A/N: This was written for this prompt from the very awesome shangrilada in the ohsam wishlist challenge on LJ: Sam's dosed with demon blood somehow. It wasn't his fault, so Dean's not mad at him (or at least knows that he SHOULDN'T be mad, and jesus Christ Sam why do we have to keep going through this I wish you were okay I just want this to be over why did you listen to Ruby I'm so sorry I left you and went to Hell etc etc) so he's sitting through withdrawal with him. He's SHOCKED by how bad it is. Preferably he judges himself a lot for not being with him before.
Warnings: SPOILERS for s5 until and including 5.18: Point of No Return. Lots of swearing, some violence, blood, gore, all of the withdrawal-associated nastiness, aaaaaangst, present-tense, metaphor-abuse.
Disclaimer: I don't own Supernatural or any of its characters. Title from the song Videotape by Radiohead.
Mephistopheles is Just Beneath
Sam's already halfway through his second cup of coffee when Dean notices the waitress's eyes turn pitch-black.
He jumps out of his seat without thinking, one hand curled around the bottle of holy water in his jacket, and shouts, "Christo!" She flinches, then turns and runs. Dean chases after her, tripping over tables and people and what he's pretty sure is some kind of small dog. He can hear Sam thudding after him, and wants to shout I got this, you go, because, hey, apparently his subconscious still doesn't trust his brother around demons. He shuts up, though, because demon blood addiction or no, backup's backup.
Dean finally corners her (it, it) in the alley behind the diner. She turns to look at him, panting, hair dishevelled, her nametag half hanging off (Hi, my name is Andrea). "Pl-please," she says. "Don't. Please," but her eyes are black and Dean's fucking had it with demons trying to manipulate them, he really has. He flings the holy water at her, starts up the exorcism even as her skin begins to sizzle and steam rises in great billowing clouds in the chill night air.
She lurches toward him as he's reciting, but Sam's at the ready, flinging more holy water at her. She backs away, still hissing and squirming. Dean's heart is already starting to lift at the thought of at least one goddamn thing going right for the first time in months—a clean cut exorcism, a (hopefully) alive host at the end of it, and no black-eyed bitch spouting manipulative crap at them, because, seriously—Dean's had it with the B-grade horror movie evil monologues.
That moment is, of course, the cue for everything to start going to shit.
With a tortured cry, she reaches into a pocket and pulls out a knife. Dean senses more than sees Sam tensing beside him—he has Ruby's knife, and while neither of them want to use it, he knows Sam won't hesitate when things start to get ugly. To their surprise, however, she (it, goddammit) slashes the knife across her wrist. It's a deep cut; blood's already starting to well and flow and drip off her palm and fingers. Dean falters in his exorcism for a few precious seconds.
She raises her slashed arm as if in supplication. "Please," she says again. "You can have it all. Drain me dry, even."
Dean frowns, casts a quick glance at Sam. His brother's face may as well have been made of steel, however—he's completely impassive, and Dean can't help the spark of pride in his chest. "No can do, sweetheart," he says, and proceeds to restart the exorcism—
"In the coffee," she says suddenly. "I've been adding my blood to the coffee—your coffee," she amends, looking to Sam. "I—I was ordered to lay low, just do my duty, but—I had to see you, make you know. You will be magnificent, Sam. He will be magnificent."
Dean's stomach lurches at the naked worship in her voice, and that's even before he fully processes what she's saying. That's when it feels like all of his viscera's trying to dance the frickin tango and holy shit, Sammy no!
"This is the least I can do," she says. "So, please. Please."
Dean's still standing around, about as useful as a lump of rock, when Sam cries out and lurches forward, Ruby's knife at the ready. He stabs her in the chest, but the demon only smiles as it dies, flickering inside its host like a dying jack-o'-lantern. Andrea stays alive for a few more agonising moments, then dies, gurgling on her own blood.
It's all fucking horrifying, but right now Dean's more concerned about the diner full of patrons who just saw them chase after the waitress, and the fact that Sam's staring at the knife and the blood like he's in some sort of haze.
"Come on," he grits through clenched teeth and grabs his brother's jacket. "We need to get out of here before anyone sees us with her." Sam doesn't respond, however, and seriously—fuck this shit, Dean's friggin terrified. "Sam!" he barks in his best Dad-voice. "You listening?"
That seems to break Sam out of his reverie. "Yeah," he says, "Yeah, okay," and then they're walking out of there, trying their damndest not to seem like murderers fresh off a kill (fresh off another kill).
Dean's head is spinning as they head back to the Impala. They've been in this godforsaken town dealing with a haunting for close to fifteen days, delayed thanks to hostile witnesses and law enforcement, and burning the wrong bones twice. They'd checked out of the motel that night, before deciding to have a leisurely meal at the diner before they left.
The diner with the demon waitress. The same diner that they've been eating at for more than two weeks, and shit. That's two weeks worth of demon-blood lattes, and hasn't Sam been hoovering coffee by the mug-full recently? Sam barely eats or sleeps anymore, and Dean is fairly sure that at some point Sam tried to tell him about Lucifer visiting him in his dreams, but Dean's been having an up-close-and-personal view of his own colon over the past few months, and it's likely that he just didn't listen. So Sam's been drowning himself in coffee, trying to keep awake, but Dean can't help but wonder how much of the last two weeks has been about the caffeine and how much of it has been about some primal part of Sam relishing the demon blood.
Maybe Sam even knew all along—
"Dean," Sam says suddenly, and Dean snaps back to reality just in time to see Sam go down on his knees and start retching into a ditch by the side of the road. He sighs, scrubs a hand across his face.
Well. Hopefully all that vomiting will get rid of some of the blood.
They decide to go to Bobby's because, hell, why not? There's no way of telling if Sam's consumed enough demon blood to induce withdrawal; they might've been through this nightmare twice, but it's not exactly a science. All Dean knows is that the withdrawal from the Famine-induced binge was considerably less severe than the first time (well, Sam was stumbling out of the Panic Room in less than a week, and Dean counts that as 'better'), and considering that Sam didn't even rip into a demon this time? Dean's feeling just a little optimistic.
Sam's quiet through the drive. Dean's paying more attention to him than usual—sometimes he has to remind himself to keep an eye on the road as well—but Sam seems okay. Pale, yes, tense like he's got a friggin time-bomb strapped to him (he's got a friggin time-bomb strapped to him), hands twisting in his lap, but okay otherwise. Maybe the demon was shitting them. Won't be the first time that's happened; won't be the last.
Bobby receives them with practiced calm; Dean already called him while Sam was turning his stomach inside-out. He makes some sort of joke about Sam exorcising everything from his toilet paper onwards, but that only succeeds in making Sam look even more miserable, and Dean just wants to get this over with, okay?
They get the Panic Room ready with a morbid sort of efficiency. Sam's helping prepare the site of his personal hell for the next who-knows-how-many-days, and the thought forms a lump in Dean's throat. The sound of Sam's screams from the last time—distorted from the iron and a wild sort of agony that Dean's only ever heard from the souls who'd gone under his knife—still haunts him. He can't let Sam go through that alone, again.
"Got to get an extra mattress," Dean says, before he can change his mind.
Sam looks up, squints at Dean. He's sweating, his hands are shaking, and all Dean can think is too soon, too soon, god Sammy— "Why?" he asks.
Sam's got a pretty good excuse for not firing all cylinders just now, so Dean lets that pass. "I'm staying here with you."
Sam looks down again, fiddles with one of the straps on the cot. "You don't have to, y'know, keep an eye on me," he says at long last. "Pretty sure the door'll hold. Or you can just strap me down right from the beginning—"
"That's not what I meant, Sam."
His brother frowns. "Then why?"
"I figured," Dean rubs his face in exasperation, struggling to find the words, "I figured that I—owed you."
Sam snorts; it's a horrible, bitter sound. "You don't owe me anything, Dean. Staying here is only going to put you in danger, and besides—" His voice drops. "I don't want you to see—me like this."
Dean kind of wants to sit down and cry, but says instead, "Sorry, Sammy, but I'm camping here with you this time."
There's a moment of silence where Dean wonders if Sam will argue further, but Sam just says, "Okay," and turns away. The resignation in his voice cuts through Dean like a knife.
For the first couple of hours or so, nothing much happens. Sam and Dean stare at each other while Sam... sweats. His eyes are skipping everywhere, alternately staring at the ceiling, at the floor, the cot, somewhere two inches to the left of Dean's face, and if Sam's trying his damndest not to think of demon blood, Dean's not really doing a great job of distracting him.
"Wish we'd brought in some cards," Dean says. "Could've played poker."
Sam gives him a strained smile. "Really."
"Yeah, I mean, I would even put off kicking your ass so that we can actually have games that last for more than fifteen minutes."
Sam snorts, but he's definitely smiling now, and Dean's internal scoreboard goes ping! "You are so full of shit," Sam says.
"Getting a little uncreative there with your insults, bro," Dean says, grinning, but the moment's lost as Sam doubles over with a groan.
"Sam? What's wrong?" Dean asks out of force of habit, but he knows what's going on—the muscle cramps have started. Sam doesn't answer; only bites back yet another groan behind gritted teeth.
Dean hovers near Sam for the next—he's not sure how long; maybe a few minutes, maybe hours. He watches Sam twist and shout, hands trying to be everywhere as random muscle groups seize up. He sees Sam arch his back, sweaty palms scrabbling for purchase on the metal floor, then curling over, clutching his thigh, fucking whimpering, and the only thing Dean finds more terrifying than his brother's agony is his own helplessness.
At some point, the cramping stops and Sam lies still, completely exhausted, barely even twitching. Dean manages to coax him onto the cot, even manages to get him to drink some water, before Sam's out for the count. Dean sits down in the opposite end of the room, realises how badly he's shaking, then takes a long swig of the water himself.
If that was round one, it really, really sucked. Dean's not sure what he's going to do when the hallucinations start, and a large part of him just wants to get out of there and drown in whiskey. After all, Sam's gotten through this on his own twice already, hasn't he?
This is the point where all he can think about is Sam, blood running from his mouth and face contorted in pain, looking at him with all the devotion and love he didn't—doesn't—deserve, even when Dean was about to give up on him and all of humanity. It's an uncomplicated sort of faith that's always both bolstered and terrified Dean—but now, more than anything, it makes him want to be worthy of it.
Sam wakes up some time later, shivering. "You still there, Dean?" he asks, and his voice sounds hollow and a little wasted, but he's lucid and talking, and Dean's more than a little relieved.
"Yeah," Dean says. "You need anything?"
"Nah." A few seconds, then: "It's starting to hurt, though, so you might want to go a little easy."
Dean's insides lurch. "Sam?"
"Dean? Dean, stop." Sam shifts uneasily on the cot. "Dean, please. Please—"
"Sam!" Dean leans over Sam, places his hands on either side of his head, trying not to flinch at how hot Sam's skin is. "Dude, I'm right here."
But Sam's staring at a point behind Dean's shoulder, his eyes wide and wet. "Dean, no, sorry, Dean—" And then he screams, and it's so abrupt and piercing that Dean kind of screams along with him. Sam starts thrashing, howling like he's being gutted (he's being gutted), and Dean can think of nothing more to do than holding him down and repeating, "I'm real. Sam, that's not me, this is not real," over and over again, though that doesn't work, of course it doesn't work, and what is Dean supposed to do, tell him what he's supposed to do—
It's a series of hallucinations after that, circling through Dean and Jess and Dad and many others, and Dean gives up trying to convince Sam that they aren't real at some point; he isn't sure why he even bothered trying in the first place. The only reason he can think of is how gut-clenchingly disconcerting it is to see his big, strong brother cry and beg at thin air for just a little more, Ruby, please, please, I need—I need to be better, to be strong—
But when Sam says, low and hoarse, "Lucifer," Dean jumps to his feet like he's received an electric shock. Sam curls into a ball, says, "No no no no" over and over again like he doesn't know how to say anything else, but Dean's heart is still thumping against his ribs. He doesn't know if delirium-induced consent counts, but Heaven is full of dicks, and he isn't willing to take the chance.
Just before Sam passes out again, Dean's able to get him to drink some more water, even swallow a couple of painkillers. It's probably not the best thing to do in a demon-blood withdrawal, but it's kind of killing Dean to be this helpless, and even if it does nothing more than take the barest edge off the pain, Dean's counting it as a victory.
Sam passing out, of course, gives Dean way too much time to think—and all he can think of, in that cold room smelling of stale sweat, is blame. Ruby, Azazel, Dad, Mom, the angels, Sam, himself—every little act, every decision that lead them to where they are now. It's so easy to look at Sam and how he fell and think why Sam, why did you do all of this, this isn't you, this isn't what we taught you to be, but Dean remembers, doesn't he? He remembers all of the souls he cut up in hell, the spine-tingling relish he took carving into them, stringing their intestines on sticks and shoving it down their throats.
He remembers survival. And, despite everything, he recognises that in Sam as well.
All he and Sam did was try living after all of the best parts of them were dead, and they ended up killing the world, instead.
Dean's not sure what they're going to do once they get out of here—he has to spend a minute wrapping his head around getting out of here at all; the Panic Room's become a sort of Purgatory where they're trapped in a limbo of perpetual madness. After all, several centuries worth of cosmic machinations got them where they are now. The very idea of getting out there and defying that seems terrifying. But they owe it to the world—and to each other—to at least try.
Dean knows there's no one who tries harder than Sam, and only now can Dean think, without inhibition or doubt, I'm with you, Sammy. I'm with you.
He leans against Sam's cot and takes one of Sam's gigantor hands in his—so yeah, Dean's feeling a little touchy-feely—and thinks idly that he might have to strap him down soon; he isn't going to wait for the demonic seizures to start throwing his brother around like a rag doll.
For the moment, though, he just sits there, rubbing his thumb across Sam's palm, thinking about the two of them—two paper monsters in a world full of strings waiting to be cut.