Chapter Six: Awakening and Resolution
Disclaimer: I do not own Supernatural
Author's Note: This fic has been tons of fun and I'd like to thank everyone who has read and reviewed it. I also have to extend a very special thank you to youthere. Without her this fic would have been riddled with many many more mistakes. She helped, more than helped, this fic become what it is today. (Except for the mistakes that still linger; I take full credit of those…) I cannot thank her enough for her comments and helpful suggestions… and her very sound reasoning skills.
Sam watched as oddly colored shapes lazily drifted across his vision, crawling in a pattern he couldn't identify. He wasn't certain where they'd come from but their alien forms were strangely riveting.
His gaze followed them without thought, tracking their slow, blurry movements. A bright red worm wriggled on the far edge of his eyesight, the color so vivid it was painful. It meandered slowly, its body scrunching as it carefully worked its way forward.
His head felt oddly hazy, his body strangely disconnected from the rest of him. From far away he could feel an odd tingling in his arms and legs. The sensation grew more and more uncomfortable as he focused on it, as if hundreds of bugs were crawling all over him.
It quickly started to ache and he shied away from the images that suddenly flashed through his mind. Fragments of an old house, a worn path, and a black phone slid in front of his eyes. Sam's heart clenched at the pictures and the emotions they pulled out of him. He pushed at them, forcing them to grow foggy, relief filling him as the choking fear they'd brought with them melted away. The odd sensation ended.
He concentrated on the darkness encompassing him, afraid that if he didn't the terror would slowly seep back in. The dark surrounded him, so deep it seemed endless.
His attention wandered back to the worm, which continued to move, his eyes idly following its sluggish progress. Sam wasn't certain how the worm could stick to the inky blackness, or whether it was aware that Sam was watching it, but he cringed at the idea of it falling down on him.
He tried to wrap his mind around which way was up but stumbled when he even struggled to remember if he was sitting up or lying down. With the tingling pain gone, all of his senses seemed to have fled with it, leaving him floating in a worm infested gloom. He wanted to know where he was, even if he needed to remain blissfully ignorant of everything else.
His body, however, was heavy, each limb weighed down as if a ton of bricks rested on them. Straining, he tried to force his arms to move, to make his body follow his instructions. There was a heavy weight on his chest though, an added mass he couldn't identify, and his exhausted body was too weak to try and escape.
He sucked in a deep breath and cringed as it hit his throat. The air around him was cold, his lungs burning as they drew in oxygen. He tried to turn his head away from the sensation and was surprised when he was able to. The black beneath his eyelids skittered and flashed.
Although the air in front of him was freezing, his back was unnaturally warm. He trembled at the odd sensation, his body simultaneously hot and cold. He wanted to fold himself into the heat, to burrow away from the frigid numbness that made him shake.
The cold was shocking and uncomfortable, pushing the heat away and creeping and crawling until it was firmly lodged inside of him. It was impossible for him to concentrate on anything else while it pulsed against his skull. Creating a headache behind his eyes, the tight sensation blossomed until it ached.
He tried to move away from it and cursed inwardly when his limbs still refused to move.
Sam's joints started to ache and radiate pain. He felt like an old man, his joints and bones throbbing in time with each breath. His eyes skittered again over the darkness in front of him, his thoughts scattering for several seconds.
Though he was afraid of what reality would bring, he made himself pull away from the inky darkness.
Sam tried to open his eyes but they had grown as heavy as the rest of him. He lay still for several moments, the cold eating at him until he could not stand it any longer.
The need to know where he was grew with every second, his stomach turning more with each moment.
He tried again, his muscles flexing and straining uselessly under his skin. His heart rattled in his chest, adrenaline filling his veins as an overwhelming feeling of helplessness made him choke back the urge to cry.
A gravely noise caught and twisted in his ears, so distorted he wasn't sure what it was.
Surprised, Sam's mind sharpened and tried to focus. The air around him seemed to be vibrating, a deep familiar motion that made his teeth ache and his head rattle. It covered him like a blanket, seemed to slide over him until it filled every nook and cranny in his mind.
He'd thought that the inky blackness had managed to overwhelm everything, had cut him off from sight and sound. Listening, he tried to decipher the noise, attempted to figure out how it had crawled its way past the dimness and into his body.
He slowly stopped his attempts to struggle as he concentrated on the steady cadence that seemed to be directed at him. It grew louder and clearer, moving close by as he held his breath. Sam wanted to cock his head to the side, to move himself closer to the sound. He kept his head still though, afraid that if he shifted it would go away.
Sensation came with the sound and Sam could feel something warm on his neck and face.
I have you Sammy; it's okay. Calm down.
The voice was soothing and soft, and Sam's heart stuttered.
His brother continued on and on, low and cajoling, even though his voice was rough and almost unrecognizable. Sam listened to the words, letting the feeling of safety wash over him. His muscles automatically relaxed, the tension in his head and neck lessening.
Sam wanted to tell Dean that he couldn't control his limbs, wanted to ask his brother what was going on and where they were, but his body had become a prison. His ability to move came and went as if he were a wind-up toy and he could still feel the extra weight on his chest. He needed Dean to fix this, wanted Dean to make things right again.
Trying to pay attention to his brother's words, he absently watched the fuzzy worm slowly creep away and out of sight. He wondered if it had crawled back behind his eyes, if it had wiggled its way into his brain. The thought made his body tense again, brightly colored spots flashing momentarily in front of his eyes.
Shhhhh Sammy. It's okay; you're okay.
Sam concentrated harder on Dean's voice, felt a gentle rocking motion as a hand rubbed soothingly at his arms. Feeling slowly bled back into them, the sensation of pins and needles traveling from elbows to fingertips. He pushed away all thoughts of worms and brains and focused on his older brother. Even if nothing else made sense, he knew he could trust Dean to make things right.
The swaying motion continued and something warm was draped over his legs and chest. He reveled in the sudden heat, his body soaking up the warmth eagerly. The ground beneath him shifted, the weight across his chest lifted and resettled.
Is he alright?
His father's voice sounded as if it were coming from underwater.
He's fine, I've got him.
The extra weight clenched briefly before loosening and Sam felt himself slide another step towards consciousness. The darkness brightened to deep shadows and his brother's voice strengthened just a shade.
Sam wasn't sure if he wanted to wake up, didn't know if he could embrace the painful reality that lay just beyond the numbness. However, his brother's and father's voices continued to tug at him as their quiet conversation continued. He wanted to be in the same room with them, wanted to pull them close and feel the steady beating of their hearts. Just the idea made him sick with excitement.
Sam needed to see their faces, felt as if he had forgotten the shape of his brother's nose, the crinkles around his father's eyes. He wanted to drive away with them in the Impala, to stretch out in the back seat and nap in the hot afternoon sun as they traveled across the country. He needed to hear the low sound of his father's voice, Dean's off key, murmured singing as he tapped out a beat on his thigh.
As young as it made him feel, he wanted to hide himself in his brother's shadow, to have the crushing loneliness finally dissipate.
Without his family by his side Sam felt a debilitating grief. Even with his memories cloudy, his heart felt stomped on, shredded. He was certain that if he glanced at his chest there would be a ragged weeping wound the size of a fist.
An involuntary moan escaped his mouth at the thought of the injury and his throat tickled uncomfortably. It was raw, swollen and dry like sandpaper. The sound caught in his throat, aggravating it enough that Sam felt like choking. He didn't want to cough, could feel the pain in his chest and knew that it would hurt, would stretch and tear at his lungs and ribs.
The longing for a tall glass of cool wet water had him struggling to swallow. His throat was too parched to complete the simple action.
Opening his mouth Sam tried to form words. They caught in his brain, his mind tripping over and twisting around sentences he knew how to shape. Images swam in front of him as he tried to put letters and sounds to them. He wasn't quite certain his brain was connected to his mouth anymore.
His own voice was barely more than a whisper, pathetic and threadbare. He tried to speak again, the urge to cough bubbling up quickly. Sam didn't know if his brother or father had understood him.
The gentle rocking paused before starting up again.
"Okay Sammy, okay. Just hold on."
Sam listened to someone moving about and tried to force his eyes open. The weight holding him down shifted and Sam slowly felt his upper body rise. Raised into a sitting position, his head lolled to the side and rested against something warm and familiar. Instinctively he burrowed his nose into the warmth and breathed in the familiar scent of gun oil and leather.
Fingers ran through his hair, moving gently, before cupping the back of his neck and stabilizing it. At the sensation Sam tried again to make his eyes open, this time barely managing to keep his eyelids from sliding back down.
Around him, the room was dark and filled with long shadows and blurry shapes. He blinked and let his eyes slowly focus.
The room was familiar, the shape, colors, and smell coming together easily in his mind. Tilted up on the bed closest to the bathroom, he let his eyes wander.
The walls were covered in papers, the bedside tables and floor covered in books. In one corner boxes were stacked, duct taped shut with dates and numbers written on them.
It was as if a tornado had run through the room and he wondered how long his family had been there. He could smell old pizza and mildew and saw a bag in the far corner that was nearly unpacked. The light in the bathroom was on and he could hear the water running.
The space below him rumbled as the words were spoken above him and Sam glanced down in confusion. His own arms hung limply at his sides, a tan forearm wrapped securely across his middle. He was covered from neck to toe in a scratchy tan blanket. He looked at the soft curve he had instinctively nestled into, instantly recognizing the jut of his brother's chin and the curve of his neck.
Without thinking Sam turned his head completely into the space between his brother's neck and shoulder. Keeping his eyes open, he swallowed tightly and breathed in again. His memories were too fuzzy to discern but Sam was almost certain that he'd thought he'd never see his brother again.
His dad's voice was quiet and calming. Sam didn't know when his father had emerged from the now empty bathroom but the sound of running water was gone. The hand that cupped the back of his neck adjusted, tilting Sam's face so that he could see his father.
The sight was so unfamiliar that Sam instinctively jerked back into his brother's body. Making a noise of distress, he trembled as Dean's voice started soothing him again. The stranger in front of him didn't look like his dad.
His father had a five o'clock shadow, intelligent eyes, and a sad grin that appeared and disappeared quickly. The man in front of him was past worn; he seemed to be hanging together by threads. His clothes were stained and rumpled, the bags under his eyes large and black. He was thinner than Sam's dad, his hair longer and more unkempt. This man was foreign; strange and scary.
The man smiled and the wound in his chest seemed to grow smaller.
Sam stuttered on the word, the cough that had been growing in his chest exploding out in a painful wet gasp. He sputtered and wheezed, another cough following on the heels of the first. Clenching his eyes shut, his heart raced as his entire body seized with the force of it. Around him, he could feel Dean's arm tightening, keeping him from sliding off the bed or hurting himself.
The sound of a great wave echoed in his ears and he wondered if it was possible for his lungs to shrink abruptly. If, somehow, one had simply shriveled up completely and ceased to function. He could hear his brother speaking quickly into an ear, a hand gently smoothing over his forehead.
The fresh scent of grass flooded his nose and thick blades scratched at his unmoving body. He had been convinced seconds ago that he was in a motel room, that his family was with him and he was safe. Now he was afraid to open his eyes, the sense of being secure slowly escaping him. The air was cool, the stale recycled motel air absent. He was by himself, he just knew it, and around him there was nothing but miles of trees.
"-ammy? Come on Sammy; deep, even breaths."
He hiccuped and sobbed, the darkness seeping into his skin and weighing him down. He couldn't take the forest again, knew instinctively that he wouldn't survive another month.
His brother's voice continued, his words a steady stream that buoyed Sam as his mind fought to free itself. Slowly, the certainty of being trapped alone in the forest receded. The air grew stale again and across his middle he could feel Dean's arm, holding him so tight it hurt.
"That's right Sammy, nice and slow."
Sam tried to follow his brother's orders, his lungs struggling to listen to his brain. He wasn't sure how long he concentrated on Dean's voice, it continued on and on until it filled up every space in his head. The even beating of his brother's heart resonated up through his tired limbs, the voice and the steady thump-thump creating a familiar tune.
He tentatively opened his eyes.
His father swam into focus, the relieved grin on his face at odds with the concerned look in his eyes.
"Hey there kiddo."
Voice gentle, his dad extended a hand, holding a dirty motel glass filled with grainy looking water. The liquid sloshed up the sides as he brought it closer. Behind him Dean steadied his head again and Sam half choked as the cool liquid hit his throat.
Sputtering, he took a half breath and was thankful that his father waited before tilting the glass again. It was embarrassing enough that he was weaker than a kitten. His eyes traveled down the length of the glass, noticing the small cuts and bruises that littered his father's hand and forearm.
After several swallows the glass was removed, his father setting it on the bedside table as Sam cautiously took stock of his throat. It no longer burned and ached and Sam wished his dad had let him drain the entire glass, even if his stomach churned at the thought.
"How you doing there Sammy?"
His father spoke as if he were a small animal that might spook, his eyes watching Sam's every move. Though the question sounded innocent, Sam's head was still foggy enough that it seemed as if his dad was speaking another language.
Sam knew that his father hated when he responded with stupid non-answers and tried to concentrate on the question. His thoughts were all wrapped around each other, tangling up his tongue, and Sam fought down the feeling of exhaustion that surrounded him.
He was tired, though, and as glad as he was that his father and brother were close by, the urge to sleep was growing every moment.
Sleep gave him the opportunity to avoid the truth, to ignore the trees and blood and the house filled with charms. He didn't want to remember, didn't want to the confusion that was masking everything to lift.
He didn't like to think of himself as a baby but couldn't bring himself to face the truth just yet.
His eyes slid shut as he automatically bent his head into the crook of his brother's neck again. As long as he could be near his brother, could hear the scratchy voice of his father, everything would be alright.
"I think he's sliding under again Dad."
Dean's voice was quiet and Sam could hear the restrained dread.
"That's okay Dean, your brother needs his rest."
Sam could feel the rumble of his brother's response but had floated far enough away that the words were nothing more than buzzing background noise.
He wasn't certain how long he drifted but the next time his eyes blinked open, he knew immediately that he was no longer resting against his brother.
Lying on his back, the ceiling above him was cracked and stained. The room was dark, too, with the clanging sound of the air conditioner filling his ears. Sam watched the ceiling above him, taking in the stiffness that ran throughout his entire body and absently wondering what time it was.
Against his chest, the comforting and restraining weight of Dean's arm was gone. Instead he could feel scratchy sheets and a lumpy pillow beneath his head.
Slowly, he flexed his fingers and toes, hissing at the tightness in them. Sam needed to be able to move, to stand up and run.
There were images in his head, horrible thoughts and pictures that made him sick to his stomach. He wasn't sure what was real and what wasn't, didn't think it was fair that he'd had to wake up at all.
Something shifted next to him and Sam instinctively froze in fear. He was tired of being afraid, tired of hurting, but the terror of the unknown was enough to make his body tense so hard it ached.
He didn't feel brave anymore; Sam wasn't sure there was any strength left in him for that.
Forcing himself to take a deep breath, he ignored his sweaty palms and craned his head to the side, thankful that his eyes had finally adjusted to the dim light.
Next to him, Dean rested on his side, his mouth parted open and heavy worry lines etched into his young face. Sam could see dark circles of fatigue under his brother's eyes, his body tense even as he slept. One arm lay beneath his pillow while the other curled itself on the bed between them.
Sam hadn't noticed before but, like his father, Dean was covered in small cuts. His visible arm was also noticeably bruised, even in the dark.
Sam watched his brother, eyes flickering between his face and the rising and falling of his chest.
He liked to observe Dean, had spent much of his life obsessively taking in every facial expression, every move. Sam knew his brother almost as well as he knew himself and in the last six months had seen how much of an adult Dean had become.
He had missed watching his brother, even if lately it had gotten to be nothing but painful.
Somehow, Sam had become a kid to be scolded, a mess of arms and legs that couldn't even manage to stand up straight.
Dean though? Dean had grown into an unstoppable force, someone who could face down any obstacle with a big grin and an even bigger attitude.
His older brother was no longer his co-conspirator and friend, he was Sam's keeper. .And Dean had let him know that more than once.
But Sam remembered something else, a memory that hovered just on the edge. His brother leaning over him, barely keeping it together while Sam had been certain he was dying.
Turning onto his side, Sam hissed at the unexpected pain that traveled up his left leg. Biting back a whimper, he sunk his fingernails into the sheet beneath him and took a shaky breath.
He had nearly forgotten about the injury to his leg but jarring it made several memories rush back. He could feel the metal teeth sinking into his flesh, could taste the mud and blood in his mouth. Sam could remember wanting to just die already, because there wasn't any way he could be in so much pain and not be dying.
Dean's arm gently wrapped around his shoulders and Sam could feel some of his older brother's strength passing over to him.
"What's going on Sammy?"
Releasing his death grip on the sheet beneath him, Sam reached out and weakly grasped the front of Dean's shirt. He pulled at it, knowing that it would be nearly impossible for him to move closer to his brother. The pain in his leg was too sharp, too debilitating for him to even consider shifting.
Dean quickly traveled across the width of the motel bed, wrapping himself around his younger brother. Sam didn't even pretend to be offended at the motion. He knew that before everything had happened, he had bitched and moaned and done everything he could to be treated like an adult. Sam figured it should feel odd to want what he'd tried so hard to escape but couldn't bring himself to feel anything but grateful.
He had tried to catch up, had tried to show Dean that he could be an adult too. Even if he'd known from the get go that there was no way he'd ever do it, he had tried. Dean didn't have to be ashamed to be seen with him. He was still cool.
Now he just wanted to hide in the crook of his brother's neck and shut out the rest of the world.
He didn't need to be an adult, not if it meant he had to face this alone.
Dean and his father had somehow managed the impossible; they had freed him from a nightmare that Sam had been positive would continue forever.
Everything was a mess in his mind, memories blending together to make a tangle of images, smells and feelings. Even the thought of traveling into the woods, of taking a safe hiking trail in a national park, made him tremble in fear.
Even worse, the thought of his brother and father leaving the motel room without him had him nearly in tears.
Sam spoke quietly, afraid his voice would rouse their sleeping father. With his mouth trapped against Dean's collarbone his voice was nothing more than a whisper. After several still moments his brother tilted his head so that he could talk directly into Sam's ear.
"Sammy, are you okay?"
Sam could remember being asked that before, could hear his brother's voice looping as the question was asked over and over again. He nodded, pushing back the tears that hovered just out of sight. He was tired of crying.
"I'm sorry Sammy; I should have kept you safe."
Dean's voice wavered at the end and Sam felt the frustration behind each word.
Though Sam's mind shied away from his time without his family, he easily recalled the day when it had all started. His fascination with the objects littering the room, stuffing his hands deep into his pockets and shuffling his foot against the carpeted floor as he waited for his father and brother to finish up. The feeling of resentment at not being included, the anger at being the third wheel again and again and again.
The pain when, once more, his brother had taken a step forward while he himself had been left behind.
"I'm sorry," The tears that Sam had fought so hard to contain trailed down his cheeks. "It was an accident, I swear. I messed up again. I'm sorry."
He knew that it wasn't his brother's fault, that it was only his own.
He was crying then, soft hiccups and odd gasps as he struggled unsuccessfully to stop. Dean rocked him, shushing him and rubbing soothing circles on his back.
"No Sammy, it's not your fault."
Dean sounded so sure of himself that Sam's mind went momentarily blank.
"I didn't mean to," his voice was wet as he tried to explain. "I was just looking, I swear. I didn't mean to touch it…"
"I know you didn't Sammy, I know."
Sam couldn't help but talk over his brother, to try and make him understand.
"I'm just too clumsy. I swear I didn't mean to touch it. I wouldn't have, Dean, you know I wouldn't have."
He heard the whining in his own voice, the fear that Dean wouldn't believe him.
Even now, Sam could feel the smooth metal of the necklace he'd been peering at in fascination, the odd prickle that had traveled up his arm the moment he'd touched it. The dread, confusion, and agony as his body had hunched and grown and stretched and torn itself apart.
"I know you didn't mean to Sammy, I know." In the dark Sam saw his brother's face grow tight.
Sam nodded his head again, only part of him believing his brother's words. Even with Dean's absolution, he kept crying, soaking the front of his brother's shirt as he tried to pull himself together.
When the tears finally stopped he lay quiet.
He could still hear the catch in his own voice.
"Am I… Am I gonna be alright?"
It was true that Sam didn't feel the charm around his neck, didn't sense the moon beneath his skin any longer. His body was his own, the wrongness that had permeated every part of him gone.
He was free from the witch's curse, reunited with his brother and father.
Sam was out of the deep desperate woods. He didn't want to change again, didn't want to feel the sharp pain that seemed to drive out everything that made him who he was.
But he still needed to hear it from Dean, needed his brother to say that everything was going to be okay. He knew he was too old to need such a silly reassurance but the words spilled out of his mouth without thought.
"Yeah Sammy," This time Sam could hear Dean's resolve and the arm around his shoulder tightened. "You're safe now."
Sam knew there was a story there, could hear it in his brother's voice.
After his last transformation everything in his mind was a blur. He could picture his brother, could see him framed by thick dark leaves and a slowly rising sun. Pushing himself to think harder, he could remember the pain of another transformation, somehow coming much sooner than it usually had.
He could remember ropes on his wrists and the heavy stench of incense in the air as his father rumbled off unfamiliar Latin words.
He shivered slightly and grimaced at the twinge that went through his leg.
Dean untangled himself from his brother and Sam let out a small groan at the loss of physical contact. Moments later Dean was back, propping Sam up on his chest.
In the dark, Sam could see Dean's hand and the pill he held in it. He wanted that medicine, longed to sink away from the ache that radiated from his leg and out into the rest of his body. He fought for a moment to move his arm, then weakly grabbed the pill and popped it in his mouth.
Without a word, Dean reached behind him and brought forward a glass of water. Sam drank quickly, his brother removing the glass as soon as he was certain the pill had been swallowed.
Settling back onto the bed, Sam let himself curl into his brother, only hissing slightly at the twinge it caused.
Dean's hand rested in Sam's hair, his voice quiet and calm.
Wrapped up under the thick, scratchy comforter Sam tried for a moment to keep his eyes open. He opened his mouth, yawning, and his mind blanked when he tried to remember what he had wanted to ask his brother.
Things were already foggy for him, sleep clouding his vision and tunneling his hearing. The question that had been on the tip of his tongue floated away, dissipating with the memories easily banished by his brother's presence.
The feeling of finally being safe made his bones melt and his body shut down. He burrowed his head into his brother's shoulder and breathed in the familiar scent of him.
"Sleep Sammy; I'm right here and you're not going anywhere."
For the first time in a long time, Sam slid into sleep without worry.
Please review! :)