Artist name: vail_kagami
Word count: 10,012
Warnings: Broken!Sam, AU from the end of S6.
Summary: Sam is broken (like Humpty-Dumpty without all the fun). And Castiel's idea of saving Sam (for some unknown definition of "saving") is to rip Jess out of heaven to help Dean try and take care of Sam.
Author's Notes: Beta'd by waterofthemoon. JFC, this is almost a full month late and I am not even going to go into all the issues and fails that the universe has thrown at me to try and cockblock this fic. But I am awake now, and not at work, and I am going to hit the Post Entry button over and over until my internet actually lets this post.
Dean manages to tackle Sam before the axe takes his head off (thank something that isn't their newest God of Douchebag Asshole Traitors), but they still end up in the emergency room that night (Dean thinks he drove them there, but it's kind of hazy).
Dean gets five staples above his right ear (and a new bald spot to go with them, but not the high and tight he remembers only half-joking about to the guy in the Big Bird scrubs who shaved that side), and Sam gets strapped to a bed to keep him from picking the new stitches out of his chest (it's worse than the cone they give dogs and almost as ineffective, since ripping them is only a half-step to the left of ripping them out).
By the time Dean's drugs have worn off enough for him to be coherent, Sam's already been kept overnight for observation for his concussion, and Dean hates himself for that. It's usually Sam who remembers to tell the ER not to give Dean morphine (Dean still remembers to tell them not to give Sam steroids, though, because worse than Sam in an episode is Sam in an episode who also can't stop throwing up and can't remember why).
"My head hurts."
"Try not to land on it next time, genius."
"Shut up before I start making you wear a medic alert bracelet."
"Only if you want a card in your wallet that tells everyone you pee yourself when you're out cold."
"What possible medical help would that be, Dean?"
"Who said anything about help?"
God or not (family or what the fuck ever he is), if Dean ever finds Cas, he's going to kill him for what he did (if he can find a way to).
He gets Sam out of the hospital (he feels like it's a betrayal telling the doc Sam has brain damage, but there's no way to say, "His hell-wall got knocked down by a douchebag 'God,' and now he's all broken," without getting sent to the psych ward himself), and they go to Bobby's.
Dean doesn't know why Bobby still talks to them, how he can still stand to be anywhere near them considering all the shit Winchesters have brought on him, but he gives them a room. Not just the living room they usually crash in or the extra library they slept in when they were small enough to split a twin without knocking each other off the bed in the middle of the night, but an actual room with a giant bed (so Dean will know right away if Sam wakes up in the middle of the night) and no large stacks of books for Sam to trip over or knock into during his (increasingly frequent) episodes.
"Quit looking at me like that, boy. Those books are not cheap, and if he kicks the middle out of one, I'm kicking your teeth out."
There's a brand new flat screen TV mounted on the wall near the foot of the bed, clashing hard with the faded, peeling wallpaper (that was brand new when Sam and Dean were little) and dot-matrix printer (which Dean only knows the name of because he and Sam used to spend hours tearing the sides off the paper).
Dean's throat almost closes up, and his eyes itch when he tries to thank Bobby (who has never had a working TV in all the time they've known him, and who carried Sam through the house for two weeks straight when he was a baby after Dad broke his leg). Bobby tells him to stop being such a damn idgit (which Bobby should know by now is impossible), that it was payment for a part for some hardcore collector (because Singer Salvage can get any part it doesn't have in forty-eight hours).
Sam coos over it and runs his fingers over the sleek edges (he gets lost sometimes in shiny things and smooth things, in metal bent into shapes, marveling at how something that was one thing became another somehow through sheer will of people) and thanks Bobby when he's coherent enough to be understood (and when he isn't).
"Really, Bobby. I can't thank you enough."
"You boys sure do think the whole world revolves around you, don't you?"
"The voices in my head tell me I'm special."
"Shut up, Dean."
"Make me, bitch."
Bobby waves away the thanks (like he always does, like any good parent does when their kid thanks them for something fundamental), claiming he didn't do it for them (he did), and tells them that working alternators for a '62 Shelby Cobra aren't easy to find (they aren't, but Bobby took the TV instead of money because Sam can't handle the quiet anymore and Bobby can't handle how broken Sam and Dean look when Sam starts crying over the voices only he can hear).
They don't quit hunting (they can't), but Sam goes from fine to scared and confused to crying to helpless too quickly now (Dean's never been able to handle Sam's tears; Sam has always hated crying, so when he does it, Dean knows it's really bad), and if Sam got even more hurt because of Dean, Dean doesn't know what he would do with himself (he does, but he doesn't want to think about it).
(The axe was the last straw, but not the first, and there seems to be something about hunting specifically, some part of focusing that hard on keeping still and being quiet and mirroring Dean just the way he always has, that seems to snap Sam's rubber band and send him from cranky and in pain to terrified and young—way too young.)
Some days, Sam looks and acts almost perfectly fine (he has full conversations with words everyone understands and keeps track of what Bobby and Dean are actually saying) with only a few bumps on his fine motor control (not that he was allowed near the stove before, but his hands shake so bad now that Dean threatens to duct-tape forks and spoons in them when Sam looks like he needs to laugh).
"Come on, Sammy; open wide for the airplane."
"Dean, if you try to feed me one more time, I'm gonna kick you in the balls."
"If you can do it, I'll give you a free shot."
"You know it doesn't work that way."
"Exactly. You can't control it, so shut up and open your mouth."
"I can't do both, Dean."
"I will pry your mouth open with a fucking rib-spreader if you don't eat something, dude."
Other days, Sam is less than perfectly fine (less than okay, really, and less than somewhat passing for okay). On those days, Dean doesn't let Sam do anything by himself (not that he can because sitting upright leaves him listing to the side, and he slurs and shakes, and his muscles spasm so hard that tears Dean pretends he doesn't see, even as he wipes them away, sneak out of the corners of Sam's eyes) and makes sure to keep talking to him as much as he can (even when it hurts to try and force words out because he needs to remember how to talk as much as he tells himself that Sam needs to hear his voice).
"It's okay, Sammy. It's okay. I know it hurts, I know, but you gotta try and relax for me. If you can relax, then I can give you something to make it hurt less. Just a little bit. Just enough for one sip, Sammy, please? Just... just try to relax that much. Please, Sammy? Try it for me?"
Dean doesn't even know if Sam can hear him (he can, sometimes, except when he can't) or understand him (when he hears him, he can understand; when the voices aren't so loud they drown everything else out, and when the pain isn't so severe that Sam feels like his body is trying to shut down slowly).
It hurts Dean to see Sam like this (more than it hurts Sam, even), and he finds himself praying to Cas (he hates himself when he does it, and it makes his stomach churn to even utter that fucker's name, much less ask him for help) and begging for him to put Sam's wall back up, to erase his memory like he did Lisa and Ben's, to do anything.
"Come on, Cas! Just fucking answer me! You said you would help him! You gonna prove yourself a liar now, you pathetic piece of shit?"
Castiel (God of all; ruler of Heaven, Hell, and the Vast of Purgatory) shows up on a Thursday (it's the only day he knows by name, as it's the only day he has a personal tie to). He tells Dean he can't put the wall back up (there are some things beyond even God, Dean) and that wiping or altering Sam's memories won't do anything (it will, but it will only leave Sam scarred and frightened and not knowing who Dean is) because the trauma is etched deep into Sam's soul (which is not strictly true, as an etching can be buffed out, but a trauma like this seeps in and forms and molds the soul around its pain).
Castiel (Benevolent Father, Responsible Caretaker of All, Better Than Him) does not smite Dean on the spot for his insolence (even as He knows He should, in order to set an example to His former brethren) or for any vanities. He loves Dean (as He loves Sam, but more than He loves Bobby, who He loves more than other humans) and is truly sorry (as sorry as He can be). He does not wish Dean the burden of caring for Sam (it's never been a burden to Dean, only an honor, a birthright that he was lucky enough to get, and that fundamental reasoning is why Castiel—Lord of Land, Ruler of All Things Celestial—never understood humans or Winchesters).
"There is a reason for everything, Dean."
"Don't give me that 'God works in mysterious ways' bullshit, Cas! You did this to Sam!"
Dean tells Cas to take his worthless apologies (and his overblown fucking ego, and every traitorous bone in his motherfucking evil-as-shit stolen body) and shove it up his holy ass. Cas tells him He forgives him (and He does) and that He will make it better (Dean won't have to share in his burden alone, Castiel will make sure of that).
Dean tells Cas exactly where he can shove his forgiveness (in a place no sun will ever shine, unless Castiel gets mad at Jimmy's body and pops it inside out) and wipes the tears from his face (it's another one of the bad days, and he doesn't want Sammy to see him cry because Sammy thinks he did something wrong, and he tries so hard to do things on his own and he hurts himself so bad, and it makes Dean hate himself even more than he hates that thing that used to be their friend) before he goes back inside.
Sam is sitting on the couch (the arm of it to his left, a stack of pillows to his right so he can stay sitting) and scratching at the bright red streaks on his neck with the oven mitts duct taped to his hands (which weren't put on fast enough, or there wouldn't be red streaks on Sammy's neck to begin with). Dean grins as big and broad (and fake, fake, fake) as he can and starts to say something stupid and inane (he doesn't remember what because all thought stutters to a halt) when he suddenly walks directly into a girl who wasn't there a moment ago (another her was, in another somewhere that Sam can see sometimes, but not this one; this one was in a shitty dorm bed with her feet hanging off of it, smiling and so in love it made her sick to her stomach).
The girl falls ass over ankles (and shoulders over ass, and head over shoulders), her blonde hair doing nothing to cushion the fall (if the giant, painful-sounding thunk her skull makes as it connects with the hard floor of Bobby's living room is anything to go by), and the string of curses she lets out is almost impressive to Dean (girls who cuss will always be a little bit of a wonder to Dean). Dean doesn't fall (because momentum keeps going and stationary tumbles like a Jenga tower), though the stumble he avoids (since stumbling would've meant stepping on the girl who might not really be a girl—like Meg, or Ruby, or the siren, or the Woman in White, or any of the other six hundred billion different things that seemed to realize pretending to be a "defenseless girl" was a surefire way to get people to underestimate you) is an impressive feat.
Dean calls for Bobby (because demons can't get in, and the angel-proofing is up to date, but who know what other kinds of shit can—like Cas, since he's apparently something somewhat like a God and all now) and has a terrifying choice (that isn't a choice at all, not really) between turning his back on the girl-shaped thing getting to its feet and catching Sam (who is trying desperately to get off the couch, even though the oven mitts make his hands slide and his arms don't want to lock like he wants them to, needs them to).
Sam clings to Dean, trying to use him as leverage (as another arm, or legs that listen and do what they're supposed to do when they're supposed to do them, or the extension of himself that Dean has always been) to force himself up and off the couch (to the floor, to the girl—he has to get there, he needs to, even if it isn't real, and he knows it isn't because bad days means nothing is where it should be, but it doesn't stop him from trying to hug Dad even though he knows he's been dead for years or chase the kitten that isn't running around the kitchen for real).
Bobby gets the girl (which used to happen so much more before Winchesters and before demons and before the butcher knife he had to put in Karen's chest) and is thankful she doesn't put up a fight (she's not much better than Sam right now, to be honest, shock and new surroundings and God's voice ringing in her ears, telling her it's her time again) because Sam is fighting Dean as best as he can (it's not the best he can, not even today, but he's not trying to fight; he's just trying to gets his vocal cords to respond, to get his tongue to move so his words aren't a giant slur of unintelligible noise).
She makes it out of the living room (and the devil's trap on the ceiling, and the angel wards all over everywhere) and to the kitchen (where the nearest chair is, belts still looped through it that they had to use this morning so Sam could eat breakfast at the table without falling or sliding and hurting himself). Sam leans against Dean and lets his body go as limp as it will (oven mitts fumbling uselessly along Dean’s shirt, face pressed into Dean's neck as he breathes deep as he can and tries so, so, so hard to calm himself). He stops struggling (he's not giving up, he isn't, he's just trusting Dean) and lets Dean wrap an arm around his waist (Dean pulls Sam's arms around his neck, and he doesn't care that a year ago, a month ago, he would've made jokes about slow dancing because nowadays when it's this bad, this is how he can get Sam moving and get him from one room to another).
Dean starts towards the stairs for a few steps before Sam makes himself go as dead-weight as possible (like he used to when he was little and Dad would try to pick him up in the middle of a tantrum). Dean's not an idiot, he knows which fights to pick (almost all of them) and which to let Sam win (the important ones), and he walks (slow dances) Sam over to the kitchen (the dining room attached to it) so that Sam's inability to move or duck out of the way is less likely to get him killed or worse (and there are things even worse than death, as the Winchesters know far more intimately than they would like to).
The girl-shaped thing strapped to the chair is moving now (shaking, trembling, shuddering) and looks almost as bad as Sam in the mornings (on his good days). Dean only sees her out of the corner of his eye (tall, skinny, white, mess of blonde longer than the belts above and below her chest), his attention focused firmly on Sam (who is trying as hard as he can to get Dean to turn his head and look).
Sam can't make the words come out (because real life isn't the movies, and his body won't just happen to listen to him now to be dramatic and helpful), so he tries to aim his shaking in her direction and hopes that Dean understands (the way he understands when Sam is gonna be sick if he has one more glass of milk or wants a hot dog instead of a chili dog).
Dean can't leave him there (won't, not in a chair with no arms when Sam might fall), but he refuses to put Sam back in the other room (alone, by himself, where some thing just popped past every defense they have and appeared in the middle of a devil's trap). He calls to Bobby (who wipes the blood off his silver blade and sets it down) and makes him drag the girl-shaped thing's chair to the edge of the (probably useless) devil's trap in the kitchen.
He trusts Bobby (and beyond that, part of her dress and hair is wet, and he knows the face Bobby makes when someone bites him because Sam was a biter when he was little and had sharp teeth), but he still feels uneasy, can't help himself. There's a gap of about six feet between Sam and the girl-shaped thing, and right now, that's about nine states smaller than Dean would like (tomorrow, if it's a good day, Sam will probably kick Dean's ass for being so overprotective, but he should be used to it after twenty-something, thirty-something, a hundred plus years).
Sam is listing (leaning) forward, straining against Dean's arm (pushing himself, using his bad for as good as he can make it), not willing to give up (no matter what, because he's so convinced that if he tries hard enough his body might just listen to him).
The thing looks up, its right shoulder twitching (arm trying to move up to push the wet hair away, blocked by the belts and rope around her wrists) as its head pushes forward, trying to inch that much closer (trying to see past her hair). It says Sam's name (which is not shocking because they're used to being the boogey men monsters tell their monster freak-babies about) and sounds so confused (which is a little weird) that even Bobby looks thrown.
It starts babbling about not remembering this (which makes the hair on the back of Dean's neck stand on end) and struggling more against the belts, which in turn makes Sam struggle against Dean (she's never liked being restrained, not even for fun, and this is definitely not something she would consider even a tiny bit fun).
The only belts (in the entire house) are currently keeping the thing in place, and Sam is agitated (angry, frustrated, miserable, and disappointed in himself that he can't make his body do what he wants it to, especially now), so Dean hauls him back out of the chair and starts walking him (pulling and dragging more than walking because Sam's legs aren't picking up right now and Dean knew he left Sam sitting up for too long) to their bedroom.
"Yeah, yeah, get your brother something to sleep. I'll take care of this."
"Usually do it anyway."
Sam is better the next morning (not perfect, not at first, but after an hour or two of staring over the kitchen table, eerily and somewhat resembling a coma patient with better balance, he blinks and words come back to him and his tongue remembers what the words are supposed to taste like again) and makes it halfway down the stairs to the panic room before Dean catches him (literally and figuratively, which is good because Sam might not survive a fall stage left onto cement from fifteen feet).
"You left him alone?"
"Don't look at me like that. I'm supposed to know that today he can undo the belt buckles?"
Dean doesn't believe him. It's not that he thinks Sam is lying (Sam doesn't anymore, not to him, and Dean feels like shit for it because he thinks he might take this over the lies), or that he's crazy or anything, but it's been a long time, and there are a lot of things that can fake people well (Lucifer, for one, but angel proofing is supposed to work, even if a cage won't).
She's not cuffed to the bed like Sam was (any of the times he was in there), but she's locked in there just the same (well, not just the same, but same enough that Dean feels a little safer than not). He doesn't like Sam's idea. Not at all, not even a teeny, tiny bit (Sam thinks Dean's overreacting, Dean thinks Sam's going to get them all killed or worse—because if being a Winchester means anything it means knowing that there are things that are so much worse than dying could ever be).
But he's always had problems saying no to Sam (not because he can't but because he never wants to, because everyone else always tells Sam no, and he deserves some kind of yes at some point or another), and so he finds himself locked in the panic room with his semi-functioning brother and something that looks like his brother's dead ex-girlfriend.
"Still not the most fucked up thing that's happened to us."
"Good to see you're still an optimist, Sammy."
Sam's sitting on the bed next to the thing (Dean won't call it a her yet, he can't—Sam's already had so much ripped away from him, and Dean can't stomach the thought of yet another thing), and Dean's standing guard right behind him with the biggest, nastiest knife he could grab in three minutes.
The thing looks a lot like Anna did when they found her (the human version, driven insane by the voices that were really real, nothing like the angel version who died trying to kill their parents). She's curled in on herself, hugging her head like a little kid being yelled at (she lived a good life after first grade, but she doesn't handle loud noises well and has scars Sam used to kiss every night before sleep), while Sam's hand rubs a stuttering, somewhat jerking circle over her upper back.
Sam tells her it will be okay (he doesn't know if it will, but he knows Dean will try, and he still knows Dean can do almost anything) and calls her Care Bear (after the Cheer Bear she slept with all the way up until junior year) until she stops shaking. She has a single butterfly stitch on her bicep where Bobby tested her for silver (and iron and holy water and about two dozen other things all pointing towards her really being a human).
"It's okay, Care Bear. I'm here, I'm not gonna let anything get you. Neither will Dean; he'll use that big knife right there to gut anything that comes near you."
"Oh, yeah, Sam. Point out the giant knife to the monster. Great idea."
"She's not a monster."
"You don't know that."
"How? You have some sort of long-lost vision of her now?"
"Same way I know you. I just do."
"If this thing kills us, I am kicking your ass all over heaven for the rest of eternity."
"Jess? Care Bear? I'm coming in."
Dean is still not a fan of... Jess (because he doesn't want to call it "it" around Sam) being out of the panic room. He trusts Sam, though, and Sam says it's her (Bobby just looks at them like they're all fucking crazy, which isn't that far off from how he usually looks at them). And so they bring her up to the house (Dean carries her because Sam can't and she isn't really doing too well at moving right now).
Sam calls her Care Bear enough times to make Dean sick (jealous and terrified for Sam for when this all comes tumbling down) and doesn't stop touching her, hugging her close, staring at her like she's a miracle (Dean is man enough to admit that he's not used to Sam looking at other people with that kind of love).
She cries (a lot, and for days, and Dean remembers a story about a girl who cried so much she drowned the world—maybe it was a song or a curse). Sam rubs her back and holds her tight, and that night, they sleep on the couch (she curls up in Sam's lap like a puppy, and Dean keeps a secure arm around Sam's waist in case it's a bad day tomorrow).
"Just go to sleep, Sammy."
"Not gonna read me a bedtime story?"
"Once upon a time, there was an overgrown runt who wouldn't shut up until his smarter, hotter big brother stitched his lips together. The end."
"'Overgrown runt' is an oxymoron."
"You're an oxymoron."
It takes Jess a while (nine good days, six bad days, and three days so bad that Dean cries in the basement) before she goes from the nearly catatonic mess she was to a semi-functioning human being (that Dean has finally been able to admit she most likely is).
It's a good day after a bad day (so Sam is full of muscle relaxants to stop the cramps and coffee to keep him awake past the relaxants) when Dean hears her say anything louder than a half-crazed murmur (not counting the whimpers she made to Sam or the shrieking night terrors that Sam insists she used to suffer from before, too).
She says she misses her mom and dad (and Dean's heart breaks just the smallest amount for her because Dean still misses his mom and it's been twenty-eight years), and Sam rubs his nose into her neck (like the puppy Dean snuck in for Sam in fourth grade, which was worth all the punishments Dad gave him after, if only for the smile on Sam's face when he woke up).
"They hugged me and gave me Cheer Bear after my first therapy session."
"I'm sorry, Jess. You can't."
She was in Heaven (which they know because she told them about how something she can't describe that felt scary and calming and warm interrupted her and Sam's first date and then Dean was knocking her down), and she's not adjusting very well to the realization that she was alive, and then murdered, and now alive again (not that Dean can blame her, really—most people don't die nearly as often as they do).
Dean loves her the same way he's loved all the good ones Sam's dated (because if you are good to Sam and treat him well, Dean Winchester will cut down forests and armies for you), but he doesn't really know much about her (Sam was always too broken, angry, raw, and in pain to let loose more than the barest of information or stories).
Jess says she's supposed to help (that's what the bright, loud thing said before she was alive again), but she doesn't know how (or why). Sam smiles at her (big and gaping, that smile Dean hasn't seen in so long that it makes his heart hurt to realize it) and wiggles his twitching fingers between hers (she squeezes them tight and clings to his hand like she's going to float away if he lets go) and tell her she's already helping (just by being there, Dean knows, and he hates himself for hating it).
Dean takes care of Sam (he always has and always will), and he's always had problems with anyone else doing it (to the point where Dad used to give him time outs every time Dean redressed Sam or redid his diaper when he didn't really need anything fixed). He tries to suck it up (not "man up," because Dad never liked that saying, and he always said it was okay to cry or be scared but not to let the bad guy know you're scared because he has to think you're just as bad as him), but he can't help the twist in his stomach (anger, fury, jealousy, fear, abandonment, uselessness) when Jess feeds Sam on his bad days or reads to him.
He picks fights with her and tries to find the buttons that will set her off (she's always had a long fuse because you can't live with someone who refuses to answer basic familial questions without having patience). She doesn't yell or scream at him, never does (but she glares and ignores him, which he doesn't notice because living in a car means silence isn't silent treatment—it's just what happens naturally), but it doesn't stop him from trying.
"He's not a baby, you know."
"Really? I thought it was weird that he kept refusing the strained peas."
"He can do things for himself."
"Good to hear it, now get out of my way before I spill this."
Bobby keeps out of the way (because he knows Dean and has known him since the damn fool was young enough to get away with throwing out perfectly good food and making it again, like he thought Bobby was trying to poison his baby brother), and starts delivering more parts on his own instead of sending them out (with other hunters, the best free couriers anyone could ask for).
He doesn't leave them completely alone (because it's only a matter of time before something or someone explodes, and if Dean tears a hole through something, Bobby's the only one physically capable of making sure it's not one of his damn walls), but he spends more time out of the house than he has in a while (Sheriff Mills is gonna be a fine hunter one day, but until then, Bobby's helping her learn how to tell the difference between her kind of case and his).
The sheriff asks him about his free time, and Bobby isn't really sure how to explain it (sometimes he wonders when his house became the land of misfit toys, and then he remembers Jim Murphy dragging a bleeding Winchester up his steps while the other two screamed bloody murder from the car).
"Kids don't play well together."
"You have children?"
"Two idjit boys. And a girl who's probably almost as stupid as they are."
Dean accidentally gives Jess a broken nose (he opened the door in her face, and his stomach dropped along with his plates at the wet crunch her nose made before the blood started to pour out), and Sam breaks Dean's thumb because he thinks Dean did it on purpose (Sam didn't mean to really break it, he was just trying to twist it to make Dean tell the truth, but random muscle spasms mean sometimes he clenches his fist and doesn't realize it).
He knows Sam didn't mean to do it (Sam still makes faces at him when he swats the moths that swarm at his face late at night when the laptop is the only light on the entire bottom floor, but Dean isn't Sam and won't bother to try to catch them in a fucking glass and set them free outside just so they can fly right back in), but Sam's face still gets that shaky, crumpled look to it that it gets when he tries really hard not to cry (he's never liked crying, not at all, and even less now because he can't breathe right when he cries, and he's afraid that his lungs might just stop and decide not to go again).
Jess rolls her black eyes (not demon black, but raccoon-ringed from the second break when Dean reset it for her) and tells Sam he's acting like her little sister (Dean doesn't know if she has one or not, but if she does, he likes her more just because older siblings have to stick together over being doormats to their younger ones). She only flinches a little at the mention of the family she's not allowed to see again (or call, or write, or let know that she isn't dead anymore), and tells Sam that she can break one of his arms if he likes (or a leg, maybe some toes), just to make them all even.
"I'm not the one who tried to kill you with a door."
"I didn't try to kill her!"
"I bet I could manage to beat up Dean twice before he hurt you on purpose."
"You haven't seen him when he's angry."
"Hey, sometimes you just need to get hit."
Sleeping is a weird arrangement (as opposed to the completely normal arrangement that is everything else in their life). Dean gets this embarrassed (ashamed, disgusted, horrified, scared) ball in the pit of his stomach at the thought of splitting a bed with Sam while Sam's... Jess is there (she was his girlfriend, and then she died, and maybe she was going to be his fiancée before, but now Dean doesn't know exactly what they are, and he can't really make himself call Jess Sam's girlfriend when he doesn't know completely for sure). But he doesn't want to let Jess and Sam have the bed (because what if Sam needs something and she doesn't wake up, or what if he has one of those seizures from the horrifically bad days).
Dean takes to sleep deprivation to cure it (because he can't not be there if Sam needs him, and he can't stand the thought of Jess being able to help because Sam doesn't need him). He stays up all night on the chair next to the bed Sam and Jess now sleep in (he uses the laptop to keep him awake as he sips at bottles of whatever alcohol he can find; he still hates the fucking thing, but Sam showed him how to get movies on it, so at least that's better than researching shit he can't hunt anymore). He makes them breakfast when they wake up (if Bobby isn't there or hasn't done it first) and naps throughout the day (an hour here, ten minutes there, all of the A side and most of the B side of some album playing so low even Dean can't tell who it is) and doesn't wallow (in his misery or Sam's, or the pity he gets when he answers Bobby's phone for him).
He can't really think straight much anymore, and he has a permanent headache (to go along with the heavy liver damage he's trying his best to give himself), but this way, Sam gets to cuddle with Jess (he always was a handsy freak, ever since he was a baby and used to wrap his pudgy arms around Dean's chest in the crib), and Dean gets to make sure Sam is safe (and always has a glass of water when he needs one, or something to eat, or help to the bathroom when he thinks he isn't going to make it out of the bed in time).
"Dean. Dean. Dean."
"Let him sleep."
"He'll be up all night if he sleeps now."
"Oh, really? You don't get to complain about him treating you like a baby for the next week for that."
Jess knows Winchesters. She lived with Sam and all of his stupid idiocies (like refusing to eat in front of her) and idiosyncrasies (the food he ate, horrible for him in horrific combinations, and the superstitions she didn't realize back then held a purpose) for long enough to know when they need a swift kick in the ass (metaphorically speaking, of course).
She grinds a sleeping pill into as fine of a powder as she can manage (using a hammer and an empty Cool Whip) and spikes his mashed potatoes with it (it's only one pill—she doesn't want to kill him, she just wants him to stop trying to kill himself). She can tell when it starts to kick in (he blinks big and slow, and his words get tangled around yawns) and suggests they watch a movie. Sam's sitting on his own today, so he helps Dean wobble his way into the bedroom (weaving worse than when he downs enough to get drunk) and huffs out an adorable laugh when Dean flops on the bed. Jess helps Sam out of his clothes (buttons are still hard for him, and zippers are dangerous near the good china when your hands won't stop shaking) and then takes off Dean's boots while Sam weeble-wobbles his way into a pair of basketball shorts.
Jess puts the TV on something random (because Dean is almost out and Sam's probably not too far behind him) and crawls into bed between them (because she is a straight female with two very attractive men in her bed, and she is not an idiot). Dean keeps sitting up (and trying to get off the bed), but Jess would prefer for Dean not to fall and give himself (another) concussion, so she tugs him sideways and ends up with a lap full of heavy Winchester chest, while Sam's right leg gets pinned and drooled on by Dean's face.
Dean sleeps for just over sixteen hours (which freaks Jess out until Sam and then Bobby and then Sam again remind her that Dean has not had anything that looks like real sleep in about a week) and wakes up muzzy and confused (he thinks he passed out at first and that it's only been a few minutes, and the only reason Jess doesn't continue to let him think that is that she can't explain why it isn't still Friday if she does).
He doesn't suspect she drugged him (in the back of his head, he thinks maybe Sam did, or Bobby, but Bobby would probably just punch him and then drug him, so he decides he must have crashed on his own), but he does panic when he realizes he was asleep for so long (and then he immediately finds a reason to get the fuck out of that room before he does or says something stupider than normal).
"That went well."
"At least I had a plan."
"You had an idea, not a plan."
"No, a plan would've included an idea of how to keep Dean from running like a dog about to get beat. You didn't see further than making him sleep."
"Plans are for amateurs, baby."
"I'm a little uncomfortable now."
"Want me to call you 'Sammy?'"
"Hey, is that Runaway Jury on HBO?"
Dean spends the next two days running around like a chicken with its head cut off (which Dean actually saw once, and it was scary enough and kind of sad enough that he couldn't eat KFC for a solid month after), digging out parts for Bobby and repairing cars that will probably never drive anywhere again anyway (because no one wants to buy a vomit green Nova), and doing everything in his power to stay far away from Sam and his girlfriend-fiancée-person (but not far enough that he can't hear on the off chance that one of them maybe needs him for something).
He and Bobby get drunk for no good reason (not that there's a bad reason, in Dean's book, or even that there needs to be a reason) one night after Bobby comes back from town. Jess is getting better at being the FBI and CIA when Bobby's out (of course she is because there's fucking nothing she can do wrong), so there's no real need to be sober.
They finish a bottle of whiskey and half a thing of moonshine (Dean thinks he can hear his liver starting to cry around three in the morning, and he stops for a little while) before Jess starts shooting them looks (they might be dirty looks, or pitying looks, or maybe just "I can't lift either of you, so if you pass out and piss yourselves, it's your own damn fault" looks) and they knock it off.
Dean gets it in his head that Sam needs a dog (because Bobby said Dean can't get Sam a monkey and that he will shoot Dean himself if Dean tries to bring a fucking cat in his damn house) because Sam has always wanted one and Dean knows they're used in hospitals to help people (or something like that—Dean isn't sure, it might be prisons).
"Aren't there... aren't dogs supposed to, like. Smell seizures or something and call 911?"
"You're cut off, you damn fool."
It takes the better part of a week to find the perfect dog for Sam (once Dean remembers he wanted to get him one and realizes that helper dogs are stupid expensive). He doesn't need some giant one that'll maul him half to death or some stupid little yappy thing that Dean will wanna punt across the junkyard (which cuts out pretty much every dog in the pet store and half in the papers).
He finally finds the perfect one (a small, scrawny, whimpery little mutt, the runt of his litter) being given away outside the grocery store in town. It's tiny (probably not big enough to be away from its mom yet), but if the fucks who have him now don't want him, then Dean figures Winchesters can't be much worse (besides, he was crying and shaking, and he burrowed right inside Dean's jacket when he picked him up).
He spends the day at the vet making sure the thing won't give Sam rabies or up and die on him in an hour (because Sam's had enough things he loves die, and Dean's pretty sure King Asshat isn't gonna be bringing anyone else back for them any time soon) and getting the thing stabbed with way bigger needles than Dean thinks it (he, it's a boy) can handle.
Dean (or Javier Mandalay, as his newest card says) gets dog food and a tiny, tiny collar, and then the other necessities (a bed, treats, and about three dozen kinds of toys because Dean has always had a loose idea of the word "necessities"). He doesn't name him. That's Sam's job (unless he names the puppy something like "Fluffy" or "Bonesy").
Dean sits in the car with it for almost an hour (ten minutes) before he makes himself get up and go the fuck inside (he's not scared or anything, he just doesn't want Sam to cry all over him or something like that). He scratches it right behind its floppy ears and heads for Sam (who is currently sitting on the floor in Bobby's no-longer-a-dining-room).
Jess is sitting behind him (rubbing low on his back and kissing his shoulder every pass or two), and Dean doesn't want to intrude (which he finds himself doing more and more lately), so he shoves the puppy at Sam, says something about not giving him a stupid name, and hightails it back out to the yard.
There weren't any books at the library in town about how to train a dog to help with seizures (or how they help, for that matter), so Dean figures the best thing to do is start calling hospitals and asking around (once he figures out where in the hospitals to call). It's good. It'll give him something to do (and a reason to avoid Sam and Jess).
"You are not naming the dog 'Mutt.'"
"Dean said I could name him whatever I wanted."
"But that's a horrible name, and I refuse to yell 'Mutt' every time he pees on the floor."
"Maybe I should name him 'Jerk.'"
"Why would you even do that?"
Jess is not stupid (contrary to popular belief, looks and/or money alone are not enough to get you into Stanford). Sam may not have told her much about Dean (apparently, the list of things Sam neglected to tell her about could fit into a black hole), but Bobby is more than willing to spill the beans (even without the useless bribe of alcohol). Anything to make the house less like a minefield (because Jess doesn't know why Dean is sometimes fine with her and why other times he rushes out of the room so fast that he practically leaves a Dean-shaped cloud behind in his wake).
Bobby tells her that Dean's problem is that he doesn't know how to share Sam, and the way he says it—the look he gives her, the silence afterwards—tells her she should feel weird (but she doesn't because it makes sense, to her, and she thinks it should make sense to anyone else who's ever met them). This somewhat new (and nowhere near as shocking as it should be) information still doesn't help her, though, because it doesn't tell her how to make Dean stop worrying that she's going to try to force him out or whatever stupid thing he must be thinking.
Not much changes, really. She'd like to give Dean more time alone with Sam (she was never a good babysitter, always let the kids do whatever they wanted that wouldn't end in a trip to the hospital), but if she started leaving the room every time he walked in... well, it doesn't take a psych degree to see what Dean would think of that (just one conversation with him).
Luckily, the puppy (who still has no name but answers to Jerk, Mutt, Dog, Puppy, and Muttly—which Dean slurs at him when he's drunk) is still small enough to piss all over everything constantly. This means that when Dean clearly needs Jess out of his fucking eyesight, she can grab the puppy and try to futilely make it go to the bathroom outside instead of in Sam's shoes (and Dean's jeans, and the one shirt Jess has that's hers).
Jess is still enforcing the group bed thing, though (she knows she sleeps too heavy for Sam's needs, and she doesn't like Dean making himself even sicker than usual).
"Jess, you don't—"
"I own one shirt, and your dog has peed on it five times today. Five."
"Maybe you shouldn't toss it on the floor."
"It's not his dog. He gave it to me."
"Well, whoever's dog it is crapped on Dean's pants. Might wanna check them before you put them on. I'm taking him for a walk."
Dean finds a hunt.
He isn't looking for one (really, he isn't, but he needs something to do while everyone else is asleep, and Bobby won't let him near the stove after the chocolate eggs); it just falls into his lap. Someone emails him (which is pretty amazing because Dean didn't even know he had an email account) about some freaky shit happening just a few hundred miles away.
Dean would like to say that he thought about handing it off to someone else (or telling Bobby about it, or spending more than a few seconds thinking about it before diving in headfirst like he usually does), but he's been trapped in one place for a long time. Not that he doesn't love Sammy, because he does. But no matter how much he wants to (or how hard he tries to tell himself otherwise), he isn't the kind of guy who can have that normal life.
He packs a bag, leaves Bobby a note stuck to the fridge, and hightails it before the Sam voice in his head can make him rethink anything (it'll only take a couple of days, and it doesn't sound that hard, really).
Hunt in Rokersvilletowncity, Nowheresville. Back before you get the whiskey out of your beard. Got my phone.
(Knock it off, Sammy, your face is gonna freeze that way, and then you'll never get laid.)
There is a difference between knowing that all the shit that scared you when you were little (and not so little) is real and knowing that people go looking for it. Jess swears she's going to hit Dean as hard as she can when he comes back (or maybe smack him).
She kind of figured they were like cops. Someone finds a vampire, or a werewolf, or something (she hopes Baba Yaga isn't real like her grandma used to say) and calls some number, and people show up to make the things go away. It might sound naive, but it's not like cops go around knocking on doors and asking if anyone in the house has killed someone recently (at least, not smart cops or ones that want to keep their jobs for long).
Jess spends three days terrified that Dean won't come back or will come back missing an arm or a leg or half his face (Sam laughs at her when she says this, and the only reason she doesn't go sleep on the couch is because Sam fell yesterday and she doesn't want him to wake up and hurt himself again).
When Dean pulls in, he looks normal and healthy, and he's got a stack of pizza and wings riding shotgun with him (and a clear plastic box of salad for Sam, Jess can't help but notice). She still wants to hit him, but instead, she runs to him and throws her arms around his neck, clinging tight (and crying into his shoulder a little because she can't help it).
She can feel the shaking clench of his hand at her lower back, and it isn't until it relaxes (and he grips her tight for just a moment) that she realizes how bad her terror might look (especially to Dean, whose entire existence revolves around Sam).
Jess wants to scream at him, yell that if he ever does something that stupid again, she will hit him (not that she thinks it would hurt anything except for her hand). She settles for just not letting go of him, even when he starts trying to walk towards the house (and she squeezes tighter when he laughs because she's never heard him laugh before and it makes tears spring to her eyes again).
He tells her she's got to let go if they're going to make it up Bobby's porch, and the only reason she does is because she doesn't want to fall backwards over the steps and kill them both (or take out Sam, who she can hear laughing at them from behind her).
That night, they sleep so close they might as well be on a cot instead of a king-sized bed (Dean has been relegated to a cot on more than one occasion because Sam's a sympathy vomiter and Dean likes anything with extra chili on it more than he should).
Sam's already in bed, curled on his left, when Dean climbs in his side of the bed (straightening out on his side to face Sam, hand propping up his head as he tells Sam lies about the waitress with the mohawk who was completely unimpressed with Dean's habitual flirting).
Jess is down the hall, brushing her teeth or taking off her makeup or whatever it is she does during the hour it takes her to get ready for bed (she doesn't wear makeup anymore, and one day she will take Dean to task for only showering in the mornings because all the sweat and dirt he accumulates over the day and brings to bed is disgusting).
She dries her hair, scrubs her face till it's red, and then tip-toe-runs all the way down the hall to the bedroom (she never used to be scared of the dark, but finding out you were murdered by your boyfriend's demonically-possessed ex is enough to make anyone afraid).
Usually, Jess and Dean bracket Sam (in case he falls or wakes up, or needs anything in the middle of the night), but Dean could have died, or been paralyzed or hurt, and that is just unacceptable. She climbs in behind Dean and makes herself comfortable (elbows him, knees him, attempts in vain to manhandle him further towards the center of the bed), sliding an arm around his waist (not bothering to wait for him to fall asleep first, like she usually does).
Dean squirms, uncomfortable (too comfortable), and tries to wriggle out of her grip until Sam tells him to knock it off (and slides a leg between Dean's, and Jess's behind, tangling them together so Dean knows it's okay).
"You're kind of clingy."
"Don't do that again."
"What? Hunt? I can't just give up—"
"Don't run away like that. Not without telling us."
"Aw, Jess, I didn't know you cared."
"Because you're blind."
Dean can't take more than two steps lately without running into Sam or Jess, it seems. Bobby has all but cleared out in the last week (Dean can't tell if it's because he doesn't want to be there for whatever blow-up is sure to happen soon or if the sheriff's finally giving him the goods).
Jess still can't cook, but she makes a mean bowl of cereal (and Dean's learning to appreciate the taste of charred hamburger and overcooked noodle), and when Sam is in the here and now, he barely gives Dean the room to put his shirt on without elbowing him in the face (or neck, since Sam is such a looming giant).
It's all very new and weird to him (he's the one who takes care of everyone, that's what he does). Everything doesn't change, though. Sam still bitches when Dean has control of the TV, Jess still ducks out of the room when Dean is helping Sam with something (except now it's only as far as the doorway and not to a completely different part of the house like it used to be).
He causes a fight between them. Dean isn't even sure how; all he was doing was reading up on some sudden dismemberments in Iowa, and then Sam and Jess are glaring at each other and not talking (Jess doesn't want Dean to go on a hunt; Sam knows that they can't just hide the newspapers and that Dean isn't Dean if he isn't hunting).
Usually, when Dean causes a fight, it's because he's sleeping with someone (but he and Sam haven't done anything in a long time, since before Sam's wall fell and the whole world broke apart). When he says this, all he gets is twin glares (and it doesn't take a genius to tell that the glares mean he should shut the fuck up).
"He's not a kid, Jess. You can't just lock him up and keep him safe."
"Act like an adult for three seconds."
"I'm not that much younger than you, Sam."
"You kind of are now."
Sam isn't doing as well as he wants them to think. It looks like he's having fewer bad days because he just stays in bed and pretends to sleep when he can't make himself sit up in the mornings (it means the humiliation of more accidents, but he'd rather take Dean's gentle teasing over pissing the bed than the abject terror that Sam can see in Dean's eyes when Sam's entire body stops responding to commands).
It gets Dean to sleep more, too, and Jess to ignore the silent treatment she's giving Sam (he isn't stupid enough to think he's completely fooling them, but he'll take what he can get). He sleeps through the day and wakes at odd hours, sometimes to Dean and Jess trying to maneuver him into the chair so they can fix the bed (Jerk, who Jess still calls Puppy, is a whimpering bundle of fur in Sam's lap, nosing at his shaking hands and licking the sweat off his wrists).
Sam's favorite parts are when he wakes up squished between Jess and Dean (her snores at his neck and his face pressed into Dean's shoulder, the feel of their arms over him and the utter safety of it all). It's almost enough to help him blink away the tears he gets after too many bad days in a row (the ones he can't stop when he thinks about being like this forever, about not being able to sit up on his own again or talk without sounding like he's drunk).
Sometimes, when he's not as bad as he could be (but not as good as he would like), he focuses on the feel of hands running through his hair (sometimes Jess, usually Dean, because that's what Dean used to do when Sam was little and sick), and his tired, overworked brain can make sense of some of the words being said around him.
Jess talks about getting puppy pads so Jerk will get trained (but Dean says no because Bobby's had dogs for as far as he can remember, until Rumsfeld, and he says all Jerk needs is one of Sam's shirts to sleep on and a few swats on the nose when he doesn't hold it until he's outside). The masochistic part of Sam's brain (that sometimes sounds like Meg or Lucifer or Sam himself when he gets trapped behind the rocky juts in his head) wonders if the puppy pads might help him (and he can't decide whether to be thankful or not that he can't make his mouth say it out loud).
The days that Sam can talk (and walk and move around and pretend to himself that he's going to stay like this), he does. He says every stupid fucking thing that comes to his mind and chases Jerk around the house and wrestles with Dean and tickles Jess and almost kills them all three separate times (because he keeps trying to make breakfast or dinner or something to eat and forgets halfway through because there is so much to do while he can).
Dean runs himself ragged trying to keep up with Sam (like he did when they were little, when Sam was four and refused to wear clothes, or five and refused to eat anything that wasn't orange, or twelve and couldn't stop picking fights with the idiot goalie in his history class), and Jess doesn't even bother. She just sits on the couch (or the bed or a chair) and smiles at them in that way she always did whenever Sam and Zach did something really stupid in Stanford (which was a lot because Zach was an enabler and Sam took too long to realize that Dean was the one who got Sam out of so many of the messes he tried to make growing up).
Sam doesn't sleep so much as he passes out, falling over exhausted (terrified to sleep because waking up might mean another day he's trapped in his head and hiding from the only other people who could ever almost see in it). Jess's mouth tastes like watermelon chapstick that he doesn't know how she gets (Dean buys it for her because after tampons, there's nothing too embarrassing or weird to buy), and the scar on Dean's left side, underneath his ribcage, feels rubbery and soothing under his palm.