Genre: hurt/comfort and then more hurt/comfort
Characters: Sam, Dean
Rating: R for language and Sam's delinquent sense of humor
Word Count: ~3000
Warnings: Suicidal ideation.
Notes: Takes place some time after 7x18 in the alternate reality where Leviathan goo is actually dangerous. For plot reasons. Written for an anonymous prompt at hoodie_time's summer comment!meme, which asked for "Dean cuddling Sam. Even though Sam is like a sweaty, living furnace, some bad shit has just gone down, and Dean needs to feel that Sam is here and alive." Because comfort hurts.
This tutorial does not waste time with hypothetical situations.
"What do you think," Dean begins, before he falters. You hear his shoulder smack against the wall around the same time you remove your shoe from a smear of black goo (a ripping squelch).
"Dean," you say, because your palms tingle, almost burn, and you swear you can smell burning rubber. The bottom of your shoe melting into blackness.
"--is," says Dean, "will--"
"Dean," you say, because you have spontaneously combusted. Or your hands have. Or it feels like they have. This is something that happens to you fairly often, honestly; you're like the Human Torch. Or so Dean should say, but Dean has never joked about that. Never. And Lucifer's not attending to this set of pyrotechnics, anyway. "Dean," you say again, because some seconds later your brain catches up with your somatic response and you realize why your hands are burning.
Dean hit the wall, then hits the ground and doesn't get back up.
In context: Dean, covered in black goo, grabbed you, not covered in black goo, and you wiped it off of him as best you could, not thinking about the grey stain it left on his skin because nothing good has ever come of thinking about something like that. Your hands burned where you made contact and you tried not to think about Dean (soaked), either. Then everything fell apart mid-beeline to the nearest shower. Then Dean hit the wall, then hit the ground, and didn't get back up.
"You told me you didn't hurt." Which he hadn't, really. He'd hit you. We need to get the fuck out of here, you'd replied, because you're always saying useful things like that, and he'd nodded his agreement because, yes, that did sound like a good idea; and now here you are, not getting the fuck out of here nearly fast enough.
Dean probably has essays he'd like to say about this--or at least postcards--but he doesn't. He opens his mouth a few times, and lifts his arms toward you once you've elevated him from crumpled on the ground to slouching against the wall. His eyes, pupils dilated, squint. He's trying to figure out why he's on the ground. Then he drops his arms and waits for you to do something.
"Oh sure, now it's my turn," and try to grin wryly. You bite your lip hard enough to draw blood, because the taste of it overrides the smell of black, and the pain takes away from your hands. Not that it matters, because touching Dean feels like dragging a grater across your bones.
Dean says nothing.
"Dean," you say, because it's easier to carry on this conversation if both of you aren't saying much.
"Dean," you say again, because Dean is not helpfully rigid, unlike his usual bouts of crippling pain. Dean looks more like he's about to faint than scream, which is either a good thing or an extremely bad one. You have no fucking idea what's wrong with him.
Dean bends toward you. His head connects unpleasantly with your collarbone. You try not go get any more of this shit on him, and suddenly feel stupid for having wiped your hands on your shirt, now that Dean's using it as a landing pad. But then, who knew. You try not to get any more of this shit on you, and hold your bare hands wide. You thank god for long-sleeved shirts, for layers. You think about how goddamn wet Dean is, how sticky. His middle's so covered in black goo it looks like it's bleeding out of him. For a rogue second, you think about hellhounds.
Affected areas initially present with symptoms of chemical burn. Rinse immediately. Avoid further contact with noxious material. If you are noxious, you might consider revising your self-concept. If your brother is noxious, and you have realized this, it is probably too late.
The denim between your fingers feels half-decent. You're probably rubbing your hands raw, fingering the hem of Dean's jeans the way you are, but if they're inflamed-red rather than Leviathan-grey, this is probably an improvement. You'd run your fingers through Dean's hair instead, but touching still hurts like a motherfucker, and you're pretty sure you're supposed to be elevating Dean's legs or something, so here you are. Communing with Dean's boots.
You wonder. Not 'what do I do next?' but 'Am I supposed to know what I do next?'
You think about Dean's slow, slow heartbeat and think about the evolutionary purpose of Leviathan goo. Is this how they hunted in Purgatory? You never learned how to fix this; and you can't snap your fingers and tell a heart to at least jog, damn it anymore than you can ask it to speak.
Re-focus. You have to re-focus.
Your primary concerns this decade have been hypothesis and apotheosis; you can only continue to deny the latter, and watch your imagination fail to provide the former. You are too tired to be brilliant. But if you can stay awake long enough to imagine the hundred painful ways to die between here and Guerneville, that'd be great. You jerk like you're falling asleep at the wheel, but there's no wheel because you never made it to the wheel because Dean was too damn heavy and you were too damn tired. You and Dean are still sprawled on the floor, cool concrete beneath and all around you. You thought vaguely about staggering to the car, driving it here, and rolling Dean in, but even in your state you know that would never work; you don't have the right car. There is only one car in the entire world that can tear through this warehouse and get you someplace safe, all in a single night.
As it is, it's 10am, you're driving a Pinto, and if you're gonna last the night you're gonna have to last mid-morning first.
If you concentrate hard enough, you swear you can feel Dean's slow, slow heart. Then you shudder, because you can't actually concentrate that hard. You can't concentrate yourself into being superhuman, though you remember a time when you could.
Without warning, Dean struggles onto his side with surprising violence, kicks you in the gut in the process. "Fuck," he says, which is not quite articulate but is certainly situationally appropriate.
"Welcome back," you say, with all the wind you've managed to regain. Like you're trying to remind Dean that his duties require him to produce a certain quota of smartass anytime someone starts dying.
"Fuck you," he says.
"Dean," you say, wasting the scant seconds Dean's lucidity overlaps with your own. (You are starting to feel sluggish and sick and you rub your hands across Dean's jeans that much more vigorously.)
"Ugh," Dean groans, and you stop. "Sam."
"Dean," because this actually is the conversation that will put this right--really.
Dean garbles something like notthefloor and and it occurs to you to wonder if Dean knows why you're both still here. On the ground. You figured he did. He did, and he just couldn't muster up enough fucks to give. That sort of aphasic fatigue felt comfortably Dean, though you realize now that if Dean knew where you still were, he probably wouldn't be this calm. Calm being relative to the Winchester array of other colorful mindsets.
"Sure," you say, though you don't know who Dean's calling it for. Himself, you hope. Dean used to know how to be intelligently selfish. Today would be a good day to reawaken that ability.
Dean twists on the floor, tries to find his feet. If he makes it, maybe you can both go home.
You're a removed observer until you remember that you are Sam. You are Sam, and your hands still burn, and your limbs are starting to feel like detachable logs. Still yours, though; you know it because your palms up--wrists then forearms--are ablaze with a hot, pinprick rash. The breeze that leaks through the warehouse feels cool and good before it hurts. It hurts to touch.
Dean makes a noise that, for a moment, snaps you back to the wet tearing of your shoe from black ooze. He's back on the floor, though on his hands and knees.
"Let's move, let's go--" You need to get him out of here before--
Dean wavers. "No."
Lightheaded when you stand, the bright of the warehouse interchanging with black as you navigate the six steps toward him, you offer him your hand. Look, man, this is just going to get worse, we need to move now, you imagine saying. But you're too busy swearing because Dean hit your hand away, and everything erupted red.
"I," says Dean. "I c--"
You bite your what's left of your lip again, and snort because your damn hand's the thing that's supposed to keep the rest of your life from hurting. This hand's supposed to save you. This hand's supposed to save the world. More to the point, this hand's supposed to grab your brother, haul him to the car, dominate the steering wheel, and raise you both from hell.
"Fuck," Dean says, because it hurts. Your hand hurts him.
Common side-effects include bradycardia, broken concentration, hypersensitivity to touch, and the transformation of your brother into metaphor.
The moment you decide you have no future, the past becomes a very compelling place to be.
"Sam," Dean mumbles into the ground he is so insistent on not-ing. (Notthefloor it hurts--)
"Dean," you say, twelve hours ago. "Shotgun?"
"Whatever." Dean throws you the keys. When he rounds the car he misjudges an unfamiliar bumper and sort of... bounces. Staggers, then recovers without expletive or comment.
The keys make you feel like you're holding your life in your hands.
"Fucking hungover," Dean says, once he's crashed into the car and you haven't followed.
"--shojo thing - Garth - sake monster--"
"Three days ago, Dean." You look to Dean, who's looking to his thighs, looking like he's going to be sick. Of course, you can't tell him how afraid you were three days ago, when you caught him looking at nothing. Looking at nothing and believing in Bobby because he had nothing else left to believe in. You can't tell Dean about the terrifying mornings you've spent wondering, if his head's not here, then where is it? Where can you go find it? Bobby's? Lisa's? Stull, Kansas? Hell? The bottom of a bottlecap? Somewhere further? Where?
Dean gets out of the car, and is sick.
"Dean," you begin.
"Don't, Sam. Just--" Dean drops into his seat and slams the door. You aren't used to how soft the sound is, without the steel creak of the Impala. "Don't."
So you don't. It's just as well--you wouldn't know what to do even if defying Dean meant that much to you. As you pass from fear to uncomfortable resignation, you hit a vein of fury. You hate Dean for being a difficult, volatile fuck and you hate him for disappearing on you (you can see him disappearing) and you hate him for being so allergic to you. You hate yourself for being so damn angry. You hate your anger for being so damn useless. You hate your uselessness.
"You're limited," says Zachariah in Heaven, an unbidden memory in the middle of your memory in the middle of Leviathan blood in the middle of a warehouse in the middle of nowhere.
Faulty imaginations are the number one cause of death in hunters, more than alcoholism and more than desanguination brought on by fights with monsters that do not exist. However, all three conditions are often found to be concomitant.
Heat, thirst. A beer and a shower. You'd settle for a personal rain cloud. You thought about washing Dean in what was left of the borax only after it had all evaporated into a crusty film at the bottom of the jug. And that was after you'd called Bobby, almost fallen asleep to dialtone. Fuck.
"Bobby's dead," Dean says.
"That makes no sense." You miss the morning breezes. It's too hot in here. Your sweat stings and boils even more than the breeze did. You wipe half-heartedly at Dean's neck, which has taken on a livid color. You've already tried to convince him his clothes were covered in noxious poison, though for some reason he no longer believes you. Things are falling apart too quickly for you to keep up.
"Well, he is."
"So that gives you license to check out? What the fuck, Dean." Honestly, you think. Bobby, Cas, Lisa, the Apocalypse? What part of that's worth dying over? --All right, that's stupid, never mind. You abandon this train of thought.
"Okay," Dean says, which makes you wonder how much you said out loud. His voice sounds tangled to you, somehow.
"I know what I saw," you say, though actually you have no idea what you saw. You have no idea what happened. You're just afraid Dean did. You're afraid Dean knew what was about to happen, and Dean let go.
"I need you--"
"--sharp," Dean finishes. "I know. I--know."
"I need you."
You reach for him, like fire reaching for fire. Then you pull back.
Suicidal ideation has never arisen as a complication of Leviathans. It is a complication of mental health. Untreated, depression has a half-life of a thousand years, which is much longer than this poison has.
This does not mean this poison won't sell the damn farm to win you.
You're sitting side by side against the wall when Dean asks. He thinks he has you convinced that the wall hurts less than the ground, though you know from personal experience this is patently untrue. Dean just doesn't want to lie down.
"You think this is what it felt like?" he asks, all slurred into one long word. "Ellen and Jo."
"Colder in December," you say, because you can't stop thinking about your burning skin. "And that was martyrdom. This is just pathetic."
Dean slumps against your shoulder, and you think about Ellen and Jo anyway. "And there's no one coming for us," you add.
"Din' help them, anyway."
"I was talking about Meg." Leave it to Dean to shit on your ray of sunshine. But it's funny, sort of. Meg might actually save you now. Of course, she's four timezones away. But, you know; apparently she's a nurse.
Dean's weight against your body is volcanic. His heartbeat is too slow to be the accompanying firestorm. (And so is yours.)
"Dean, stay with me--"
Pain. Pain, and pain, and more pain as Dean twines his arm around yours. He finds your hand and grips it. "Tight" is an overstatement, and so is "grip," maybe, but it still hurts like hell. Dean curls into you, more crusty now than wet, breathes shallowly against your shirt. You feel sweaty and awful and wonder what the hell Dean thinks he's doing.
He's holding you, or holding onto you. Except this time it's not the fire you're running away from; you're the fire. You're both the fire. You decide that you do not believe in metaphors.
Dean curls into your chest, holds you close. In perfect honesty, it feels like he's trying to burrow through you at each point of contact, and you can only imagine what it feels like on his end. Tears smart at the corners of your eyes but you hold him right back.
"Who'd you call?" Dean asks your flannel. "How long--?"
"Um," you say. "Not long."
Who could he possibly expect you to call? He said so himself--all your friends are dead. 911, you realize. That's what he'd done, some lifetime ago when Dean's leg was in pieces and your head was in pieces and a Leviathan was apparently not in as many pieces as you'd thought. 911 is less of a good idea now than it was then, but you have new contacts. You have-- You have--
Dean exhales sharply when you try to edge your way around him, toward your phone.
Sorry, you whisper. Sorry, sorry. Thumbing through your pockets feels like crawling through knives. Dean squirms. Sorry, sorry, sorry.
You had not expected to call anyone. You had not expected Dean to want you to call. At the back of your mind, you think, you'd already resolved to die here. You have no idea when that became okay.
"Dean," you say, because you want to ask him, who would you call? if you were alone, would you have--
Dean will not let go of your hand.
You can call one-handed. It takes everything you have not to drop the phone on Dean's head; the numbers blur in front of you. Still you can't let him go; you can't possibly let him go. You're not ready to make that decision again. You are not ready to trust someone else to save you; you're not even ready to ask. You're definitely not ready to trust a demon again. But Dean has given himself over to you one hundred percent, and that makes all the what ifs tumbling around in your brain run to the gutter. They don't matter. It is not a good time to think about whether or not Dean's gift is a bequest, so you don't. You really, really don't.
Today, he expected you to call. He expects both of you to live. You should at least expect yourself to make good on that. Today.
"Hey," you say, when the line goes live. What's up, sugarpants? says the voice on the other end.
Dean's heart beats in your throat.
"We need some help."