Coda to "The French Mistake"
Based on a very cool LiveJournal prompt for the ohsam h/c comment fic meme by phreakycat. I don't want to give away the plot but the prompt can be found here:
A big thank-you and virtual chocolate chip cookies to phreakycat as well for being my beta on this one!
Dean went to bed that night exhausted and irritable. Exhausted because what had been only a split second of actual time had translated into days in that whole parallel-universe-place-thing. Dean wanted to put it out of his mind for good, but Sam, being Sam, hadn't been able to help speculating. Had that world been an actual parallel dimension? And if so, how many others could exist? If not, then had it just been an unbelievably complicated construct of the angels on Cas's and Balthazar's side's design? Sure, it'd have to be a damn good one to be able to fool one of Raphael's henchmen, but Dean wouldn't put it past them. Not after his and Sam's realities had been screwed around with so many times by various angels—Zechariah, Gabriel, Michael, and Lucifer—but to be honest, he didn't know and he didn't care, and he sure didn't want to dwell on it.
Because, soap operas?
He could puke.
Add to that the fact that the topic of angels was one that made him want to put his fist through the nearest wall. Specifically, one stupid angel who couldn't seem to decide just whose side he was on and apparently couldn't spare two seconds to explain to him and Sam a damn thing about what he was up to, and then had the nerve to risk their hides without their knowledge, and all for a freaking diversion...
And to cap it all off, Bobby wasn't exactly thrilled when he came back from the liquor store to find his window smashed to bits. Not that he could really blame him for that, but still.
At any rate, Sam seemed to be taking this all in stride a lot better than he was, even if he'd gotten quieter as the night went on. Once he'd exhausted all his parallel universe theories, he'd turned in kind of early, muttering something about a headache. That wasn't surprising—he'd been having pretty bad ones on and off ever since…well, ever since that night in Bristol. But now that he thought about it, he didn't remember Sam having any while they'd been stuck back in TV Land, which was odd. It made Dean a bit edgy, and he turned in not long after Sam. He fully intended to barge into Sam's guest room if the lights weren't turned off and make up some lame excuse about needing to borrow toothpaste, or poke his head in the door if the lights were out just to make sure he really was just sleeping…
…And not locked inside his mind again.
Back behind the Wall.
Because even though Sam had promised him over and over again after Bristol that he wouldn't let himself wander back down memory lane again, Dean saw right through that. He knew exactly what every second of loaded silence from his brother over the past few weeks really meant. Sam was listening to him, but just barely, and probably still making himself miserable over being forbidden to know exactly what Sammybot 2.0 had been up to for a year and a half. What he'd done.
Who he'd killed.
He wasn't saying he wouldn't be going insane if he was in Sammy's place right now, but at the same time, why could Sam not get it through his thick skull that all that time it hadn't been him? How could he possibly hope to "set things right," anyway, even if he could get his memories back unscathed? When people were killed, the damage was done. Understanding and forgiveness weren't typically part of the package. He'd hoped that Brenna Dobbs would've shown him that.
And absolution never raised the dead, anyways.
Not that Sam cared.
Or seemed to understand, at least until after Bristol, that those memories would literally kill him.
Though he was sickened to think that during Sam's periods of withdrawn silence he was now reliving that glimpse of the Hell locked away in his head, he hoped Sam finally got it now.
But he wasn't so sure.
A little voice in Dean's head, a voice that Dean steadfastly ignored, told him that it was only a matter of time. After all, even though Sam had taken the bait to go to Bristol in the first place, it wasn't as though he'd had to actively try to bring the memories back. Who knew how long it'd be before something set him off again?
The lights were on when he did walk past the room. He knocked twice on the door, and then deciding it didn't matter much, barged in.
Sam was sitting on the edge of his bed, facing away from the door, dressed in old sweats. His computer was open on the bed next to him, but it appeared as though he was staring at the floor. He turned when the door opened. "Hey." He looked worn out and a little pale.
Dean gestured vaguely at Sam's bag sitting on the dresser. "Came to grab the toothpaste, think you stuck it in your bag…" he trailed off, knowing Sam wasn't buying it, and frowned. "You okay?"
Sam shrugged. "Headache. It's no big deal." He cocked an eyebrow. "But thanks for knocking this time."
"You're welcome." Dean didn't even bother looking apologetic—since Bristol he'd made Sam reluctantly agree to a don't-lock-me-out-of-any-room-you're-in policy, and he wasn't at all sorry.
Sam smiled wryly. "And the toothpaste's in your bag."
"Huh. Must've missed it there." He leaned against the dresser. "How bad?"
"Headache. How bad?"
Sam shrugged again.
Oh. So that bad. "You take anything for it?"
"Was about to."
"Take the ones I gave you."
Sam gave him a wary look. "What's in them?"
"Good stuff." And that was true. Really good stuff…
Legality be damned.
Dean held up his hands. "Alright, fine, Mr. Surgeon General. Take 'em or leave 'em. All I'm saying is, they'll help."
"Okay." Sam sounded mildly amused. "Thanks."
"Sure." He pointed at the open laptop. "Y'know, if you got a headache, that's not gonna help things."
"Yeah, well…couldn't sleep," Sam said sheepishly. "Figured if I wasn't going to bed anyway, might as well poke around, check for omens. See what this 'Mother of All' thing's up to."
Dean crossed his arms. "That can wait."
"Well I was kinda looking up news stuff, too," he said, glancing at the laptop, which Dean saw was opened up to something that looked BBC-esque. "Still trying to catch up and all. Like that Japan thing…" He shook his head. "God."
"Yeah, I know." Then with a jolt, something occurred to him. "Sam, I don't think you oughta be looking that kind of stuff up right now."
Sam blinked. "What? Why?"
"Because finding out that Mel Gibson is a douchebag who may or may not also be possessed is one thing, but accidentally pulling some random CNN story from last year about a bunch of shady deaths and disappearances? That could be a case you worked, easy. And that'd be bad, Sam. Real bad."
Sam scoffed. "So what, I gotta stop watching the news now? Yeah, that's practical."
He rolled his eyes. "I'll be careful, alright?"
"Man, what are you? Fifteen?" Not that he wasn't always a bit on the bitchy side when he wasn't feeling well.
"Well what do you expect me to do here?"
Good question, really. He sighed. "Just go to bed, okay?" Before the words left his mouth, he could just hear what Sam's fifteen-year-old response to that would've been—Make me.
But this wasn't fifteen-year-old-Sammy, and this Sammy looked too drained to argue. He just nodded and shut the laptop. "It's just a normal headache, Dean," he added, but not so much in argument as it was in reassurance.
Dean felt a knot loosen in his chest at that, but still… Pretty sure wasn't sure enough.
"Okay, well…try to get some sleep anyway, alright? We got a window to replace tomorrow. And you look like crap."
Deep breaths. Watch the ceiling fan. One rotation, two, three…
Not that Sam thought it would.
He'd gone to bed not long after Dean left, finding it utterly useless to try to focus on anything anymore. He sat up and rubbed his eyes, wincing as his throbbing skull protested, and grabbed blindly for the water bottle he'd left on the bedside table, only to find—oh, right—he'd drank it all. His throat and chest were starting to burn, and while this was certainly not an unfamiliar sensation, it was usually one he could ignore. And he had a feeling he knew why he couldn't tonight.
Right, then. Water.
For the third time that night, he hauled himself out of bed, out the door, down the shadowy hallway, and to the bathroom to refill the bottle. Quiet as he tried to be, the ridiculously creaky floorboards in this house meant he was probably waking Dean up every time he walked past the door to his room, as light a sleeper as Dean tended to be. He felt kinda bad about that.
But not bad enough to not do it.
Two minutes later and he'd downed a third bottle, stumbled over to the tub, sat down on the edge, and leaned his sore head against the cool tile of the shower wall. The lights were out, and there was only weak moonlight filtering in through the tiny bathroom window, but his eyes were shut tightly against even that.
Despite the oppressive feeling of fullness in his stomach, his mouth felt papery dry, his throat and his chest quite literally aching with thirst. Not that any of this hadn't happened before, and it had felt much worse than this in the past, certainly worse than just obnoxiously keeping him awake. Of course, when it had been that bad, early on after killing Lilith and springing Lucifer free, Dean had been there to see it happening and made sure he wasn't alone to face it. But the reasons why it was happening were far too close for comfort for both of them, and it usually earned him nothing but stony silence out of Dean until it ended. So he'd tried to mention it as little as possible until he was able to deal with it and learn to ignore it, which had taken a good month or two. Not like he hadn't deserved it, anyway.
Finally forcing his eyes open, he noticed that, in his haste to get to the sink, he hadn't bothered closing the door.
And chances were, if he left it open, Dean was going to find him sitting here. And it wasn't like it'd be a bad thing to have him here, but he'd freak out more than he already probably was, and besides, Sam didn't want to get nagged into going back to bed. Right now he thought he'd prefer quiet to the sound of anybody's voice, anyway. He gritted his teeth and then lurched to his feet, stumbling over to the door and pushing it shut. He turned and was about to go sit back on the tub again when something on the sink's counter caught his eye.
The pills Dean had given him. Sam blinked in confusion at them; they hadn't been sitting here last time he'd come to get water. And he could've sworn they'd been in his bag last time he'd checked. Which meant two things: one, Dean was awake right now, and just a hell of a lot quieter than Sam was on creaky floorboards (or Sam had been too preoccupied to notice if he was making any noise, which was likely), and two, he'd somehow nabbed the pills from Sam's bag sometime that night, probably when he'd come in to make him go to bed.
Sam almost laughed. Why was he not at all surprised…
Well, at least Dean was attempting to give him some space this time.
He stared at the bottle for a few seconds, thinking. Was this one of "those" headaches? He hadn't thought so at first; either an unfortunately timed normal headache, like he'd said, or just a side effect of the thirst.
In the hours following their return from…well, wherever it was they'd been, two things had slowly crept up on him, two things he now realized that had been completely absent during his stint as an "actor"—for one, all the remnants of the blood cravings, which was surprisingly liberating, even if it was something he barely noticed anymore in this world anyway. But now that he thought about it, the weird sort of pressure and tightness he felt at times in his head—it was hard to put into words, but the best comparison he could come up with was the cramped feeling associated with sinus issues—had also been gone.
He didn't get how there hadn't been a Wall—after all, it was still him, in the body of some random actor or not—but that was the only explanation he could think of. But maybe Dean had been right. A world with no Heaven, and no Hell.
That'd have been nice, wouldn't it.
There was something written on the side of the bottle, messily and in Sharpie.
He grinned. Thanks, Dean. He picked up the bottle, opened it, and palmed two pills. Eh, what the hell. Couldn't hurt, right?
Not that it was nearly so bad as it had been after—well, after Bristol, but he didn't need anything, even something as stupid as a headache, lowering his defenses against a repeat of what had happened there. As if needing the blood wasn't screwing with him enough. Because who was to say it was just memories that could trigger another episode? For Dean, after he'd gotten back, it had been the oddest things that would set him off and make him go weirdly quiet for hours at a time—tastes, smells, sometimes physical pain after getting roughed up during a hunt. Once, it was the sight of a little girl, five or six years old, standing on a street corner outside some diner they'd stopped at. Dean had never said why.
And if Sam had no conscious memory of his own Hell, there was no telling what could make him tick. Well, aside from the obvious—remembering everything he'd been up to for the past year and a half, which seemed to have taken its toll on the Wall. And where had that gotten him?
Trapped, alone, and burning.
Bristol had been weeks ago, but he still lost sleep over that. Just thinking about it now made his overfull stomach threaten to revolt.
But that didn't mean that Dean was right, that he was somehow better off not knowing anything about being soulless. Especially if even half the things Cas told him he'd done were true.
It was going to be hard line to walk, anyways.
He shook his head and took the pills.
Well, Dean was right about these, he realized a few minutes later. "Effective" was definitely the best word for them. The pain soon ebbed away, leaving behind a lingering feeling of tension, but it was manageable. That much was better, but he still felt completely parched, despite the fact that he knew he'd throw it all back up if he tried to drink anything else. Radiating from his chest and throat, it made his entire body feel uncomfortably hot, and his skin grew sticky with sweat. Eventually, he found himself sitting in the empty tub, his head thrown back and his eyes closed, trying to will the coldness of the old tile to seep through his skin. One hand was gripping the side of the tub, hard.
This was stupid, he thought. Just because he'd been hitchhiking in another body for a few days didn't mean it should be this hard for him to come back to his own. It was pathetic, really. It wasn't like he was detoxing or anything, so why was he letting this bother him so much?
And he really didn't want Dean to find him asleep in the tub tomorrow morning. That is, if he slept at all.
Suck it up.
And he tried, he really did. Tried to stand up.
And he probably would have managed it, too, if it wasn't for the tremors racking his limbs, or the feeling of being smothered by a heavy blanket of heat.
He gave it up, and fell back into the tub, trembling. He'd give himself a few minutes.
When "a few minutes" had come and gone, his resolve had crumbled completely, and he blinked up at the dark, mildewed ceiling, miserable. He wasn't going anywhere, not for awhile. Not unless Dean or Bobby came to find him.
His eyes drifted down to the showerhead, ancient and grungy with limescale.
And suddenly he had an idea.
A pretty dumb idea, yes, but right now it seemed like the most appealing thing in the world.
And it wasn't as though Dean was going to come barging into the room if he thought Sam was just taking a shower.
With far more effort than it should have taken, Sam lifted his leg up, using his foot to turn on the tap. Freezing water immediately doused his other foot, which was wedged under the faucet, and he sighed in relief. A minute later he'd managed to pull up the stopper-thing to turn on the shower, and his eyes drifted shut of their own accord as the frigid spray steadily soaked through his clothes, soothing his burning chest. Right about then, it was the most beautiful feeling in the world, and despite the fact he hadn't thought he could drink anymore, he opened his mouth. He must've sweated it all out by now or something, because he once more felt like he could down this entire tub's volume in water.
And at first it felt great, drops of cool, if slightly metallic-flavored, well water hitting his tongue and running down his throat.
But then something changed. The drops suddenly felt hot on his skin and in his throat, then burning, then scalding. He tried to gag, his eyes tearing up, but found he couldn't—it was like somebody had suddenly forced a power hose down his throat, and he could only gulp it down, frantically trying to breathe. Blindly, he kicked out with his foot, trying to stop the water or at least make it cold again, but his muscles wouldn't work properly.
And then he was completely submerged in it, all his nerves screaming as his skin was seared, helpless as it flowed into his nose and ears and bit at his eyes. He couldn't feel the sides or bottom of the tub anymore; somehow he was floating free.
And it wasn't water anymore.
It was blood…it was sulfur…it was fire…
And he was drowning in it.
He tried to scream, he tried and tried, but as far as he could tell nothing was coming out, and every time the stuff filled his lungs up more and more. His mind became hazy, and he fought to stay conscious, limbs flailing uselessly.
He was going to die here, he was sure of it, and in Bobby's stupid fucking bathtub, of all places…
Suddenly he felt hands grabbing at his clothes. In panic, he struggled to get away, but it was impossible when the world was boiling all around him.
The hands grabbed him under the armpits, and he was vaguely aware of being dragged up, and up, until…
He was in Bobby's bathtub again, cold water still beating down on him, and Dean leaning over him, hair dripping wet.
He gasped, then coughed a few times, surprised to find that his scalded lungs were actually clear. A second later, the water stopped, and he was being hauled upright. Dean was talking to him, and he sounded scared, but Sam was far beyond the point of comprehending what he was actually saying.
Dean was kneeling in front of him in the tub, holding Sam up by the shoulders. Suddenly and inexplicably cold, Sam shivered against his sodden clothes. Dean was still talking, shaking him slightly, and Sam knew Dean was probably trying to get him to look at him, talk to him, anything that would somehow communicate what was wrong.
Sam tried to say something, but all that came out was a pitiful strangled sound, torn from his throat. And then another, and another. It took him a moment to realize they were sobs.
A moment later and Dean wasn't trying to hold him upright anymore. Sam slumped forward, boneless, still shivering. Those pathetic, involuntary sobs were now muffled by the wet fabric of Dean's shirt, and he was vaguely aware of a steadying hand on his back and a litany of what sounded like it's-okay-you're-okay-it's-okay coming from somewhere near his ear.
Sam gulped and managed to nod, feeling oddly lightheaded as though he'd been hyperventilating.
"It's okay, Sammy…I'm here, I gotcha…hey, you're okay…shh, you're okay…"
To be continued…