Title: Also Full of Overcoming
Summary: Written for the sassy_otp sassy_otpSastiel fanworks exchange. From a prompt by weirdwednesday. Cas takes care of Sam as he's detoxing for the second time, after 5.14.
Characters: Sam & Cas, totally gen. (I'm so sorry, prompter! I hope you're not too disappointed).
Disclaimer: Jim Beaver replied to one of my tweets this one time. Does that count?
Warnings: Angst. Not much else. Spoilers up to 5.14
Neurotic Author's Note #1: I was given three prompts to work with: a story that took place during or after 5.14; "it's one of those impossible things that are begging to be proved doable;" and "Oh yeah, talk to me in dead languages some more." I managed the first, danced carefully around the second, and totally munged the third. So, uh, I hope this is okay, weirdwednesday.
Neurotic Author's Note #2: While I love the idea of Sam/Cas, I am apparently not yet in the right mindspace to write it convincingly. I tried, I really did!
Neurotic Author's Note #3: I would like to thank my beta, nwspaprtaxis, for giving me some very sound advice on some of the plot points/character development in this fic. All other mistakes are mine. :)
Not for the first time, Castiel isn't sure that he agrees with Dean Winchester's proposed course of action. In his experience, he has found that Dean tends to act in accordance with his feelings, which is not always the most logical way to proceed, nor always the most desirable. This time, however, he is acutely aware that the decision isn't his to make: it's up to Sam and Dean, and most importantly up to Sam, and Sam has said that he wants this. It's difficult to fathom why Sam would willingly submit to being locked in Bobby Singer's panic room for a second time, especially considering the circumstances which surrounded his first incarceration in there, but Castiel understands at least in theory that it's important that Sam be allowed to make the choice for himself.
Dean is not here, no more able to stomach listening to his brother's screaming and raving than he was the last time, and so Castiel has resolved to keep watch for as long as is necessary, as much to watch over Sam as to atone in some small way for his own actions in bringing about the death of Lilith and the beginning of the apocalypse the last time they all found themselves here. Guilt is an unaccustomed emotion, as are its companions, remorse and shame, and he finds the whole experience most uncomfortable and unwelcome. The only thing that appears to soothe the discomfort is to check frequently on Sam's well-being, or lack thereof in this case.
It's been four days, nearly five, and Sam has finally stopped screaming. The seizures have mostly stopped as well, though the hallucinations haven't, and Castiel has already taken the liberty of unlocking the handcuffs that were keeping Sam pinned to the narrow cot in the panic room and which cut into his wrists deeply enough to draw blood. Looking in now through the narrow slot in the door, he can barely make out Sam's figure, huddled on himself in a corner. Sam has made no attempt to escape, nor, Castiel reminds himself, does he have any reason to. The events of the last few days were entirely out of Sam's control, just as they were out of Castiel and Dean's control, and in light of that, Sam's behaviour is to be commended rather than condemned.
Castiel slips inside the room, bolting the door as a precaution. He moves purposefully toward Sam, and drops to a crouch next to him.
There's no response, which is not unusual. There is about a fifty percent chance that Sam will be able to distinguish between reality and hallucination. He reaches out, clasps Sam's wrist loosely in his hand.
Sam starts violently, attempting to jerk out of his grasp. "No, don't!" It's little more than a whisper, his voice is hoarse from screaming, vocal cords scraped raw.
"It's just me," Castiel attempts to reassure him, then tilts his head, trying to get a better look at Sam's eyes. The pupils are fixed, he notes with some dismay, not reacting at all to the changes in the light in the room.
Sam's eyes track sightlessly for a moment, even as he presses further back against the wall. "Who's there?" he asks, voice breaking. "Come on, say something!"
"Sam, it's me. Tell me what's wrong. Can you see?" Castiel waves a hand in front of Sam's face, but gets no reaction save that Sam keeps struggling, keening quietly, forehead pressed into the corner. After a moment, Castiel realizes Sam is trying to scream, and simply can't, too weak and too wrecked after his four-day ordeal. Castiel presses his lips together, feels something all too human clench in his chest.
"Sam... can you not hear me?"
There's still no response to his words, which he takes as confirmation. Sam is rocking back and forth, still making that terrible, quiet noise, arms pulled up over his head. Castiel sits back on his heels, resting his elbows on his thighs, stares for a few moments. Then he gets up and goes to break the news to Dean and Bobby.
He's playing the five-minute game when it all starts to go wrong. Well, more wrong than it already is. Sam has been through this before, so he can do it again. At least, that's what he told himself when he agreed with Dean to let himself be locked down to ride out the withdrawal from the demon blood. Dean couldn't even look at him, so it seemed something of a blessing in disguise to have this very physical problem, one he knew could be dealt with even if it was guaranteed to suck. He doesn't know what he'll say to Dean when this is over, but right now that seems like the least of his problems.
The five-minute game is not a recent discovery, nor can Sam claim credit for having discovered it. It's one he learned from a friend back in college, trying to help another friend come off a really bad trip. Brady had been nearly out of his mind, seeing things and imagining that something was crawling under his skin, but had adamantly refused to be taken to a hospital. So Sam had sat with him, watching the luminous display of the digital clock on the night table in Brady's room.
"It's simple," Sam murmurs to himself, half-remembering what he told Brady, who'd been shaking so hard it seemed he was having a seizure, and half-reassuring himself that he's still present. "Just watch the clock, and wait five minutes."
Bobby doesn't have a digital clock anywhere near his house, but there is a cheap wall clock mounted high out of reach on the wall, and Sam keeps his gaze determinedly fixed on its hands, ticking inexorably forward into the next minute. He doesn't count how many times he's started over. It's a simple math problem, but he doesn't want to think about how long he's been in here, about just how much longer this might take. It's a waiting game. Sam has never been good at waiting.
"Hurry up and wait," he tells the empty room, and wheezes a laugh until another round of cramps forces him to curl up again, whimpering. Wait for the pain to pass, wait for the hallucinations to stop. Wait for the pain to come back, wait for the parade of ghosts from his mind return to remind him that he's a failure, that no matter how fast or how far he runs, his destiny is waiting for him just around the next corner. It's all about waiting, in the end. Lucifer is endlessly patient.
He's not so far gone that he doesn't know Cas is there, sometimes. Mostly he's grateful for the angel's presence, and sometimes all it does is bring home with a painful wrench that the only person who's sticking around is doing so solely to make sure he doesn't do anything even more abysmally self-destructive than he already has. That the one person he really wants to be here can't bear to be in the same room with him. The only time Dean comes is when Sam hallucinates him using the Colt to try to put a bullet in his heart.
"You're like a rabid dog, Sam," Dean tells him coolly, cocking the gun. "It's not your fault, I get that, but you still have to be put down before you spread the disease to others. You understand, right?"
Sam whimpers from where he's wedged himself into a corner of the room, but he nods, closes his eyes, and waits for the bang that will tell him his brother has finally decided to put him out of his misery. Nothing happens, and disappointment and relief war in his chest. Hallucination, he tells himself. It's not real. Time to look at the clock, he tells himself. Count for five minutes.
But when he opens his eyes, all he sees is darkness.
"So what does it mean?"
Bobby is sitting hunched over in his wheelchair, his face grey, drawn with worry. It took Castiel some time to grasp the human understanding of family, but now that he knows it's not all that far removed from how angels view each other, he understands that Bobby sees both Sam and Dean as surrogate sons, and his anxiety explains itself that much more easily.
"I suspect it may be psychological in nature," Castiel says, attempting to weigh his words in order to soften the blow. It's difficult to tell, with humans, just what will do that. "As far as I know, demon blood does not contain any properties which would spontaneously make a man go deaf and blind."
"Small mercies," Bobby mutters, staring at his hands. "So, what, it's hysterical blindness?"
"Something like that," he assents. "It may be that whatever he was experiencing was so overwhelming that his mind could no longer encompass it. I think this might be a way, however inefficient, of protecting himself against the unbearable."
"So it ain't gonna be permanent?"
"I don't know," Castiel has to be honest. "It should not be, but the human mind is a complex organism―"
"Dammit, can I get a straight answer out of you for once?"
Castiel blinks, struggles to contain his annoyance. "That is a straight answer. I simply don't know."
Bobby sighs, rubs a hand over his beard. "Fair enough," he grumbles, and Castiel knows that's as close to an apology as he's likely to get out of the man. "Dean ain't takin' it well," he adds, not that it comes as a surprise.
Castiel sighs. It's been days, and even though he is no longer tapped into the angel's communications directly, he's still dimly aware of the rumours circulating through the ranks of heaven, and he's always been keenly aware of Dean's prayers, louder and clearer in his mind than any others, like a bell. Dean's despair is palpable, the air in the house thick with it, making it difficult to walk. Castiel has no idea how Bobby is able to stand it, but perhaps humans can't sense these things as acutely.
"If I could find him," Bobby continues, "I'd shake some sense into that fool head of his. Both of 'em, for that matter. This ain't the time to be wallowing in self-pity. But he ain't listening to me. He's crawled down the neck of the closest bottle, and he ain't fixing to come out anytime soon. I don't suppose you feel like trying? Maybe he'll listen to you."
Castiel has become all too familiar with Bobby's brand of what Dean once termed 'tough love.' It seems to be the only method Bobby has of dealing with the Winchesters at their worst, and it strikes Castiel as inefficient most of the time, even counterproductive on occasion. He turns his back on Bobby, lifting his face toward the sky, though he knows there is no revelation to be had there, not anymore.
"What?" Bobby is frowning at him.
"I am reminded," he keeps looking up at the ceiling, "of something Sam once said to me. He told me that if a hammer is the only tool you have at your disposal, pretty soon all your problems begin to resemble nails."
To his surprise, Bobby chuckles. "Sounds like Sam, all right. Too bad he can't talk to his brother. Maybe that would work. But it's not like that's gonna happen anytime soon."
"You're suggesting that it's impossible?"
Bobby rolls his eyes. "You're the one who says Sam's blind and deaf. You tell me how it's possible."
"I once told Dean that I am not a hammer. I think, perhaps, it's time that I proved that."
Castiel smiles, and if he were not above such things, he would definitely enjoy the look of astonishment on Bobby's face.
Someone has been coming and going. Sam is dimly aware of the occasional press of a hand against his shoulder, or his leg, although he wishes they wouldn't touch him. He can sense them when they're there, can feel the soft vibration of footsteps on the floor, but he flinches at every touch like it's an electrical shock. His own voice echoes hollowly in his head whenever he tries to talk, but it hurts so much he doesn't try often. He thinks hours may have passed, maybe days, but it's impossible to tell. All he remembers is the mind-numbing panic, once the worst of the withdrawal was past, of waking up to a world of pitch-black silence.
"Are you there?"
There's no answer, but he wasn't expecting one. He leans against the wall, hasn't moved from there in God only knows how long. The terrible thing about all this is that he's pretty sure the worst of the withdrawal is over and done with. Every part of him aches, as though he's been beaten by several men armed with bats, his throat is raw, mouth parched, lips cracking, and his clothes are stuck to him with sweat and vomit and probably urine, though he's past being able to tell just how badly he must reek. The worst should be over, but he's not sure he isn't worse off than he was before. He'll be a burden, now, moreso than ever. The best he can do is just sit here, wedged in a corner of Bobby's panic room, and hope that Dean will come for him, in spite of everything.
Sam starts as he feels the air around him displace slightly, and a hand clasps itself firmly around his wrist. Instinctively he pulls away, but the grip is too strong to resist, and he finds his hand being pulled forward. It's not Dean, that much he can tell: he's always known Dean's touch, from the understated pushes and nudges to the brief hugs all the way to the brutal punches Dean has thrown at him over the years. This touch is different, subtle yet immeasurably strong, and all the panic he thought was finally at bay comes rushing back to the fore. It's too much, too fast, and he doesn't know who it is, and he lashes out with his free arm, kicking at the person trying to pull him away.
He feels a scream start and die in his throat, his breathing harsh in his head. The grip on his arm is too strong, and the pull on his hand is rougher, more insistent. His fingers uncurl in spite of himself. A hand brushes against his palm, the skin smooth and unbroken, then fingers press more firmly there in a series of repetitive motions.
"What are you doing?"
The motions repeat, and a moment later something clicks in his mind. He knows this. He concentrates, tilting his head as though it might help him to better grasp what's happening. Then he grins, as the press of fingers against his hand differentiates itself into letters, traced carefully in capitals with the tip of a finger. C-A-S-T―
"Cas?" he gropes with his free hand, finds the familiar texture of the drill of Castiel's trench coat.
A rocking motion against his palm. It's ASL, he remembers dimly from an elective he'd started taking that last semester at Stanford, never to be completed. Sam's eyes sting, even as he laughs, and the tension drains from his body, leaving him feeling boneless and limp with relief.
"Jesus, Cas..." he has to swallow a sob. "I'd say it's good to hear your voice, but..." his voice cracks painfully.
There's a pat on his shoulder, and he feels the neck of a plastic bottle being pressed to his lips, and he reaches up to take the water bottle and tilt its contents into his mouth with a barely-suppressed moan of relief. The water feels like... cool honey, is the best his tired mind can come up with, washing down his throat, cooling the burning that hasn't stopped in days. He laughs in spite of himself, forces his vocal cords to keep working.
"I think I probably make for a really ugly Helen Keller."
There's an insistent tug on his sleeve. Castiel's hand finds his again, begins to spell. C-O-M-E.
He's bone-weary, and even making out the word makes him want to curl up in a ball on the floor and wait for oblivion. "You want me to come with you?"
"What if it's not over?"
The denial is simple, but effective. He's done, and they both know it, but he's not sure he's ready to face the outside world. "Cas... I can't. Look at me," he pleads. At least down here, he knows it's safe."I can't. Please. Not yet."
The word repeats, implacable. C-O-M-E. There's no way to tell what sort of tone is behind the simple word, but something tells him this is important, that there's more to this than Castiel just trying to pull him away from the panic room.
"Why? What's happening?"
There's a hesitation, barely a fraction of a second long, but it's noticeable nonetheless, in this place where time has slowed to a crawl. Then Castiel's fingers press against his hand again. D-E-A-N.
"Dean needs me?"
He nods, blows out a breath, steels himself for what's going to come next. Then he reaches out to grab at Castiel's arm.
"Okay. Okay, Cas. Help me up."