Title: I Don't Sleep, I Dream
Category: Angst, a weee bit of H/C
Spoilers: Tag to 7x17
Summary: Dean realizes just how strong his brother really is.
A/N: I know that there are plenty of tags and missing scenes to 'The Born Again Identity', but I had to write this after phx69 gave me some food for thought when she wrote this insightful meta:A wee Sam thought (SPOILERS FOR LAST EPISODE)
Also, this is unbeta'd and hastily written, so don't be surprised if this barely passes for English.
I Don’t Sleep, I Dream
Dean handed his brother a set of clothes that he snagged from Sam’s bag in the car and stood by, ready to help should he be needed.
Sam probably didn’t need his help getting out of the white, hospital garb, but it was something he would be glad to see gone and if need be, he would dress his brother himself if it got him one step closer to being normal again. Not that a change of clothes would instantly bring his brother into a full recovery, but Dean knew from experience that even something as simple as putting on his usual attire would go a long way in helping Sam feel like he wasn’t a psych ward patient any longer.
And it would make Dean feel better too – like he finally had his brother back.
Dean had seen Sam sick, shot, stabbed, beat to hell and in the throes of demon blood withdrawal, but seeing his sibling as he had been only an hour ago, unwashed, unshaven, skin pale as he stared into space, tortured by his own mind and memories had been the worst he could ever recall. Though he could never admit it to Sam, it had scared the shit out of him – like he had already lost his brother.
But what scared him more than Sam’s appearance was the fact that his normally strong-willed little brother, who never gave up, who stood up to their father to chase his own dreams, who fought demons on a weekly basis, who beat Lucifer at his own game and jumped into Hell, and who had spent months fighting off the devil in his mind, had finally succumbed and fallen over the edge of the cliff he had been balancing precariously on for so long. And Sam had been so exhausted, so defeated -- so willing to just give in and let himself die that Dean knew that if Sam had finally broken – he would follow soon after – he just wasn’t strong enough to handle that.
Sam took the clothing he offered then looked up at Dean awkwardly with half-lidded eyes which he could barely keep open; “Uh …” He started, clearing his throat, “I think I can handle this on my own.”
Dean nodded and stepped away a little, giving Sam some space so he could dress.
Moving slow like an old man with arthritis, Sam managed to get his clothing on by himself. Sure, he didn’t bother to button his shirt over his t-shirt or tuck anything in, but Dean could see the change in his brother almost immediately– a small glimmer of a grin as he reached for his shoes.
But that glimmer faded as he paused suddenly in the middle of tying his shoes.
Dean reached out and touched Sam’s shoulder, “What’s wrong?”
Sam looked up, a little chagrined, “Oh … nothing … it’s just they didn’t even let us have shoelaces here – it’s kinda nice to be trusted not to kill myself or anyone else with them … stupid huh?”
Dean squeezed Sam’s shoulder in response. It didn’t sound all that stupid to him.
Dean felt his brother’s shoulder muscles relax a little under his hand as he finished tying his shoes and when he was finished, Dean gently helped tug Sam to his feet, “Well … let’s get outta here before the docs here start looking for ya, huh?”
“Just a sec.” Sam insisted, pulling at the plastic I.D. bracelet encircling his wrist. He gave it a few good tugs, but he was too spent and exhausted to get it off and his injured hand and wrist made removing it nearly impossible.
Seeing Sam’s need to rid himself of his last vestige of his hospital stay, Dean grabbed his wrist with care and reached into his pocket for his knife. He flicked the blade open and slid the flat end of the knife against Sam’s wrist and swiftly cut it off before tossing it into a nearby trashcan.
“Better?” Dean asked.
Sam nodded meekly and followed Dean to the door of the janitor’s closet in which they had been hiding. Dean poked his head out the door and looked both ways down the hall. Seeing no staff or patients, he signaled for his brother to follow him out.
He led the way to a set of doors that opened to the stairwell and stepped through, but was stopped mid-stride on the psych floor’s landing by a voice. For a second, Dean feared that they had been caught trying to break out of the hospital by the staff and that he was going to have to drag Sam’s half-alert ass on a foot chase, but when he turned and saw a young girl, perhaps no more than 20 years old following the brothers out onto the landing, he breathed a little in relief.
Clearly, she was a patient given that she was wearing the same white outfit Sam had been in only a few minutes before and by the way she looked at Sam sadly, she knew him and knew he was leaving this place forever.
“Sam? You’re leaving?” She asked, reaching out and touching his arm.
Sam turned and gave her a tired grin, “Yeah … I’m feeling better.”
“You don’t look much better.” She countered with concern, “But I won’t tell anyone that I saw you leave.”
“Thanks, Marin.” Sam said as he turned to head down the stairs, but before he could get one foot forward, she was calling him back again.
“Wait, Sam … I uh … I never really got to thank you before … you know – for helping me with my brother. I really thought I had lost my mind, but now that he’s gone – things are so … quiet.”
Sam nodded wearily with understanding, “I know how that feels.”
“Thanks to you I might even be able to get out of here soon.”
“I hope you do.”
Marin looked down at her stocking feet, holding back tears, “But … there’s just one thing – my brother … I saw him burn up … you don’t think that he … you know … has gone someplace awful, do you? I mean … I know he wouldn’t have really wanted to hurt me and he was such a great guy when he was alive -- I don't think he deserves that andI just wish I knew what happened to him – where he went.”
Sam reached out and squeezed Marin’s arm soothingly, “I’m sure that he’s in a better place now and that he’s at rest, okay? You need to focus on you now and maybe allow yourself a little peace too.”
Tears were flowing freely from the girl as she threw herself into Sam’s arms. Caught a little off-guard, Sam nearly lost his balance, but gained enough of it back to give her a reassuring hug in return.
Despite the fact that they were having a moment, Dean cleared his throat trying to remind his brother and the girl that he was still there and that they were still in the process of escaping the hospital and needed to get moving again.
Sam gently removed Marin from his grasp, “Sorry … we gotta go.”
She nodded, “Yeah … I better get back before they notice I’m gone. Thanks again, Sam.”
“And thank you for the candy bars.” Sam tried to smile, but on his tired, pale face, it looked more like a ghastly grimace.
Marin smiled back then waved one last time to Sam before pulling open the door and stepping back onto the floor, closing it quietly behind her.
Sam sighed deeply and looked back at the door with a forlorn face.
Dean tugged on Sam’s sleeve, “C’mon … let’s get outta here.”
Turning, Dean started down the stairs with Sam following behind him. He was anxious to leave and get Sam the hell out of there, but he had to keep reminding himself that Sam hadn’t slept in almost a week, so he kept a slow pace for his brother who was looking more and more exhausted with each step,.
His mind full of questions that he just couldn’t hold back any longer, Dean spoke up quietly, trying to keep his voice from echoing loudly off the stairwell walls, “So … who’s the chick?” he had to ask.
Sam yawned long and hard before replying, trying to keep up with his brother as they descended, “Just a girl who helped me out and I helped in return-- I’m too tired to tell all of it right now, but long story short, her brother had been haunting her and I took care of him.”
Dean stopped in his tracks, “Whoa … wait … you telling me you took out a ghost while you had Lucifer playing second fiddle in your gourd?”
“Wasn’t a big deal,” Sam tried to stifle another yawn, and failed. “Just salted n’burned a bracelet her brother gave her – could have done it in my sleep --“ Sam gave out a choked, humorless laugh, “If I could have slept, that is.”
Dean faced Sam, looking into his drooping, sleep deprived eyes and all at once he realized how amazed of him he was.
He realized also that he had been wrong -- Sam hadn’t given up … not completely. If he had, he wouldn’t have helped that girl and he wouldn’t be standing next to Dean exhausted, but alive. Yeah … Sam had seemed resigned to die, but he was far stronger than he gave himself credit for and far stronger than Dean had ever given him credit for either. He had held on tooth and nail – had battled the odds and won.
And Dean was damned proud of him.
Dean had an impulse to hug the living snot out of his brother right then and there – no matter how girly he would come across. But, Sam’s knees chose that moment to buckle and instead of hugging, Dean had to make do with catching his brother around the waist and helping him to find his center of gravity again.
Sam shook his head like he was chasing the spots in front of his eyes away, but didn’t fight Dean’s hold on him. “Thanks.” he mumbled.
Dean patted Sam on the chest, feeling him take his own weight again, “You good, or should I carry you to the car?”
Sam snorted and rubbed his bleary, red-rimmed eyes. He wasn’t going to make it much longer without completely crashing and falling asleep where he stood, but he still had enough energy left to make a dig at Dean, “Like your little arms could hold that much.”
“Shut up … I may not be a zebu like you, but I could do it.” Dean quipped back, starting back down the stairs while keeping a firm hold on Sam’s elbow should he grow faint again and stumble.
Sam didn’t seem to mind the extra help or comfort in Dean’s touch, but it didn’t mean he was above teasing his brother a little more, “I must still be hallucinating – I thought I just heard you say ‘zebu’ as if you know what that is.”
“Of course I know what it is -- it’s a kind of ox.”
Sam stopped and furrowed his brow, staring at Dean incredulously, “What?” Dean asked, pretending to be put out, but in actuality he was enjoying this moment of normalcy.
Sam kept staring at him until Dean sighed, “Okay … I heard about it on Veggietales … there was a whole song about it … you happy now?”
Despite his utter exhaustion, Sam smiled genuinely, “I don’t want to know why you were watching Veggietales, do I?”
“Good …’cause I’m too tired to go there.“
Later that night as Dean pushed their latest stolen vehicle to its limit across the state line, he took a moment to look over at his brother, allowing himself a chance to breathe again.
Sam rested his head against the window of the car, completely engulfed in a deep and thankfully, dreamless sleep. He hadn’t so much as twitched since they pulled out of the hospital parking lot, so Dean had been loathed to stop at a motel just to wake his brother up and make him go to sleep in a real bed. Besides, Sam always seemed to get his best and most restful sleep while traveling in the car and if Dean had to drive all night for his brother to get some decent shut-eye, then that was what he was going to do-- it was the least he could do for the broken soul he had had shoved back into an unwilling body.
Ultimately however, Dean’s guilt over that was overshadowed by the fact that it had been the right thing to do, even if he had almost lost his brother to the devil in his mind. Because it was Sam’s soul that made him the kind of man that would help out a young girl while fighting insanity just because it was the right thing to do -- it was Sam’s soul that allowed itself to be tortured in Hell to save the world, and it was Sam’s soul that fought so hard to never give in while at the same time making sure that Dean didn’t give up either -- even when the future appeared to be so bleak and hopeless.
If there was anything that deserved to be called heroically awesome – it was Sam’s soul.
And that soul was right where it belonged – sitting beside him in a beat-up piece of shit, on the road, and finally getting some much deserved rest.