August 25th, 2011
Supernatural: Gen, season three, PG-13, 4,234 words.
They're down a quarter of the year, Dean's giving up, and Sam's not sleeping.
Sam hadn't thought the room was close enough to the freeway to shake each time a semi passes by, but apparently he was wrong, as the room's been vibrating near-constantly for long enough that he's almost gotten used to it. Almost, but not quite, which is why he opens his eyes; that's preferable to the sensation that the motel room is undergoing a continuous mild earthquake and anything could be toppling towards him, and it's not like sleep is a real possibility anyway. He burned through the jittery, strung-out feeling of overtired a while ago; he can sleep when he's dead, or when they both are.
As soon as his hand touches the lamp, fumbling for the switch that will throw enough light across the room to at least allow him to make out the words in the pages of the books piled on the floor, and on the bedside table, and on the larger table in the kitchenette, Dean groans, rolling over in the other bed to mash his face into his pillow. He mumbles something that Sam's pretty sure translates to did you even sleep at all and which Sam opts to pretend to have misheard; that seems wiser than answering, especially as the answer would be negative and he doesn't have the energy for the thought of another argument about that when Dean's feeling better, intent once more on making sure that Sam eats three square meals a day, sleeps eight hours a night, like that can be a priority now that Dean will only have to bother him about it for another two-hundred-some days.
No. Do it right. Two hundred and eighty-three days (merciless exactitude is easy, now, because the other option will get Dean killed), and Dean has always been annoying about that. Making sure Sam had enough to eat even when he didn't, telling Sam to get some fucking sleep already even when part of the reason Sam couldn't was that Dean was still awake, twitching and turning and punching at pillows a few feet away. Getting between Sam and countless sharp or otherwise-deadly objects, even when it meant that instead of Sam maybe tearing his jacket as he ducked out of the way, Dean would spend whole days insensible (even more so than usual, ha-ha), feverish, unable to stand without wincing, to put any weight on the leg that had been torn open when he'd shoved Sam out of the way. He'd held onto Sam's jacket for an instant after that, for long enough to meet Sam's eyes, for Sam to realize exactly what was going to come next, and then the talons had sunk in and he'd dropped. He claimed later it was so that Sam would have a clear shot at the bird-thing, all wicked black eyes and feathers that might have been razors for how cleanly they sliced, but Sam had been looking at him when it struck, and had seen his eyes widen at first, automatic reaction, and the way he had relaxed after that.
Dean had looked as though he thought he was maybe going to bleed to death on the dusty dirt floor of a rotting barn with half its ceiling caved in, and as though that was something to be glad for. Sam has known for a long time that Dean has a death wish -- no way he could have spent all of his childhood and then all of these more recent years with his brother and somehow failed to notice that -- but it doesn't scare him any less, each time Dean tries to let himself get killed.
And he's going to succeed, this time, if Sam doesn't do something about it. It's that thought that pushes Sam out of bed at last, though he thinks it might have only been a few minutes since he lay down (a glance at his watch tells him it was closer to half an hour). If there's anything good about Dean being laid up, it's that he spends most of his time sleeping or staring off into space; when he remembers to tell Sam to sleep, or eat, or lay off the books for awhile, man, there're better ways to make yourself go blind, it's only out of habit, and there's no force behind the words. He's usually asleep again, or distracted, before he can press the issue. Sam thinks he should maybe feel bad about that, and he will, later, when he's saved Dean's soul. When he's saved his brother from hell. In the meantime, he's going to do what he has to do, which as of late translates to making sure that Dean takes his pills every eight hours and has enough water in the tumbler on the nightstand, and spending the rest of his time exhausting every possible lead he can find. Dean can bitch about it later, if he wants, when he has the time to waste, and when he's awake enough to care.
And when he does, Sam will bitch right back at him, ask about the fact that Dean spent so much of what will (not) be his last year asleep. He can't remember the last time Dean slept this long, or this often, even when ill, when healing; it's as though the idea that he doesn't have much longer to live has allowed his brother peace of mind at last, and if Sam thinks about that too long, he tends to want to either hit Dean or be sick, neither of which would be particularly useful right now.
So he doesn't think about it. So he refills the black plastic coffee machine next to the sink, and pushes the button to tell it to make another pot of coffee, and if his hands are shaking a little, he wills them to stop. So he sits down at the table and opens another book, and tells himself that this one will have the answer, and that if it does not, surely the next one will.
He's not sure what he'll do, if they don't, but books have always held the answers he needed (or close enough, or at least a distraction from what he doesn't want to think about, which is sometimes itself enough), so he will believe that they will not fail him now.
And the background to all of this is his brother breathing, breathing beneath blankets which have the sheen of old cigarette wrappers, breathing Sam's name, every so often. His brother alive, for now, and at peace, and even if Sam doesn't want to think about why that is, at least Dean is here, within view, within reach. Sam can look up from his book and see him, and even if Dean is pale and his eyes are shadowed in sleep, or glazed with fever; even if his hand on Sam's wrist when Sam wakes him is too slow, and too warm, at least he's here. At least he's not in a hospital, where maybe he would get better faster (if this is something that could be cured with an IV drip, a course of heavy antibiotics, if this isn't Dean taking advantage of the excuse to stop fighting, giving up the need for pretense now that he thinks he's got an expiration date -- but Sam's not going to think about that, can't afford to), but where Sam wouldn't be able to research, where he would lose that time, and would maybe lose Dean as a result. He'd spend hours in a plastic chair with his hand wrapped around Dean's, and in the end all it would get them is Dean hauling them back on the road, telling Sam to get his ass moving, time's a-wasting, hangman's coming down from the gallows, Sammy, and no point in trying to save a dead man, but spill something for me when the dust's settled, okay?
Which is selfish of Dean, Sam thinks, but maybe this is just as selfish of him. Putting what he wants, what he needs, before what's best for Dean. But Dean hates hospitals, anyway, hates the memories he has of them (all that blood-fear-death-loss), and hates the endless packets of paperwork, and the doctors who ask too goddamn many questions, and the stupid paper gowns that never tie right, never stay closed.
If Dean's not any better in a few days, he tells himself, they'll go to a hospital. Or a clinic, at least. Forty-eight hours, he reasons. If Dean's not any better in forty-eight hours, Sam will load him into the Impala and drive him somewhere a medical professional will look him over and make him better. Forty-eight hours, because then he'll have been sick for. For.
Sam blinks, knuckles at his eyes. The barn had been . . . Wednesday. Or Tuesday. Wednesday, he's pretty sure. And Dean had woken up with a fever the next morning and refused to let Sam check his stitches, had stared with red-rimmed eyes at his untouched pancakes and bacon until Sam asked if maybe he wanted to head back to the motel instead of hitting the road right away, had kicked Sam under the table and told him Dad didn't raise a coupl'a lazy assholes, and had, upon their return to the motel, taken off his boots and fallen asleep sitting up on his bed while watching Jerry Springer shout soundlessly on the muted television. Sam hasn't left the motel room since; maybe Dean would make fun of him for it, but he's more scared now than ever of leaving Dean alone. Of what might happen. Dean's fever hasn't been bad, not really, since the first night, not since Sam woke to him mumbling about wings and claws and fire, his eyes open but unseeing, sure as hell not seeing Sam (not until his fist had already collided with Sam's face, anyway, and then he'd mumbled an apology that Sam had only half-heard); it's just that Dean doesn't seem to want to get up. And he isn't getting any better. Instead of being bored and bitchy like he usually is when he's sick, he's just lying there, issuing only the most minor of death threats and then, only rarely, like he's perfectly content to spend the last year of his life in an uncomfortable bed in one more anonymous shitty motel room like any of the thousands that made up their childhood, while Sam hovers uselessly at him.
Sam had ordered pizza the next night, and Chinese the night after, each time making sure to get enough in case Dean wanted some, in case he felt like getting up, eating, watching some stupid action movie and arguing with Sam about whether it was too soon for him to have a beer. The empty, grease-slick boxes are still piled in the kitchenette; the thought of their former contents now makes Sam's stomach roil. And after that was . . . after that was books, and coffee, and sleeplessness, and the endless cycle of waking Dean and watching him sleep, listening in case he starts talking again. Dreaming again. It's ten o'clock, now, according to Sam's watch, but the curtains are drawn, as they have been since Sam and Dean checked in: habit, with the result that Sam can't sure whether it's ten in the morning or ten at night. Isn't sure what day it is, how long they've been here, how long Dean's been sick, and the words are blurring before him on the page. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.
When he moves, he moves too fast, jars the table and everything on it. Cold coffee splashes across the paper, across his lap. He swears reflexively, but under his breath, and pushes back, presses napkins from the pizza-place against the book to soak up the coffee and hopes to God that the text will still be legible, after. If he gets Dean killed (or doesn't save him, but that's the same thing because Dean made this deal for him, Dean's been making deals, making sacrifices, his whole life for him) because he spilled his fucking coffee--
His lungs are constricting, his breath coming too fast, his heart telegraphing a frenetic signal that he feels in his blood. Too much coffee, he tells himself, and then, no, this is a panic attack. He's distantly amused at the part of himself that remains remote enough to diagnose that, and then the part of him that is more concerned with not being able to breathe takes over. He makes his hands into fists, nails digging into his palms, and maybe he's drawing blood, but as long as he can fix this, as long as he can keep from fucking up something as simple as breathing, and as long as he doesn't wake Dean, that's okay. He's patched up so, so much worse; this won't even compare.
He's fine. He's fine, he tells himself. Dean made sure of that. Dean brought him back from the dead, and he's fine, now. He just needs some fresh air, is all. He hasn't been outside in days (two, maybe three, not a week, please, don't let it be a week), after all.
He takes a step towards the door, and when he doesn't go down, takes it as a good sign. All he has to do is keep walking, and if it feels like he's going to fall over at any second, as though he's made of glass or something more brittle, well, that'll get better. When he gets to the door. When he opens it. When he breathes something other than sweat and sour air and caffeine fumes.
It's a nice mantra, as mantras go. It allows him to get to the door, and to open it; it allows him to see that it's ten p.m., not a.m., the cool acid-green signs in the windows of the strip club glowing bright against the starless black. Not even the moon's out tonight, or if it is, it's been rendered obsolete by the mosquito buzz of a thousand neon lights. As Sam's watching, the R in G-I-R-L-S (prefaced by live, as though to dispel any thought that the club might have offered any other kind) goes deadbeat and blacks out. There are sirens in the distance, and the hush and slush of tires in fallen rain somewhere nearer by, and it's almost peaceful, almost like home. It's not until he tries to breathe again and it comes out like he's just been punched in the stomach that he staggers.
As far as falls go, he thinks as he feels his knees hit the ground, reaching out to catch himself on the doorframe and feeling it slide out of his grasp, his knuckles scraping bloody on the mortise, this isn't a bad one. Not like the last time. Not like there's a knife in his back or anything, and that might be funny, but he forgets to laugh just then, because the sky's bleeding black into everything and then--
His first thought upon regaining consciousness is that the asphalt is softer than he'd thought it would be. Maybe he got lucky, fell back inside the room. Maybe all he has to do is open his eyes, and get up, and close the door; he can limp into the bathroom, wash his hands, and get back to work. Maybe the book will have dried out by now. And maybe this will have counted as sleep as far as his body is concerned.
That's a good thought, too. It lasts until he opens his eyes and sees Dean looking down at him, and sees too that he is on the floor of the motel room, as opposed to having pitched forward out into the parking lot where somebody might have seen him and called the cops out of the goodness of their heart. It's just that there's something between his head and the floor, and that's Dean's leg. Which Dean isn't meant to put weight on, and Sam's pretty sure he qualifies as weight. He entertains, however, the notion that maybe everything that has happened since waking up in Cold Oak was a dream, a notion which lasts until Dean blinks at him with eyes that are still unfocused and sunset-shadowed, the shade of gloaming and grieving. "Sammy?"
Sam's mouth is dry as desert bones and it tastes like metal. Maybe he bit his tongue on the way down. No matter. He swallows. "Yeah," he says. "Hey, Dean."
"You okay?" It's kind of an absurd question to be asking, considering the position he imagines Dean found him in, but hey, he's not dead, so. Perspective and all that.
"Yeah," Sam says. "I just, uh. Fell." He thinks Dean might have noticed that, though.
"No shit," Dean says. "Not exactly gracefully, either." He shivers, once. Sam thinks he tries to hide it, but considering that Sam's head is resting on his leg, that doesn't work especially well.
"You shouldn't be out of bed," Sam says, and sits up. It's not quite as smooth an action as he'd have liked; the room is still trembling, tilting, faintly. It occurs to him belatedly that maybe that might not be the room. He keeps his hands flat on the floor, bracing himself. Resists the urge to draw his knees up to his chest like a child.
"When's the last time you ate?" Dean says, after a moment, and though his words begin slow and dust-covered, as though he has to piece them together one by one, they turn accusatory quickly enough. "Or slept, or fuck, even took a shower or anything? You look like shit that's been dragged through hell."
Sam licks his lips. "Yesterday," he says. It's not a lie; it might be true. He's just kind of hazy on the facts, right now. As well as on a lot of things. He'll get up, and get Dean back into bed, and then maybe he'll try again to sleep, himself. Just for a little while. An hour, maybe two, and then he can start reading again.
"And why the hell don't I believe you," Dean says. "Jesus fuck, Sam, what the fuck are you doing," and he sounds angry, his voice catching on a threat, barely-guarded violence. It occurs to Sam that this might be the first time he's heard Dean scared since Dean told him about the deal.
"I'm finding a way to save you." He looks at Dean as steadily as he can, wonders what the hell Dean thought he was doing. What the hell Dean thought he would do, upon finding out what about the deal. Wonders if maybe this is exactly what Dean thought he would do, and if maybe that's why Dean had tried to keep it from him. Dean knows him better than anybody else in the world ever has and ever will.
Dean looks back at him just as steadily and Sam swallows hard and sudden against the fact that they are two grown men who right now maybe don't have the strength to get to their feet, to get into bed, much less to fight any kind of war, but who would die trying to prove to each other that that's not true. Against the fact that this is, he knows, his fault: if he hadn't turned his back on Jake, none of this would have happened. Dean wouldn't be dying, slowly. Dean wouldn't be in the process of getting his worst, most heartfelt wish and leaving Sam behind. "You need to sleep," Dean says.
"So do you." It might not be the cleverest retort ever, but it is true. Dean should be in bed. Dean should be in a hospital; one of the cards has to still be good, or else maybe Bobby can pull some strings somewhere. Dean should not be on his ass on the cold thin-carpet-nailed-into-concrete floor of a motel room, his eyes fever-bright and scared for Sam.
"I will if you will," Dean says, and gets to his feet slowly, favoring his left leg. He leans against the wall next to the door and reaches to offer Sam a hand. Sam lets himself take it, but only because he knows Dean will take it personally if he doesn't. He lets his brother pull him to his feet, and together they lurch across the room, their arms tangled over each other's shoulders. Sam cannot recall ever being this tired before, though he knows that he must have been. If he ignores the way the room shivers around him, and the way his heart beats like he's dying once more, it's almost a pleasant feeling. All he has to do is close his eyes, and everything will be okay.
That's a lie, though. He'll close his eyes, and he'll sleep for hours, and when he wakes up, he'll have that much less time to save Dean. He doesn't get to rest, doesn't get to escape this gut-panic, crawling-dread sensation; all of this is because of him, is his own fucking fault, and if he doesn't fix it now, he's going to lose his brother forever--
He blinks. He's not sure how he got onto the bed, why he's lying down. This expanse of missing time that he thinks he should find disturbing, and then he rolls onto his side and Dean is there, standing between the beds, holding out his hand. Sam reaches out instinctively, habit worn bone-deep with years, and Dean drops two pills onto his palm, where they lie cool and dry and seemingly weightless. Sam stares at them. He can't for the life of him (and isn't that a joke) remember if this is how they've always looked, the pills he's been making sure Dean takes, if they look unfamiliar now only because he is at last so fucking tired. He's still looking at them when Dean says, "You need to sleep."
"So do you," Sam says automatically, frowns at the sense of déjà vu.
"I'm gonna," Dean says. "But not unless I know you are, too." He nods at Sam's hand. "Take 'em, Sammy. Don't make me make you." Pale above the ash-grey of his shirt, hair plastered flat against his forehead, breath rasping in his throat like there's a bullet in his chest, he might have never looked any less like a threat, and Sam's throat burns. He sits up enough to dry-swallow the pills without choking and rendering Dean's deal pointless, lowers himself back down onto the pillows. Lets his eyes drift closed to the rattle of pills in a bottle like branches against a windowpane and the thunk and clunk of a glass being set down heavily, and then forces them back open like drowning in reverse. He's not sure how much time he's lost, if he's slept at all, but the room is dark as cemetery hope once more, and he doesn't remember how that happened. His eyes won't focus; the room is smeared, blurry, and he cannot see Dean. A fragment of his dream, lingering, caught behind his eyes: spires like obsidian, laced with razorwire webs, and screams which are pleas which are nothing but the wind across fields of mud, shivering where once voices echoed. Has he slept that long, has he already lost--
His breath hitches, one-two-three like the scrape-strike of matches, and then Dean's voice comes out of the dark, from somewhere very close by. "'m right here, Sammy, go the fuck back to sleep."
Sam rolls over, nearly rolls into, onto, his brother, who's crammed into the other half of the bed which was nearly too small for Sam in the first place. It seems impossible that they both fit, Sam thinks, and then that they're both going to be terribly sore in the morning, whenever that will be. "For fuck's sake," Dean mumbles, but there's no heat in it. His breath, warm against the curve of Sam's cheek, smells of bourbon, and Sam thinks that there's something wrong about that, that he should protest or ask . . . something (pills and alcohol, the exponential curve of interaction, liver damage, fever, even as the scent is comforting in its familiarity, its association with home, Dad breathing steadily in the next bed and Dean with one arm around Sam and one hand on the gun beneath the pillow, still awake whenever Sam opened his eyes), but maybe that can wait until morning. Everything can wait until morning. He's got Dean, now, and that's enough, that should be enough, but--
His arms seem to weigh an inordinate amount (on one of his hands, his knuckles have been bandaged, wrapped white as surrender, though he doesn't recall how, or by whom), but he manages to move one of them anyway, underwater-slow, throws it over his brother. Feels the rise and fall of Dean's chest like it's a constant, something to take for granted. Three rises-and-falls later, Dean's hand brushes his, comes to rest on Sam's side, hot against his skin where his shirts are twisted up above his jeans. One finger wrapped around a belt loop like an afterthought, like that's not the most important thing, but Sam knows better. Anchored, Dean will hold to Sam, will let himself stay. It's enough of a promise, and Dean has always kept his promises to Sam, so Sam lets himself close his eyes once more.
I felt every bit of Sam's agony and exhaustion!
And this is a perfect summation of the boys:
"Dean looks back at him just as steadily and Sam swallows hard and sudden against the fact that they are two grown men who right now maybe don't have the strength to get to their feet, to get into bed, much less to fight any kind of war, but who would die trying to prove to each other that that's not true."
Thank you very much for the lovely note! I'm so glad that you liked this, and perhaps especially that that description worked for you.
I really liked this, especially Sam's sheer desperation over both Dean's future and Dean's apparent willingness to give up.
And the end has such a nice, quiet, comforting feel-- a perfect moment somehow derived from colliding wills and the legacy of love in an imperfect world.
I'm delighted that you enjoyed this! Thank you so much for the note, and for the rec, as well.
This has so much of the claustrophobia of s3, the sense of being boxed in by a deadline, and I love the way that combines with the timelessness of a motel room and sleep deprivation and Dean's illness and the way panic slows everything down and speeds everything up. And the way that Dean's take care of Sam mandate is at once what feeds Dean's fatalism and the only thing that combats it. Lovely.
Thank you, very much, for the note! I'm glad that you enjoyed this. They're so good at killing themselves for each other, dying so that the other might live, even as at heart they're basically living for each other -- I'm delighted that that, too, worked for you.
I've missed your gen!fic... this was so amazing. Your prose always captivates, but this POV was particularly captivating. Makes me wish they'd really have had 22 eps in season 3. This fills a gap - a moment that will always be part of my S6 canon now. Thank you for that!
Oh, hey, that's so kind of you to say! I'm delighted that this worked for you, especially on a could-be-canon level. Thanks very much for reading, and for the note!
This really captures that season 3 vibe, and is just beautiful besides. I loved it. <3
|Date:||September 5th, 2011 12:54 am (UTC)|| |
Just letting you know that this has been recced here
Thank you, very much! I'm so glad that you enjoyed this one.
(Oh, gosh, what a beautiful rec! Thank you so much for that, too. <3
And, hey, I've been meaning to ask: I'm not very good at comms, but would like to get better -- would it be okay if I joined hoodie_time
|Date:||September 8th, 2011 02:41 am (UTC)|| |
Oh, you're very welcome! Thanks for your awesomeness.
And of course you can join! Yayyyyy. ;D There's open membership, so you can just join, but if there wasn't, I would totally invite you! ♥
Feel free to let me know if you have any questions, any time!
Open membership -- yeah, the not-so-good-with-comms thing, this might be a good example of that. Heh. Hooray, joining -- thank you!
And thank you for the willingness to answer questions, also, and again for the kind words. :)
I've already told you a lot of things, but I'll reiterate that I almost can't handle S3, it's too intensely heartbreaking, but I love this one, because it captures the angst just perfectly, and it is deeply inspirational the way all your work is, and I can re-read it again and again. And OH, your ending is as great as...all your other endings. :) They never disappoint.
You have indeed, and we've discussed the validity of some of these things, eh? ;)
But, that said, it means a lot that you read this (in all its versions!) despite its S3-ness, and that you said such kind things about it. Thank you, again! <3
And we also settled that you don't have the right to judge the validity of those things. :)
Oh, wow. Poor Sam. I really liked this take on season 3 and Sam's POV.
Thank you so much! I'm delighted that it worked for you.
This fic focused so closely on Sam's agony of not having enough time to save Dean that it slowed down time - not in the sense of having more of it, but in the sense of feeling every second ticking by, forever lost in the hunt for a way out of Dean's deal.
|Date:||September 8th, 2011 02:45 am (UTC)|| |
I'm so glad that came across, that it was effective! Thank you very much for the note.
Very seriously beautiful. It's almost too painful to go back to Season 3, but your fic made me want to. Lovely.
Thank you, very much! I'm delighted that you enjoyed this.
This is incredible; I stopped and re-read a lot of lines several times because they're just SO wonderful. Gorgeous!
That's lovely of you to say! I'm so glad this worked for you -- thank you very much for the note.
|Date:||August 28th, 2011 11:53 pm (UTC)|| |
I can't find my articulate right now, but I couldn't let this go without telling you I found it amazing and so evocative of third season. Thank you.
Hey, that's brilliant of you to say, and definitely articulate. Thank you for reading, and for the kind note!