Kalliel (kalliel) wrote,

[Fic] Sunflower Suture - Dean (POV), Sam, really old-school Castiel; 4x16 "On the Head of a Pin" tag

subtitle: really poor life choices

Title: Sunflower Suture
Genre: gen, hurt/comfort, 4x16 “On the Head of a Pin” tag
Characters: Dean (POV), Sam, a bit of Castiel
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: ~4200
Summary: There are sunflowers growing on the roof of this hospital, and Sam’s on a mission to get Dean there. Dean’s done with missions.
Notes: I'd say this was shameless H/C, but there is actually a fair amount of shame involved. XP This is for whoever prompted “On the Head of a Pin aftermath H/C” on hoodie_time in like 2009/2010. I have never, ever promised swiftness??

Just tell me how much more.

I hate it when you say things like that, says Sam.

Muéstrame tus cha chas, says no one in particular.

Take the hit, says Dean’s father. Says Dean’s whole damn life.

Just tell me how much more.

Something about sunflowers. Bright valleys full of them, heads voluptuous and bursting. Petals in the wind. Thick, sticky stalks. Sunflowers everywhere. Sunflowers, somewhere out there.


Dean’s heard the whispers. He can’t not, really, since Sam insists on holding every conversation directly above his bed. He’s not sure if it’s because Sam doesn’t trust Cas, or because he’s trying to annoy Dean back to working order. But on a scale of 1 to pissed, Dean’s mostly been measuring his life in cc’s, instead.

Still, when the morphine kicks in, he keeps dreaming the whispers.

You’re done, they say. Let go.

Let Heaven find another pin cushion.

Let them make another monkey dance.


You’re an angel, Sam snaps. Fix him. Help him. The doctors, they said--

[Insert warrior of the Lord shtick here], Dean supposes. Sam’s made this demand before. It’s worse than an infomercial at this point, and it plays every time red-headed Dr. Hazlitt frowns and says, somewhat ambiguously, that Dean is ‘slipping away.’ (Hazlitt looks at Sam and sees a twenty-something kid.)

Cas looks at Sam and sees god knows what, yet another alien life form, probably. But he and Sam have got some serious language barrier issues--and not the sexy kind, muy picante, muéstrame tus cha chas, that sort of thing.

Mostly Cas feeds Sam the party line, except 70% of Cas’s party line is redaction. Dean would say Cas is the only guy he knows who can actually verbalize a big black Sharpie blot, but Sam’s coming pretty close.

Cas makes sense. After all, his middle name is secretive bastard, and given what Heaven’s big plan is (was?) that all makes a lot of fucking sense. But Dean’s not sure what Sam’s problem is. It’s not like everyone doesn’t already know about Ruby. And honestly, Dean’s glad he can’t imagine worse than that. Hell has never been the only thing Dean drinks to forget.

He’d rather re-live Alistair than--

--Oh wait.

Been there, done that.

This had better not be blackout bingo.


You’re an angel, Sam reminds Cas again. Just in case he forgot.

Cas responds to this waste of a sentence the way he always does--with frustrated perplexity.

(Muéstrame tus cha chas.)

Angels of my (and he pauses)


(fleet, battalion, Echo 2/1)

have not been called upon to perform human miracles in quite some time, says Cas.

Translation: I’m an angel, not a doctor, Kirk.

But you got him out of Hell, says Sam. Because if Cas can do one thing Sam couldn’t then he must be limitless.

Then, a tone Dean hasn’t heard before, at least not from this guy. Or maybe a little, when Cas told him to pick up a knife and stick it in Alistair where the sun don’t shine (meaning everywhere, meaning wherever Dean goddamn pleases). It sounds like care, and it sounds like regret.

Cas tells Sam,

I believe that’s part of the problem.


I would give anything not to have you do this, says Cas. His eyes drift to the prison door.

But what, exactly, does Cas give?


Take the hit. That Dean can do. That’s what he does. Muscles squealing, capillaries down for the count. Let that fascia tear and don’t think about the hairlines through the bone. Let your cartilage do its thing and hope that that’s enough. Let the blood flow free, purple and useless, red where the hit breaks skin and the blood seeps through the wreckage in frilly gnarls.

Buckle down for the next one.

Know that your body’s got a countdown--that it’s a multi-round kind of deal, but that one day you’re not going to get back up.

Know that your body, this meat, remembers every hit. Or at least, it did.

That tear, that was the reason Dean had to fight not to hobble whenever they hit a case that went from recumbent to sprinting in t minus nothing. Why he jogged his leg when they were in the car until eventually Sam lost it and told him to please, for fucks’s sake, cut it out. The mess he made of his shoulder, that’s the reason his upper-cut didn’t quite have what it used to, which Dean noticed but was mostly hoping would never matter. He’d been in fights he wished he could have ended after that first round, though. He always figured one day he’d get to the point where there couldn’t be a round two, even if he won the first. It’d hurt too damn much.

But go ahead, take the hit. Feel the force of it rock fissures down your spine. You’re not gonna need that old thing, anyway.

483 months ago, that’s what Alistair told him.

Three months ago, Dean popped up out of the ground, like a forgotten sunflower.

For the first few days, he’s weightless. Sure, there’s coffin-stiffness and, what, the corpse-y dry mouth? But after Cas stops trying to out-howl Mötorhead, Dean’s actually perfect. There’s a hand on his shoulder, and its pressure wavers between steadying and domineering, but mostly, he’s perfect. Nothing hurts. Nothing twinges. There are no scars.

Henricksen puts his ghost-fist through Dean’s heart, and it doesn’t even feel that bad.

Look at you, Dean thinks. You’ve taken your hits, and here you are, come out the other end. Re-fucking-hymenated.

Uriel can run his mouth all he wants; every time he calls them infants, all Dean can think is, this is what it is to live without pain. To be a body unimpinged. This is how it feels to live, to want to live, one hundred percent of the time.

(Do you remember being like this once, you baby?)

After Hell, Dean can get up in the morning and just be there, a body, whole. Used to be, if Dean ever woke up, it was because some part of him was holding a goddamn riot. His knee in the winter. His back, if it didn’t settle right. That shoulder. And towards the end there, hell in his stomach. In his dreams.

Coming back, for those first few days, feels like Heaven saying, We’re fucking sorry.

We are so fucking sorry.


I can heal the damage, Cas explains. He sounds the faintest tinge defensive, like maybe he senses Sam’s losing faith in Heaven’s Operation Babylift. Which is frankly fucking terrifying, because Sam isn’t--or Sam never used to be--that guy. But maybe Cas doesn’t give a shit about Sam, and he’s just broadcasting the loss of faith in general. National epidemic. Intergalactic, even.

Your bones, your blood, these are simple things, says Cas.

Sam’s reaction to that is even more frankly fucking terrifying. Like, 180cc’s more.

Blood, Sam says, and he laughs.

But Cas says, Bodies aren’t complicated. But minds, souls, it’s better if--

Do it! shouts Sam. At least do that. You heard what the doctors were saying, he’s dying, Cas, he’s not-- he’s not going to--

(stutter stutter euphemism)

Dean’s not sure when he started calling death a euphemism. Still, given the givens, he’s probably not wrong.

We’re losing him, says Sam.

And when Sam pulls out that ‘we,’ it’s all over.

Or it would be, if Cas were who Sam thought he was. Dean’s not sure what Sam thought Cas was. Family, maybe. Sam’s musical education never got past third-grade recorder, but he can play heartstrings like he learned it from the Devil himself. Family.

But family can be really stupid. Whoops-broke-the-first-seal stupid.

Cas stares at Sam, does his wryneck bunny thing. Dean doesn’t even need his eyes open to know what’s going down.

If I touch him now, Cas says, you will. You will lose Dean Winchester.

But I can keep this body’s heart beating however long you like.

If that’s all you want.


If Cas sticks around long enough, Dean thinks, he’ll learn to understand the human mind. He’ll be able to do whatever he wants with it. He’s only been around for a few months, after all, and he’s already learned how to break Sam’s.

After Cas says his piece, he zaps out, and Sam sits. Takes Dean’s hand in his, as usual. But the energy about him isn’t ever quite the same.

Dean, whispers Sam. Dean, I need--

But that’s all he says.


Are you there, Dean? It’s me, God. My bad. We’re sorry.


Dean believed this so much he thought the first nightmare was actually a fluke.

But his first flashback? That drove hard. Those don’t fuck around.

Part memory, part red-blooded muscle barreling at him and it’s his father (who never ever broke in Hell, dontcha know) shouting at him, Take the hit. Body to body, squelching fat and severed nerves--that ripping sound. The click of tendons.

Take the hit. Your bones don’t matter.

Let marrow replace blood.

Don’t touch your cracks. (You’re gonna give yourself a bone infection. Is that what you want?)

That first flashback was Heaven saying, We are not sorry at all.


Now Dean knows why.



Stay with me, man.


Dean’s got nothing left.


Hey. Hey, Dean.

It’s Sam. Sam, who’s withholding the morphine.

Dean’s nurse was visibly dismayed by this a bit ago, like maybe there was something going on between them--and again, not the sexy kind of going on--and she was gonna have to call 911 or something, even though they’re already at the hospital. Dean’s hazy on what, exactly, Sam’s potential crime is, or what sort of lawsuit this nurse is afraid of if she lets this slide (or maybe, maybe she just cares about her patient) but Dean got the impression this was the one moment where his consent actually mattered.

He exercised it.

He said, Sam can do whatever he wants.

Now Dean regrets this. A lot.

If Sam thinks taking him off the meds is going to improve Dean’s concentration, or his Deanness, or whatever Cas struck in him, he is sorely mistaken.


He dreams whispers. And he dreams Hell.



His name, insistent. Coming from some hallucinatory crevice that doesn’t sound at all like Sam, nor Alistair.



Oh, Dean remembers this. Dean, Dean Winchester, gripped tight, raised from perdition, yadda yadda.

Dean wonders what Cas wants.

Look, if you’re not going to help me with this--if you’re not going to help him--then just--

Please leave. Okay?

That one’s Sam.

Cas is silent.

By the time Dean slits his eyes open, Cas is gone.

Hey, says Sam. He smiles wearily and pretends normalcy. He bustles about the room purposively, like he's on a mission. A mission Cas apparently did not agree with. But when Sam's on a mission, he doesn't fuck around.

He cuts straight to the chase: Hey, the doctor says you’re doing good. Means we gotta get you somewhere with better food, huh?

Sam hands him a pen and a form.

Sign, he says. It’s time to bounce--something I wanna show you.

Oh, jesus.

One, Dean has not yet eaten anything at this hospital that wasn’t running through an IV line. He doesn’t want to think about food.

Two, Dean’s charts tremble from ‘dying’ to ‘not dying’ at least seven times per day. It’s kind of like playing diagnosis grab-bag, and Dean’s pretty sure that if deciphered, his doctor’s scrawl is just ‘fuck it, always bet on black.’ (Though Dr. Hazlitt’s handwriting is actually impeccable. Dean knows because Sam’s spent hours trying to PubMed himself into reading comprehension.)

Three, the same cannot be said of whatever Dean’s doing with this pen. If this is ‘doing good’ Dean’s glad he’s been out for the bad parts.

Four more letters, says Sam.

If you can’t even make it through your own damn name, it’s generally a sign you shouldn’t be ROR in the first place.

Ö C K H, says Sam. With an umlaut.

What? Dean says. What it lacks in volume it makes up for with wheezy, über patheticness.

The little dots. Over the O.

I know what a fucking umlaut is, Dean doesn’t say. Too much enunciation required. Whassssmyname? he asks.

Just write, says Sam.

Dean tries to make his hand form an O. He dribbles an umlaut over--well, one of the letters, anyway. They’re crooked and overlapping and Dean can’t make his eyes focus on the line.

It’s Diogenes Teufelsdröckh, Sam offers eventually. You can thank Bobby for that.

Also, he wanted me to make it known that he’s mad at you for spooking him again. So, you know, don’t go clocking out ‘til you make it up to him. Or something.

Don’fuckinnngcarewhaBobby, Dean slurs. He tries again (C K H, quickly, with momentum, a cursive he’s making up more than remembering).



Sam softens then.

No one’s actually mad at you, you know, he says.

Well, except for the part where they are. Heaven’s pretty mad, Dean gathers, because when they get pissed, they make it fucking rain. Sam is not the end and beginning of the universe; just because he’s not mad doesn’t mean no one else is.

(You are so stupid, you are so stupid. No, not stupid. Selling yourself for Sam wasn’t stupid. Just the failing to pay up. Being too weak to actually take the hit. You are so--)

Being ‘mad,’ kinda like being dead, is really just a tiny euphemism for what things are right now.

He feels Sam lift the paper from his hands. Sam inspects it.

Take a breather, he says. We’re gonna get you up.

Sam means, It’s all good; fine motor function not a pre-req for this next part.

Forget the morphine. Dean will take anything right about now. A Tylenol, something. A bathtub of Tylenols.

I have a headache, he tries.

Sam says, I don’t doubt that.

Then he cranks Dean’s bed a few turns more upright and peels his back from the sheets. Dean’s nurse had been way more gentle (efficient? both?) about this ritual.

Sam’s head is on Dean’s shoulder, leaning into his neck. Sam’s arms wrapped around him.

the fuck’re you doing

Trying to untie this thing, Sam grunts into Dean’s back. We’re leaving, remember? We need to get you dressed.

Dean doesn’t even try to resist fucking crying his way through the shirt procedure Sam orchestrates; everything hurts. But at least he does it silently.

Then Sam rubs his coarse palm over that handprint scar, tender keloid, and Dean bites down his yelp. The fuck’re you doing! he says again.

Sorry, Sam whispers. This is just the first time I really--

He pulls Dean’s shirt down.

Can you handle pants on your own?

Dean gives Sam a look like, you gotta be fucking kidding me.

Well? Sam asks, after a beat.

It’s then Dean realizes his facial expression hadn’t changed. That was already his estimation of this ordeal.

Sam backtracks. Can you sit up on your own?

It’s more of an order than a question, since Sam doesn’t waste Dean’s time waiting for a response. Dean sits.

He watches his pants crawl up his legs like water rising. Sam stops at his boxers, but Dean feels it at his throat.

It’s just because you’re-- Sam starts, when Dean tries to stand at his behest, and his knees buckle. But then Sam’s busy not letting Dean crash to the floor.

You’re okay. You’re okay, come on, Sam says, and so on. He’s got a playbook’s worth of lines memorized, and they all sound mostly like that.

You’re okay
you’re okay

You’re okay, I made sure Cas--

He lets Dean fall back against the bed once Dean’s got his ass in his jeans. As Sam yanks up his fly and fumbles with the button (who the fuck invented buttons), Dean’s mind hitches.

You did what?

You’re okay, Sam repeats. More or less.

You’re going to be okay.

Dean’s pretty sure there were some whispers about Cas needing to not do shit.

Apparently, Sam agrees. Unprompted, he explains, I told him I knew you. I know you, and you’re going to be okay.

Dean wonders if there’s a difference between what Sam tells Cas and what Sam really believes. Language barrier, after all.

Sam throws Dean’s jacket over his heaving chest, still recumbent. Dean winces and shakes his head. He feels overheated as it is.

Then they’re walking. Shambling. It would probably be faster if Dean were only a body, and not a some other thing, stupidly trying to help.


Find someone else.


They veer away from the path marked ‘Lobby.’

There are sunflowers on the roof, Sam explains, and you need to see them. I told you, remember?

No, but this actually makes anything else he remembers Sam saying seem sane. Most things will when that’s the competition. Because sunflowers, seriously?

I don’t have a sunflower fetish, Dean points out.

Uhhh, that’s good to know, says Sam. We’re still going. Need a water break?

Dean needs a mercy killing, is what he needs. He shakes his head.

Where’s the elevator?

Sam replies, there isn’t one. And Dean says, it’s a hospital, of course there’s a fucking elevator, and Sam shrugs under Dean’s arm and he says well, it’s out of order, which makes Dean feel like maybe his nurse was right and Sam is actually a damn lunatic, because this is only the fourth floor and the roof is a lot of, well, up. Even with the obviously tantalizing promise of sunflowers. Then Sam’s dragging them into a stairwell, and Dean bites about a flight’s worth of flesh out of his lip. He tastes the blood.

You’re out of your mind, Dean wheezes, bent to half-mast and shaking and relying purely on Sam’s good graces not to go tumbling backward.

You have to see these sunflowers, Dean.

Okay, but how much further?

We’re only halfway to floor five.

Well, I’m done, says Dean.

And Sam says, Break’s over.


We are not sorry at all.


Dean watches the waver of concrete under his feet. He’s not sure where one step begins and the next ends. He’s not sure how many times he can lift his body up that high. Dean wants to know if, in Dr. Sam’s expert medical opinion, the Stair Cure has a high incidence of mortality.

I’m done, I’m done, I’m done, he insists.

Each time, Sam refuses to believe him. But maybe three floors up, Dean collapses boneless at the top of the stairs.

He wakes up flat on his back, Sam’s fingers pushing his chin up and his head back. Those same fingers scratch against Dean’s wrist, then his neck. But his only advice when he realizes Dean’s back is, Whoa, okay, um, breathe. Or, cough? I think?

Fucking listen to me, Dean wheezes.

Sammy listen to me

Sam, iron-fisted sunflower drill sergeant that he is, almost calls the whole thing off right then. But he sets his jaw and he says, Shut up and breathe slower.


You need to see this.


Floor 9, and Sam starts to leave Dean behind. Those are handrails, Sam points out, from the top of the next flight of stairs. It’s the most heartless thing he’s ever said.

You can do this, Dean, he says.

Now that, Dean thinks, that was heartless.

Those are handrails. You can do this.

The railing is slippery under his palm. His forehead dips down to meet it and he watches the brass fog under each of his heaving breaths.

Dean, come on, says Sam.

How many more? Dean mumbles into the handrail.

He hears Sam about-face and start upwards again. Further and further out of reach.

Sunflowers, Sam calls.

Forget the virgins, ‘sunflowers’ better be a euphemism for porn stars. 40 of them.


Floor 11.

Sam’s rubbing it in by tearing up several flights of stairs, until Dean can’t even hear him anymore, only to meander his way back down. Up and down, up and down, like this is some sort of game he’s winning. Every time Sam ascends out of earshot, part of Dean assumes he won’t be coming back down.


Someone manhandles his chin again.

Dean, hey. Look at me. Dean, you can’t do this right now.

Whatever ‘this’ is. Dean’s pretty sure who ‘me’ is. (Because of course he came back down.)

Fuck me, he says.

After the sunflowers, Sam replies evenly.

Dean curls his head toward the railing, and a shiver startles his spine. He regrets going commando--that is, jacketless--because now it’s fucking cold. He feels bloodless.

Whatever Sam sees, he ignores all of it.

On three, Sam barks.

Sam might have counted, might have been waiting for Dean to count, but wherever those three seconds go, Dean loses them. When Sam surges upward, Dean in tow, they turn up again, that 1 and the 2 and the 3. They turn up in Dean’s stomach, ready to be hurled up onto Sam.

Dean’s legs buckle under him, and he’s not sure if Sam lets him crash to the ground, or if this time Sam doesn’t have a choice but to let him go.


And it’s not nausea, it’s not exhaustion, now it’s just pain. Something deep in him, like a blade some surgeon forgot. Whatever it is, Sam takes him fucking seriously for once, and doesn’t dance away and upwards, doesn’t just start dragging him.

Dean moans, screws his eyes shut, and cuts out breathing entirely. Keeps motionless. The stairs liquefy beneath him.

That’s when Sam grabs him. The world spins and the stairs seem like an even worse idea than they were before.

I know, Sam says. He sounds like he’s about to cry. Fucking fantastic.

I know, Sam says.

What do you know, Sam? Dean wants to ask, but the words spin away, like everything else. And if you know so damn much, why are you doing this to me?

Sam says something Dean can’t track, so he assumes it’s about sunflowers.

The hospital said you weren’t getting any better; and Cas said… Sam trails off.


Dean, I need you to keep climbing.


This is torture, Dean says.

Sam looks down at him from the next stairwell. He’s leaving Dean behind again.

Don’t joke about that, he says.

Dean didn’t think he was joking. You gonna make me crawl? he asks.

Sam says: Do whatever it takes.


Take the hit.


How much further? Dean asks. Because he is well and truly finished. He doesn’t feel the stairs beneath him anymore, or the railing. The stairwell isn’t a space anymore. He doesn’t have thoughts. He doesn’t have memories. He’s not even certain he’s in pain anymore, he’s so much done.

I’m done, Dean slurs, I’m done.

Sam says, That’s what you said seven flights ago. You can’t stop now.


Just tell me how much more.

I hate it when you say things like that, says Sam.

Muéstrame tus cha chas, says no one in particular.


Take the hit, says Dean’s father. Says Dean’s whole damn life.


Just tell me how much more.


They’re sunny, is Sam’s response when Dean asks him what’s so fucking special about these sunflowers.

They’re sunny. That’s just--great.

It occurs to Dean then that Sam might be a tiny bit extremely sleep-deprived. And just, out of it. Dean’s not sure. Sam’s been different.

Whatever bizarre thing he’s got going on, the sunflowers should be a great big red flag. And the stairs. Because this is killing him. Sam is killing him.

All for some plants in a box on the roof.

Dean tries to find the stairwell again. The scrape of concrete against his palms. The dig of the metal handrails at his side. It smells like insulation and drywall. And he feels--he feels fuzzy with the sort of pain that puts your limbs on strings, like you can’t gauge where your body ends and what’s that aureole of hurt around you. You can’t control what your limbs do, where they go, what they will support.

Dean doesn’t register that Sam’s hands have pushed through that aureole and taken hold of his shoulder until Sam says, I’ve got you.

There’s a squeal of metal and harsh wind in Dean’s face. They tumble out onto the roof. It’s cold.

Sam walks him to the edge of the roof and they look out at the view below. It’s nothing magnificent, just the sandy blocks of the nearest ER Cas could zap them to. It’s smoggy and the wind stings. That’s Wyoming for you.

The roof looks like the town in miniature. HVAC, dust, and trash.

This is the view Dean fucking fought for. Eight flights of stairs for some vents, some cigs, and dust in the wind.

Dean weakens, and he feels Sam’s stance shift to compensate for the weight.

You made it, says Sam. It’d be an I-told-you-so kind of deal, except there’s a part of Sam that sounds relieved. Like he hadn’t been sure at all. That’s a little terrifying.

I don’t see any sunflowers, Dean points out.

Yeah, I guess there aren’t any sunflowers after all, Sam says.

Fucking understatement. There’s chipped roof and ventilation lint and a wasp’s nest and scenic almost-suburban Wyoming. There’s nothing up here--not even the sunflowers, which Dean’s enough of a wreck right now to miss.

Eight flights of stairs.

He can’t feel his legs.

His chest is a warzone.

His shadow’s just a crash of wobbly darkness attached to Sam’s.

And there’s nothing up here.

Sam pulls him closer. He's warm.

Then he asks,

Does it matter?


This work is also available on AO3.
Tags: fic: spn, infamati et obliterati

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