AN: Hey everyone! Over Christmas break, I was struck with what felt like millions of ideas that were too small to turn into anything. Then, I decided maybe they could turn into something!

This story is going to be a compilation of sorts, consisting of post-"Appointment in Samarra" one-shots. Each chapter will be a new and different metaphor describing one of our boys or their situation. I'm not sure how long it'll be, as I'll just add a chapter each time inspiration strikes. But if anyone has any suggestions or ideas for metaphors/chapters they'd like to see, let me know and I can take a crack at it!

The timeline (a month or so after the episode) probably won't vary too much. I really hope everyone enjoys it! Thank you!


Sam feels his brother's hand squeezing his shoulder, and he wonders what the hell happened to bring him to the brink so quickly. Not an hour ago, he was sitting across from his brother, arguing with one of his stupid ideas. And now, he's sitting here, staring at a cardboard puzzle, trying to find the will to wipe away the wetness running down his cheek.

Like the flick of a switch, Sam's a mess, and his mind is trying to catch up with the present, trying to understand why he feels so dark and defeated and hopeless. The scene from just over an hour ago flashes before him, struggling to make the connection.

. . .

"Dean, this is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard."

Dean shook his head, spreading the hundreds of pieces across the surface of the table. "Don't lie, Sam. I heard you listening to Lady Gaga in the car yesterday."

Sam glared at his brother darkly. "Shut up, dick, it's called the radio. If you left the dark ages and picked up an actual CD for once in your life, you'd know that."

Letting out a light laugh, Dean pulled up a chair and sat down across from Sam. "Either way, we're giving this a try."

Sam stared incredulously at the array of puzzle pieces spread out before him. Dean had walked in moments before, holding a box, then unceremoniously dumped it on the table Sam was sitting at. Dean had that 'I'm-up-to-something-and-I-know-you-know-it' grin plastered on his face, and Sam inwardly groaned.

"What the hell is this?" Sam had asked his brother, annoyance tainting his words.

"This," Dean said, sweeping his hand proudly over the scattered pieces, "Is a jigsaw puzzle, Sammy. And it's what's gonna keep you from biting my head off all the time."

"I do not bite your head off!" Sam said sharply. Dean raised his eyebrows with a knowing smirk and Sam swore under his breath.

"Hear me out, Sam. I know it sounds crazy, but I was surfing the web the other day, and I read that one of the best ways to relax someone's noggin is to engage it in a calming activity. Case in point—jigsaw puzzle. There's been scientific study things and everything, bro. It's something with your subconscious or something. I don't know dude, but I can't take another day of your uptight bitch-boy routine, so it's worth a shot."

Sam had to agree, he'd been pretty short-fused lately. Ever since he woke up at Bobby's those weeks ago, with no clue what was happening or where he was. All he'd known for days was pain and confusion, and despite Dean's assurances and support, Sam was still easily frustrated with…everything.

Still, Sam gaped at the elder Winchester. Had he lost his damn mind? "Dean, you do realize that this is what nursing home residents do for fun, right?"

Dean sat down in the chair, smiling grandly. "Open mind, Sammy, open mind."

And with that, he started flipping over pieces and examining them. Too tired and unwilling to argue further, Sam followed suit, and in minutes, the two were engrossed in the puzzle before them.

. . .

A little less than an hour later, the puzzle wasn't even a quarter of the way finished, pieces still spread haphazardly across the table.

"That's it," Dean said, pushing back from the table. "I'm done. This freaking thing must be rigged or something. You were right, little bro, dumbass idea. Let's go to Mulligan's and blow off some steam. I swear this is the most frustrating stick of cardboard on the planet!" Dean huffed and stood up heatedly, knocking a few pieces to the floor.

Sam said nothing, eyes narrowed intently at the puzzle. Dean kicked his brother's chair. "Sam, come on."

"You go ahead, Dean, I'll meet you at the bar later. I think I have it." Sam's eyes never left the puzzle, flicking quickly from piece to piece. His fingers slid gently over each cardboard bit, constantly spinning or moving them from one spot to another.

Dean looked at his brother uneasily. "Dude, I think you're obsessing a bit. Just leave it, we can come back later."

"You can't just give up on it, Dean, it takes time," Sam said angrily. "Damnit, Dean, you can't just give up on it!"

Taken aback by Sam's outburst, Dean carefully moved to cover up the puzzle with the box. "Calm down, Sammy."

"No!" Sam said sharply. His arm shot out, hitting the box right out of Dean's hands. Dean looked at Sam, stunned.

"Sam," he said, a hint of fear in his voice. "You need to relax. It's just a puzzle, dude. It's not worth it, just chill out."

Sam's breath deepened, jaw clenched. Dean spoke again, more gently, "It's ok. It's not worth it, Sammy."

Sam looked up at his brother, as if seeing him for the first time in an hour. "I'm sorry," he whispered. "I'm sorry."

Then, he looked back at the puzzle, at the pieces Dean knocked to the ground. And he stared. He's not sure how long he stared for, but by the time he stops, Dean's hand is on his shoulder, and a track of moisture is racing down his own face.

. . .

And suddenly Sam remembers. He remembers why he's in his current position, and his mind connects the metaphor it'd been mulling over since Dean dumped the box of pieces before Sam.

His brother is still squeezing his shoulder, offering to help with the puzzle if Sam wants him to. But he doesn't understand.

Because that's not just a jigsaw puzzle. That mess of pieces and chaos and worthlessness—that's Sam.

He's just a fucking jigsaw puzzle gone awry, all rough edges and complicated curves. And in the end, not even worth putting together. Sooner or later, everyone gets sick of the frustration, the disappointment. Sooner or later, everyone gives up, and rightfully so. They grab the box, dump the little bits of cardboard, and walk away. Those damn little bits are left dirty and worn, scattered all over.

That's it. He's just a jigsaw puzzle, broken and defeated.

And he's just so damn sorry that Dean has to be the one to pick up the pieces.