When Dean went back inside, the house was quiet.

Too quiet, the voice in his head that sounded vaguely like John Wayne added.

He headed straight for the basement. His brain was racing but his legs were moving so slowly he felt like an old man.

Cas is down there, he reminded himself. Cas is an idiot, he answered himself.

It was like walking through water going down the steps to Bobby's basement. Cas was waiting at the bottom, standing well away from the door to the panic room as though it were about to burst into flames.

"What is it?" Dean asked. His voice sounded sluggish even to his own ears.

"He's having a fit." Cas's voice, by contrast, with quick and sharp. He was doing that darty thing with his eyes, and his hands were stuck firmly in the pockets of his coat. "I— there's nothing we can do."

Dean looked at him as the noises from inside the panic room became suddenly audible. Choking, gurgling, spitting. Sam sounded like he was dying.

"It's minor," Cas said, a hint of urgency to his voice that Dean supposed was his attempt at reassurance. "Not like last time. It was a large dose, but it was concentrated…"

Dean turned away and tuned out the rest of the angel's words, his ears filled with the nearly inhuman sounds of Sam suffering through withdrawal. He bit down on the urge to yell that there was nothing fucking minor about it. He wanted to go back upstairs, go back outside, get in the Impala and just fucking get away from this house and the panic room and Bobby drinking himself to sleep and Cas hunching his shoulders and Sam tied to a bed being torn apart from the inside.

But his feet wouldn't carry him back up the steps, wouldn't let him move one inch from his spot. So he stood there, taking every gasp and hiss and retch Sam made like blows.

Then it was quiet. The silence was like a breath, allowing Dean to move again. He turned back to Cas, making no attempt this time to catch his eye, knowing if one thing was certain in the whole damn uncertain world it was that Cas would stand there for all of eternity if he needed too. Realizing he was still clutching the whiskey, Dean pushed the half-drunk bottle into Cas' hand then went straight to the door of the panic room, opened it, and went inside.

Sam was lying on the bed, spread eagle on his back with his wrists and feet tied to the frame, just as they'd left him several hours ago when they'd first arrived at Bobby's and headed straight to the panic room. Sam had asked to be locked in there, asked to be tied down. He'd thrown up twice on the drive from the restaurant to Bobby's— thankfully with enough warning that Dean had been able to pull the Impala over. If Sam had thrown up in his car, Dean probably would have shot him— and in response to Dean's look when he had strode willingly into the panic room, Sam had said firmly, "I just want it out of me."

Half an hour later and he'd started screaming.

Now he was quiet, lying limp and still. He might have been sleeping if not for his eyes, open and unfocused, staring at a spot on the far wall. It wasn't until Dean drew closer that he noticed the sheen of sweat coating Sam's skin and the dark stain of blood trickling from his mouth.

Dean put his hands immediately on Sam's chest, fearing he'd thrown up again or maybe the seizure had caused some sort of internal bleeding. Then he noticed the raw and torn skin of Sam's bottom lip. Goddamnit, he'd practically bitten straight though it.

Dean grabbed an extra rag from the table and dumped some water on it from the pitcher there. The sight of more blood trickling down Sam's chin was just too much right now. Dean sat on the edge of the bed and gently, like he was treating a much more serious wound, began to wipe the blood from Sam's face.

Sam stirred slightly under Dean's touch and his lips moved against the damp rag. For a moment Dean thought he was coming back to consciousness, but Sam's eyes stayed fixed blearily on a point across the room. Dean finished cleaning him off and tossed the rag into a corner. Sam's lips moved a little more urgently now, and one of his hands twitched. Dean leaned closer, trying to hear the words.

For a long second the only sound was the steady whir of the ceiling fan. Then Dean realized. Sam wasn't saying any words. He was whimpering.

It was a sound Dean had never heard his brother make before, not even when he was six and he'd fallen from a tree they were climbing and broke his arm in two places, or when he was fifteen and he'd been shot on a hunt and Dean had had to pull the bullet out using nothing but a Bic pen, or that time he'd had his fingernail ripped out by those fucking pagan gods. It was a sound that went beyond pain and beyond pleading into abject despair. It was a sound Dean remembered hearing in Hell.

He stood up so fast the bed slid several inches across the floor. Whirling, Dean grabbed it and shoved it the rest of the way to the wall. Sam jolted slightly from the impact, but Dean was already there, steadying him even as he undid the straps holding him to the bed and let them clatter loudly to the floor. He hauled Sam to a sitting position, swinging his legs so his feet were on the floor, then propping him against the wall while Dean snatched up a blanket from where it lay folded on the table.

Sam was shaking violently, head rolling against the wall, small whimpers still escaping his throat. Dean dragged him forward so he could wrap the blanket around his shoulders, tucking it in tight. He realized then he was talking, a flow of meaningless words to cover the awful noises ripping their way out of Sam's throat.

"It's okay, Sammy. We're going to get you warm now and you'll be fine. Come on now, lean back. That's it. It's going to be okay, Sammy. I'm here."

He seized the water pitcher from table and poured a glass. Most of the water ended up on Sam's shirt at first but eventually Dean was able to coax him into taking several drinks. Siting next to him on the bed Dean felt a sudden, swooping sense of deja vu, remembering Sam as a little kid sick with the flu.

Dean had always hated it when Sam got sick because it made him feel like he did now— clumsy, inadequate, helpless. This wasn't a danger he could shoot or stab or scare off, and he fucking hated it. He thought about all the things he used to do for Sam when he was sick as a kid. When he was younger, it was reading him Babar Loses His Crown and making him wear four layers of sweatshirts. Then as Sam got older it was watching infomercials with him and making faces at his stupid pansy tea. No matter what age he was, Dean always made Sam tomato rice soup. Or at least he attempted.

It was one of Dean's few clear memories of his mother, her pouring thick, warm soup into a bowl while telling him it was what her mother used to make her and it could cure anything. She had been a good cook, Dean knew, so he liked to imagine her whipping it up from scratch at superhuman speed.

She'd never had a chance to teach Dean that skill, however, and his dad's culinary skills had been limited to picking a restaurant from a take-out menu. Still, when it came to soup and sickness, Dean was resolute, and though he had to buy the stuff in a can and make the rice separate and it was never all that smooth and sometimes he burnt it a little bit, he made tomato rice soup every time Sam had anything worse than a runny nose.

He wished it was that simple now. Goddamn he wished everything was that simple now.

"Dean?" Sam's voice was rough and his chattering teeth made the words garbled.

"I'm here, Sammy." Dean twisted on the bed to look at his brother but Sam's eyes were still looking across the room, flicking anxiously back and forth as though he was watching a highly disturbing tennis match.

"Don't tell Dean," Sam continued, quietly pleading. "Please, Jess. Don't tell him."

"Sam…" Dean was at a loss, staring pointlessly across the room, trying in vain to see the phantoms that so tortured his brother.

"I'm so sorry. Jess—" Sam groaned and slumped back against the wall. Another shudder ripped through him, strong enough to rattle the bed frame.

Dean reached out and gripped Sam's shoulder, hoping the touch might anchor him, draw him out of his mind and away from the demons that seemed to live there. He could feel the heat pouring off Sam even through the blanket. Dean pushed his other hand against Sam's forehead, deja vu slamming back as he remembered the countless times he'd checked Sam for fevers, then pulled it back just as quickly, scalded.

He turned away, reaching for the water pitcher again, wondering if he should shout for Cas to get some ibuprofen from Bobby's medicine cabinet, feeling so fucking frustrated with himself for being so helpless and so goddamn useless, all the fucking time


He turned back to find Sam looking at him. His eyes were wet and bloodshot, giving the creepy impression that he'd been weeping blood, but they were clear.

"Hey, Sammy." Dean tried to smile but couldn't quite manage it. He finished pouring another glass of water. Sam watched him, confusion creasing his face.

"I don't… I can't tell—" Sam struggled to sit up, still disoriented and shaking, but Dean pushed him back.

"Drink this," he ordered, holding out the glass of water. "Slowly."

"Sure you don't have anything stronger?" Sam joked weakly, coughing on his second sip.

"Sorry." Dean was watching him intently, noting every twitch and labored breath. "How are you feeling?"

"Fantastic." Sam slumped back against the wall again as though the simple act of drinking the water had taken all his strength. He closed his eyes and for a moment Dean was sure he'd passed out. But he just seemed to be preparing himself for another glance across the room. His eyes hardened, fear and anger and disgust flashing rapidly across his face, before he looked back to Dean and relaxed slightly.

"Actually," Sam continued, clearing his throat and attempting his own smile. "I'm a little hungry."

"Okay." This was something Dean could do. "I'll go upstairs and see what Bobby's got in the fridge. It's probably gonna be a choice between week-old jerky or stale corn chips, though."

Sam snorted, tugging the blanket tighter around his shuddering frame. Dean resisted the urge to reach out and help him. "What about soup?" Sam asked quietly, eyes on his lap.

"Soup?" Dean repeated.

"Yeah, you know. Like when we were kids." Sam glanced up at Dean and shrugged almost embarrassedly, a genuine smile tugging at the corner of his mouth despite the continuing hint of despair in his eyes. "It can cure anything."

Not this, Dean thought. No amount of tomato rice soup was going to cure Sam's painful attraction to the darkness inside of him. It wasn't going to cure the clutching forces of Heaven and Hell ripping continuously into their lives. It wasn't going to cure them of being vessels, or wash all the innocent blood from their hands, or reverse the coming Apocalypse and make the world a wonderful place full of puppies and fucking rainbows.

But for the moment, it was able to put a smile on Sam's drawn and pale face, and so Dean pushed all the other stuff aside, and simply said,

"Okay, Sammy. I'll make you some soup."