The Whole Nine Yards
Disclaimer: After seven seasons, they still aren't mine. Darn it!
Beta'd: By the ever-delightful and talented Phx and Muffy. Thank you, ladies!
"Oh, you're uh, walkin' and talkin'?"
"Yeah, I uh—put on my own socks—the whole nine."
~Sam and Dean Winchester, "The New Boss"
Dean's voice came to him from underwater. Garbled and distant, but not without the comfort that came from knowing his brother was nearby. He tried to respond, he really did, but the effort was just too much and his head flopped forward.
"Dean, the kid's barely with us." That voice Sam knew he recognized, but the knowing didn't help put a name to it.
"I know, damn it," Dean muttered, his voice angry even as the hand carding through the strands of Sam's hair was gentle. "Just drive, Bobby, I got this."
Bobby. That was it. Sam pried his eyes open briefly, catching sight of the interior roof of a car he didn't recognize and the edge of his brother's jacket. "Sam, you with me?" Dean asked, his face looming closer in a blur of muted hazel and brown.
Something tight in Sam's chest fluttered loose and he melted into the seat with a sigh.
His hand hurt. It felt swollen and hot which was odd when every other part of him felt so cold. He swallowed hard, forcing a little saliva down his dry throat. A hand cupped the back of his head and pulled him to a half-sitting position. He turned away when a cup touched his lips. As much as he craved water, it was never water in the cup.
"Sam, hey, take it easy." Dean's voice soothed his frayed nerves.
Sam blinked trying to clear his vision, but it was useless. The entire room swam in and out of focus and he gagged reflexively.
"Close your eyes, Sam, and just take small sips. You need this."
Sam closed his eyes as he'd been told, but flinched when the cup touched his lips again.
"That's it, bro, just small sips."
Heaven. That's what cool water felt like on his tongue. He remembered then, he was out. This was real. "D'n?"
"Yeah, I'm here."
Sam frowned. Dean's voice sounded more tired than it had just a few minutes ago. Sam tried to hang onto the little bits and pieces of thoughts scampering through his mind, but it seemed almost impossible. Fire flared around the edges and he retreated.
"Sammy?" Dean's tone was urgent this time even though the volume was contradictorily soft. "You awake?"
Sam wrinkled his nose. It smelled like sweat and stale air. Still, it was better than sulfur and fear. "Mmm," he hummed. Something cold and clammy hit his forehead and he startled, pawing at it weakly with an uncooperative hand.
"Leave it, Sam," Dean commanded. A hand encircled Sam's wrist and guided it back to the bed, holding it there with gentle pressure. "You have a fever. God only…" Dean snorted and started again, "Who knows what kind of crap was on that glass and that cut on your hand is deep."
Sam licked his lips, but when he opened his mouth to respond, the fire hit him so intensely, all that came out was a scream. It seemed to last forever this time and even when Sam could no longer hear his brother's frantic calls, the heat and pain followed him.
Dean scrubbed a hand down his face. Sam was finally, finally, resting relatively comfortably and fever-free. He'd been out of it for at least five hours now and Dean was getting restless. He couldn't help Sam, couldn't stop Cas, couldn't do a damn thing, and his thoughts were driving him crazy. Sam sacrificing himself had been hard enough to deal with, but his brother had become collateral damage in an unnecessary battle with a man, angel, god, whatever-the hell, he'd once counted as a friend. Someone Dean had entrusted with his family.
He'd never make that mistake again.
Dean leaned forward, resting his arms on his legs, and let his head hang down so he didn't have to look at Sam's pale face and quiet, prone form. It reminded him too much of those awful first hours after Cold Oak, and really, he'd had enough of Sam dying.
The feelings that Dean desperately tried to stuff down, however, were the ones that reminded him of how he'd felt while watching his Dad's pyre. The stone in the pit of his stomach had grown heavier as realization of what his father had done sank in. His dad had surrendered his soul for Dean's, and now Sam's had been torn apart—again—all for the sake of keeping Dean preoccupied.
He clenched his hands into fists until his short nails dug into his palms. What a waste. Everything. A waste.
Dean sensed his brother's change in alertness and looked up. Sam's eyes were open, focused, and full of so much despair it actually hurt to look at them. "Sam?"
Sam didn't even blink. Not that Dean was too surprised. Bobby had helped him get an unresisting, but also entirely unhelpful, boneless, muscle-less Sam out of his sweaty t-shirt and boxers and into a fresh, clean set. Sam only drank when commanded to, and only then, if he remained lucid long enough to do so. That's why they'd finally hooked up an I.V., that and it was the only way to get antibiotics into a nearly catatonic Sam.
Bobby had left earlier in the afternoon to score a sedative strong enough to keep Sam under for more than just a few hours at a time. Dean suspected it was either the roar of Bobby's old truck returning, or the slamming of the front door, that had woken his brother. He hoped that meant the med-run had been successful because Sam needed sleep, real sleep. They all did.
Sam's focus moved from Dean's knee up to his face. His lips twitched in what could have been a sign of recognition.
"If I help you sit up, think you can drink something?" Dean asked, reaching for the cup on the bedside table. Predictably, there was no response from Sam. Dean wrapped an arm around his brother's shoulders, and pulled him to a sitting position on the edge of the bed. He could feel the tremors running down Sam's back through the thin t-shirt. "You cold?"
Sam didn't answer, but obediently took a few sips of water. His head lolled and Dean was afraid Sam would choke if he tried to drink anymore. He set the glass down, and almost lost his grip on Sam when his brother jumped and pushed himself back against the wall.
"Did you get it, Bobby?" Dean asked, not needing to turn around to know it was the older hunter. If the truck hadn't given it away, the banging sounds from the kitchen and the clomping up the stairs definitely did. Dean leaned forward and grasped Sam's shoulders to keep him from toppling over.
"Had to go three towns over and it cost me one of my best bottles of scotch, but I got it," Bobby grumbled, but Dean could tell his heart wasn't in it.
Dean shot Bobby a sympathetic look. He didn't need a map and compass to know the other man's thoughts had traveled to Rufus. "I got him, if you could…," Dean said. He turned to nod at the bag in Bobby's hand, but kept a firm grip on his brother.
Bobby grunted a response and without preamble uncapped the syringe in his hand and injected it into Sam's I.V. port. His hand drifted up towards Sam's head, but stopped half-way and let it drop by his side. He turned instead to face Dean. "You hungry?"
"No," Dean said. He pulled on the sheet trying to untangle his brother from the blankets. "Could really go for a cup of Joe, though."
"Sure thing," Bobby replied, beating a hasty retreat out the door.
Dean didn't blame him. It was hard to see Sam like this, and harder still to know there was nothing anyone could do to fix it. Speaking of Sam, the kid's head was lolling uncontrollably, giving him the odd appearance of a Sasquatch-sized bobble-head. "Time to lie down, Sammy."
Sam seemed to be all arms and legs, gangly and uncoordinated, making him more difficult to get situated. When Dean managed to get the blanket tucked up around Sam's shoulders, the blankets traitorously slid off his feet. Dean reached down to pull the quilt back over his brother's legs. "Jesus, Sam, your feet are like ice."
Sam blinked at him.
Dean shook his head, stood, and walked across the room on stiff legs to fetch Sam's socks. He'd been sitting for far too long and he was, apparently, getting much too old for the uncomfortable, wooden chair. He sat down without a geriatric groan, thank you very much, and unrolled Sam's socks. "You know, it wouldn't kill you to help me out here."
Dean looked up at Sam's face to find his brother's eyes were closed, mouth hanging slightly agape, the lines of pain that had creased his forehead for hours were smooth. Dean breathed a sigh of relief as he slipped on Sam's other sock and pulled the blankets into place. Maybe now, his brother could rest peacefully for awhile. Sam deserved a break. So did he for that matter. Dean felt like he could sleep for a week.
Dean sighed again, this time with frustration. He could put socks on Sam's feet, but what did it matter when Sam was literally falling to hell and there was absolutely nothing Dean could do about it? He patted his brother softly on the shoulder letting his hand rest there for several minutes. The meds would kick in soon and they would help Sam, even if he couldn't. Dean took a deep breath and in a split moment, changed his mind. He didn't need sleep, where his brain would continue to scroll through all the FUBAR scenarios of the future and the mistakes of his past. He needed something to do. Something he could do.
He could fix the car. So, when Sam finally woke up even if he wasn't in one piece, even if he might never be again, Sam would have a home to return to. Dean rubbed his palms on his jeans and stood. Sparing one last, long look at his brother, he pivoted on the balls of his feet and left. He could've sworn he heard a whispered thank you before he closed the door with a soft click.
Sam wriggled his toes inside his socks, relishing the feel of the soft fabric and the warmth they provided. He twisted his head on the pillow to look toward the door his brother had just closed on his way out. He groaned, pressing the heel of his good hand to one eye, and breathed through the headache knowing full well he was sinking under again, and fast. Down into a deep labyrinth filled with untranslatable horrors that no one could help him navigate. Only he could keep track of what was real and what was—no longer real in his head. As sleep wrapped her arms around him in an inescapable embrace, Sam wriggled his toes again.
The memories of his one-on-one time with the fallen angel of light burned like ice—but thanks to his brother at least his toes, and soul, were warm.
AN: Sam's odd comment about his socks just stuck with me and WHAMMO, in spite of the fact I can barely find two minutes to rub together these days, fic came a callin'. I've tinkered mercilessly with it, so now I'm just posting it before I chicken out! Incidentally, if you notice a boat-load of mistakes, they are definitely mine (see previous comment about mercilessly tinkering). :)