Notes: Part of my Boy King AU, sequel to All Rise in the Presence of the King and Long Live the King. Can stand reasonably well on its own, though it probably makes more sense within the series. All you really need to know is that Sam became King of Hell and pulled Dean out between seasons three and four, Sam has a pet (well, a working companion) hellhound, and Cas was sent to kill Sam but didn't.
Warnings: self-harm, possible attempted suicide, general mental instability. Language.
Sammy doesn't sleep anymore.
He pretends that he does, but Dean isn't stupid. He knows that Sam only stays still and silent until he thinks Dean's asleep, then slips out of bed and presses himself against the wall of their latest motel room. He knows that sometimes the freaking hellhound shows up, stinking up the place with the smell of sulfur and dog and rotted flesh. (He also knows that it sometimes calms Sam down a bit, so he only occasionally grumbles about it.)
What he doesn't know is whether Sam realizes that he's speaking aloud the whole time.
The first time he hears it, he assumes Sam is talking to him. After all, he's the only one there, and there's no one else Sam would talk to in that tone, falsely conversational in a poor attempt to cover up his pleading. But Sam falls silent when Dean responds, and when he gets up to investigate Sam just gives him a blank look.
"I didn't say anything. You must've been dreaming or something."
Sam is really, really good at lying these days. He's also really, really nuts. Uneasily, Dean goes back to bed, and eventually drifts off despite himself. He wakes up again thirty minutes later to the sound of Sam's voice. This time, after a moment of listening, he knows it isn't directed at him.
It's directed at God.
Dean wants to leap out of bed, seize his brother's shoulders, and shake him until he realizes that he doesn't need justification from anyone, especially not the sanctimonious son of a bitch who put a hit out on him. But Sam would either argue or stare at him and ask what he's talking about, and either way, Dean can't. He just – he can't.
He rolls over and tries not to listen to his brother's pleas.
It's the same pattern, every night. It starts out coherent enough, if repetitive and heart wrenching. Sam talks about the sins he thinks he's committed, the things he's done he knows are wrong, the things he didn't do he thinks he should have. He talks about the things he would change if he could. The things he wouldn't. He proclaims Dean's innocence and his own guilt. He quotes the Bible.
It disintegrates. Always. Sam stops begging for salvation and starts begging for condemnation. Eventually he's not even speaking English anymore, muttering the same thing over and over in Latin. It's not any exorcism Dean knows, and after nearly a week lying awake listening to it, he finally looks it up. It's Pater Noster. The Our Father.
After that, it's just . . . awful. Sam breaks down completely, choking out a despairing mantra of sorry, sorry, so sorry between sobs.
Dean lets him get past that stage exactly once. It's been such a long day and he's so tired and Sam never seems to even remember what he's been saying when Dean interrupts him and goddammit he's so tired.
Ten minutes later he's surging out of bed, knocking the demon knife from Sam's hand wrapping his own t-shirt around his little brother's forearm and there's no room for weariness with all the adrenaline and fury and terror and dammit Sam what the fuck are you doing what the fuck oh god Sammy oh god why?
Sam just blinks at him, clear, bright hazel promising him that it's all Sam, just Sam, and that's the absolute worst part, because this isn't demonic powers messing with his head, this isn't an act put on to keep his subjects in line, this is just Sammy, Dean's Sammy, sitting on a filthy carpet in a crappy motel room carving himself up.
Dean doesn't let him get past the sobbing stage after that.
Dean has a pattern now, too. He goes to sleep when Sam pretends to. He wakes up when the Latin starts. He sinks down beside his shaking, confused brother, pulls him close, and doesn't let go.
It works. Dean can survive off of three hours of sleep. It's not pleasant, but it's better than waking up to his brother lying in a pool of his own blood, pulling the knife from his limp fingers far too late, having to shove past a distraught hellhound on the way to his brother's cooling corpse . . . .
So yeah. It works. No matter what Sam says in his more lucid moments when he sees the bags under Dean's eyes and gives that disapproving frown which almost makes it seem as if the last six months have been nothing but a bad dream. No matter how much of that freaky, not-quite-human authority Sam tries to pour into his demands that Dean take care of himself.
Until it doesn't.
Dean wakes up slowly, with a growing feeling of unease. For a few long, foggy moments he doesn't understand why his stomach is churning and his spine is prickling, and then it hits him – the room is silent. He overslept.
He's out of bed before he can consciously register the thought, spinning desperately toward the far side of the room, nothing in his mind except no no no god no Sammy.
"Dean, be quiet."
Dean freezes, ceasing the small, panicked noises he didn't realize he was making. Sam is fine. Sam is breathing, whole. And beside him . . .
"What the hell are you doing here?"
Castiel stares at him, normally bright eyes dark in the gloom but no less intense for it.
"Your brother was going to harm himself." He nods to the demon knife which sits on the floor at his side, clean, out of Sam's reach. "I could not – I did not wish that to happen."
"Right," Dean bites out, guilt and anger and jealousy combining into a potent mixture which rises in his chest like bile. This so-called angel wanted to destroy Sam not too long ago. Wanted to obliterate Dean's little brother because he had orders. Because it was God's plan. Just because he's been helping them out lately doesn't mean he has the right to be here, in their space, in Dean'splace. "Thanks for stopping him and all, but we can take it from—"
"Dean." Castiel cuts him off, chiding but gentler than he usually is when he's trying to put Dean in his place. "Mind your volume. You will wake him."
A few months ago Castiel wanted to kill Dean's little brother. Now he's sitting here on this dingy carpet with his arm around Sam's waist, an Angel of the Lord descended from Heaven to sit among the mold and nicotine stains and soothe the King of Hell. Castiel's fingers are in Sam's hair, and Sam is sleeping. Peacefully. Like he hasn't in . . . years.
Dean swallows his pride, softens his tone, and gestures to Sam's other side.
"Mind if I join you?"
He sits without waiting for a response. He will not begrudge Sam any comfort he can find, but Sam is still his little brother – and when he joins the two men (beings; one was never human and the other . . . Dean doesn't like to think about it), Sam fits perfectly against him, shifting sleepily to snuggle under his arm even while his head remains on Castiel's shoulder.
Castiel stays; Sam sleeps; Dean breathes. Heaven and Hell and Human on the floor of a cheap motel room.
They stay there until morning.