Title: Faultlines Part 3
Summary: Nothing is stable for Sam, except regret.
A/N: Well here is the last part of the story. This was a great challenge for me. I love Supernatural and I only hope that I did the story some justice.
This story is written to slot into the show as if it could have happened while we weren't looking. So I endeavored to keep it from having too much closure and yet it needed to feel complete to be an enjoyable story on its own. I don't think I failed as badly as I could have, but it isn't really a success either. So anyway, this story takes place sometime between Mannequin 3: They Reckoning and .
The prompt that initiated this story can be found at the end. My neverending thanks go out to kate-mct for inspiring me to dip my toes into writing fanfiction.
Hope y'all enjoy. Thanks for reading and thanks to all those who reviewed.
There was no denying that he was in a foul mood. He didn't mean to snap at everyone, he just seemed to have no tolerance and everything was pissing him off. Bobby was pretty much done with it. Being stuck in a crappy motel room on the seedy side of Reno with a broken ankle and bitchy roommate would be trying for the most patient of souls. Bobby's soul was a lot of good and righteous things, but patient was not one of them. The old guy had told Dean to go take a (literal and figurative) hike and to not come back until he remembered how to respect his elders.
Sam, who apparently did have a patient soul, had calmly told Bobby that Dean was suffering from post concussive syndrome which caused irritability and that it should pass in a day or so. Dean had snorted at that.
"Right Sam. So I guess I've had this post concussive syndrome pretty much my whole life. I always thought it was just you that made me irritable." Jesus, he really didn't mean to say that.
Sam had been doing everything for the pair of them. He had gotten them to the hospital after the hunt, that he had pretty much handled alone. He had dealt with the kids who had created the golem. Dean would have done a lot worse, but his brother just talked to the families and managed to talk the mother of one of the boys (whose father had incurred the monster's wrath after beating his kid) into taking the whole family to therapy. And all of that should have made him so proud, but instead his messed up brain chemistry told him to be pissed off. He knew that it was time to shut right up, but his mouth had other plans.
"Stop freaking coddling Sam. If I'm acting pissy, well maybe I have a reason to. At least when I was in a bad mood at Lisa's they just left me the hell alone!" There was a part of Dean's brain that was trying to stop, leaning into the brakes with both feet, but there was no stopping his locomotive mouth. "Jeez, when you were a soulless douche you didn't give a crap! Sucked then, but I see the appeal right about now."
He watched his brother's eyes go wide and his whole body sway a little, but he quickly regained composure and even tried to smile (the saddest smile Dean had ever seen). "I..I have to ice Bobby's ankle. I think if it looks good and you don't mind me driving we can get on the road today s..so don't wander too.. uhm..."
"It's okay, it's just…" He just moved his hand around in circles in the air, like that explained everything. "I'll have the car packed up pretty quick if Bobby's ankle is okay."
"My ankle's fine kid. Dean get the hell out of here so we can get this done and get me home."
He was pretty much done with Dean Winchester. Bobby loved him like a son, but that didn't change the fact that he'd toss him from a moving train right about then. And it didn't seem to matter how often Sam explained that it was just the affects of a serious concussion. It didn't matter that he could still see the worry in the younger Winchester's eyes. All that really mattered to Bobby Singer in that particular moment was that he had had enough of the Winchesters for the foreseeable future.
After the whole thing with the golem had gone pear-shaped, he had woken up in the back seat of the impala with an unconscious Dean and the soft sound of Sam's voice. A daylong visit to the hospital later Sam had them settled in a motel seeing to their needs like an overprotective hovering mama. Dean was more than his usual grouchy, snarky self. He was being downright mean. His outburst to his brother just before scooping up his phone and heading for parts unknown (just as Bobby had suggested) only proved it.
Sam just shrugged and carried on as if nothing was wrong. "He'll be fine in a couple of days. Probably be better once we get on the road. You know how he hates to be cooped up." He kneeled down by the older man's ankle and started to check the exposed toes for swelling. Sam looked kinda pale this close up and in better days he would have been worried. But these weren't better days.
"Ain't a damn kid, Sam. Don't need you lookin' after me. Let's just pack up the car, find your idjit brother, and hit the road."
"Yeah, sorry Bobby. I didn't mean to…" After standing up quickly, Sam swayed again. Yeah, maybe it didn't take better days to worry about someone you care for.
"Son are you al…" his phone interrupted the question. He checked the display and sighed. "Rufus, can't you manage a single hunt without me?"
Sam smiled affectionately and, after pushing the older man down and propping up his broken ankle, motioned to the bags and then the door.
The truth was that he really didn't feel alright. The burn on his arm ached fiercely and he was starting to feel nauseous and tired. Though he chalked that up to taking care of Bobby and Dean for the past few days. They probably should have just headed back to Sueix Falls, but he had been too worried about Dean getting worse while they were in the backend of South Nowhere. If his brother hadn't stubbornly refused medical treatment he wouldn't worry so much, but what if it was worse than a bad concussion. What if he had a skull fracture or something? He couldn't take that chance. And Bobby's foot needed real rest, not being crammed up in a car.
So they had stayed and he had done his best to take care of whatever they needed. He figured he owed it to both of them. Nothing could ever really make up for what he had done. Especially when he didn't remember doing it.
Still none of that changed that he was feeling pretty bad. Maybe if he changed the dressings on his arm he'd feel better. Theoretically he knew that burns required a lot of care. It just kept slipping his mind to take the time. He didn't want either Bobby or Dean to worry about hauling their bags heavy with the weapons his brother had spent the prior night cleaning. So after he had the impala loaded up he would check out his arm. After all he wouldn't be much use if he got sick.
Happy that he had a plan, he pushed back any thoughts of what Dean had said. He stepped out of the motel with Bobby's duffel and promptly started shivering. He didn't remember it being so cold the day before. Jacket first then load the car.
Dean felt remarkably better. Yeah, his head still ached and generally he felt like crap, but the walk had done him good. He wasn't really the type of guy given to self-reflection. With the life they had self-reflection was just asking for trouble. You look too close at a life like that and you either eat your gun or climb into a bottle and don't bother coming out. But what he had said to Sam was just ten kinds of wrong. Every indulgent pitying thought he'd had about his brother and Lisa and Ben was wrong.
He could bitch and whine about the white picket fence life he had given up all he wanted. That wouldn't get him Lisa and Ben back. He could worry about Sam and that stupid wall holding back hell from his little brother until he was gray. That wouldn't stop it from tumbling down. Ben had accused him of running out on family, but the truth was they were the thing he was running away from family to. He loved them, so much, he really did. There was no doubt about that, but it was always sort of like playing house. Real family didn't need backyard barbeques, homework at the kitchen table, or breakfast routines. Real family didn't need you to do or be anything. Real family always took you as you were through good times and bad (especially bad). Sam was family. It was high time he let the kid know it. There would be no more mooning over a damn phone. It was time to get back to what he did best: hunting things, saving people; the family business.
As soon as he worked that all out in his grapefruit he wasted no time getting back. He'd apologize to Bobby and he'd start doing his job. Twenty minutes of double-timing it found him back at the motel. He entered the room to find Bobby just finishing up a phone call.
"Well, I've told you a coupla hundred times to keep one on ya, but ya don't listen to me. Just call if you need anything." Bobby never really said goodbye or thanks or see you later. Once the required information was passed on he just killed the call. "You cooled your jets at all?"
"Yeah, um sorry about that Bobby. I was kinda bein' a…"
"Don't sugarcoat it."
"Well, not like you're the only one." Bobby got awkwardly to his feet keeping pressure off his healing ankle. "Sam must have the car loaded up. Haven't seen him for a while. S'pose his patience may have run out."
Dean grinned and sidled up next to his friend, father, whatever, lending support without appearing to lend support. Bobby put an arm around the offered shoulder too tired to act tough.
"Should I let him have the first turn behind the wheel? It'll take us twice as long to get home, but he'll just worry over me like a mother hen if I'm driving"
"Kid, I could care less who's drivin' or who's worryin' as long as you get me home in one piece."
The impala was parked in the back lot, the front having been taken over by a posse of monstrous RVs driven by overly friendly octogenarians. The whole thing reminded Dean of the upside to living hard, dying young and leaving a good-looking corpse. They made their way slowly around their end unit to where Sam was hopefully waiting the car packed, gassed up, and ready to go. The car was there sure enough. The far side back door open.
"Sam," Dean called heading to the open door with Bobby. "Where is he? Did he tell you…" He was stopped dead in his tracks by the image in front of him: Sam unconscious legs spilling out of the car, a badly burnt arm clearly visible under an incomplete bandaging job. "Sam, Sammy, what the hell?" Dean climbed into the foot well of the car. Careful of the arm, he shook his brother feeling heat even through layers of clothes. Closer to the burn he could see and smell the infection. "Did you know about this?" he threw back at Bobby.
The man was limping around the back of the car to get to Sam's head on the other side. "Of course not. Come on we gotta get him to the hospital. You can feel guilty later."
Dean figured he could do both pretty much at the same time so gave it a try. They pulled him further into the car, Dean tucking his brother's long legs gently toward the back of the seat and reaching up to smooth sweaty hair off of a fevered forehead. "Careful of his arm." Later he would see it as a mark of their family bond that Bobby didn't smack him upside the head for that stupid comment.
Watching Dean watch Sam physically hurt. The boy had been whisked away as soon as they had carried him into the emergency room and they had waited for nearly an hour before a doctor came to speak with them. The verdict was heartbreaking: mostly 2nd and some 3rd degree burns and staph infection. It was more than Dean could really take in. Bobby figured he only heared that yes his brother will be fine, but not now, not soon.
Now there is nothing to do, but wait. Sam isn't responding to the antibiotics and there is nothing can be done until he does. They wait, each of them praying to Castiel and getting no response. He wants to talk to his boy, wants more than anything to make things right again. He wants that chance and at his age he'da thought he would have known not to wait until it is almost too late.
"Please Sam, don't leave me. I just… I was a jerk as usual. I'm still getting used to you being back is all. When your soul was in hell it wasn't you. No matter what you want to think. I couldn't trust that guy. I didn't really know that guy. I wanted Lisa and Ben so much more than him even before we found out he wasn't really you. But you gotta know I would never choose them over you. I would never have left you down there. I know that this whole thing may be all kinds of messed up if…okay when that wall comes down, but at least I can be with you if that happens. And I know that you're strong enough to handle whatever happens. We'll do it together." He isn't ashamed of the tears that fall, but can't stand too much caring and sharing. "And hey man if you wanted to sleep in the car that much you coulda just said so."
Dean just wished Cas would answer him. Things are strained between them lately, but he admits that he still needs the guy. He just isn't sure that Cas needs them. He figures that he and Sam have pretty much proven they will go to the mattresses to stop the apocalypse; to save the world. The angel just seemed so wrapped up in his heavenly war that it's pretty frustrating. Cas gets angry and says Dean asks too much and he supposes it's true, but if Cas would just trust them to help with whatever is going on he must know they would do it in a heartbeat. They're family. And right about now he wishes his feathered brother would get down there for two minutes to heal up Sam.
The infection is resistant to antibiotic after antibiotic and the doctors are little less optimistic with each passing hour. When Sam opens his eyes they are hazy and the only words that pass his lips are "I'm sorry" or sometimes he speaks directly to Dean or Bobby and even sometimes Adam begging them to forgive him. Each time breaks Dean's heart a little more. He holds a fevered hand while nurses clean and abrade the burns. Sam cries and Dean holds on tighter and tries to give his brother the forgiveness that he wants, that has always been his for the taking.
He eventually falls asleep, exhaustion and worry carrying him away to dreams of holding baby Sammy in a lonely motel room.
He doesn't know where he is and for a frightening moment can't remember anything past falling, always falling.
"Dean?" He wants his brother. "Dean, please." His voice is scratchy and his throat hurts.
"Your brother is sleeping." The deep graveled voice is one he knows heart-deep.
"Cas?" He tries to turn his head to where he heard the voice, but his body doesn't even attempt to cooperate. Luckily the angel seems to realize and moves into Sam's line of sight.
Sam can't remember Cas ever looking so unhappy or tired, not even when they were facing the end of the world. His unfathomably intense blue eyes seem dull and his mouth holds none of the mirth that was usually visible underneath the serious angel exterior. He tried to think of why his friend is like this, but the answer is just out of reach. He thinks maybe it has something to do with what he's done, but that memory is out of reach too.
"Yes, Sam. You were unwell, but I have healed what I could. I'm afraid my grace has been strained of late by the… the conflict in heaven, but I was able to remove a good deal of the bacteria that was damaging your body."
"I don't know… I don't remember…" He blinks his eyes in an attempt to focus better. "Is it my fault?"
Now it was Castiel's turn to blink. "Why would that be your fault Sam?"
"I don't know. I can't really remember. I remember I fell." The boy closes his eyes for a moment and then shakes his head. "No I came back, Dean got me back. Right?"
Sam is still a little feverish and Cas realizes that this is how human bodies react to that state. He assumes it is best to just give the young man the information he requests "Yes, that is correct. Dean had Death retrieve your soul and return it to your body."
"Oh yeah. It's always the same huh Cas? I don't mean to mess up. Tell Dean I'll do better."
The angel reached out and touched Sam's forehead lightly, pouring just a bit more of his grace into the sick body. "I do not think your brother will require you to do anything more than recover. So rest. You will feel better soon."
Sam's blinks become longer and longer and then he is asleep. This is the 'Boy with the Demon Blood' whose hand he had hesitated to shake. He is just a boy, so young compared to himself.
"So you finally decided to make an appearance, huh?" If he were not an angel Cas would have been startled by Bobby Singer's sudden appearance.
"Good morning Bobby. I am afraid I was kept away by urgent demands." Cas looked once more at Sam and then strode toward the door where the hunter stood arms crossed in front of him, cap firmly in place. This is exactly how he pictures Bobby when conjuring an image in his mind. "And I must return without delay. Sam is better. I was unable to restore him to full health, but what sickness is left he will be able to fight on his own. Tell Dean I am sorry I couldn't do more. Sam now only needs rest to make a full recovery."
"I don't know what the hell is going on with you Castiel, but those boys miss you. They both need to know what's goin' on with their friend. Not like Dean has a lot of friends anymore and things with Sam and me, well…" That was not where he was going with this. "Alls I'm sayin' is it wouldn't hurt him or Sam to have another friendly face around. And don't tell me again about the war in heaven. You and I both know they will give up everything to help." He stopped to make sure the angel was looking at him. "If you give 'em a chance. If you trust 'em"
"It is not that simple." Bobby's not sure if angels are capable of looking guilty and if they are what that would look like, but there is something in Cas' eyes that he hasn't seen before.
"Oh yeah 'cuz we got a full supply of simple down here. How's about fightin' this damn Mother of All when we know jack squat how to do it. How do think we're handlin' knowin' all the crap Sam did last year that he don't even remember. Scratch that, that he can't remember or he might die. Is that the kinda simple you're lookin' for?"
That sort of guilty look is gone replaced with a cold assessing stare. There are few times that Cas makes you remember that he is a powerful otherworldly being, preferring to fit himself into his human environment. Now however Bobby feels the need to shift uncomfortably. He feels like something small and insignificant.
"You humans talk a great deal about the soul and yet seem completely ignorant of its true nature, its true power and beauty. The human mind and the human body are truly amazing, capable of great things when and only when tempered and controlled by the soul." Cas takes a deep breath and meets his eyes fully. "I warned Dean against retrieving Sam's soul, but I was wrong. To have left a soul like that in such unspeakable torment for all of time would have been… You are also wrong to hold that soul responsible for things it's mind and body did without it."
"I know it wasn't all Sam. All right Cas. I just wish I knew why he tried to kill me. Is it so wrong to be a bit pissed that someone who says they think of you like a father tries to cut your noggin' off"
"I think you may have answered your own question. I told Sam that returning his soul to his body would be disastrous. An intelligent mind without a soul is an expert at self-preservation." The angel had his head tilted to the side like he did when pondering something. It was in these moments that Bobby saw the being of unimaginable age beneath the frumpy vessel.
"Yeah, well then why didn't he gun for Dean?"
"Dean's death may well have worked, but it is said that to truly scar a vessel one needs to spill the blood of the father."
Cas simply holds up his hand to stop him. "If Sam is to weather the storm when the wall crumbles he will need his whole family. Dean will need you too. I'm afraid I will be of little help to them when the time comes. I haven't always understood you Bobby Singer, but I know you will not fail them."
There was just a flutter of wings and the vague sensation of a summer breeze and Cas was gone. It wasn't the sudden disappearance that had Bobby frozen in place. He was pretty darn used to that. No, it was the thoughts and feelings swirling around his head. He didn't hear the nurse approach until she tapped his shoulder and asked if he could move a bit to let her in.
He woke up with the vague sense that he had been dreaming, but with no memory of what. After a few blinks he found that his head no longer felt stuffed full of barbed wire and until that moment he didn't realize how crappy he had felt. However the stupid hospital chair was doing his back no favors. He stretched out his legs, as he looked over at Sam still unconscious and pale.
"We had a visitor while you were sleepin'," Bobby said gruffly from a chair on the other side of the bed.
Dean was immediately up and resting his palm on his brother's forehead. "Cas?" When all he feels is a bit more warmth than normal he takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly. "His fever's down."
"Yep. Guess his angel mojo is a little low, but he's got Sam mostly fixed up. Doc says it's a miracle. Thought it was some drug resistant strain. 'Course he's right on both counts."
Snagging his chair with his ankle, he situates himself next to Sam and takes his brother's hand, knowing Bobby won't mock him for his show of affection. "I knew he'd be okay. No one is as strong as Sammy. But thanks all the same Cas." The last is spoken to the ceiling and is the most sincere he has been in a long time when speaking to the angel.
It's a long time before he speaks again. "It's always been my job to take care of Sammy since we were little kids. I told Lisa that once and she got this really sad look on her face, you know? She said it was terrible that that kinda responsibility was put on me as a kid. She said I should go into counseling because it wasn't healthy how I felt about being a brother. I know she was trying to help. She did help. I woulda died without her and Ben that year. But I couldn't make her understand, can't make anyone, even Sam, understand. I'm glad Dad gave me that job. I'm proud of it, you know?"
"I get it, kid," Bobby said, taking off his cap and dropping it in his lap. "But she wasn't wrong. Ain't always the best thing for you."
"See you don't get it." He knows that he's supposed to explain it, but there are no words that he's ever found to explain what he feels for his brother and doesn't expect he ever will. He's saved from trying to when Sam starts to wake up, eyes fluttering open and hand gripping Dean's. "Hey, Sammy. Come on rise and shine."
He comes awake with that frown on his face. The one that Dean kinda loves and hates all at the same time. The one that draws his eyebrows together and crinkles his forehead. He's obviously confused and therefore tense, but as soon as his eyes meet Dean's he relaxes and damn if that doesn't give him a pretty big boost. He does that. He puts Sam at ease. No one else understands because no one else is Sam's brother.
"Dean? What happened? Why…?"
"That burn on your arm got infected. It was pretty bad Sam. I assume you got that when you torched the golem."
"You shoulda let us know boy. Worried you brother sick." Bobby adds.
"Yeah, I was taking care of it. I promise Bobby. I'm really sor…"
"No more Sam. No more sorrys for now okay. You got nothing to be sorry about." Dean was emphatic.
"But…" Tears were forming.
"No, please Sam. I know you got all this guilt inside you and I know you, I know that you have to set things right. But you don't have anything to set right with me. Okay?" Dean grabbed onto his brother's hand. "Just want you to get better."
He sees clear as day that Sam doesn't buy it, but knows that Sam will do whatever Dean asks. And sure enough he nods his head. Bobby also knows that this is when he is supposed to say the same thing. He's supposed to set Sam's mind at ease and it isn't like he doesn't want to do that. Castiel's words are rattling around in his head and Sam is looking up at him with eyes that are still wet, still showing signs of fever.
Yeah, the time is coming that he will forgive the kid completely, but it isn't right now. He'll wait until it's all clear in his melon and then he and Sam can talk. It isn't too late. The time will come while they're researching or getting Dean outta some scrap or other and he'll tell Sam that he could never do anything to make Bobby turn away. Right now he won't give any fake words when all he needs to say is, "Get some more sleep Sam, we'll be here when you wake up. Then we'll get on home." Home, his home, but not just his anymore. He thought about the room upstairs that his boys shared and his chest felt tight. That wreck of a house in the middle of a junkyard was Dean and Sam's home. Wasn't how he saw his life workin' out, but this was his family.
"Okay Bobby." Sam's eyes closed, but there was definite smile on his face mirrored on Dean's face.
"Home, huh? You know Sam never really had one of those?" Dean doesn't sound bitter. He's not blaming anyone, not John, or demons or angels or even himself. Just stating a fact.
"Home ain't necessarily four walls, boy." He won't say more than that, he ain't their momma for Pete's sake.
They are driving to South Dakota and he is in the back seat again with more pillows than is strictly necessary and a blanket that has been a part of the impala's usual supplies since before he can remember. He has his iPad on his lap and is supposed to be doing some research on purgatory, but really he is looking at the little army man that is stuck in the ash tray by his sock clad foot.
The impala was home. Dean likes to tell him the story of how he loved to chew on the corner of the headrest when he was teething and it was the only thing that stopped him crying. He suspects that it had more to do with standing in his brother's lap while the boy had held him securely than with the gum soothing properties of the cars upholstery. He remembers playing for hours in the foot wells with Dean while his father drove and drove and finally being lulled to sleep by the drone and growl of the engine. Then again maybe it was the small, but sure hand that rubbed up and down his back telling him that mommy was watching over them from heaven and everything would always be okay. He had his first kiss in the car after his brother let him use it to take beautiful Jennifer Tascher to the movies the last day before they moved again. He had fought with his dad, opened his acceptance letter from Stanford, mourned for the his beloved Jess, mourned for his brother - all in the impala. Everything important had happened there. The impala was home.
But it wasn't really. It was safe and it was comfort, but home was Dean. Dean and Bobby were taking him home to South Dakota. Bobby had called his home theirs. He knows that is big, is important. But the realization that his family is really his home is bigger. He still feels guilt around him all the damn time. He still has to fight not to think about everything he must of done last year. But right here right now he didn't need to be sorry.
Sometimes it felt like all he had were his regrets. And sometimes he gets a reprieve. Because he doesn't just have regrets. He has family.