Sam was floating. Somewhere deep inside he knew it was only an illusion but he allowed himself to embrace it, knowing it would only last for a short time. A hidden memory caressed his mind, whispering for him to reach out and grasp it and Sam cried out in agonizing pain as he allowed himself just one touch.
"Cas, I thought you fixed it!"
Sam struggled to open his eyes but the memory threatened to reel him in and this time he screamed, not only in pain but also in pure terror as an image exploded inside his head.
"CAS, DO SOMETHING!"
Strong hands were holding him down, pinning him inside his mind. He twisted in their grasp, trying to break free as panic bubbled up inside his chest. He clawed at the dark, flinching as something cool pressed against his forehead and then soothing relief flowed through his body. He relaxed in hands that he now recognized as familiar.
"D'n?" His brother's name came out slurred and he swallowed hard, trying again. "Dean?"
"I'm here, Sammy." Dean's calloused hand gripped his own. "I'm right here."
"My head." Sam groaned and brought his free hand up to press against his pounding skull.
"What's wrong with his head, Cas?"
Sam slit one eye open and found Castiel kneeling beside him and his brother hovering on the other side, still clutching Sam's hand, his face drained of all color.
Castiel gave Dean a sardonic glare. "Do you really want an answer?"
"Damn it, Cas! This is not the time for you to learn the art of sarcasm."
"I told you giving Sam his soul back wasn't the right thing to do."
"I heard you the first thousand times you told me, okay? I don't need you to keep reminding me."
Sam didn't think he'd ever seen his brother so scared, not even when a hellhound was breathing down his neck. He shook Dean's hand free of his own and pushed himself into a sitting position.
"I'm okay, Dean. Just help me up."
Castiel was already on his feet and offered his hand to Sam. Sam reached for it but faltered as he tried to stand, swaying against the angel who guided him to the edge of the bed. Sam sank down heavily, pressing the heels of his hands against his eyes.
"Humph, yeah, you look just peachy."
Sam could still hear the underlying fear in Dean's voice, regardless of the comment.
Sam caught a whiff of vomit and realized the front of his shirt was soaked in it. He moaned, holding his stomach as a wave of nausea swept over him.
"Here, Sammy." Dean was immediately there, holding a bucket, anxious green eyes betraying everything he felt.
Sam offered his brother a smile but it felt more like a grimace. "I think it's too late for that."
Dean wrinkled his nose. "For you maybe, but I was worried about my shoes."
Sam's stomach cramped violently and he reached for the bucket, retching loudly into its depths. He felt his brother's hand on the back of his neck, giving him a comforting squeeze as he continued to empty every meal he'd had in the last week into the smelly depository. He heaved one last time, pushed the bucket away and collapsed onto the bed.
Dean crossed the room and came back holding a faded grey hoodie. "Here, dude. Get out of that puke encrusted shirt."
Sam sat up and began fumbling with the buttons of his shirt but he couldn't seem to get his fingers to work. He was so tired. Why couldn't he just go back to floating?
"Dude, hey." Sam's eyes snapped open to find Dean kneeling in front of him, deftly taking care of the buttons that had so easily evaded him. "Here, help me out a little."
Sam shrugged out of the offending shirt, suddenly feeling small and helpless as Dean tugged the hoodie over his still throbbing head.
"I remembered Hell, didn't I?" Sam shuddered as something in his mind beckoned for him to take a closer look, just one little peek. "That's why Cas is here. He had to fix me."
Castiel shifted uncomfortably and Sam glanced up at the angel. "Did you fix me?"
"Yes, he fixed you." Dean threw a blanket around his shoulders, while glaring at Castiel as if daring the angel to contradict him.
Sam pulled the blanket tight around him. "I can't really be fixed, can I, Cas?"
"Sammy, don't say that." Dean's eyes were pleading this time as he looked to the angel for help. "Tell him, Cas."
Castiel pulled up a chair and sat facing him, which Sam found extremely disconcerting. If Castiel thought it was serious enough for him to sit, Sam wasn't sure he wanted to hear what the angel had to say. Dean took the space next to him on the bed and Sam leaned against his shoulder, needing the support of his older brother.
"Sam, you broke the wall Death put up but I've managed to patch it."
"What does that mean?"
"It means Death is a damn shoddy carpenter, that's what it means." Sam could feel Dean bristling beside him. His brother was angry and scared, which was never a good combination.
"It means you're okay for now, Sam." Castiel glanced at Dean. "I don't know how long it will last."
"If it breaks again, Cas can fix it, Sammy. Right, Cas?"
"Dean, I can't guar-"
Dean cut the angel off. "You can fix it. Right, Cas?"
"Yes, Dean." And with a soft whirring of wings, the angel disappeared from sight.
Dean's eyes were shining with tears and Sam didn't know if Castiel had agreed with his brother because of the tears or because the angel wasn't ready to face up to the fact that here was something he might not be able to fix.
"Sammy, I'm sorry."
Sam shook his head. "Nothing to be sorry for, Dean."
"Maybe I should have listened to Cas."
"What? You think you shouldn't have gotten my soul back?"
"I don't know, Sammy." Dean rubbed both his hands across his face. "I just don't know anything anymore."
"Well, I do." Sam stared at his hands, hands that had shed innocent blood. "I killed those people, Dean."
"It wasn't you, Sam."
"But it was me, Dean. It was me, just minus the part that makes me human." Sam took a deep breath. "I was a monster. Why didn't you just kill me?"
Dean sighed. "I couldn't, Sammy. You're still my brother."
Sam nodded. "That's what I've been saying, Dean. It was still me."
A long silence stretched between them and Sam had to fight the desire to close his eyes and just give in to the memories that kept invading his mind, flashes here and there of pain, blood and more death.
"What happened?" he asked softly. "What happened when I remembered Hell?"
"You don't need to think about it, Sammy." Sam could see his own pain reflected in his brother's eyes. "Please don't think about it."
Sam began to tremble uncontrollably. "I don't know how to stop it, Dean. It's there, just waiting for me. It keeps calling to me and I just want to float, Dean, I just want to float."
"Sammy?" Dean grabbed him by the arms, giving him a brisk shake. "You with me?"
Sam's eyes filled with tears. "I killed those people, Dean."
I just want to float.
Dean laid a comforting hand on his shoulder and Sam jerked away. He didn't deserve comfort. Who was comforting the families of the men he had killed? Sam heard the gunshots ringing in his head as if it had just happened, he saw the blood splattered across the ground and smelled the stench of burning flesh. If he was capable of that, what other atrocities had he committed?
"What else did I do, Dean? What else did I do?"
Sam covered his face with his hands, wishing that when he closed his eyes everything would go away but it was there, always within reach. Now that he'd remembered, there was no turning back. And somewhere out there in the far corners of his mind, stored behind a shaky wall, were memories worse than these. He cried out in despair and then Dean's arms were around him and Sam clutched at his brother, the only thing that could keep him grounded.
"Shhh, Sammy, it's gonna be okay, I promise." Dean whispered against his neck and suddenly another memory sprang up from the recesses of Sam's mind but this one was from his childhood: a dark night, a missing dad and an older brother who had whispered this same promise into the ear of a terrified ten year old boy. Dean had spent every day of his life making sure he kept that promise.
"Deaaaan." His brother's name came out as a wail, followed by bone wracking sobs.
"I got you, Sammy." Dean rocked him gently back and forth.
"Please don't let go, Dean." A fiery image crept forth, calling to him like a Siren, but Sam refused to listen, slamming it back behind the wall as Dean's arms tightened around him. "Don't let go."
I don't want to float.
A/N: Thanks for reading!