AN: Just a reminder; this fic was written ENTIRELY before the airing of S07E17. This was my take on the reemergence of Castiel and the ONLY spoilers taken into account were: A. Sam would be hospitalized. B. Castiel would be reintroduced. Thank you so much to all the lovely people who have taken the time to read, favorite, review, etc. If you haven't already, I'd love to hear what you think. I - like most fanfic writers - are review whores. Don't forget to leave a bit of cash for your whores. ;-)
Disclaimer: I don't own them. If I did, Sam would wear scuff all the time. I like Scruffy!Sam.
Dean burst into the room and then stopped abruptly. "James?" His wide, unbelieving eyes narrowed; a scowl darkening his features as he laid eyes on the last person he expected to see. The man was sitting on Sam's bed with his arms wrapped around Sam's shoulders, holding Sam up. "What the Hell are you – Sammy? What's wrong?"
Fear swept through him, and Dean moved into action, circling the bed and knocking James's relinquished chair out of the way. He skidded to his knees in front of them, and reached out for his brother, but just as he did, Sam seized a hold of James's wrist, and before the man could yank himself free of the tight grip, Sam placed James's hand against the crown of his head. Almost immediately, Sam's eyes rolled up into his head, and he pitched forward out of the bed, slumping heavily against Dean's chest.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa, I got ya little brother." He grunted from the strain of righting Sam's limp form, and called for James's help. James, who had fallen back in shock, jumped to Dean's aid and together, they hefted Sam back onto the bed and eased the unconscious man all of the way down until he was lying on his side like he had been when James had first arrived.
Dean leaned over his brother, and waited quietly for the quick-hammering pulse beneath the pads of his fingers, and then breathed a sigh of relief.
"Oh Sammy, what did you do, zap yourself?"
Behind him, James paced the narrow width of the room, rubbing worrisome circles into the palm of his hand – the same hand which had lain on Sam's head when he'd lost consciousness. "I don't understand," James said, shaking, "Why does this keep happening?"
Dean stood and turned on James; his eyes dark with accusation.
"You don't understand? I don't understand. What are you even doing here? Wait," Dean's eyes narrowed again, "are you – are you Dr. Scott?"
James stopped, raised his hands in surrender and backed cautiously away. "Dean, I can explain. I –"
A hand went up, stopping James's words, and Dean squeezed his eyes shut and shook his head. "Robert Belford Scott," he said. "You went with Bon Scott as an alias?"
"Well…yeah," James shrugged. "I kinda thought it was fitting, seeing as he drowned and you know…I drowned."
"In his own vomit. James, man, what're you doin'?" Dean's voice was tight, strained and filled with concern. On one hand, the situation was just slightly humorous as it was exactly what Dean would have done himself under the same circumstances, but on the other hand, James was taking a great risk; putting himself in danger of getting caught and putting both his and Sam's safety at risk. In Sam's current state, he was unpredictable and no one – not even Dean – could anticipate Sam's reaction to seeing 'Cas'.
"So, you what, scammed your way into a psych hospital? You know there's some people, like that doc out there," Dean said, tilting his head toward the door, "who would probably want to book you a room here for pulling this kind of stunt. What were you thinking?"
"Wait a minute," James bit off. "I could ask you the same thing. Okay, so maybe this wasn't the most intelligent plan I've ever had, but last night, you actually broke into this place. So who are you to lecture me about clear thinking?"
"Yeah, well…I know what I'm doing and you don't. You haven't got a clue what you're getting yourself into."
"Whose fault is that? God, Dean! You are the most…infuriating person, I have ever met. I know you less than twenty-four hours, and you're dragging me off to break half a dozen laws. For what? To cure the coo-coo for cocoa puffs that is your brother with a wave of my magic wand? Which is not a euphemism by the way."
"And another thing…I might have a clue," James flashed a set of quotation fingers in the air, "if you'd been honest with me from the jump. But you haven't. You know who hides things, Dean? Liars."
"What have I hidden?"
"Like, oh, I don't know…how about my own name."
Dean blanched; the look on his face like he'd just been caught sneaking a cookie from the cookie jar, and James could only shake his head in disbelief.
"It's true," James breathed, falling backwards against the wall behind him.
It wasn't a question. Until that exact moment, James hadn't truly believed it possible, but seeing the color drain from Dean's face was all the proof he needed. "Oh my God. I mean, I knew it was something, cuz man…you've got a terrible poker face."
Dean pulled a disgusted face and started to argue, but James cut him off.
"So…were you going to tell me?"
"Yes," Dean cried, indignantly, but then his head bobbed side-to-side as though he were weighing the decision. "No," he admitted.
"No?" James echoed levelly.
"You don't understand. There's a lot you don't know."
"You're damned straight, there's a lot I don't know," James growled. "Let's start with the fact that you know me? Who the Hell am I, Dean?"
"Well, uncomplicate it." The staccato notes of his voice hammered into Dean, making him involuntarily draw back his shoulders in response to the barked order.
"I can't," he shook the request away. "This is so colossally fucked up, that I don't even know where to begin."
"Pick a place, just…start somewhere. What's my name?"
Dean took a raged breath and did everything in his power not to look at James.
"What's my name, Dean?" James asked more pointedly.
"Cas! Alright? Your name was…Cas."
"Was that so hard?"
"Yes." Dean's arms flapped out from his side and back down, slapping against his thighs. "Everything about this is hard. Look, I don't expect you to understand, but this…what you have here… You have a home and a job that are safe and secure. You have a woman…what's her name?"
"You have Kay to go home to, and you had this chance to start over and because of that, you've got this…normal, happy life. How can I unleash all this crap on you and take that life away from you? No…this is better."
"How would you be taking anything away from me? You'd be giving me answers! I need answers, Dean, and who are you to make that decision for me anyway?"
"Because it's my fault you're here to begin with," Dean surged on, "It's my fault Sammy's here. Lately, it just seems like every decision I've ever made is coming back to haunt me, and they've all ended up hurting someone I love, and I can't. I just can't do it anymore. I can't keep losing people and letting the people around me get hurt. Just…it's just better this way. Please."
"I happen to think knowing the truth would be better."
"You can't handle the truth."
James rolled his eyes and shook his head. "Really? You're gonna quote Nicholson to me? And what do you even mean by that? It's your fault? Did you, I don't know…did you do something to hurt me? Are you the reason that I had my accident?"
"Well, okay then."
"No, I just didn't do enough. Look, I know you don't remember and I can't really get into all of it right now, cuz it's just…too big. But, I will admit that I should have done more. We both made our share of mistakes, some of them huge and unforgivable, but you were my friend – my best friend – and a lot of what went down could have been avoided if I'd just…but then, you were dead. All these months, and I've had all this time to think; too much time, and I don't know that we could have ever fixed this 'thing' between us, but then you were gone and any chance we'd had was gone too."
"Except that I'm not dead."
"Yeah, except that." Dean slumped down into the chair and ran a tired hand over his forehead and up into his hair, worrying at the short strands.
"So, my being alive…is that some kind of miracle? Cuz you keep hinting around at this div–"
"No," James mirrored. "No, because you…don't believe? Or no, because you and God 'are fighting'?"
Dean's brow cocked up high on his forehead and slowly he looked up from beneath heavily, shadowed lashes. His head tipped to the side and he studied James; searching the man for the reason he'd asked such a specific question.
"Sam told me."
"Course he did." Dean said, rolling his eyes. "No, because God…ain't doing us anymore favors, cuz if it was God, then he wouldn't have left Sam like this."
"That's pretty egotistical, don't you think? Like God would really save just one person?"
"Why not? You did…twice."
"Yeah, well, I'm not God."
Dean snorted out a humorless laugh; his tongue sweeping across his suddenly dry mouth. He hadn't meant for that bit of information to come spilling out the way it had, and now James was eyeing him with apprehension.
"What?" James asked, "Why do you have that look on your face?"
Dean was saved the uncomfortable conversation when beside him, Sam stirred, moaning quietly.
"Hey there, Sleeping Beauty. What took you so long?"
Sam's eyes slanted open just far enough to cast a dark glance at Dean, then he blinked twice, long and slow, before letting them fall closed again, saying, "Not Sleeping Beauty."
"Come on, Sammy, you know you'll always be my little princess," Dean teased. He moved from the chair to sit down on the edge of the bed, brushing the hair away from Sam's face, and becoming quite serious, asked, "How you doin' kiddo?"
Sam groaned, rolling into the dip of the bed where Dean sat, weakly adjusting so that he could lay belly down on the thin mattress, and Dean did what he could to help his debilitated brother.
"Was I sleepin'?" Sam asked, his voice muffled by the pillow.
"For a little bit, yeah. What do you remember?" Dean turned his head and looked across Sam to where James now stood anxious against the far wall and avoiding Dean's eyes.
"Yeah? Clowns or midgets?"
Dean bit the inside of his cheek as soon as he'd said it; cussing himself out. God only knew what constituted for 'weird dream' in Sam's mind anymore, and he had been stupid to make light of it given the current situation.
"Cas," Sam answered after a long, dead-silent moment.
James did meet Dean's gaze then. If there had been any doubt about what Dean had revealed to him before, there was no longer. He straightened, stepping closer to listen carefully.
"Yeah, about that," Dean started hesitantly.
"More hallucinations," Sam said, resigned to the fact that the image of the Angel had been in his imagination, just like every other person, place or thing to come across his airwaves in the last couple weeks. The only thing that had remained constant and real had been Dean. "S'okay," Sam said, curling further into Dean's heat, and proving that everything was definitely not okay.
"No," James answered. Stepping closer to the pair, he waved off the look of alarm on Dean's face, "I'm here, Sam."
There was a commotion then, as Sam tried to scramble feebly off of the mattress, and James rounded the bed quickly to help Dean contain the weakened man.
"Get back, dammit," Dean growled, attempting to shove James away, but Sam had already reached out and snagged Dean's arm to stop him. Sam used his hold as leverage to pull himself, until he was sitting upright and staring into the crystalline blue of James's eyes in front of him. Then he looked to Dean for confirmation.
"Is this real?" Sam asked, not trusting any of his senses, and his eyes widened in disbelief when Dean swallowed hard and nodded his head.
"It's him, Sammy," he acknowledged, but then Dean stood suddenly, taking several brisk steps away before circling back with one hand clasped over his mouth and the other sitting tight at his waist.
Sam watched him pace the floor; taking in the tell-tale frown that pulled at Dean's features and the way worry rippled across his brother's jaw.
James, too, watched; his eyes bouncing back and forth between the brothers. Sam, he noticed, looked ill. He was exhausted and beat up, and entirely too vulnerable, while Dean just looked agitated; talking to himself silently and rubbing roughly at his unshaven jaw, like he was attempting to peel the skin from his face.
"You and I gotta talk," Dean said finally; abruptly stopping in front of James, shielding Sam protectively in the process. "Alone," he added, grabbing James beneath the elbow and pulling the strangely compliant man to his feet.
James pulled out of his grasp, but followed him towards the door; agreeing that they needed to have a serious discussion about what exactly was going on. It was all too much to take in, but James had the feeling, that if he stepped out of the situation, there would be no way back in. It was now or never, and James had too many unanswered questions to throw in the towel now.
Dean tensed, and tried like Hell to push beyond his brother's plea, soothing him the best he could with, "S'okay Sammy. He and I just gotta hash a few things out is all."
"Dean, stop." The desperation in Sam's voice slowed Dean to a halt, and when he looked back, Sam was slumped over, leaning heavily on his knees and breathing hard.
Dean pointed at James with what was clearly a 'don't move', and then went to Sam, squatting down to be able to see his brother's face, and steadied himself against Sam's knee.
"What wrong? Is it…?" Dean paused dramatically, letting his silence fill in the blank for his brother, but Sam shook his head. "Then what?" Dean asked.
"Just don't…okay?" Sam asked. It was a vague request, but years of living in each other's pockets meant that the silent communication between them was second nature, and if Sam wanted him to 'let it go,' well…Dean wasn't making any promises. Sam looked so tired; as tired as Dean had seen him since the breakdown had begun, but there was something else there; the softened edge around Sam's mouth or the steady calm in his eyes that had replaced the haunting look of defeat, and Dean could only swallow and agree to anything that his brother asked of him. "I know this is bad, Dean. I do. But it's just..." Sam glanced over at James, who was waiting quietly to the side, and then back at his brother. "It's quieter, and I feel better with him nearby."
"I know you do." Dean said softly. He could see the truth in that statement; the relief in Sam. He wasn't healed, but he was better and that made this both easier and harder on Dean. "And that's why I gotta talk to him. Okay? Gotta lay things out for him, best that I can."
Sam's brow furled; a pained look crossed his face, and Dean knew instantly that Sam was on to him. Damn Sam for being so clever.
"You gotta job…don't you?"
Dean sighed, and with a half-hearted attempt at a smile, said, "Never could hide anything from you, could I Sammy?"
"Is it Dick?"
Dean nodded, breaking Sam's gaze and picking a spot on the floor to bore into.
"I wanna come with you."
Dean nodded in acknowledgement of Sam's wish and then shook his head in answer. "We both know you can't," he rasped out. "I gotta finish this, Sam."
"Revenge; Winchester family creed since 1983."
Dean looked up to find Sam smirking at him. With a smile of his own, he winked back at his little brother, swallowed down the knot tightening in his throat, and then climbed to his feet with a groan. Sam stayed seated, too weak to pull himself up, but he reached for, grasped and squeezed Dean's hand; holding on as long Dean would allow.
James cleared his throat. Across the room, he had been waiting patiently if a little awkwardly, watching what was obviously meant to be a private conversation. Dean pulled away from his brother and crossed the room quickly.
He looked back at his brother, one last time.
"Don't get killed."
Dean grinned, "Do my best," and walked out the door, followed immediately by James.
Standing in front of Dean's 'borrowed' Dodge Coronet, Dean reached into and retrieved a set of keys from his pocket. He bounced them in his hand once, and the held them out to James.
"For when he's ready."
James took them into his hand and frowned, looking down at the simple leather key ring with the letters J.W. embossed into the worn cow hide.
"You're just gonna leave him here? Just like that. Huh," James scoffed.
"Huh, what?" Dean asked, daring James to say the wrong thing.
"Nothin'. He just…he said you'd do this."
"Yeah, well…I don't expect you to understand. It's enough for me that Sam does."
Dean stepped off of the curb and walked around to the driver's side of the Coronet, leaving James to stand behind on the sidewalk.
"Sam says you're important," James blurted out, unexpectedly. "What does it mean to you, that word…important?"
Dean considered that for a moment, looking across the car at the man, the Angel he had considered his best friend. Someone he'd trusted almost as much as he'd trusted his own brother; sometimes more. That same someone who had betrayed his trust; not when he'd lied to them, not when he'd worked with Crowley, but when he'd made the choice to risk Sam's life. There was no reason on Earth, Heaven or Hell in which that could be justified.
"You wanna know what important means to me? It means loved. So, if I'm important to Sam…I guess, that's all I really need. Right?"
Dean had all but said that he – Cas – had been 'important', and that idea hit James hard, pretty quickly.
"What did I do?" James asked, "Before. What did I do to make you hate me?"
Dean rolled his eyes and huffed a breath that growled across his throat. "I don't hate you, and what you did…it doesn't matter anymore. What's done is done, and it does neither one of us any good to dredge up a past you can't remember, and it's only gonna open wounds and create more questions. Take it from one who knows, let it drop and live the life you got now."
"How am I supposed to do that when I still have so many questions?"
Dean opened the car door and stopped to lean and fold his hands against the roof of the green Dodge.
"You fix my brother, James," Dean answered matter-of-factly. "You fix him and he'll tell you anything you wanna know."
Dean slid in behind the steering wheel, pushed the keys into the ignition, and the station wagon roared to life. He looked out the side window where James was leaning over the car looking in, and he tried to smile at the Angel as he put the car in gear and pulled away from the curb.