Threw Stones At The Stars But The Whole Sky Fell

Chapter 8

At long, long last, the final chapter to this story. To every single reader of mine, you all get virtual apple pie and ice cream and miscellaneous yummy coffee beverages, and I seriously spent more time smiling big, doofy smiles at my computer screen over the past five months than I ever have before (and this is coming from a very long, probably unhealthy history of big, doofy smiles at my computer screen).

This includes one or two vague spoilers for 7.01, but nothing you'd probably pick up on if you haven't seen the episode.

By the time they'd gotten themselves back to Bobby's, Sam seemed to have shut down completely—he was listless, barely spoke at all. And, thanks to an infection that set in a day or so after he'd slashed open his arms, he had a fever to boot. He'd tacitly continued accepting the Quetiapine when Dean gave it to him, but as Dean hadn't heard him speak more than a few words in all of the three days since the… incident, Dean had no way of gauging how well they were working. Yeah, they made him tired, and that combined with the fever and the blood loss made him sleep, a lot, but when he was awake, he was hardly any more responsive. His eyes would dart around the room like the walls were closing in on him whenever he wasn't staring into space, which was the majority of the time, and he'd taken to crying out in his sleep again. More than a few times Dean had found him, in the midst of some nightmare, trying to tear off the bandages and muttering incoherently under his breath. Unable to cuff him without hurting his torn up wrists, Dean had given Sam his sling from the hospital that he himself had long since stopped bothering with, binding up his left arm—the more injured the two—to keep him from messing with the bandages on both arms during the day and, well, at least slow him down at night. Sam had looked indifferent when he'd proposed the idea, stiffening when Dean had approached him to help him put the sling on but remaining silent.

Freaking silent.

And by the fourth day, Dean couldn't take it anymore.

Bobby was at his desk doing research for a friend in Boston tracking down a poltergeist, and Sam was on the couch, folded in on himself and staring vacantly at his knees while the grainy TV played some bland infomercial in the background. Dean had sat with him for awhile, drink in hand, knowing he wouldn't get a response if he tried and unable to do a damn thing but force painkillers, antibiotics, and more Quetiapine on him every now and then. Sam took them, and let Dean check the bandages, but offered no comment—didn't even look at him. And Dean knew it was petty, he knew, but despite himself it left him a little pissed. Not even at Sam, really. Just at everything else. The whole damn situation.

At any rate, he needed to get out.

So he muttered something about going to go check out the car and took off, shutting the door with a little more force than necessary behind him.

…Only to find out that it had just begun to rain.

Awesome.

The air was warm enough, though, coupled with the warmth from the drink that was making his head buzz pleasantly. And the rain was light, so he figured he could wander for awhile. The car was in one of the garages, anyways. He'd get a good look at the car and at least assess the damage, take stock of what he'd need for the job and what needed to be replaced, even if he had to wait a couple more weeks before he could get the cast off and do any actual work.

At least until he could go back inside without feeling like he was suffocating.

An hour or so later and the rain was beginning to pick up. He already had an extensive mental list of what could be salvaged and what needed replacing, and was now wandering the yard, his shirt stuck to his back with rain and droplets running down the sides of his cast, trying to figure out what parts he could nab from which old rustbuckets out here to make his baby like new again.

It should've been depressing. The damage was pretty much as bad as he'd feared it'd be. Plus, hunting down the right parts from a zillion and a half crappy-ass cars that didn't run was a bit like playing one giant game of Where's Waldo, but the kicker was, he was enjoying himself.

He liked cars. Cars always made sense, even when nothing else did. He could rebuild one from the ground up, if need be.

If only the same could be said about people.

It was starting to get dark, the rain getting stronger and the early autumn air cooling off, by the time he'd done everything he could do that didn't involve physically working on the car. He'd even done a few things that did involve physically working on the car that he knew Bobby—or Sam, if he was aware enough—would probably bitch at him about. His shirt was wet and his arm was aching from hauling around rusty parts when he finally decided to suck it up and head back inside, change into some dry clothes, maybe grab another drink.

He went to lock the smallish garage that held the Impala before he headed in—the last thing they needed was some douchewad trying to steal it, even if there wasn't all that much to steal at the moment. But as he was stowing the keys in his pocket and turning around, he saw a figure stumbling towards him through the rain that was now coming down in veritable buckets, head bowed, stringy wet hair sticking to his face. Five seconds later and Sam had practically crashed into the steel door of the garage, hands scrabbling against the rusted metal surface to find something to hold onto before his knees buckled and he fell over.

"Sam, what the—" Dean lurched forward as Sam listed to one side and caught his shoulder, propping him up against the garage door. "Whoa, okay, no kissin' asphalt, alright?" He searched Sam's face for some sign he was listening, but Sam's eyes were distant, vague, his face flushed. "God, look at you," Dean continued in a mutter. "You're friggin' soaked." They both were—he could feel his own hair dripping water into his eyes—but Sam was the one who happened to be fighting off illness and infection, and Dean could feel the shivering beneath the steadying hand he had pressed to Sam's chest.

"Hey," he said, more insistently, shaking Sam's shoulder with his casted hand. "Earth to Sam. Come on, man, snap out of it."

Sam blinked, slowly. Once, twice. His brow knit, and his expression took on the approximate appearance of a bewildered three-year-old. Then, suddenly, his eyes screwed shut and he inhaled sharply. Dean felt him tense up.

"Sam?"

Sam shook his head tightly and let out a low, pain-filled moan.

"Sam, what—"

But Sam's knees chose that moment to finally give out, and Dean found himself catching and lowering Sam into a sitting position against the door, frantically sinking to his own knees—right into a puddle that he was sure hadn't been there an hour ago—and shaking Sam's shoulders, trying to rouse him. "Sammy? Talk to me, man. Are you hurt?"

Sam stirred, eyes opening a fraction to squint up at Dean. "Mmm…"

"Sam, tell me what's wrong," Dean demanded, eyes scanning for apparent injury. Aside from the fact that the bandages were soaked through and needed replacing, and the obvious fever, there didn't appear to be anything the matter. And that, if possible, just freaked Dean out all the more.

Sam's eyes squeezed shut again. He sniffed once, wetly, but not before a drop of blood could escape his nose and run down his lip. Dean stared at it, feeling suddenly ill himself. "Mm…m'h-head hurts…" Sam ground out through clenched teeth. More blood trickled out of his nose, sluggishly.

Damn it. The sudden, debilitating headaches, always accompanied by an assault of fresh memories, were one thing that had tapered off with the Quetiapine.

Apparently not.

And whether it was because of the fever or was somehow Sam's head's way of protesting the unwelcome memories, Dean didn't like the nosebleed, either.

Sam's head rolled forward, drops of blood splashing onto his lap.

"No, nuh-uh," Dean said, shaking him a little harder, which elicited a sharp intake of breath as the movement undoubtedly jarred Sam's head. "Stay with me here, Sammy."

Sam lifted his head a bit, a dull flicker of irritation in his eyes. "Gah…stop sh-shaking me…"

"Gotta stay awake, dude," Dean said unapologetically, anxiety forming a tight knot in his chest. Sam's eyelids drooped and he shook him again, eliciting a sharp cry this time. "Can't haul your ass anyplace on my own if you check out on me."

"Y-you s-suck." Sam spoke through chattering teeth, shivering in earnest now, but he kept his eyes open.

"Come on. Let's get you outta the rain, huh?"

"'Kay."

Dean wasn't sure how they managed it, with three arms between them essentially out of commission and Sam's legs shaking like an overgrown colt beneath him, but soon they were on their feet and stumbling towards the garage's side door.

They'd only made it two steps, though, before Sam was doubled over and puking all over both their feet. Dean had to lunge to grab him around the waist before he collapsed onto the puddly, vomit-covered pavement. Sam eventually straightened up, wiping his mouth and bloody nose on a bandaged arm, looking sheepish and sicker than ever.

"'S okay," Dean said easily, trying to ignore his own churning stomach. "I didn't like these shoes anyway."

"S-sorry," Sam choked out.

"It's cool. But let's get you someplace dry." He nodded at the door. "Think there's a towel in there, long as you don't mind smelling like motor oil afterwards."

Sam let himself be steered to the door, and leaned against the wall by it, eyes shut tight again and face screwed up against the pain in his head while Dean fished in his pockets for the key and unlocked the door.

"Alright, let's go." He grabbed Sam's shoulder and nudged him in the direction of the open door.

But Sam stayed rooted to the spot, body visibly stiffening as he stared through the doorway into the shadowy garage. He shook his head slowly. "Not goin' in there," he whispered. All remaining color was gone from his face, eyes gone glassy and lips trembling.

Dean looked from Sam to the open door. "You want me to turn the light on first?" he asked, but he knew even before Sam shook his head jerkily and backed up several steps that it was no use. He swore under his breath. "Alright, come on. Let's get you back to the house, then."

High above them, thunder rumbled.

...

When they finally, freaking finally made it back to Bobby's front porch, they were both soaked to the skin, boots coated in mud and hair plastered to their faces. And damn but who knew September could get this cold this fast. Dean may has well have carried Sam back, as he'd spent the whole time wracked with violent shivers and dragging his feet, almost bent in half with the force of nausea. And when Dean dropped Sam unceremoniously on Bobby's couch and then collapsed bonelessly down next to him, Bobby chose that moment to storm into the room and demand where they'd been, worry etched into every line on his face, and then proceed to swear colorfully when Dean tiredly explained.

"Damn it," Bobby growled, then rubbed absently at his temple as though he too had a headache. "Why didn't he just come find me if it was that bad? I was right in the other room."

"You w-were in the bathroom," Sam muttered, surprising them both. They thought he'd passed out or fallen asleep—his head had rolled back against the couch cushions, eyes shut and breath coming in shallow pants. And of course Bobby hadn't heard Sam speak a word in days. "H-hurt too much to knock…or y-yell for you s-so I went to f-find Dean." His eyes opened a fraction. "S-sorry," he said, looking slightly embarassed, as if he'd realized as the words had come out of his mouth that he'd pretty much done the most irrational thing he could've done, stumbling blindly out into a gathering storm instead of just lying on the couch and waiting a minute or two. But Dean wondered, seeing the shadow in his eyes, whether that was the whole story, and doubted it, knowing the headaches were always accompanied by a nasty bombardment of memory.

Bobby ran a hand over his face, looking suddenly exhausted. He shook his head. "Don't be. Ain't your fault." He glanced at the rain now pelting against the living room window. "Just hope you two idjits didn't catch your death out there."

"Pfft, rain," Dean said, smiling wearily. "It'll take more'n that to do us in." Though truth be told, "done in" was a pretty adequate description of how he was feeling right about now. The cold and damp seemed to have sunk into his bones, making him feel about ten years older than he was.

"Speak f-for yourself," Sam grumbled, though he too was grinning faintly, albeit in a resigned sort of way. "C-can I get some Tylenol now?"

...

Two hours later and Sam was dried, changed, his bandages replaced, drugged up and out cold with a 102.5 degree fever. And this time they had cuffed his wrists, just in case. Dean himself had nearly fallen asleep in the shower, but he was currently sitting with Bobby at the kitchen table over coffee because eh, what the hell, he probably wasn't going to get any actual sleep tonight anyways. Not with Sam as sick as he was. He'd probably looked pathetically grateful when Bobby slid him an unmarked flask across the table, and he tipped a generous amount of amber liquid into the coffee.

Outside, the storm was only getting worse, the rain practically pounding dents into the roof by the sound of it. They sat in silence for awhile. Bobby was still poring over the poltergeist research. Dean attempted to help but just wound up staring at the exact same random spot on the page, clutching his mug in a white-knuckled grip, letting the warmth seep into frigid fingers. For all that the booze-and-coffee concoction had seemed so appealing all of five minutes ago, he'd barely drunk any of it.

Bobby eventually seemed to noticed that Dean wasn't actually doing anything.

"Y'okay?" he asked in a low voice.

Dean shrugged. "Fine," he replied dully.

"Fine, huh?" He pushed the flask back towards Dean. Dean caught it up, popped the cap with his thumb, and drank out of it straight.

The liquor burned his throat. He cleared it, and looked down at the open book before him with poorly masked distaste.

"Eh, just give it up," Bobby said, rolling his eyes, reaching across the table to grab the book from him. "Some help you are."

"Sorry, Bobby."

Bobby shrugged. "Just as well. Gettin' about ready to turn in myself anyhow. Besides," he added after a moment's pause. "Tomorrow we might oughta start lookin' to see what we can find about de-juicin' angels who've gulped down about a billion souls."

They'd had this discussion before—they both knew it wasn't likely that they were going to find anything—but it was a nice thought, that they might actually be able to do something about Cas if they couldn't about Sam. But at the moment, though? Thinking about Cas on top of everything else just made Dean tired and sad. He shrugged, then tried (and failed miserably) for a smile. "Yeah. Great." He paused. "And while we're at it I'm, uh, I think I'm gonna give Missouri a call."

Truth was, he'd already called her, the morning after Sam had hurt himself. And even though he knew it wasn't fair of him, he'd kind of lost his shit over the phone and chewed her out for no good reason. Not like it was her fault that the pills hadn't worked, but he hadn't exactly been thinking too clearly at the time, and it was easier to place blame somewhere, anywhere, than to admit defeat. Missouri, of course, had snapped right back at him—Don't you take that tone with me, boy and such—and had told him, before hanging up, to call her back once he had his head on straight. He had been seething when he'd gotten off the phone with her, but by now he'd realized that she was right, that he needed to suck it up and call her back, let her help.

Of course, part of his hesitancy to call back came from the niggling suspicion that nothing else she had to suggest would do any good.

But she could come visit, at least. It might not help, but it couldn't hurt.

Bobby nodded, expression a shade grimmer but understanding. "I can call up Milburn again too, if you like, see what he thinks."

Dean nodded, cleared his throat. "Yeah, maybe. But, uh, we'll what Missouri says first."

"Alright," Bobby said. He started stacking up his books and papers. "Listen," he said after a moment. "For all we know this is all just a problem with dosage or drug type or some crap like that that we wouldn't know anything about. We ain't exactly professionals here." So chill out and cut yourself a break. The message was loud and clear. And even though Dean wasn't sure he bought what Bobby was saying, he was both ludicrously grateful for it and embarrassingly close to getting choked up.

…Yup, definitely time to turn in. He didn't exactly wanna lose it and throw a damn tantrum at Bobby's kitchen table. He managed a nod. "Yeah. I know." He stood. "I'm, uh, gonna—" He gestured vaguely in the direction of the ceiling.

"Good plan. And try to get a decent night's shut-eye, you hear?" He pointed at Dean's mostly-full coffee cup. "You barely touched your joe, so you got no excuse."

"Will do," Dean muttered, turning to leave. And truth be told, he was tired. In all possible senses of the word. And last he'd checked, Sam had seemed like he was down for the count for the next several hours at least, and was restrained at any rate.

Yeah, sleep might actually be nice.

"Because the last thing we need is for you to go and have another pansy-ass faintin' spell and leave us to drag your sorry ass to the ER again," Bobby added. He was smiling, but he meant it.

Dean returned the smile resignedly. "You're not gonna let that go, are you?"

A grin. "Nope."

...

Bobby had been right about Dean needing sleep. Really needing sleep.

So much so that it was around noon the next day when he finally managed to drag himself out of bed and stumble to the bathroom. He could hear Bobby puttering around downstairs, and Sam's room was quiet when he walked past, the door slightly ajar and the lights out—he'd probably woken up and gone downstairs by now too—so he figured he could take his time. A shower—always rather painstaking process with his arm sticking awkwardly out of the shower curtain—and a shave later, and Dean felt much more alive than he had in days. Looked better, too, he realized, when he got a good look in the mirror. Both eyes were still black but it looked less like he'd gotten punched and more like he was a chronic insomniac, which he figured was a marginal improvement.

He was passing Sam's door on his way downstairs, having changed into the cleanest clothes he could find, when he heard it—a low stream of muttering coming from inside the shadowy room.

Frowning, he stopped, and pushed the door open.

Sam hadn't gone downstairs yet. He was on his back on top of the guest bed, the old quilt half hanging off the bed and half rumpled on top of his chest, wrists and ankles still restrained. He was staring blankly at the ceiling, mumbling words Dean couldn't comprehend under his breath. When the door creaked open and light from the hall flooded the room, Sam turned his head towards Dean and blinked, owlishly.

"Sam?"

He blinked again. "Mm?"

"How long have you been up?" Obviously not that long—Bobby would've come up to check on him recently, and would've let him out of the restraints had he been awake.

Sam didn't answer, eyes rolling back to rest on the dusty ceiling fan above him.

He muttered something again, louder than before but not loud enough for Dean to hear. Dean ventured a few steps closer to the bed and sat down on the edge. Sam started a bit, body twitching as the old mattress sagged under Dean's weight, but then his eyes found Dean's, and he let out a long breath, body relaxing again.

And God, he looked terrible. Dean couldn't see him a hundred percent clearly—the only light in the room being from the hallway and the curtains all drawn—but it was enough. Unsettling pallor, damp t-shirt sticking to him, dull eyes that looked nearly as bruised as his own. The stuffy air smelled of sweat, antiseptic, and illness.

Sam smiled wanly, seeming to realize Dean had been staring at him, and then muttered some more at the ceiling.

"What's that, Sam?" Dean leaned in a bit, a sick feeling pulling at his gut. Obviously Sam wasn't quite lucid at the moment.

"I saw…I s-saw the b-best minds of my generation d-destroyed by madness…" Sam said, voice soft and vague, gaze wandering aimlessly around the ceiling tiles. "B-by madness," he repeated shakily. "S-starving, hysterical, naked—" he cut off with a shuddering sigh, fingers twitching a bit where they lay on his stomach.

"Huh?" Dean asked, brow knitting. The hell…?

Sam glanced at him. "'S Ginsberg," he said, then laughed, breathily, manically. The sound grated Dean's nerves. "'S good. P-postmodernism." His eyes closed, the ghost of a smile on his lips.

And then Dean remembered something—a brief, random flash of a sixteen-year-old Sam, laid up with a nasty bout of mono, spouting forth a few random, flowery lines of Teach me, muse, of the man of many ways and some crap about ancient Greek ships. It'd had Dean freaked to hell that the fever was frying his brain until Sam had giddily explained, right before practically passing out in the motel bed, that he was reading The Odyssey for school and "'S friggin' brilliant, y'should read it, D'n." Once Sam had recovered, Dean teased him about it for a good six months afterwards.

Dean's shoulders sagged a bit, and he let out a breath he didn't realize he'd been holding. So this wasn't because Sam was nuts. Or, not much. He was just spouting random lines of postmodern poetry because he was sick and loopy. That Dean could deal with. "Yeah, okay, Sammy," he said. He reached towards him to check his temperature, withdrawing it when Sam flinched away from him. "Hey, it's okay, just checking on that fever, dude," he said, holding up both hands, tone placating.

"'Kay," he breathed, and let Dean lay a careful hand on his forehead.

Dean frowned at the heat under his hand. "Shit," he muttered. Not that he hadn't expected it, but still, they were trying to avoid a hospital visit here. "Let's get some water and Tylenol in you, alright? No wonder you're tripping out right now." He tapped the cuffs on Sam's wrists. "You want outta these?" Because coupled with infected wounds, bandaged or no, those had to suck.

"Mhmm." He started to lift his joined wrists towards Dean, then hissed in pain and let them drop onto his stomach again.

"It's okay. I got it. Be right back." The keys were in the bedside drawer of his own guest room. "Don't move 'till I get back."

Sam didn't move. Even after Dean uncuffed him, and took the shackles off his ankles, he just laid there, sweat beading on his forehead, eyes still open but not saying a word.

"Okay, uh," Dean began, awkwardly, "How 'bout that Tylenol, huh?" he stood up. "And once we get those bandages checked out you can hit the sack again if you need to, so—"

"Don' wanna sleep," Sam muttered under his breath, voice cracking a bit.

"Okay," Dean said, unable to keep concern out of his voice. "You want some breakfast? Er, lunch?" he corrected, reading the time on the digital clock on the bedside table. "Should still be sandwich stuff in the fridge from yesterday, roast beef. Or, ah, PB&J if you want it."

Sam didn't answer.

"Alrighty then, no sandwiches it is," Dean said after a moment, and turned to leave, but Sam's voice stopped him in the doorway.

"I'm crazy, aren't I?"

His voice was low, quiet.

Scared.

Dean froze for a second before turning around to face him, because damn, how exactly do you answer something like that?

When he did turn around, it was to find Sam watching him, gaze fever-bright but focused, beseeching.

"Well I mean…you're the one spoutin' out lines of Ginsberg, man," Dean said with a faint smile. "But I'm betting that's just the fever talking."

Sam wasn't buying it. "Dean," he said, in his best pleading, friggin' dewy-eyed, don't-bullshit-me-I-need-to-know tone.

Which meant he was freaked to hell.

Dean sighed and stepped into the room. "Look," he said, moving to sit on the edge of the bed again. "You're not crazy. You've just…seen a lot more shit than most people. Hell, I think it's safe to say you've seen more shit than anybody. And if that equals crazy, then fine, I think you've earned the fucking right to be crazy. And screw anybody who's got a problem with that, 'cause you're the reason they're still here." He turned towards Sam. "You got that?"

Sam gulped and nodded. He looked torn somewhere between somewhat relieved and ready to break down and weep. After a few seconds, he shut his eyes and let out a shaky laugh. "So crazy's a p-privilege, huh?"

Dean frowned. "Not exactly what I meant, dude."

"I know." He raised his arms an inch. "S-some privilege though."

"Yeah. Really." Dean looked at the bandages for a moment, and Sam must've not liked what he saw in Dean's expression, because his own face, and he lowered his arms again.

"You know…" Sam began, suddenly looking uncertain. "You know I w-wasn't trying to h-hurt myself, right?"

"Yeah," Dean assured him. "No, I know." Not that it wasn't nice to hear him say it anyway, but he wasn't going to admit as much. He paused. "Would it, uh…would it help any if you told me what actually happened, though? Like, uh, what you saw?" This was a topic they hadn't really broached, mostly because Dean had thought that if Sam started talking about the stuff he was seeing, it'd just kick Sam's imagination into overdrive and make things about a billion times worse. And Sam hadn't volunteered much information, either, apparently preferring to keep all of his lucid moments as Hell-free and in the present as possible. And Dean couldn't fault him for that; wasn't like he didn't have some personal experience about not being an open book when it came to Hell memories.

But nothing else was working, so why not try? Maybe it'd be cathartic or something, make it seem less real. It wasn't exactly a possibility that occurred to him, probably because he simply didn't want to know.

"N-no, p-probably not," Sam said, glancing down at his arms, something like fear creeping into his eyes.

"Alright. Your call," he said gently, and started to stand up to go.

"W-wait," Sam said, and Dean sat back down, but his eyes cut away when Dean looked at him. "D'you, uh…d'you r-remember that scene in The Mummy? W-with that guy, a-and the scarab beetles?"

"What?"

"The s-scarab beetles," Sam repeated, voice faint, "T-they got under his skin, and b-before they could kill him the other guy h-had to take a knife and—" his voice died, and he swallowed convulsively.

And then Dean understood.

There's something in me. Please.

His blood froze.

"You mean—"

Sam nodded, eyes closed, now looking very much like he was trying not to throw up. His arms were twitching.

"Oh." As nauseated as Dean himself felt at the thought, he also had to clamp down on a surge of anger—What did that sick fuck do to my brother?

"Yeah. I j-just wanted…I thought it was gonna k-kill me…" He sounded flustered, as if exhaustion was claiming him again, but imploring, as though he needed Dean to understand this.

"Nah, it's okay, it's okay," he said quickly, reassuring, patting Sam's leg lightly. "You didn't do anything wrong, man. I'dve done the same." He shrugged. "Hell, I'dve probably done worse."

"Really?"

"Yeah," he said, and shuddered. "I hate beetles."

"That's n-not funny," Sam said, but the corners of his mouth twitched.

"Probably not," Dean conceded. "Oh, hey, Bobby's gonna call up that Milburn guy, see about changing your dosages or trying you on something new," he added, trying his best to sound optimistic. He figured he didn't need to mention that he was also calling Missouri, groveling a bit, and then as good as begging her to come visit right the hell now. He doubted Sam would take it well, and Dean had his dignity, after all.

Sam looked away, eyes fixing on something over near the open door. "Don't b-bother," he said quietly.

Dean followed his gaze to the empty doorway, and his stomach dropped, but he pressed on anyway, pretending he hadn't noticed. "Come on, don't be a melodramatic bitch about it."

"'M not," he said, with far less irritation than Dean expected, and without looking away from the spot.

"And don't pretend that you're a friggin' pharmacist here, either," he added. "I mean, if it's just a thing about how many pills you're popping or what kind, we can fix that. And the Quetiapine worked."

"Until it d-didn't," Sam muttered.

"So you take an extra one," Dean said, but he had the feeling that he knew what lay at the heart of Sam's objections, because it was exactly the same thing he was now waking in fear of every single day.

That eventually, everything would fail.

"N-no, you don't—" Sam began, agitated, then sighed. "The pills worked. T-they did. I was still s-seeing stuff b-but…I could tell." He continued to stare, transfixed, at the doorway, eyes growing a bit wider, but continued to speak. "I could tell, a-and I'd t-tell them—like, the s-stuff I was seeing—tell them t-that they weren't r-real, and they'd l-l-leave me alone. But now…" His breath hitched, his eyes now completely round and terrified as he stared through the door. "N-now they just laugh at me. He laughs at me," he added softly.

"You mean you're hearing—"

"Sometimes," he whispered, his face gone ashen. "R-recently."

"Shit." No wonder he was having such a hard time distinguishing reality from the cage, if his torturer was popping back into his life every so often. Not that Dean hadn't suspected it might be happening, but still. "Is that why you weren't talkin' to us?"

"Yeah. S-sorry," he added quickly. "J-just figured it'd be easier to k-keep my head on straight if everything was quiet." He paused, looking uncomfortable. "A-and half the time I didn't know you w-were you so I didn't know if I sh-should answer or not."

"And here I just thought you were being your usual emo self," Dean said, with a halfhearted smirk. Sam didn't respond. "But on the plus side you know it's me right now, huh?"

Sam snorted. The sound was humorless. "No, I d-don't."

"Sam…" he started, but trailed off, frustrated, because what exactly was he supposed to say to that?

"You still think I'm n-not crazy?" Sam asked, a bitter edge to his voice. And Dean must've looked upset at that, because Sam immediately looked apologetic. "S-sorry. It's just…Y'know even w-when I do know you're you a-and Bobby's Bobby…a lot of the time I-I don't understand you, o-or hear you at all. I m-mean, you know that, you've seen it happen enough t-times."

"So you get spacey sometimes," Dean said with a shrug. "Not the end of the world. And yeah, it sucks, but we're dealing. And you always come back, don't you?" ….Eventually.

"A-and what happens the day I don't?" His voice was small.

"There ain't gonna be a day you don't," Dean said, hoping to God he sounded convincing. "Not gonna let that happen. Which is why you gotta work with us here about the pills, okay?"

Sam was shaking his head. "Alright," he said. "Do w-what you want, but…"

"But nothing, Sam."

"B-but," he persisted, "I t-think you know that short of w-waiting it out and just seeing w-what happens, there's only one p-person we could go to who could r-really help, and t-that's Cas, and I d-don't think…"

"Nuh-uh," Dean said promptly.

"'S what I thought y-you'd say," Sam said, raising an eyebrow at Dean's more-vicious-than-intended tone.

"Yeah, well," Dean growled, "even if we weren't number one on Cas's shit list right now, there is no way in hell we are letting him anywhere near you. Ever. Got that?"

"We g-gotta help him, Dean."

Dean said nothing. Because yeah, they did, but if Dean had anything to say about it, any "helping" that Sam would be doing would take place from a very safe distance, preferably from another continent.

Sam was watching him, his concerned frown reminding Dean vaguely of Dr. Phil. "He's still our friend," he said.

"Well he's got a funny way of showing it," Dean muttered. On a sudden inspiration, he added, "What about Death?" It had been more to change the subject than anything, but now that he thought about it… "He built you a wall once, he could do it again, right?"

But Sam shook his head. "N-no more deals. He'd want s-something in return. You know he'd want something in return. A-and that's assuming he c-could do it anyway."

"Well if Cas could fix you, so could he," Dean said, liking this plan more and more. "We'd just need the right leverage, is all."

"No," Sam snapped, then his eyes shuttered, as if the volume of his own voice had made his head ache more. Dean blinked, not having expected such a strong response. "J-just…don't, okay? Don't do anything s-stupid. 'S not worth it."

Dean opened his mouth to respond to that, but Sam's next words shut him up.

"Besides," Sam said, words barely audible as though he was talking more to himself than to Dean, "even if w-we could force Death to do something—a-anything—'s n-not what we should be asking for anyway."

"What?" Dean asked, spluttering a bit. "What do you mean not what we should be asking for?"

But Sam's eyes had found the doorway again, and he didn't answer.

Dean looked through the doorway, seeing only the early afternoon sunlight creating shifting, dancing patterns on the dirty floorboards in the hall, and wished for the umpteenth time in the past few weeks that he had the ability to punch hallucinatory monsters in the face. He sighed. Oh yeah, I'm just dying to know what exactly is so important to ask for that you're willing to throw away your sanity for it…

"Adam," Sam said suddenly.

"Huh?"

Sam's eyes snapped back to Dean's.

"I'd ask him t-to save Adam."

"Oh."

Yeah, now he understood.

"Well maybe we—"

"Forget it," Sam said sharply. "Sh-shouldn't have said anything."

"Well what if—"

"No more deals. Y-you know better. We b-both do." He looked pained, but resolved, and Dean wondered how long Sam had been considering this, going over all the contingencies in his head.

"Okay," Dean relented. "No more deals."

"P-promise me."

"I promise."

And Dean wasn't exactly lying. Besides, it wasn't like he hadn't already tried to bargain with Death for Adam—and Death had made it perfectly clear, one resurrected brother per customer. He wasn't likely to change his mind, not without one hell of a trump card.

Not unless they could force him.

…And that, actually, was an idea…

Not one he'd share with Sam, obviously, or Bobby, who'd probably call him ten kinds of moron for even thinking it, but he'd certainly be taking a look through some of Bobby's more obscure books, in any case.

But Sam seemed satisfied, at any rate, and relaxed a bit, eyelids drooping from fatigue that was quickly claiming him once more.

"Hey, hey," Dean said, swatting him lightly on the chest. "Pills and bandages first, remember? Then you can sleep all day, for all I care, you lazy ass."

Sam grumbled a little in protest, but obliged, forcing his eyes back open a fraction.

...

Within another half-hour, Sam's arms were disinfected and re-bandaged—not without some difficulty, as the pain of it confused and scared Sam enough that Dean had had to hold his arms immobile a few times until he snapped out of it and calmed down. And he'd taken his Tylenol, and Quetiapine, with some water, although he'd had to let Dean hold the cup up for him because his arms clearly hurt like a bitch from infection, and even if they hadn't, he might've spilled it all over himself due to sheer exhaustion.

However, it was one thing to have somebody hold a cup for you, but it was another thing entirely to be 29 years old and having your adult brother feeding you peanut butter and jelly. In bed.

Sam's face was flushed with humiliation by the time he'd finished, but he had been hungry, and too tired to protest not being allowed to eat on his own. Embarrassed or no, he managed to eat about half of the sandwich. But Dean put the rest of it aside, amused, when Sam dozed-off mid-bite and his head lolled forward onto Dean's arm.

"Okay, princess, don't drool peanut butter on my shirt," he said, lowering Sam back down onto the bed.

Sam mumbled a garbled retort under his breath, but his eyes closed the second his head hit the pillow.

"Mind if I stick around for a bit?" He snatched up the battered copy of The Bourne Identity sitting on top of Sam's book pile on the bedside table. "Might steal this for awhile. Doubt it'll beat the movie, but…"

"'S good, actually…" Sam's voice was muffled by the pillow, the words slurred.

"Alright, geek-boy," Dean said, rolling his eyes. "Anyways, the second I go back downstairs, Bobby'll probably put me to work, and I bet this beats poltergeist research."

Bobby had actually finished all the poltergeist research a few hours earlier, but Sam didn't need to know that.

Dean grinned. "You up for a bedtime story?"

"About assassins?" Sam yawned.

Dean shrugged. "Well, I mean, you did fall asleep the first time we watched Pulp Fiction, remember?"

"I was t-ten…an' I had the flu…"

"Still unforgivable if you ask me, dude," Dean chuckled, opening the book. He flipped to the preface—The New York Times, Friday, July 11, 1975, Front Page: Diplomats Said To Be Linked With Fugitive Terrorist Known As Carlos—but by the time he'd read the first few lines, Sam was already asleep.

Dean shut the book, eased himself off the bed, switched off the lamp he'd put on while redoing the bandages, and moved to a chair. He'd go downstairs in a bit—because nothing in the world sounded better than one gigantic cup of coffee right about now, and maybe he could fix up the last of the roast beef for himself and Bobby—but for now, he'd stay put.

Because Sam was sick. And hurt. And possibly headed full-tilt towards an irreparable psychotic breakdown. And the only two beings in the universe who could really fix him would probably sooner kill them both.

In short, they were screwed.

But that was nothing new.

And for the moment, Sam was asleep. And safe. And here.

Dean could work with that.

*End*

So last-minute, fairly obvious disclaimers: Howl by Alan Ginsberg, The Odyssey by Homer, and The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum aren't mine. Not that anybody might be confused about that fact. Unless you have a convoluted theory that I'm secretly a beatnik poet/ Greek bard/ famous action author who just happens to really love Supernatural, in which case shoot me a message and we'll chat, because you might actually be right. ;)