Title: One Week
Summary: It's been a week since the exorcism, a week since Sam was not Sam, a week since they both knew a version of hell on earth.
Rating: PG, gen
Disclaimer: I don't even own the plot bunny.
A/N: First of all, I know that post BUaBS fics have been done a lot, and I wouldn't have written one at all, but someone sought me out and made such a nice appeal, I couldn't say no. On that note, this fic is for friendly, who is one of the best reviewers you'll find out there--I see her reviewing just about every story there is. So how can I begrudge someone so loyal to the fandom--especially on her birthday :) This isn't quite the prompt you asked for, but this is what came out, and I did indeed write it just for you :) I feel repetitive thanking Gem, but she is my beta and probably always will be, if I'm that lucky. Also, I have to admit, sendintheclowns is becoming a part of my writing process. I'm not sure how she does it, but when in her presence, writing occurs. And Brenna--I know a fic from me isn't much, but hopefully it can help distract you from your life :)
Neither of them remembers the first night.
It is all relief and pain and confusion.
Sure, they re-stitch Dean's bullet wound, which makes Dean grimace and Sam feel guilty. He can't be sure it was him, but Dean's evasive enough that it's pretty clear. And, yeah, they ice Sam's burn, which makes all of them a bit nervous and uncomfortable, and Sam's not looking forward to the scar.
Sam tries to talk—a little—because it's all so blank, but Dean doesn't do much more than grunt, and Sam can guess the answers to most of his questions anyway, so he lets it drop. After all, Bobby was unconscious and Dean was beat to hell, which kind of leaves him as the main suspect as the source of all this chaos.
Instead, they opt for sleep, long and hard sleep. Wherever there's space in Bobby's messier-than-usual floor. Sam's seen exorcisms, knows there's nothing simple about them, and so he feels responsible for the mess too.
Dean's sleep is medicated, Sam makes sure of that. He may not be able to fix things, to undo what's happened, but he can make sure Dean has a pain-free night. It's the least he can do. Dean's earned it.
Dean insists he's fine because he's Dean, but doesn't really have the strength to fight his brother. He's sort of done enough of that for a while anyway. So he goes down first with nothing more than a slurred thanks to Bobby and an appraising look at Sam. There's nothing good for him to dream about, but he hopes that sleep might take the edge off, make the reality seem less real, might make him as blank as Sam.
Sam's sleep is long in coming. His mind can't shut down, not now, not with so many blank spaces where his memories should be, making him feel like his brain's nothing more than Swiss cheese. When he finally does sleep, it's only by the sounds of his brother's even breathing. But even that's not enough to keep him there. His rest is broken by flashes of nightmares, vivid and visceral, and he finally figures out that maybe these are the missing moment of his life.
He thinks he'd rather have the blankness after all.
Neither of them remembers the first night, at least that's what they tell each other.
The first day, they leave Bobby's. They stay for breakfast, to do some reading on warding off demon possession, just long enough to acknowledge that this is weird and that things happened and that someone died and Dean got hurt and that they don't know if they can talk about it.
Bobby gives them space, some attempt at privacy, but they still don't say anything, and they leave by midday. They trust him, because Bobby pretty much knows the whole story anyway, but Bobby's not ready to take sides, and it's not fair to ask him to. It's probably only a matter of time before more people figure it out—there are too many clues, too many signs, too many rumors that have to be circulating by now. A hunter--dead. Murdered. That's not something people are going to forget, not in their community.
They drive the entire day without really talking. Sam looks like he wants to sometimes, flashing his dewy, sensitive eyes on and all, but anytime Dean looks at them, he kind of thinks they're black for a moment, and he wants to look away.
That hurts Sam more than just about anything. But he can't say anything, won't say anything, because he can't help but think that this is his fault. Dean not talking is about as loud as an accusation and it's certainly just as clear.
They stop for lunch, in the middle of nowhere, at some crap restaurant where the food is more grease than nutrition. As they're waiting, Sam finally finds his voice, and he's a little surprised that it works when he tells it to.
"I still don't remember much."
Dean glances at him briefly before picking up his drink and taking a sip. He sets it down and fiddles with his straw.
"Some flashes. But not much." Sam waits for Dean to add something.
Dean chews his lip a little. "That's how possessions work usually," he says. "The victims don't usually remember anything substantial."
The word victim makes Sam look down and he feels guilty again. He doesn't feel like a victim. Part of him feels so violated, like he'll never get clean.
The other part of him feels like a monster.
"I killed Wandell, didn't I?"
It makes Dean jump a little, but he hides it well. "You didn't kill anyone."
It's a distinction they both know, logically, but it's still a little hard to swallow.
"What else did I do?" Sam asks.
"Sam," Dean says with a sigh. "It wasn't you."
Sam's just staring at him, looking at the way he favors his shoulders, and blanches a little. "Jo was there."
Sam's still not getting the answers he wants. "I was with you."
"A little," Dean concedes.
"I asked you to kill me."
Dean just rolls his eyes at that. "You asked me that when you weren't possessed, too."
That shuts Sam up, because Dean's right about that one, even though Sam knows it's different.
Before Sam can find his voice again, their food comes and they eat instead of talk, chew instead of listen.
The second night, Sam can't stop himself from talking, from asking questions, from probing. But Dean doesn't get it, doesn't want to get it and cracks jokes instead.
And Sam gets why, and he's even a little grateful in spite of himself. Part of him worries Dean will blame him for this, that Dean will always think it was his fault, and the jokes make Sam feel a little better. But he worries about what Dean's not telling him, about what Dean will never tell him. He knows demons are not nice, that demons lie, and that this one had to know an awful lot about both of them.
Of all the things Sam did, he's pretty sure hateful words coming from his own mouth would hurt Dean the most, but he can't remember that, he can't remember what he said, what he did, any of it. He's also pretty sure the bullet wound is his fault, though Dean won't confirm that either, and Sam's a little afraid to ask, a little afraid to know.
Because it's the kind of thing he wishes Dean would defend against, that he wishes Dean could stop, that Dean would have stopped him. But he knows now Dean won't. Won't stop him, won't kill him, no matter what happens. Maybe he knew that all along, but it's as clear as a bullet wound and a bruised face now.
And it scares him. Because everything is so uncontrollable. Possessions are just one thing among many that could go wrong, and he hates to think of his brother at risk when he has no control of it.
Because he doesn't have any control. Over any of this. A demon took him over and used him to do whatever it wanted. Terrible things. What was to stop it from happening again?
But instead of saying that, he talks about Wandell, about what it's like to lose control, just to let Dean know he's scared.
Dean's jokes let Sam know that nothing's changed. That no matter what, they'll work this out.
It might be a lie, it might not even be a very good lie, and they might both know it, but sometimes that's all they have.
By the time they pull off at a motel, though, they both feel like crap. Dean still won't talk about his shoulder, so Sam doesn't want to mention the fact that he feels like all his energy is seeping out of him like his skin is nothing more than a sieve. Sam feels completely rundown, and not even Dean's joking can fix that, not that Dean has the strength to try. He's overdue on his pain meds and his arm is throbbing and it's making his vision strained.
Still, Dean gets them a room because that's what he does and moves to go inside, but Sam's having a little trouble getting out of the car.
At first he thinks it's just the emotion. That it's just the past week and what he doesn't remember about what he (did)didn't do that has caught up with him. Because then he's falling deeper into the seat and he's crying.
"Sam?" Dean sounds concerned, sounds close.
Sam just wants to hide. His eyes are closed.
"Sammy?" The voice is gentler now, and there's a hand on his forehead. "You've got a fever," Dean says.
Sam's eyes open and things are blurry. "I'm sorry, Dean."
"For a fever?" Dean quips. "That's hardly your fault."
Sam shakes his head, feels more tears welling up from nowhere, and he tries to speak. "No, I—"
Dean just rolls his eyes, and tugs Sam's arm, pulling him upright and out of the car. "I know, okay?"
Sam stumbles a little, putting the extra weight on Dean, who buckles a little under it. "Your shoulder," Sam says but his voice doesn't have much strength.
Dean laughs a little. "We're quite a pair," he says, and he's right.
So they limp in together, each taking and borrowing strength at the same time. It's long and slow, but there's something soothing about it. It seems like it's been too long since they've taken steps in tandem.
The second night is hard.
Dean's arm aches and throbs and the painkillers aren't enough, even when he double doses himself. He has to clean the wound himself, which is about as fun as it sounds, because Sam's too out of it to help.
Not that he doesn't try. But he doesn't even make it out of bed before Dean and the fever have him flat on his back. He writhes on the bed, trying to get up, trying to get away, trying to do something, but it's like his body isn't his again, and he moans in his pathetic state.
"Dean," he says, trying to see something, trying to make sense of the world around him. "Dean."
There's someone sitting next to him, bringing the mattress down. "Yeah, Sam."
He wants to say he's sorry, he wants to say it's all his fault, he wants to say something, but the only thing that comes out is, "Dean."
Through his blurry vision, he can see his brother, holding his arm and looking down at him. "It's okay, Sam."
Then Sam drifts, not that he wants to, but because he can't help it, and his world is full of memories that aren't his own.
The second day neither of them really wakes up.
Dean tries to manage Sam's fever, but barely gets him to swallow the Tylenol. He wants to keep a vigil, figures that's the brotherly thing to do, but by the time Sam is unconscious, he feels himself slipping.
He doesn't mean to fall asleep but morning finds him out nonetheless. He wakes sometimes, on and off, just enough to turn his head toward his brother and see him breathing.
The third night Dean has to clean his wound again and check the bandages. It hurts—a lot—but Jo's work seems good (even if her methods were a bit cruel).
Sam's still mostly asleep, the fever burning through his body. Dean remembers somewhere that fevers aren't uncommon after possession, that possession for that long does have side effects, and that there's not much he can do for Sam but help him ride it out.
So he makes Sam drink a little, puts a cool cloth on his forehead, then falls asleep.
The third day is boring. Sam's fever isn't really dangerous, but it's incapacitating, and Sam doesn't even moan or twitch enough to make Dean feel really occupied. Not that he wants to. He wants to give his brother some space, he's not really sure why, but he just can't bring himself to touch Sam at all.
He thinks though, about a lot of things, and tries not to think about Sam with black eyes. It always makes him rub his shoulder.
But this is his fault, he thinks, his fault for letting this happen to Sam.
Part of him wonders, though, if Sam saw any of it, if Sam knew, if Sam fought for Dean as hard as Dean fought for Sam.
But Sam just moves a little on the bed and Dean knows it's not a fair question to ask and that in the end, he's already taken responsibility for Sam so it all falls back on him.
The fourth night, Sam's fever is down, but the kid still sleeps more than he's awake. Dean is achy and restless and orders in a pizza that he eats himself.
Sam shifts and mutters at least now, so it's not like Sam seems so dead anymore, and Dean wonders what he's dreaming. He wonders if Sam's having nightmares, nightmares of what he did to his brother.
That's not totally fair, but Dean has nightmares, so maybe fair really isn't applicable.
He's out of pain reliever and Tylenol, which leaves him with nothing. He should go to the store, but he doesn't want to. He doesn't want to expend the energy to put clean clothes on and drive the car. He doesn't want to do anything.
He's shot, after all, and beaten to hell by his own brother, no less. And it wasn't Sam (it wasn't) but it was his brother's finger that pulled the trigger and his brother's fist that did the damage.
It's not the victim's fault they're possessed, Dean knows that, believes it, spent 27 years living it. Sam doesn't even remember, probably will never remember, because it wasn't him. But no one talks about what it's like for the person who loves the victim, for the person who watches him go through that, the person who suffers by his hands, the person who has to try to balance saving the soul without harming the body. He's never even cared to think about it because it's never been Sam, it's never been him.
He sits back on the bed and stares at a blank TV screen, letting the silence permeate everything. There are no answers, there is no absolution. Tonight there's only silence.
The fourth day Sam's awake enough to eat. Dean's shoulder seems to be finally getting better, a little less sore, a little less red, so maybe he's bypassed infection after all.
He feels well enough to run down to the gas station and buy some pathetic offerings for breakfast, but Sam eats his doughnut without complaint, and Dean can hear the grumblings of his stomach from the other bed.
The food does them both good, and Dean's craving fresh air again. Dean cajoles Sam onto the road, and they drive all day.
The fifth night, Sam can't sleep. Every time he comes close, he pulls himself back.
He still doesn't really remember. Well, nothing that makes sense.
He remembers blood, everywhere, and he remembers a body that he knows must be Wandell.
He remembers blonde, defiant but a little naïve, and knows that must be Jo.
He remembers beer and cigarettes, and can taste them both in his mouth.
He remembers a gun and his brother.
Then there are things he knows without knowing, things he's figured out because he's good at putting two and two together.
He doesn't remember the exorcism, but the demon's gone, so he knows there must have been one. He doesn't even remember beating Dean, but really there was no one else who would have done it unless Dean stopped for a bar fight while Sam ran around the country wreaking havoc.
He doesn't remember so much and the more he remembers, the more he wants to forget.
But he can't forget. Dean hasn't forgotten. He can see it in Dean's eyes. Dean remembers.
He wonders if Dean dreams. He can't tell from the way his brother is sleeping—sprawled out on his back on the other bed. It's dark but Dean doesn't look quite peaceful. Sam wants to help, wants to do something, but his brother won't let him touch the bandages.
Dean means well, but he's beginning to wonder if Dean believes in him at all. Sure, Dean says he'll save Sam, but Sam doesn't want to be saved by Dean. He wants to save himself. He wants to save Dean. He's tired of being forced into submission by everyone else—his father, the universe, even Dean. It's all out of his hands, and he's just supposed to smile and go along for the ride.
They're all pulling him in fifteen directions and Sam feels like he's coming apart.
He wants to help himself, he needs to help himself, but he didn't stop any of this, Dean doesn't even expect him to try, so Sam wonders if it's time to give in and see what's stronger, destiny or Dean.
When he finally sleeps, it's nothing more than the feeling of being immobile while the world is falling apart around him.
The fifth day they drive. Dean can move without wincing, and Sam can sit up straight, so Dean just wants to move and now.
They're not going anywhere, but they're going.
The sixth night Dean leaves Sam in the motel to grab a beer. He's sipping one when a sultry little brunette sneaks up beside him, smiling coyly at him.
"Hey, stranger," she says, and she drawls a little in a hillbilly kind of way.
Dean grins, smooth and easy. "Hey," he says, nodding slightly as she perches on the stool next to him.
She's fiddling with her hair and biting her lower lip, which is painted a sparkly sheen of pink. "You're not from here, are you?" she asks, though she knows the answer.
"No, just passing through," he says.
"Well, that's a shame," she says, and her eyes get a little wide and her mouth pouts. "I'd love to show you the sights sometime."
Dean leans in, feels her invitation, and wants to reciprocate. "Really? Like what?"
At this she laughs a little, like she's being caught in a lie. "Well, we have the best burger joint in the area," she says. "We could pick up a few and I could show you all the way back to my place."
Dean almost says yes, almost leans even farther up against her, but then he thinks of Sam picking up burgers, Sam alone in a motel room, and wonders if Sam's okay, if something's found him.
He backs away, awkwardly, and plunks a bill on the table. "I'm sorry," he says in a rush. "I have to go."
He hears her protesting, indignantly, but he's out the door before she can think to be really offended. At the motel, he finds Sam asleep on the covers, his arms sprawled out.
He sinks down onto his own bed and rests his head in his hands. After a minute, Sam's arm catches his eyes and notices the exposed burn. It's healing, and Sam must have gotten tired of the bandage. There'll be a nasty scar, and they'll never really forget this.
He reaches out to touch it, to see what it feels like. As he does, Sam shifts and murmurs a little. He lets his hands fall back to his own lap.
They'd never forget anyway.
The sixth day, Sam finds a hunt. It's out east, so they have to drive. There are miles to go and Dean turns on the radio and sings while Sam's not sleeping.
When Sam offers to drive, Dean is almost surprised because Sam hasn't shown any initiative at all since he was exorcised, he's almost been devoid of will or life, and so Dean's almost too surprised to say yes, but he manages to shrug. They trade places and as Sam fires up the engine, Dean slides down in the passenger's seat. It's hard to relax, and he watches Sam discreetly. Giving Sam the keys isn't his first impulse, but he tries to remind himself that Sam hasn't done anything wrong, Sam hasn't done anything that should make him nervous, and he could really use the rest.
Sam sits easy in the seat, maybe a little on edge, both hands on the wheel.
After a few miles, the thrum of the road has soothed his nerves and he lets himself smile and close his eyes to sleep.
The seventh night, Sam apologizes.
Sure, he did it once already, or tried to, but the dreams won't stop, he can't make any of it stop, and he has to try.
It's out of nowhere while they're both settled in at the motel. Dean's flipping channels and Sam's been staring blankly at the laptop for hours.
"I'm sorry," Sam says.
Dean almost jumps, surprised. Then he settles back, looking annoyed. "I thought we were past this."
"I should have been able to stop this."
"No, I should have been able to stop this," Dean countered, not even looking up.
Sam's sigh is loud and exasperated. "You weren't even there, Dean. You can't protect me from everything."
"It's my job, okay?" Dean says, like it's the most normal thing in the world. "I protect you."
Dean finally sighs and clicks off the TV. "It happens, Sammy. What you do while possessed, you can't stop," he says, his voice flat and unconvincingly.
"—almost killed me."
"—didn't have a chance either."
And it's all Sam can take. He feels impotent and little and pathetic. "I need it to be my fault, okay, Dean?" he bursts, shoving himself up from the chair and throwing his arms wide. "I need to have some responsibility here."
Dean looks pretty much floored, pretty much dumbfounded. "What are you talking about?"
Sam laughs a little so he doesn't cry. "The reason I keep asking you to kill me isn't because I don't have any hope," Sam says. "The reason I ask you to kill me is to be my backup. If I can't save myself, I need to know you have my back that one last time."
"Which is why I promised to save you," Dean says. "It's the same thing."
Sam clenches his teeth and resists the urge to hit something or swear. "No, it's not," Sam finally manages. "Because no one can save me except me. I'm doing everything I can, but it's not working very well, and I need to believe that I can do this or I don't know what I'll do."
Dean looks almost hurt. "Why can't you just trust me? This is my job, Sammy. It's what I do."
Sam drops his head, feeling defeated. "This is too big, Dean. Too much. The demon almost killed you. Not even you can stop that. It's why I left after you told me, because this time maybe I need to protect you, and I just need to know you'll defend yourself if I fail."
Dean's almost stammering, gaping a little. He shakes his head. "That's just not how it works. Ever since Dad put you in my arms, you've been my responsibility."
"I'm not a baby anymore, Dean," Sam snaps and turns to face the window. "I'm not a baby and I'm not innocent and the way I see it, protecting you is about all I have left." He turned and met his brother's eyes. "Don't take that from me, and trust me enough to say you'll back me up on this."
Dean blinks, then swallows. "Okay."
It comes so easily, so freely, that Sam's surprised, and the relief buckles him and he sinks to his chair.
He's tired, they're both tired, but maybe they're all right.
The seventh day they drive into this small town. They've never been there before, but they might as well have; they all look the same. They pull in at the diner to find something to eat, and it seems more crowded than most. When they get inside, there are more people than they can count, and they almost leave, but the hostess sees them and shuffles over with a smile on her face.
"Hey there, boys," she says, just like she knows them.
"Looks kind of busy," Dean comments and moves toward the door.
"Don't be silly," she says. "We've got plenty of room. We're just having a small party. It's Glenda's birthday."
The hostess nods toward the center of the jubilance at a stout middle-aged woman beaming in her apron.
"There's even cake," she said. "On the house."
Sam and Dean exchange curious glances, both shrugging their shoulders at the same time, before looking back uncomfortably at the hostess.
She grins. "Well then, boys, come on," she says, leading them to a booth in the corner. "I'll have Louise be over here in a sec to take your orders."
They both nod politely and the hostess sighs.
"Don't you just love birthdays? It's like a time of renewal. A time of joy. A time when nothing can go wrong even when everything else has."
She sighs again before she leaves, and the brothers stare after her, their menus in their hands.
"That was…," Dean begins.
"Weird," Sam finishes for him, and it makes them both smile.
Dean eases back into the vinyl seat and lets himself look at the menu without reading it at all. "Hey, Sam," he says instead.
Sam glances up, and Dean catches his brother's gaze. His eyes are wide and innocent, their hazel irises flecked with a green and gold. "Yeah?"
Dean stares at him for a moment, just looks at him, before he smiles a little. "Nothing."
The look Sam gives him is critical and maybe a tad perturbed, but he busies himself back with the menu.
Dean's eyes linger on his brother for a moment more, taking in the way Sam's broad shoulder seem to stoop, the way his bangs flop to the middle of his forehead. He knows his brother well, but maybe not as well as he thinks he does, and he wonders if all his anxiety over this doesn't all go back to the day Sam left for Stanford. Part of him has always been waiting for Sam to leave, always been hoping Sam would leave so he could cry foul and confirm that his brother is the selfish one after all.
But Sam's possession isn't about Sam being selfish or weak or even connected to the Demon. It's about Dean not knowing how to trust, how to have faith, how to believe. Part of him knows that Sam's far too apt at all of that, which is probably his brother's greatest weakness, but it's also probably his greatest strength.
Dean's attention drifts outward at the crowd of people. They're smiling and laughing, eating cake and being jovial. They're in a crappy diner, in some nothing of a small town, and they're just happy with today because it's all they have.
Well maybe Dean has more than that. He has a brother. Dean doesn't want to think about not being able to save Sam, but Sam isn't just some cause to be fought for, he's not an object to be pulled from a fire. He's a person, he's Dean's brother, and, yes, that scares Dean.
Sam looks up and meets Dean's eyes, and his faces screws up with curiosity and annoyance. "Why are you staring at me?"
Dean snorts, eschewing his reverie. Starting over always seems to hard; forgetting seems impossible. Moving on isn't something Winchesters really seem to grasp.
But Dean glances at the party again then at his brother. "I'm not staring," he says, somewhat indignant, but it's light and airy and comfortable.
Sam rolls his eyes like only Sam can and looks back at the menu. He's annoyed, but not really, because if he can be perturbed, then they can finally (maybe) be okay.
Dean gets that, understands it, reads it in all of his brother's mannerisms which are so Sam that he wonders how he was ever fooled by Meg. It should maybe disturb him, but he doesn't, in fact, he smiles. He just smiles. Because he can't stop the future. He may not even be able to change it. But all he needs to do right now is look at a menu and decide if he wants a burger or some chicken, and joke with his little brother.
Sam's watching Dean out of the corner of his eye, though he's trying not to show it, and Dean pretends not to notice. It's been a week since the exorcism, a week since Sam was not Sam, a week since they both knew a version of hell on earth. A week may not erase it, they're both sure of that, but Sam's beginning to think that maybe it's enough time to start again, to start over.
Besides, neither of them knows where they'll be in another week.