something stupid, like dump it down the sink or throw the bottle in the dumpster around the corner as soon as Dean turned his back.

Sam glanced up, expression impassive. He held the bottle up, its contents flickering like a dying firefly trapped too long in a mason jar. For a second, Dean wondered if it was possible to accidentally smother a soul, until Sam interrupted his thoughts, “It looks different.”

“What?”

“Remember Famine?”

Honestly? Dean tried not to. He shrugged.

“The souls, Dean. They were brighter, healthier.” Sam frowned, “This one looks sick.” He shook the bottle and Dean leaped forward, snatching it up and holding it protectively in the crook of his arm, fingertips brushing gently against the plastic as the light inside flickered and died completely before flaring up again. The color was off, a weak yellow, like the color of chicken broth, instead of blinding white. Dean bit his bottom lip and sunk down to the mattress Sam occupied. Their elbows touched and Sam tensed. Dean held the bottle out and when Sam made no move to take it, forcibly wrapped Sam’s giant palms around it.

“I know it doesn’t look like much right now, man, but this?” Dean pressed Sam’s hands tighter, “This is the most important thing you own.”

Sam raised an eyebrow, “More important than the demon-killing knife?”

Dean let his eyes drift shut, “I’m going to pretend you were making a joke there.”

“More important than—“

“Just shut up.”

*

On day three, Castiel pressed his face against the clear plastic while Dean hovered over his shoulder and RoboSam watched The View. Cas pulled the bottle away from his face and offered it to Dean, “This soul is damaged.”

“But it’s Sam, right?”

Castiel nodded, “It is.”

“Okay, then.” Dean stepped around the angel and nudged the end of Sam’s bed with his foot, “You. C’mere.”

Sam glanced up, annoyed.

Dean just held the bottle up and grinned, “Showtime.”

“Dean, wait.” Castiel filled the space between them in two long strides, violating the Dean-Winchester-Personal-Space radius, but stopping short of reclaiming the RC Cola bottle. “This soul is damaged.”

“So fix it.”

“I…“ Castiel’s eyes flicked between Dean and the bottle of soul and Sam, “I don’t think I can.”

On the bed, Sam rolled his eyes and mumbled, “Big surprise there.” He craned his neck to see the television.

Castiel continued, “Sam’s soul is shattered. It is in six-million and sixty pieces.”

“That’s oddly specific.”

“I counted.” Castiel held his hands out and Dean reluctantly handed Sam’s soul over.

“Okay. So we put the pieces back in Sam, add a dab of soul-glue—“

“You don’t understand, Dean. This soul is practically worthless.”

Dean’s chest tightened and with a growl, he slammed the angel against the wall. Sam huffed and stood up, leaning over the space between bed and dresser to turn the volume on the television up before flopping back against the pillows. Dean glared holes into Castiel’s eyes and relinquished his hold on Cas’s arms only slightly. He forced his voice not to tremble when he said, “The last time you told me something was worthless, I threw away something that was very important to me. I’m not going to make that mistake again.”

Castiel’s face darkened in what could have passed for a blush. He looked away and said, softly, “I did not mean it like that, Dean. I am sorry, but you must understand. This?” He held the bottle up to Dean’s face, the soft light illuminating the green of his eyes, but far too weak to make him squint against the glow, “Think of this as a bottle of sand. Without the bottle, the sand is without form.”

“So we give it form. That form.” Dean pointed at the Sam-like shape on the bed, not particularly absorbed in The View, not particularly absorbed in anything for so long. They were so close, Dean thought, had come too far to give up now.

“The body would merely contain it.” Castiel interrupted Dean’s internal monologue, “It would just be another bottle.”

Dean let Castiel step away from the wall, took the bottle as Castiel offered it, and slumped on the bed opposite Sam’s. He let his head fall until it rested against the cap that tightly sealed Sam’s splintered soul in its current container. “What would happen to the bottle?”

Cas hovered, but didn’t sit. “I cannot say for certain. I have never seen a soul so devastated.”

“I bet lots of people have damaged souls.” Dean whispered, more to the bottle in his hands than anyone else in the room.

“It is true.” Castiel nodded, “It is astonishing how much the human soul can withstand. Your soul in particular, when I retrieved it from--” Dean silenced him with a look, but he continued, “The damage done to Sam’s soul by Lucifer and Michael is beyond anything I have encountered before. It is painful for me to gaze upon. It is exquisite destruction. It is deliberate.”

Dean caught the Samdroid watching him from the other bed with a look that could have been either pity or heartburn. He felt hot tears threaten to overwhelm his cheeks, let them linger in his eyes until they blurred out the fractured soul in his hands and burned no less than the hot poker Alastair once used to pluck out his eyes while he writhed on the rack somewhere around year fifteen. He caught Sam’s eye and barked out a harsh laugh, “You have any bright ideas, Tin Man?”

Sam lazily rolled out of the bed and turned the TV off. He stretched like a giant cat, like a lion or a panther, and towered behind Castiel, regarding Dean like he was a child throwing a crying fit over some minor pain: a skinned knee or a melted ice-cream cone. He took the bottle in his hands and tapped the plastic, “You said you don’t know what will happen if I take my soul back?”

Castiel shook his head. “I have never—“

“So, it could be fine, right? I could go back to being Sam.” He cocked his head to the side as though considering the idea for the first time, “The real Sam.”

Dean gaped like a fish and Castiel shook his head, “It is highly unlikely that there will be no repercussions for the state of your soul once it is reunited with your body. You could be ill. You could be insane. Your soul may not even stay in your body. It may flee at the first opportunity.”

“Well.” Sam snorted and flopped down next to Dean, working at the plastic blue cap on the bottle, “It’s not like I haven’t died before.”

“That’s not funny.” Dean muttered.

Sam squinted, “I think it’s a little funny.”

“Sam—“ Castiel started and Dean cut him off.

“Let him.”

“Dean, I do not think—“

“What other options do we have, Cas? Send him back to Hell? Send him to Heaven? Then what about this guy?” He gestured towards the Samdroid and shook his head, “If he comes back sick, I’ll take care of him. If he dies…” Dean trailed off, drew a shuddering breath in before continuing, “But personally, I think your dad owes us a Disneyland and a half and it would be really fucking nice if Sam could come back Sam.” He nodded towards the body, “Do it.”

Sam did it.

...You HAVE a body.


3.

The body apologizes to the soul for its errors…


Dean had Sam committed on a Tuesday.

He didn’t take Sam to Westover with the intent of leaving him there. He just wanted the doctors to pick his brain a little because it had been months since Asbury Park and Sam wasn’t getting any better and Dean was worried and, after the incident with the holy oil, suddenly feeling more than a little overwhelmed.

Castiel was good about popping in and healing the big stuff when Dean screamed for him, like the time Sam smashed a mirror in Bobby’s bathroom and drew a devil’s trap on the blue tiles with the blood that pumped out of his arms. Still, Sam looked a little worse for wear with his collection of bruises and the scratches on his face and his arms. Dean didn’t argue when the doctor who evaluated him recommended “some time” in a “care facility” that “specialized in psychoses as severe as Sam’s.”

Dean hung his head though, because he was afraid she would draw a conclusion like that.

“You mean here, right? A mental hospital.” Dean said. He thought about that time with the wraith, a few months before Sam made his leap, and shuddered. Bobby had mentioned a place like Westover a few times in the past eight months, usually after Sam did something completely fucking off-the-rails, like that time with the holy oil, or when he went on one of his screaming tangents, and didn’t stop for days. Bobby was always appropriately sad looking when he suggested it, that maybe Sam was just too much for them to handle, and Dean would shoot him the darkest glare he could muster while simultaneously cooing gentle nonsense in Sam’s ear, rocking him gently while he sobbed and rambled brokenly in some dead language.

The doctor, an impossibly short woman with dark hair and crow’s feet around her eyes, took Dean into her office and they talked about how difficult it was, even under the very best of circumstances, to care for a relative who was so severely ill. “What medication is Sam currently prescribed?”

“I…nothing. Sam’s not taking anything.”

Dean suspected he gave the wrong answer when the good doctor’s eyes widened and her jaw dropped open in a decidedly un-doctorly expression of complete what-the-fuckery. “Mr. Westin, your brother is grossly delusional, prone to violent outbursts against himself and others—“

“I’ve got his back. I keep my eye on him.”

“He’s covered in scars. He’s underweight. He’s clearly ill and, according to you, has apparently received little to no actual treatment.”

“It was never this bad before.”

“And Sam just has a lot of accidents, right?”

Dean looked at his hands, clenching and unclenching in his lap, “He does.”

The doctor shot him a dark look, “And how many accidents would you say Sam has in an average month? A week?”

“What exactly are you implying? You think I’m hurting him?” Dean’s voice cracked and the doctor shook her head, her expression softening. She reached out to touch Dean’s arm, caught herself, and stopped her hand halfway, “I think you’re doing the best that you can and it just isn’t enough.”

Dean laughed; a sharp, bitter sound in the suffocating cell of the lady doctor’s office. Hers was on the ground level of the hospital, a single narrow window level with the sidewalk outside offered an unappealing view of the hurried feet of faceless passerby. The thick walls that muffled the sound of the ward just down the hall, the heavy bookshelves crammed with thick spines and, Dean noted ironically, a dozen ceramic angel knickknacks in various states of cherubic repose, only added to the claustrophobic quality of the tiny room. He shook his head and felt his resolve come crashing down, “Lady, that’s the story of my life.”

*

Sam was many things. He was a brother and a son and a hero. He was the guy who saved the world and it didn’t even matter because officially, in the real world, he was a paranoid schizophrenic. Castiel insisted that Sam’s diagnosis was merely the closest thing the uninformed doctors could come up with to describe his condition, but Dean not-so-secretly hoped that the doctors were right because if Sam was schizophrenic, then he could eventually get better, you know, with drugs and therapy and stuff.

Of course, the doctors were wrong, and the only thing their drugs did was turn Sam into a zombie and therapy ended up being little more than a pudgy, bald, Dr. Phil wannabe scribbling Chuck-only-knew-what on a yellow legal pad while Sam went on and on about how the angels were a bunch of dicks, completely oblivious to the guy’s questions and comments. And that was on a good day.

Dean didn’t like to think about the bad days.

Sam had enough bad days to get himself restricted to the ward, then restricted to his room, then, finally, restricted to his bed. As much as Dean hated the screaming and the crying and the endless tangents in broken Latin and Enochian and the way Sam completely lost his shit when anyone touched him, sometimes, sometimes he hated Sam’s lucid days more. They were few and far between and the term good day was a little bit generous in its description. It was more like a good hour. Maybe. Most of the time, it was just a good couple of minutes. Just enough time to exchange a few words before Sam broke again and Dean wondered when or if he would ever resurface. It felt good to have a real conversation with Sam, it did, but it was always the same conversation.

“Am I still…?”

“We’re workin’ on it.”

Dean pressed the plastic tumbler of lukewarm water to Sam’s lips and for once, Sam didn’t fight him. He took cautious but greedy sips and nodded for Dean to refill the cup. If Sam was still there when Dean turned back from the sink, he’d undo the locks on the restraints and gently rub the tender bruises on Sam’s wrists. “I really hate this” he said and offered Sam the water again.

A swallow, then, “I haven’t hurt anyone, have I?”

Only yourself, Dean thought, shaking his head, “No.”

“Are you lying?”

“No.”

“Then why am I tied down?”

“Because the nurses in this joint are into some kinky shit, Sammy.”

Sam offered a small smile, but Dean didn’t miss the way his fingers tangled in the light blue blanket draped over his endless legs.

“Sam? You okay?”

Sam flinched against some unseen pain, the small grin fading as he clenched his eyes shut. Dean sighed and placed the plastic cup back on the nightstand. Sam’s voice came out as a ragged whisper, “I think you need to put my restraints back on now.”

*

Sam’s body (and soul) was at Westover for ten months and nine days when he had his first seizure. It was already a bad morning, prefaced by a bad night. The nurses said Sam hadn’t slept at all, that they had maxed out his dosage of sedatives, that all they could do was wait for him to wear himself out.

Yeah. Like that ever happened.

Dean held a spoonful of oatmeal up to Sam’s cracked and gnawed lips. “C’mon, Sammy. It’s cinnamon. Your favorite.”

Sam’s hands curled into fists and he strained against the leather restraints that bound him to the bed. He squeezed his eyes shut and huffed, “Out.”

“Maybe later, if you’re good and you eat some breakfast for me.”

Doubtful. The last time Sam was taken outside, almost three months earlier, he’d broken an orderly’s wrist when the guy tried to bring him back inside. Now, Westover wasn’t so arcane of a place to deny Sam fresh air and sunshine based on one unfortunate incident, but the broken wrist, coupled with his reputation as a biter, and the fact that his half-formed exorcisms tended to upset the other patients, all led to indefinite lockdown. Dean didn’t like it. Bobby once ranted to the head nurse that it was downright inhumane. But it was what it was.

“Yeah,” Dean continued, “First thing we’ll do when you’re feeling better, man, Malibu. Get some color back in those cheeks.” Dean offered Sam the oatmeal again. Sam refused it. Again.

Dean sat the bowl down on the table to the side and carefully brushed a stray lock of hair out of Sam’s face. When Sam didn’t scream or pull away, he gently palmed Sam’s cheek. Sam growled low in his throat and his breathing hitched.

“I hear you had a rough night.” Dean ran one thumb over the thin tube that ran from Sam’s nose to the port on his other cheek. “I know you don’t like this thing. I know it sucks. I bet its uncomfortable. You know, if you’d just eat a little, the doctors’ll probably take it out for you. Wouldn’t that be nice?”

Sam was not a fan of the feeding tube. His right cheek was red and irritated from his constant efforts to dislodge the tube. Dean held the spoon up again and Sam’s chin jutted out, knocking the utensil out of Dean’s grip where it clattered to the floor and skittered beneath Sam’s bed. Dean tried to touch Sam’s cheek again, but he ducked Dean’s touch and Dean opted not to push it. “You were easier to feed when you were two, you know that?”

Dean bent to retrieve the spoon. When he came up, Sam was in the throes of a grand mal.

…and the soul asks forgiveness for squatting in the body without invitation.



4.

Everything was beautiful…

They didn’t know why he was deteriorating, Sam’s doctors. They ran the tests and did the observations. There was no allergy unaccounted for, no bump on the head, no sudden chemical imbalance.

They added anti-seizure meds to Sam’s already formidable cocktail, a dual study in both wishful thinking and futility. Sam bucked against his restraints, taut as a bowstring, for five or ten seconds that terrified Dean every time. Dean liked to think that the drugs were taking the edge off, frowning at the way Sam’s long fingers spasmed against the sheets when he tried to smooth them out. Sam’s fingers were cold and he pulled away from Dean’s touch, groaning, “Out. Out.”

Out.

The only word left in Sam’s vocabulary these days.

Bobby was visiting, folded into Dean’s chair as Sam struggled and strained. His head rolled. Bobby tried to wipe at the tears staining his cheeks, but Sam snapped fiercely enough to click his teeth together like a mousetrap going off and Bobby drew back with a slight jump. Sam keened “Ouuuuuuut,” stretching the word in a way that reminded Bobby of one of his daddy’s hunting dogs, a redhound named Molly who got tore up in a scuffle with a rabid coon when Bobby was nine. She’d cried all night until Bobby’s daddy went out to the barn with his hunting rifle.

Sam’s eyes rolled up into his head and he seized. Bobby found himself longing for the tense days back at the salvage yard, where at least when Sam was hurting, had done something horrific to himself, Castiel could heal it up.

Castiel couldn’t make the seizures stop.

Bobby shot Dean a sympathetic look and asked, “What’s the game plan here, son?”

“What?” Dean blinked, clearly jolted out of some sort of reverie. He looked about as good as Sam, Bobby thought, had only gone home a handful of times since Sam had started performing his latest trick.

“What do his doctors say?” Bobby clarified.

“They don’t know what’s causing it. At this point, they’re just happy he hasn’t stopped breathing or anything.”

“Okay.” Bobby nodded, “What’s Castiel say?”

Dean’s face twisted. “He um…he can’t really say for sure without doing the fist thing…and I don’t want him to hurt Sam so…”Dean trailed off with a small, crooked shrug for punctuation.

He was so lying. Bobby was fluent in Winchester. Yep. Totally lying.

Sam slumped against his pillows. Dean moved forward and caught himself, nodded towards the pink plastic ice bucket on the table, “Give him a cube.”

“What?”

“A cube, Bobby. His mouth gets dry.”

“He’ll take it?” Bobby loved Sam truly and deeply, but he wasn’t too keen on losing his finger at the moment.

“Yeah. He’ll…just let me.” Dean shuffled to the head of the bed, palmed one of the smaller cubes and rubbed it against Sam’s cracked lips. Sam’s swollen tongue lapped at the moisture and Dean slid the ice cube between his lips. “Good job, bro. We’ll make it to Malibu yet.”

Bobby did his best to smile when Dean turned back to him, “What do you suppose got him so gung-ho for ice chips all of a sudden?”

“I dunno.” Dean shrugged. “But it looks like progress to me. Cas can suck it.” His face fell for a moment, then he instinctively slid the mask back up. He smoothed Sam’s blankets and sing-songed bullshit about warm sand and cold water, bleach blondes with no tan lines, and the great debate about whether they should stock their cooler with beer, tequila, or both.

“Dean. What did Castiel say?”

“Nothing.”

“Dean.”

“He’s eating again, Bobby. That’s got to be a good sign.”

Bobby shook his head. He’d had no intention of being a dick when he got out of bed this morning. None whatsoever. But a glance at the figure on the bed, all tense limbs and red eyes that briefly locked with Bobby’s, a hoarse prayer, “Out…” Bobby rubbed at his nose and gently slid another ice chip between Sam’s lips, then straightened up and glared.

“He’s suckin’ on ice cubes, Dean. That’s not eating. How do you know it’s not just some sort of reflex? Maybe he’s so far gone that he just doesn’t care what his body does anymore.”

“Shut up, Bobby.” Dean growled.

Sam whimpered, “Out.” And grunted with the effort of fighting against his cuffs.

“What did Castiel say, Dean.”

Bobby translated the look on Dean’s face; the same look he first saw when Dean was seven and, chasing Sam around the living room, accidentally knocked a lamp off of the table. He saw it before he came clean about the deal with the crossroads demon. He saw it in the panic room, just after Sam pulled him back from the ledge of Michael’s temptation.

“Dean?”

Dean looked away, stuffed his fists into his jacket pockets, and whispered almost too low for Bobby to hear, “He said it’s just a reflex.”

*
Castiel let his palm hover over Sam’s chest. He couldn’t get a perfect read like this, but he could skim the surface. Even from a distance, the screams were deafening, his palm burned, and the metallic taste of blood filled his mouth. Castiel could feel the pulsing essence of Sam’s soul rail against the bonds that held it inside his body. The bonds were strong, so recently reforged by love and want and need that the soul was hopelessly tethered.

Stuck.

Caged.

Even the soul had to admit that at the time, returning to the old digs had seemed like a good idea. A familiar place to rest and recuperate, with nice neighbors and a lovely view.

And anything beat the slums it had called home for…too long.

You’d think that something like a body would fit like a glove. Castiel knew that every body was tailor-made to suit each new soul. They weren’t meant to be traded off and shuffled around, even the bloodlines of vessels weren’t perfect. Castiel had come to think of Jimmy’s body as his own, but even now, it itched sometimes, like a burlap suit. That’s why, even under the best of circumstances, vessels tended to come back damaged, even after their divine counterparts had fled.

But Sam…Sam was different. For Sam’s soul, it was like crawling back into that favorite hiding place behind the sofa, only to realize you’re too big to fit there comfortably anymore. For his body, it was like inviting an old friend back into your life, only to realize that he changed while he was gone and you don’t much like what he became.

But body and soul belonged to one another and there was nowhere for either of them to go except—

“Out.”

*

Sam lost his last precious word sometime around Halloween.

His screams were long and wordless. His body was still wracked by random spasms, still fought against every touch, but did so with the heavy lethargy of one who realizes that they are defeated, and just can’t bring himself to quit.

Castiel had his own chair beside Dean’s. Sometimes it was Bobby’s chair too, but these days, mostly Castiel’s. The last time Bobby had visited, he had brought a green and orange quilt with him, wrapped it around Sam’s legs and looked up at his face, waiting for something that Castiel knew would never come.

Dean rubbed absently at the frayed edge of the old blanket then smiled up at Castiel, “The one nurse told me he gained two pounds this week. Guess the stomach tube was the way to go, huh?”

“I thought they only put that one in because they were worried he would choke on the other one?”

Dean bit his lip and studied the beige tile between his feet, “Still, two pounds.”

“Dean.

“He’s not dying, Cas. The doctors said he’s not dying. They just need to figure out what’s wrong.”

“You know what is wrong, Dean.”

“He’s not dying.”

Castiel sighed and gently placed his hand over Sam’s heart. He flinched and it felt as though his palm was blistering, his vessel’s skin peeling away to expose charred bone and seared muscle. He must have flinched because Dean looked at him worriedly. Then Castiel grabbed Dean’s wrist.

“Ow! Ow! Oh fuck. Castiel what-- fuck!” Dean gasped and tried to get away from Castiel’s touch.

Castiel’s fingers held tight for a moment longer, then released. Dean curled around his wrist and whimpered, rubbed the perfect bronze skin, pulled his sleeve back to look for burns or cuts or something to explain the pain.

When he caught his breath, he asked, “What was that?”

“That was your brother.”

Dean spared a glance at Sam writhing on the bed. “That’s what he feels like all the time?”

“No.” Castiel leaned forward, moved his palm up to Sam’s forehead and rubbed at the persistent lines of tension between his eyes. Sam trembled and tried to pull away, “That was only a taste of what Sam feels.”

Dean ran a trembling hand across his face, "When did you--? How long have you--? And you let me force him back together. You knew it was a bad idea. You knew what it felt like…”

“If it is any consolation,” Castiel pulled his arm back, tried to burrow into his coat, “It was not this bad at first.”

Dean perked up at that, Castiel caught fragments of thoughts of beaches and Led Zeppelin and laughter. Castiel did not smile, “Do not be mistaken, Dean. It was horrific.”

“Then why’d you let us do it, huh? You could have stopped us, could’ve taken Sammy back to heaven with you and never bothered with me and Terminator again. Maybe that would have been better.”

Sam strained against his bonds as a seizure tore through him. Dean and Castiel both watched helplessly until Castiel spoke quietly, as though letting Dean in on an embarrassing secret from Angel Summer Camp, maybe something involving Gabriel in his glory days and every piece of underwear from Castiel’s trunk, “Perhaps I wanted to hope with you…go to Malibu. What is in Malibu that is so special?”

The corners of Dean’s lips tugged upwards and despite the utter shit-fest that the morning was quickly turning into, laughed, “Honestly, Cas? I have no idea. It just came out and I ran with it. Two guys getting drunk on a beach surrounded by beautiful women. A Winchester fairytale.”

Sam went limp and Dean reached for the ice bucket. He stopped when he saw the bright red dripping from Sam’s lip, soaking into the soft collar of his tee-shirt. Dean scooted forward to investigate, determine whether or not to get a nurse involved. Sam bit his lip again. Or maybe his tongue, judging from the amount of blood.
Castiel said, “I am sorry that I cannot do anything more, Dean.”

Dean had Sam’s blood smeared across the pad of his thumb when he responded. He looked from the smear to Castiel with eyes that were red, but a gaze that was as rigid as a girder on a steel highrise, “No.” he rubbed the blood into his skin, then ran his fingers through Sam’s disheveled hair. Sam pulled away violently,
“There’s one thing you can do.”

Castiel caught traces of happy and forever and limitless, a sky that no one could touch and a road that had no end, “Are you certain?”

Dean nodded jerkily, bent to unfasten Sam’s restraints, “Would you?”

Castiel rose, “I would be honored to.”

Another jerky nod. When the other restraint came free, Dean slid into the bed, drew Sam’s abused arms in, and wrapped his own arms firmly but loosely around Sam’s trembling body.

“Now?” Castiel asked, gliding closer to the bed.

“Now.” Dean answered, voice muffled, face pressed to Sam’s hair, “Let’s get him out now.”

Dean sniffled and pressed a fierce kiss to the side of Sam’s tormented head. Sam fought against the force holding him in place because his soul knew that even a cage made of love and gentle touches and soft hands was still a cage and a cage could only serve one function.

“I didn't know, Sammy.” Another firm press of lips to the skin of Sam’s temple, the high ridge of his cheek, his hair, “I didn't know and I'm sorry. But it’ll be okay. I promise. We’re gonna get you out. You’re gonna be okay.”

Sam was rigid in Dean’s arms. Small noises of discomfort and displeasure elbowed their way up his throat. Castiel moved as silently as a shadow, brushed two fingers against Sam’s lips with all the gentleness of winter’s first snowflake. Dean caught Sam as the tension flew out of him, fell back and curled around the newly vacated body and the only tears staining Karen Singer’s old quilt were Dean’s.

*

Sam blinked and sat up. He was in the middle of a field: earth and grass soft and sweet beneath his fingers. The night sky above him was purple, shot through with the overlapping fingers of a dozen galaxies, each one twisting and twinkling and swirling gently around another’s infinite breadth.

There was a low rumble behind him, like thunder, but sharper. Sam turned his head and grinned.

It was the Fourth of July.

…and nothing hurt.



Quote Credit
1. Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower
2. CS Lewis
3. Gregory Maguire, Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West
4. Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five

Thank you so much for reading and thank you so much to all the lovely people at [livejournal.com profile] mishaphappens 's Get-all-the-words-out-fest who were so encouraging and motivating and wonderful! <3

Date: January 28th, 2011 05:09 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kassidy62.livejournal.com
yay, you finished!!! I'm so excited to read this but I wanted to come congratulate you first:)

Date: January 28th, 2011 05:14 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] radiumgirl.livejournal.com
Hehe, thank you! It would have been up sooner, but I got distracted by CAPSLOCK!RAGE over the CW changing tomorrow's schedule.

What assbutts.

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] kassidy62.livejournal.com - Date: January 28th, 2011 05:33 am (UTC) - Expand

Date: January 28th, 2011 05:24 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tahirire.livejournal.com
Oh, Judas Priest.

I was already wibbly missing him today, then those fucktards had to go and make it worse, now this is amazing and YOU MADE ME SOB.

.... I highly approve.

Photobucket

Date: January 28th, 2011 11:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] radiumgirl.livejournal.com
I highly approve of your gif! CHUUUUUUCK. MAKE CW SEE THE ERROR OF THEIR WAAAAAAAYS.

Date: January 28th, 2011 05:43 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] whatjuliewrites.livejournal.com
That last line killed me. So gutwrenching, but that beautiful line. Sigh. Feel like I have to read this again to have anything coherent to say. Really, it's incredible.

Date: January 28th, 2011 11:39 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] radiumgirl.livejournal.com
Aw. Thank you. *blush*

Date: January 28th, 2011 05:48 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] wishflthinkr.livejournal.com
You know I've loved this from the start (loved meaning it's made me cry every time) and this ending did not disappoint (meaning I cried some more). Gah.

Now I want to go watch the fireworks scene.

Date: January 28th, 2011 11:37 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] radiumgirl.livejournal.com
I totally kept pausing in the middle of writing that last section to watch the fireworks scene!

Date: January 28th, 2011 06:24 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] khakigrrl.livejournal.com
*bawls*

Thank you.

Date: January 28th, 2011 11:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] radiumgirl.livejournal.com
*hugs*

You're welcome.

Date: January 28th, 2011 06:53 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] 4422shini.livejournal.com
Waaaah! *cries*

Poor Sammy! Poor Dean!

Thank you so much for posting. I really enjoyed reading this- despite the tears!

Date: January 28th, 2011 11:37 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] radiumgirl.livejournal.com
Thank you! *hands you tissues and cookies*

Date: January 28th, 2011 10:17 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] vail-kagami.livejournal.com
I have no words. This made me cry. Do you have any idea how embarassing it is to cry in a dorm? Luckily the bed has curtains.

The day started so crappy, with the hiatus being prolonged and all, and then I saw this and I knew it was going to kill me, but it made me happy anyway. Thank you so much for filling my prompt, and for making my day!

I love stories where death = happy ending (or at least Best Possible Outcome), but still, this broke my heart. The hopelssness of it all was hard to read, and Dean talking about Malibu and refusing to accept what everyone else already knew was almost too much. Still, I loved it!

Date: January 28th, 2011 11:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] radiumgirl.livejournal.com
Heh, I know allllll about how embarrassing it is to cry in a dorm. I wish my bed had been awesome enough to have curtains. My poor roommate....

I'm so glad you enjoyed it though! I'd hoped it would make up for CW's dickery...at least a little bit.

And I'm totally with you when it comes to death-as-a-happy(ish)-ending stories. They're my favorite. They hurt so good.

Date: January 28th, 2011 01:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] emmram.livejournal.com
Oh, damn. *gapes*

This was superb, powerful and hard-hitting, right from line one, word one.

Juuuust how I like it.

Amazing job!

Date: January 28th, 2011 11:48 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] radiumgirl.livejournal.com
Thank you!

Date: January 28th, 2011 03:34 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cece-away.livejournal.com
So awful and tragic for them both. Beautiful writing.

Date: January 29th, 2011 12:02 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] radiumgirl.livejournal.com
Thank you.

Date: January 28th, 2011 04:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] roque-clasique.livejournal.com
Oh my holy matchsticks this was so good. And so, so, so sad.

Date: January 29th, 2011 12:05 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] radiumgirl.livejournal.com
Thank you! Poor boys, I'm so sorry I have to break you all the time.

Date: January 28th, 2011 04:45 pm (UTC)
embroiderama: (Dean - anguish)
From: [personal profile] embroiderama
This story is so painful, the guys so very broken, but it's beautiful at the same time. *wibbles*

Date: January 29th, 2011 12:12 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] radiumgirl.livejournal.com
This story is so painful, the guys so very broken, but it's beautiful at the same time Thank you. That's exactly what I was aiming for!

Date: January 28th, 2011 06:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] samidha.livejournal.com
My God.

All I can think to say in this moment is thank goodness we know Sammy will never end up like this.

...

I wish I could say more... but I think I am a little dead. Congrats on finishing this, it is intense and amazing and I am really happy that I knew about this fic from mishaphappens and tahirire who recced it to me like woah.

...Damn. SAMMY. *clings to him*

Dean needs to go too and be in his fireworks scene dammit!

Okay, so maybe I had more to say.

Damn.

(I do not usually read deathfic, BTW. This one snuck past my radar. And then I skipped to the end like halfway through to see if it got a happy ending and it kind of did, right? so I went back to reading and I still didn’t suspect, and damn. You caught me with deathfic unawares. I can tell you and tahirire are going to get on famously. ;) )

Date: January 29th, 2011 12:22 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] radiumgirl.livejournal.com
All I can think to say in this moment is thank goodness we know Sammy will never end up like this.

THIS. Yes. *clings to Sammy as well*

No, really, Sammy, I feel terrible. I'm sorry. It's just...the bunny wouldn't go away, okay!?

I'm so glad this worked for you even though deathfic isn't really your thing! I tried to warn-without-warning over at OhSam because I know it bothers some people alot...but at the same time, I didn't want to totally give away the end.

Tahirire and deathfic are BFFs, eh? This could be the beginning of a bea-yoo-tiful friendship. XD

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] tahirire.livejournal.com - Date: January 29th, 2011 12:31 am (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] radiumgirl.livejournal.com - Date: January 29th, 2011 02:22 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] tahirire.livejournal.com - Date: January 29th, 2011 06:39 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] samidha.livejournal.com - Date: January 29th, 2011 12:31 am (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] radiumgirl.livejournal.com - Date: January 29th, 2011 02:26 pm (UTC) - Expand

Date: January 28th, 2011 07:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] shadowsunrising.livejournal.com
Oh dear Chuck you made me start crying in the public library

*flails incoherently at and saves*

Date: January 29th, 2011 12:23 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] radiumgirl.livejournal.com
I'm sorry! *offers cookies*

Also? I'm flailing at your icon. BEING HUMAN! BISHOP! EEEE! Every time he shows up on screen I'm like "Luuuuuuuuucy!"

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] shadowsunrising.livejournal.com - Date: January 29th, 2011 12:49 am (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] radiumgirl.livejournal.com - Date: January 29th, 2011 01:46 pm (UTC) - Expand

Date: January 28th, 2011 07:39 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] de-nugis.livejournal.com
That was devastating and gorgeous and bittersweet at the end. The idea that restoration could just be another cage, the idea that of course Dean would try to cope when coping was totally superhuman, but that in the end he would love Sam enough to let him go.

Date: January 29th, 2011 12:27 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] radiumgirl.livejournal.com
You know, this was originally planned to be a sunshine and rainbows piece (after all the crazy and the screaming and the mental hospital bits, of course) where Dean and Cas figured it all out and fixed Sam up and all was well in the world.

. I literally tried for months to force it into the shape of a puppy, or a baby chick, or something equally squee-worthy. But it just wouldn't come together like that

I think bittersweet just fits our boys better. ;)

Date: January 29th, 2011 03:51 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] gidgetgal9.livejournal.com
This was amazing and so sad. It played out so realistically in my mind. Gosh - so glad to get to read it. :)

Date: January 29th, 2011 01:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] radiumgirl.livejournal.com
Aww, thank you!

Date: January 29th, 2011 03:54 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dragonfly-sg1.livejournal.com
Why you break me??!! *wails*

Date: January 29th, 2011 01:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] radiumgirl.livejournal.com
I'm sorry! It's just...the boys break so well! And then they go and break you and me and it's a vicious cycle that never ends.

Date: January 29th, 2011 04:44 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lissa-ann.livejournal.com
Wow. What an intense look at the boys that is probably closer to the way it really should be on the show.

Nice ambiance to this and pulled me right in.

Excellent work. Congratulations.

Date: January 29th, 2011 01:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] radiumgirl.livejournal.com
...that is probably closer to the way it really should be on the show.

It's true. I mean, if we want to be honest here, realistically, both of them should have probably been barely functional trainwrecks before the apocalypse even came along.

Thank you for reading!

Date: January 30th, 2011 01:17 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] quickreaver.livejournal.com
Beautifully spun yarn. Chock full of all the Good Shtuff. I'm not to compelled to post comments often, but this is a well-deserved exception. Cookies for you!

Date: January 30th, 2011 03:14 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] radiumgirl.livejournal.com
Thank you! I love cookies! XD

Date: January 30th, 2011 09:16 pm (UTC)
ext_135179: (Default)
From: [identity profile] thisgirl-is.livejournal.com
I have never watched Supernatural, but that was amazing. You sold the relationship dynamics between them wonderfully, and I love the way you've presented the long-term effects of that kind of torment.

Date: January 31st, 2011 11:11 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] radiumgirl.livejournal.com
Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed it despite it being outside your fandom-zone! :)

Date: January 31st, 2011 03:55 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] 4thejourney.livejournal.com
T_T Oh. My. Goodness! I'm in tears. This is SOOO sad but the happiness there at the very end- *sniffles* My chest is tight. That was so beautiful. And the quotes you used were perfect.

Date: January 31st, 2011 11:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] radiumgirl.livejournal.com
Thank you!

Date: February 6th, 2011 10:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] creepylicious.livejournal.com
This is beautiful and so sad and just perfect. I have no words. The quotes were perfect as well. I love it. A lot.

Date: February 7th, 2011 02:34 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] radiumgirl.livejournal.com
Aw, thank you! And thank you for reading!

Date: March 11th, 2011 02:32 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] si-star-x.livejournal.com
Just a little light reading before bedtime! I loved this. It made me hurt for Dean, and Sam, and Cas... and everybody. It saddened me that Sam was down to one word and then when he lost it all together... gah. Beautifully done.

Date: March 11th, 2011 03:18 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] radiumgirl.livejournal.com
Thank you!

I tried so hard to make this a happy ending. I even took the prompt with a happy ending in mind, and sequels...potentially wincesty sequels revolving around shared souls and the AWKWARD that I think that would lead to in certain...situations...and then the story just refused to cooperate, and I guess it wasn't meant to be.

But hey, brain melting angst works too. :)

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] si-star-x.livejournal.com - Date: March 11th, 2011 03:24 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] radiumgirl.livejournal.com - Date: March 11th, 2011 03:29 pm (UTC) - Expand

(no subject)

From: [identity profile] si-star-x.livejournal.com - Date: March 11th, 2011 03:34 pm (UTC) - Expand

Date: March 31st, 2011 06:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mishaphappens.livejournal.com
So, it only took me half a century, but I finally read this and IT IS SO GOOD. Truly awesome work, Rad. It had just the level of angst and then ended on a happy note. I know Sam and Dean are going to be together again soon enough. :)

Date: May 12th, 2011 04:10 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ephemerall.livejournal.com
holy effing shit. I don't know how i missed this one but it's amazing and gut wrenching.

Date: June 18th, 2011 03:39 am (UTC)
varkelton: An Issue of Consent - Hug (Team Little Bro)
From: [personal profile] varkelton
Congratulations! Your story has been recced at [livejournal.com profile] spn_littlebro!
Page generated Monday, October 23rd, 2017 05:54 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios