Title: Under Pressure
Author: Disasteriffic Kaz
Info: Post s7 AU for LeahElisabeth in which Jody finds a crumbling Sam on her doorstep and tries to pick up the pieces with Dean missing and Sam driving himself to an early grave to find him.
Author's Note: Written for the Oh Sam exchange on Live Journal. The actual prompt is posted after the end of the story. :D
Sheriff Jody Mills strode out of the police station to her car, absently adjusting the gun on her hip. She looked up at the blue sky and felt no comfort from the sun shining down on her face. It had been months since Sam had called her and she had yet to shake the sinking feeling it had given her. Even now she could still hear him and the broken sound of his voice as he'd told her Dick Roman was gone for good…and Dean was missing. She opened her door and climbed in, turning the engine on as she closed the door and just stared at the steering wheel. Losing Bobby had hurt. She sniffed and rubbed a hand over her face. Hurt wasn't the right word, it had rocked her down to her toes for all the missed opportunities and the knowledge that she'd been falling in love with the old trouble maker. He'd given her the great gift of seeing Sam and Dean Winchester through his eyes…through his heart and they'd been hers ever since as much as they'd been Bobby's.
She pulled out of the parking lot onto the road and willed the tears back. Knowing that Dean was lost had taken her legs out from under her and the emotion in Sam's voice…he'd refused to tell her where he was, likely knowing that she meant to come to him right then. Months later she hadn't heard from Sam since and the not knowing ate at her. The blow those boys had managed to strike at the Leviathans should have been triumphant but instead it was heart-breaking. The streets of Sioux Falls blurred and she angrily wiped the tears away. Jody seemed to do a lot of that these days.
She turned down her own street, parked in her driveway and got out. Her gaze traveled over her house as she walked up the lawn; white siding, green shutters, little garden gone to seed by the porch and found she was missing instead a run-down house in the middle of a junkyard, covered in years of grime with a badly hung screen door.
"Dammit, Bobby." Jody said softly as she went inside and shut the door. She looked at the bottle of whiskey on her kitchen counter and went instead to the coffee maker. "Too early in the damn day." She set the coffee maker brewing and leaned her elbows on the counter over the pot, sniffing the brewing coffee with her eyes closed and just listened; the house settling with a creak here and there, her neighbor mowing his lawn, the damn woodpecker knocking a hole in her tree again and…Jody jerked upright and ran to the front of her house. She yanked the front door open and stared out into the street. "Oh my god." She had heard it. She watched as a sleek, black Chevy Impala growled up the street, the distinctive sound of her engine had carried over the other sounds and she only knew one car that rumbled like that but…they had hid her away.
Jody stood on the porch and watched as the Impala pulled in behind her car, the engine going silent and saw Sam in the driver's seat. He didn't move at first, just sitting there with his hands clenched on the wheel looking out at her and she found she was holding her breath. Finally, he let go and opened the door, unfolding himself from the seat and stood, pulling a bag over his shoulder. He smiled wanly at her and Jody returned it, trying not to look to eager. She had the sudden feeling that she was dealing with a wounded animal and one wrong move would send him running again. So, she waited. She stood on her porch with an easy smile in place and let him come to her. He walked as though the ground was moving; unsteady. His eyes were so darkly shadowed in the sunlight and his face so pale…she had seen corpses with more color. Her eyes picked out every scrape, scratch and bruise on his face and neck, even his knuckles looked like he'd used them to beat something into submission.
"Hey, Jody." Sam said finally as he reached the porch.
"Hey yourself, Sam." Jody wanted to pull him into a hug; she wanted to grab hold of him and not let go until some of the pain left his eyes; until he looked less lost and kicked. Instead she opened her door and waved him in. "Just put on a pot of coffee. Get in here."
Sam went into the house and back to the kitchen. He vaguely remembered being in her house once before and couldn't help the slide of his eyes into the living room and the after image of what he'd had to do. It stopped him in his tracks and he turned back. "Uh, you know I should really…"
"Stop, Sam." Jody put both hands on his back and pushed him into motion again with a sad smile. She knew exactly what was in his head and she wasn't going to let it be his excuse; she too remembered the last time he'd been there and saved her from the thing her son had become. She wasn't about to let him beat himself up for that. "It's ok. Go on. Kitchen. Coffee."
"I…ok." Sam let her guide him to the kitchen. He slid the bag off his shoulder to the island counter and sat on the stool she pulled over for him. He was beginning to question the logic of coming to her and dragging her into it but…he sighed and shook his head. "Thanks."
"You haven't tasted my coffee yet." Jody pulled out a couple mugs and set them on the counter. "Might wanna hold on to that thanks."
Sam smiled in spite of himself. He took the mug she handed him and wrapped long fingers around it, letting the warmth soak into his hands. He'd had a clear plan when he'd decided to come to Jody; a list of things he needed. Sitting in her kitchen now though with her warm smile was making the buzzing in his head louder. He pushed it back and took a sip.
"I need to go through Bobby's books." Sam said, still staring down into the mug. It was black which he didn't usually go for but…it reminded him of Dean and he'd needed that connection lately. He grimaced at the bitterness and took another sip.
Jody was working very hard to not let the horror she felt at the condition he was in show on her face. Now that she had him inside it was startling. Exhaustion was in ever line of his body, it practically shimmered off of him like an aura. She'd have bet money Sam didn't even realize how bad his hands were shaking, unaware of the fine tremors passing through his shoulders or the way he was slowly hunching down over the counter as though his back was simply incapable of holding him up any longer. He was a shadow of the man she had last seen and it broke her heart.
"Sure, Sam. Anything you need." Jody took her own mug and set it beside his, taking the stool next to him. "Can I make you something to eat?"
"No. Thanks." Sam shook his head. Food was of no interest to him; the mere thought of it turning his stomach. He ate something now and again when his stomach refused to let him go on without it but eating only made him sick. "I just need to look through the books. Find…something."
Jody nodded. He was still trying to find his brother; it answered the question she was too afraid to ask. She looked down at his hands and frowned. "Sam." She reached over and pried his fingers off the mug, turning his hands over. "You idiot. Didn't you feel it burning?" The palms and fingers of both hands were bright red from the heat of the coffee and she knew it had to be painful. "Come on. Come here." Jody man-handled him off the stool and over to the sink. He tried to pull his hands away but she kept her grip and flipped on the faucet, shoving his hands under the cold stream.
"Jody, it's fine." Sam was becoming irritated. He wanted to do his research and leave. He needed to keep looking for a way to find his brother; to get him back. He didn't have time for her.
"No, Sam. It's not." Jody glared up at him and refused to release him, all but fighting to keep the burned skin under the cold water. "Would you just give it a minute? You look like hell."
"I'm fine." Sam said firmly and finally succeeded in getting his hands away. He rubbed them dry on his jeans and backed away. "Just…show me where his books are."
"Jody. I don't have time for this!" Sam's face contorted in anger. He turned away and swayed, his head betraying him for just a second. "Just help me find him dammit!"
"Sam." Jody said his name softly, a plea as the man backed away from her like she was a threat. "What have you done to yourself?" She reached a hand out slowly toward his elbow and he backed another step. "This isn't what Dean would want. You know that."
"I'm fine." Sam said again and this time the current of anger in his voice was clear; eyes narrowing. He didn't need her or anyone else telling him what Dean would want. There was no one else and nothing with Dean gone. It didn't matter that Castiel had taken the madness from him, with Dean vanished the memories pushed at his mind like a weight every moment of every day; each memory a horror to taunt him with what his brother may be suffering while he failed to find and free him. Every day was a struggle to stay awake and search, hunting down every lead no matter how remote. Some of those leads were living and breathing. Sam went after any Leviathan he could track down; not because Crowley had told him too but because they were his best source of information about Purgatory. He had more information than he could live with now about what life, such as it was, was like in God's little realm of the forgotten and nothing was going to stop him until he had his brother back.
"Sam!" Jody shouted, near panicked at the dazed expression that had come over his face.
Sam jerked, her voice shocking him out of his reverie. He hadn't realized he'd checked out for a second. "This was a mistake." He pulled his bag back on his shoulder and pushed past her. "Thanks for the coffee."
"Dammit." Jody stalked after him, dashed past him to the front door and wouldn't be moved when he got there and tried to pull her clear.
"Jody, get out of the way." Sam growled down at her.
"Sam, you gotta snap outta this!" Jody yelled, the limit of her patience reached. She couldn't watch him drive himself to death. "You're gonna listen to me, Sam Winchester." When he reached for the door handle again, Jody slapped his hand away firmly; the sound of the slap echoing in the little entry way. She stared up at him, waiting for the inevitable explosion but it didn't come. To her shock, she watched as Sam's face fell apart. He stared down at the back of his hand where she'd slapped it.
"Sam?" She took a step closer and tried to catch him, despite his size, as he crumpled to the floor. His knees slapped into the wood and Jody fell with him. "Oh god, Sam." He was sobbing. Not the loud, wracking sounds she was used to from victims but a silent, heaving of his shoulders while tears poured from his closed eyes. His head fell into her shoulder and she tangled her hand in his too-long hair, holding him to her. "Sam. I'm sorry."
He couldn't stop it. Sam felt the flood rolling up through him. He'd been alone for months, alone, terrified and barely treading water and now here was the last person on Earth who cared. She actually cared. He'd thought there wasn't anyone left who gave a damn what happened to Sam Winchester and he had to get back the only person he knew did; Dean. He needed Dean and he thought dimly as his knees cracked painfully into the floor that he'd stayed away this long because he knew this would happen. Facing her and seeing the raw emotion in her eyes made it real. It made it unavoidable that Dean was gone and he'd failed and he'd never get him back.
Sam couldn't breathe. The crushing pain and loss pulled the breath from him. He felt Jody's arm around him, the hand in his hair that reminded him of his brother and his chest tightened even more. His face felt wet, like a hot rain. God, why couldn't he breathe? There were sharp stings on his face but he barely felt them as darkness came to claim him finally.
"Sam? Sam! You gotta breathe! Dammit!" Jody leaned him back, landing several sharp slaps on his tear-stained face. His sobs were so harsh, so all-consuming he wasn't getting any air. She could only watch as his lips lost their color, his pale face paled even further and then he was collapsing into her. "Sam!"
Jody caught him and rolled him into her shoulder, letting his legs splay out beside them. She flattened her hand on his chest and sobbed in a breath of her own when she felt him breathing finally. She dropped her face into his hair, letting her own tears fall at last.
'Sam. So busy trying to save your brother." Jody placed a gentle kiss on top of his head. "You forgot to save yourself."
Sam woke slowly. His head was filled with a fog covering over his thoughts and making it hard to think. He opened his eyes, blinking against the heat that seemed to be burning in them and frowned.
"M'I on'a floor?" Sam's voice was hoarse, soft but instantly brought Jody to his side.
She smiled and knelt beside him. "You didn't really think there was any way I was getting you up on the couch or up the stairs?" Jody gently brushed his long hair off his face and out of his eyes. "How ya feeling, big guy?" His pallor had given way to a fevered flush that worried her almost as much as the breakdown had.
"Not so good." Sam closed his eyes again, unconsciously leaning in to the hand she laid in his hair.
"Need you to drink some of this for me, Sam." Jody picked up the bottle she'd brought with her and carefully lifted his head, putting it to his lips and smiled as he sipped greedily at the water. "That's enough. Easy, Sam." She set the bottle aside and laid his head back. "You think if I help you can get up on the couch?" She waited while he slowly turned his head to look at the couch and gave her a nod. "Ok. Slow, alright?"
Jody helped get him sitting and held on to him when his eyes closed and he swayed into her. He was as weak as a child and she could only imagine how hard he must have pushed himself to be this sick. It was a slow, almost crawl from the floor to the couch but finally she had him settled with his head on a pillow as he curled in on himself. When she'd bought the couch a few months back she'd asked herself why she'd bought one so long; it took up one whole wall of the room. Now she figured some part of her must have been hoping that Sam would show up; that he'd need somewhere to stay.
"M'sorry." Sam said quietly.
"Don't, Sam." Jody smoothed his hair back, unable to stop the maternal feelings and she didn't want to. "You've got nothing to be sorry for. You're sick, baby. Just lay still."
Sam listened to her voice speaking softly through the fog in his head and let it carry him back into sleep.
When he woke again, Jody was still there sitting at his side with a sad smile and a bottle of water. Sam tossed on the couch. He felt like he was burning up and freezing at the same time.
"You've got a fever, Sam." Jody told the over-bright eyes looking up at her in confusion. "Turns out you can't run yourself into the ground like this without paying for it. Dean would kick your ass, kid."
"Can't find him." Sam muttered, his eyes closing. They felt hot and burned when he opened them. "S'out there…somewhere. Gotta fin' him."
"Sam. Shhh." Jody soothed, rubbing his arm through the blanket she'd tucked around him. "We'll find him." His fever was stubbornly high and Sam had been muttering in his sleep for hours. While it tore at her heart, it also told her what direction his research had taken. She palmed his forehead, stilling his head and smirked. She imagined at some point he'd be lucid to be embarrassed when he realized she'd stripped him down to his skivvies. The number of bruises and healing wounds she'd found had made her cry again. His nightmares made his sleep anything but peaceful. "Go back to sleep, kiddo."
Sam choked on a sob at that word and rolled his head away from her. Distantly, he was angry with himself for being so out of control and making Jody take care of him. He couldn't seem to find control or even stop the tears that sometimes fell, burning down his face. Each time he felt Jody's rough hand gently brushing them away with soothing words. He felt sleep pulling at him again and let it, tired of being awake and hurting.
Jody leaned back in her chair and scrubbed her hands over her face. Each time she wondered if she should take him to the hospital or at least a doctor, she'd hear Dean's voice and Bobby's and knew she needed to do this herself. She needed to take care of him for them. They'd want her too and she wasn't going to let them down, wherever they were.
Sam groaned and opened his eyes. For the first time in what felt like weeks he didn't feel a fever or exhaustion pulling at him. He leaned his head up and looked around, frowning as he tried to remember where he was. "Jody." He whispered as he took in the warmly decorated room. It looked so friendly and warm in comparison to the last time he remembered being there. The blood was long gone; cleaned away and the room taken back from the nightmare that had once lived there. He pushed himself up against the pillows and couldn't help the soft smile when he saw the couch was actually long enough for his legs. He put a hand to his head and settled back as it spun. The fever was gone but he still felt dizzy.
"Hey, Sam." Jody smiled as she came in and saw him sitting up. She laughed when she heard his stomach rumble. "That answers my next question."
Sam smirked. "Ok, I am actually hungry." He looked up at her tired face as she sat beside him. "How long have I been here?"
"Three days." Jody shrugged and slapped his shoulder lightly when he frowned. "Don't gimme that face, Sam. You needed help and you came to me." She squeezed his shoulder gently then. "Smart boy."
Sam ducked his head. "I'm sorry. I didn't…" He stopped and shook his head and took a deep breath, some of the weight of his search for Dean coming back to tighten his chest. "I guess I've been a little…single minded."
"Ya think?" Jody snorted. "Captain understatement." She handed him a glass of orange juice. "Drink that and then we'll think about putting food in there." She gestured at his stomach and leaned back in the chair while he drank. "We need to lay some ground rules here, kiddo."
"I appreciate the help, Jody." Sam set the half empty glass aside. "I can handle this. I mean, I'm better now."
Jody shook her head and used a foot to shove his hip back on the couch when he made to sit up. "Nope. You're on my turf now, Sam. Seeing as I just spent the last few days scraping you off the floor I figure you owe me." She grinned. She wasn't above black-mailing him if that's what it took to save him. She watched him frown and then settle back. "Good boy. Now. Rule one: No more of this skipping food and sleep crap. You're gonna take care of yourself if I have to tie you down to make you do it." She smiled at the bitch face he gave her. "Rule two: We're in this together now. You're not looking for him alone anymore." She gentled her tone and leaned forward to rest a hand on his shoulder. "Sam, I want him back too."
Sam swallowed the emotion in his throat before he looked back to her. "Jody...thanks." He gave her a ghost of his old smile.
"You're family, Sam. Don't thank me." She sat back again and fixed him with a stern glare. "You ever scare me like that again I will kick your ass."
Sam smiled and even as part of him chafed at her taking any control, another part of him was grateful for it; for the feeling that he was no longer alone. "I had some research with me." He frowned. "I think. I mean, I know I had it when I came here…"
"It's in the kitchen." Jody smiled. "How you feel about standing up? I'll get some soup on and we can talk about it."
He ended up with Jody tucked under one arm to keep him steady when his head protested being up and walking at the same time. Sam gratefully sank into a chair at the table and accepted the cup of coffee she put in front of him.
"Don't burn your hands on it this time." Jody told him with a smirk.
Sam looked down and stared in surprise. His research was spread across the table in neat piles. Some of it was tacked up on the wall of the little breakfast nook and new information had been added; some handwritten, other printed sheets. "You've been busy."
Jody nodded and went to the stove. She'd already been heating a can of soup and ladled it out into a bowl then brought it over to him. "Like I said, you talked a lot." She sat and watched him take the first bite with a smile. "I think you were on the right track here." She pulled over a pile and tapped it.
"You mean blood magic?" Sam shook his head. "No, it's a dead end. I'd need blood of a purgatory denizen and apparently Leviathans don't count." He sighed, frustrated and pushed the soup away.
"Sam, you have the blood of a Purgatory denizen." Jody smiled and shoved the bowl back to him. "You and Dean have the same blood and he's in Purgatory."
Sam rolled his eyes. "Jody, we're brothers and we have the same blood type that doesn't mean we have…"
"Oh, dammit. Stop being so literal. You know what I mean." Jody huffed and leaned forward, intent. "You're brothers and from what I've read…" She gestured at a stack of what he realized were Bobby's books. "That means you're part of each other." She rolled her eyes at the disgusted look on his face. "According to the lore, you share the same blood and that's all Purgatory cares about. It makes you connected." She scoffed, snorted a laugh and glanced up at the ceiling. "They have no damn idea."
Sam pulled the stack of research closer, looking at it with a new eye. "You're sure about that?"
Jody nodded. "Took me two damn days to translate a couple of the passages. Made my damn head hurt." She chuckled. "But yeah."
"My blood will work." Sam forgot about the soup and re-read his notes and the new ones Jody had added with the new information and felt something perilously close to hope enter his thoughts. He looked up at her and saw the same look on her face.
"It will work. Sam." Jody smiled softly and put a hand on the back of his neck, needing to reinforce what she saw in his eyes. "We can get him back. We will."
"Dean." Sam said softly and had to close his eyes. He took a deep breath and opened them again, a smile growing on his face. "He'll kick our asses if we do this. He gets pissed when I bleed for him."
Jody chuckled and sat back, feeling relief for the first time in months. "Pretty sure he's going to be more pissed about the part where you have to do it in the place the summoned considers home."
"Oh…crap." Sam's eyes widened and he looked toward the front of the house, instinctively seeking out where he knew the Impala to be. He grinned. "It's leather. The blood will come out." He felt the tears gather in his eyes and didn't bother to stop them falling as he looked back at the notes. "Gonna be hard finding some of this stuff."
Jody leaned in and rested her head on his shoulder as he softly cried. Unlike a few days ago where the tears had heralded his breaking, these tears said he was healing and she smiled. "Already have most of it." She told him quietly, laughing at his snort. "You were out for a while."
Sam stretched an arm around her and drew her in to his shoulder, letting his cheek rest against her hair. "Jody…thank you."
She sat back up and punched his shoulder. "Eat your damn soup. Dean sees you like this he'll kick MY ass and I aint takin' the hit for you, kid."
Sam rolled his eyes, wiped the tears from his cheeks and laughed. "Yes, ma'am." He started on the soup again with one thought echoing in his mind, buoying his thoughts and giving him the first deep breath he'd had since the moment Dean had vanished; I'm getting him back.
LeahElisabeth's prompt: Post season 7 with Dean still in purgatory. Sam is working himself into exhaustion. He hasn't had any major injuries, just scratches and bruises, but he hasn't been sleeping very well because of the nightmares and he most certainly hasn't been eating. He stops in at Jody Mills place to see if he could find something in Bobby's books and she is absolutely horrified by the state he is in. Of course, she tries to mother him, but he will have none of it. Finally, she has had enough of his extreme stoicism and either slaps him, or pinches him or snaps him with an elastic band, something completely minor and barely painful at all. It proves to be the final straw for Sam and he collapses, sobbing and cries himself to sleep. Then he wakes up majorly sick. Jody nurses him back to health and even manages to find a few leads on how to get Dean back. If they then work together to get Dean out of purgatory, you would make my life.