A/N: Thanks for the reviews; I hope you guys enjoy!
Staring at the sky didn't do anything for Dean. He kept expecting something to happen, some great revelation. He kept hoping, kept almost half praying. No angel appeared to take pity on him, no comet arrived to smite him when he tried cursing. Even that felt faded, though. Felt tired.
Eventually staring up made his neck hurt and his vision a little dizzy. The bottle of whiskey was exactly where he'd left it, but it was with a half-hearted feeling that he bent over and groped for it. That left him feeling dizzy again, and he set off for the house with a groan starting from the base of base of his feet. Least, that's what it felt like.
Every part of him ached, but it wasn't from pain. Just...weariness. Exhaustion. Deep in his gut and bones and he remembered having wanted to not feel a damn thing a year ago. He'd begged for it, yearned for it. Anything to not feel the pain and anguish and guilt from hell.
Wish granted. Funny how the other side of the coin sucked just as much.
He made his way through the house towards the basement stairs, only to find Bobby perched at the top in his wheelchair. "You planning on taking a trip down the stairs the hard way?" Dean asked, the quip natural.
Bobby glared at him. "That damn angel of yours called for help, and then he doesn't even answer when I hollered back."
A tendril of something began to worm its way into Dean's gut, and he edged his way past Bobby. "If you need help, give me a goddamn answer back," Bobby shouted, and the tone this time was more worried than angry.
The basement was just as dark and cold as Dean had left it, though Castiel was currently staring at the door instead of leaning against it. "Cas?" he said as he approached. The angel didn't turn around, and the feeling in his gut began to intensify. "Cas?" he tried again.
Once Dean was close enough to touch the angel, Castiel turned around. "We have to get inside," he said, right into Dean's face. Which wouldn't have been a problem if there weren't a hundred or so burgers on his breath.
Dean screwed his face up and tried not to breathe. "Not to be harsh, but dude, you need a stick of Wrigley's peppermint gum or something. Jesus, Cas."
"We have to get inside," Castiel repeated, even more urgently. "Now."
The feeling that was growing was finally acknowledged as worry. He'd felt it often enough in his lifetime that it didn't take too long to recognize: it was just a shock when he did. Still, it was ever present and propelled the, "What's wrong with Sam?" without a second's hesitation.
Castiel shook his head helplessly. His throat was starting to feel too tight, a sure sign of anxiousness, and Dean shouldered past the angel to open the eye hole, weariness long forgotten. "Sam?" he called, trying to scan through the darkness. His voice echoed into the room, and through the moonlight coming from the hole above he could make out the bed in the center. The empty bed. Sam had insisted on them binding him, but Dean had refused. He remembered having felt traces of guilt then, regret. Sick at the thought of having to do it. Anger that Sam would even suggest such a thing.
He was feeling a lot of the same emotions again when Sam continued to not answer. "Sammy?" he called once more, his hand reaching for the door. The locks were thrown and he twisted the handle until it was in the unlocked position. He wrenched it with a savage pull, forcing himself to breathe.
The door wouldn't give. Dean stared at the door and pulled again, tugging as hard as he could. Nothing. "What the..."
"The hell's going on down there?"
Dean swallowed back the rising fear and yelled back, "The door won't unlock. I mean, it's unlocked, but it won't friggin' open!" Something must have jammed. God, Sam could be hurt in there, and because he'd begged Dean to do it, Dean had put him in there. Then left to wander around outside and leave Sam down here alone, and if Sam was seriously hurt-
Dean froze. "Bobby?" he called, not liking the tone in his friend's voice.
When Bobby replied back, Dean's blood went cold. "The lock...it was originally meant to lock from the inside. I didn't even think that Sam would-"
Bobby cut himself off. Dean closed his eyes and rested his forehead against the door. It was cold to the touch and hard, wouldn't give. Wouldn't open.
Of course Sam would lock himself in. He'd been adamant about going in there this time, determined to prove to Dean that he was still in control, that he could still make the right decisions. Like Dean hadn't known that already, with Sam turning Famine down. Or coming to save Dean's ass, now that Dean thought about it.
"I can't," and Castiel sounded pained when he said it. Dean whirled around to where Castiel stood, clenching his fists. "There are wards on the room..."
Angel-repelling wards. Dean had put them up himself. Which meant that Castiel couldn't get in. "Goddammit," Dean swore, banging his hand on the wall. He couldn't get in, Bobby was stuck, and Castiel was helpless. The only person that could get Sam out was Sam, and god knew the state his brother was in right now.
Fear was threatening to overwhelm him, making it hard to breathe. His stomach was twisting to the point of nausea, and the tears he'd blinked away outside were rising to the surface from desperation and panic. "Sammy," he called through the small window. "Sammy, answer me!"
Nothing. "Oh c'mon kiddo, don't do this to me now," Dean pleaded, stepping back to eye the door. The hinges were on the inside, and nothing was going to open save for the window. It was big enough to see through, and maybe big enough to get his arm in. He began pulling his top layers off until he was down to his t-shirt, then moved towards the door again.
His hand slid through easily enough, but it was at the elbow that he got stuck. Dean stifled his curses and twisted his arm, feeling for the lock on the other side. By his measure, he was probably almost there. If he could get his elbow in, he'd make it. Of course, if he got his elbow in, he'd probably never get it out.
But it was Sam. Pure and simple. And while Dean didn't feel too much of anything these days, the one thing he did feel for was Sammy. Gritting his teeth he began pushing his elbow through the window.
Dean froze for the second time since he'd gotten back downstairs. "Sammy?" he called, then pulled his arm out when he realized he wouldn't have been heard. "Sam?" he called again. "Sammy, where are you?"
Oh god this was bad. "Sammy, I need you to get to the door," he insisted. "You locked it, and I can't get in."
From inside the room there was a shuffling of some sort, and his ears desperately tried to pinpoint where it was coming from. Maybe the far right side? "Sh'dn't c'm in, sh'd...stay 'n. Hafta stay in."
He wasn't making a lick of sense, and Dean was tempted to jam his arm back into the window to get him out. Except now that Dean had him talking, he was reluctant to let the small connection go. "Sammy, the door. I need you to get to the door. Then I can come in."
"No," Sam insisted. That sounded more coherent and clear, at least. "Gotta stay out 'n stay in. Can't...can't c'mout. Gotta stay."
Dean closed his eyes and rested his forehead against the door. "No you don't," he said quietly. "You don't have to stay, kiddo. Time's up, okay?" Not that he knew if it was, if Sam was clean, but enough was enough, and Dean needed his little brother out of there, now. His little brother thinking he deserved to be in there was too much for Dean to handle, and his chest felt twisted and too tight. God, Sam...
More shuffling. "No, s'not...can't ever..."
Swallowing back what Dean was pretty certain was his heart, he opened his eyes and leaned as close to the window as he could. "Sammy, I want you to listen to me, okay? I need you to get to the door. It's an emergency, and I need your help out here. After that, we can get you back in there, but I need you out here right now. Please, Sam," and he was lying in every way possible because no way in hell was Sam going back in there, but the other parts were true, and he was appealing to the little brother in Sam to listen and do this for his big brother. Hoping that there was enough of that little brother left in there to answer.
And when there was more shuffling and Sam's fervent, weak response, "Yeah, m'c'min'," Dean could've cried.
The soft sounds of clothes and body being dragged over the floor made Dean even more anxious. Then, finally, there was a bang at the door, a dull ring that almost damn near made him jump. "Sam?" he called. "Sammy?"
Less coherent, but closer. Way closer. The light was bad but Dean could make out the tip of Sam's bare foot through the eye hole. It hadn't been bare when Dean had left him in there. "The door, Sammy. Unlock the door."
Another dull ring made Dean want to cringe, but he merely stepped to the side where the door wouldn't hit him. After ages and eons there was finally a heavy click, and Dean grabbed the handle from his side and wrenched it. It slid open with a heavy grinding sound and Sam came tumbling out, already halfway back to unconsciousness.
Castiel was suddenly there, catching the other side of Sam when Dean could only take half. "Upstairs?" the angel asked, and Dean didn't even nod before they were in the living room. Like magic Bobby was suddenly there as well, and together they wrestled Sam onto the sofa.
Sammy looked nearly dead. His eyes were sunken and bruised looking, and skin was nearly alabaster white. He shivered and shook while his dirty, ripped clothes almost swayed with his movements. "Blankets," Bobby ordered. "Top shelf from the closet upstairs."
Dean assumed he was talking to Castiel and completely ignored him. Sure enough there were suddenly blankets being thrown over Sam. Sam for his part blinked slowly at the world around him, only stopping when he finally landed his gaze on Dean. Then he was struggling to sit up, still shivering and too weak to do it. "Easy, tiger," Dean soothed, gently pushing him back down. "Just stay down for me, okay?"
Dean gazed at him for a long moment. His heart was starting to slow in his chest, and when he reached up to push Sam's hair from his face, the last of the panic faded. Peace was beginning to settle inside of him, and he slowly smiled. "Not help," he admitted. "Needed you."
Sam fought to sit up again, and this time managed a glare when Dean again nudged him down. "Gotta go back...D'n, gotta..."
"No," Dean said, voice gentle but firm. "No more panic room, okay? We're staying up here." He placed the emphasis on the 'we', hoping Sam would pick up on it somehow.
While he didn't say anything, Sam did finally stay on the sofa. The shivers were tapering off and his eyes were drifting shut. Dean couldn't say for certain, but the tension in his brother's frame seemed like it was melting away, too. And when Sam held up his hand, Dean didn't hesitate to take it. Moments after that, Sam fell asleep. Probably the first time he'd slept since they'd gotten there.
"Forgot how much I enjoyed you boys panicking me," Bobby drawled, but the relief was written all over his face. Dean couldn't help his grin, and muttering something Bobby wheeled himself away. After a moment, Castiel followed.
The panic wasn't enjoyable. Dean remembered now why he'd begged not to feel anything. That heart-stopping terror, that fear...it wasn't fun.
But the relief that came with it, the love that got wrapped up in all that worry...that was what Dean had been missing.
He took a seat on the sofa beside his little brother and held the hand of the reason he could feel again.