Wait and See

Watching Over

Sam is sleeping on the couch.

Dean stares, then closes his eyes and counts to ten. When he opens them again Sam is still there.

He looks awful. His hair is longer than Cas's, but it's tangled and dirty and separated into greasy looking strings hanging from his head. His hands are covered in mud, his face and arms are covered in grime. There are dark circles under his eyes and his face looks sunken until Dean realizes that it's because he's lost so much weight. Sam used to be big, broad and entirely muscle, and now he looks like some scrawny little law student. Not sickly thin, but it looks sickly on him. He's wearing the same clothes he was when he jumped into the pit and they look huge on him. Like a little kid in his father's clothes. His father's dirt crusted, slightly charred clothes.

Dean steps toward him and his knees give a little. His heart is beating so hard it hurts and he realizes he hasn't breathed for a while. He lunges for the armchair that is turned toward the couch and falls into it, gulping breath.

Sam smells. It's mostly body odor, stale sweat and unwashed hair. But there's the dark smell of earth and the smell of ash too.

An awful, awful though occurs to Dean and he freezes for a moment watching Sam's body intently for any evidence of breath before he detects the deep and steady movement of Sam's chest.

He can't think his way to a next. Sam's here. He's alive. He's damaged, but he's back. He's here. In Bobby's house. On the couch. Dean could reach out and touch him. Reach out and wake him. Dean actually lifts his hand to do exactly that, and just can't make himself follow through on the movement. What if it's not Sam in there? Or what if it is Sam… but whatever's ravaged his body like this has ravaged his mind too?

Dean drops his face into his hands for the second time on this very overwhelming morning then looks up and just stares at his little brother. Laying on the couch and actually looking little for once.

He's not sure how much time actually passes before he feels a hand on his shoulder. He jumps, flipping up out of the chair, ready to take someone apart on pure instinct before he realizes it's just Cas. Long hair, kiss bruised lips. A light hickey on his neck. Looking at Dean with those bright blue eyes blown wide.

"Is he… why haven't you woken him?" Cas asks quietly. Quiet enough not to wake Sam himself.

"I just…" Dean whispers back. Cas's hand slides down from arm to Dean's hand, wrapping the shaking fingers in his warm palm. Dean feels like that little gesture is stabbing him in the stomach.

He had been ready to run. He was going to just leave Cas here.

But Cas doesn't know. And something bigger than a truncated mistake is happening. Dean will… deal with it.

Cas squeezes his hand and it's like twisting the knife. "I'll do it."

Dean drops his forehead. Cas kisses his cheek. Dean steps back. "No. I can."

Cas nods.

Dean takes a shaky step toward Sam's skinny and recumbent form. He lays a hand on Sam's shoulder. He feels fragile, but warm to the touch, and Dean shakes him gently.

"Sammy?"

His brother doesn't respond and Dean shakes him a little harder, calling his name again. No response. Starting to get frightened, Dean shakes him even harder and raises his voice.

Sam's eyes finally open. Dean sees Sam register his face, and then he lets out a pained sigh and clenches his eyes shut again.

"Sammy? Sammy it's me! It's your brother. Wake up!"

"No." It's Sam's voice. He doesn't sound sick or damaged. He sounds like Sam. Tired, but like Sam.

"What the hell do you mean, no? Come on… please," Dean can feel his throat tightening. "Please be you."

"Huh. I will if you will," Sam says. He lifts his arms to cover his eyes. His shirt sleeves fall down his skinny arms. Dean grabs his arms and pulls them away, Sam pulls against his hands… too weak to have any effect. The resistance seems to bring him out of it a little. He looks at Dean again. He turns his head and his eyes go wide.

"Castiel?" He doesn't sound sure, but Cas gets that a lot these days from the old guard.

"Hello, Sam"

"No. No. You died. He killed you." Sam tries to put his hands back over his face. Dean pushes them down again. Something about that small struggle seems to make Sam actually believe they're real.

"Dean?" He asks, pulling against Dean's hands again. Dean pushes down on his arms again, because something about the motion is bringing his brother back to him. Sam pulls his arms up against the pressure again and swallows deeply. "Dean?" He repeats, voice starting to crack.

"Yeah, yeah, it's me."

Sam elbows himself up, Dean leans back to give him room and Sam throws his arms around his shoulders, clinging to him like he's afraid that if he lets go something is going to come to drag him back. Dean shivers at the thought and clings tighter to Sam. Whatever Sam thinks is coming to get him isn't. Dean's not losing him again. No matter who wants him.

Dean's crying. He hears Sam snuffle in his ear. Then "Where's your trench coat?"

Cas laughs. Dean laughs. Sam laughs like he doesn't know what's funny but is prepared to laugh at anything.

Dean lets Sam hold onto him for longer than is comfortable, even for them and when he finally lets go Cas offers a tentative, "Would you like to get cleaned up?"

Sam chokes out something that's not quite a sob and not quite a laugh. "Yes. Fuck. God. Yes."

He tries to stand up and topples back onto the couch. He shakes his head and tries to get up again. He gets his weight onto his feet, but can't hold it and falls back.

He looks down at his feet and then looks up at Dean as though suspicious again. That this isn't real, that it's not Dean, that it's going to be taken away. Dean recognizes that look. Sam used to have it every time they started at a new school.

"It's okay," Dean tells him. "Hey, Cas, can you go run him some hot water? Bathtub?"

Cas nods. He gives Dean a slightly trapped look, then darts forward and hugs Sam himself, quick but tight. Sam hugs him back.

He grabs Sam's arm and pulls it over his shoulder. He carries Sam up the stairs, letting him put down a foot here or there to help.

"What happened to you?" Dean asks.

"I was… away," Sam answers. Dean recognizes the tone. The voice you use when you're picking at a scab in your head as carefully as possible. They'll get the mud off of him. They'll get some food in him. They don't need to do this now.

Helping himself be carried up the stairs seems to have taken it out of Sam, Dean lowers him down to the bathroom floor as Cas sets out all of his fancy long hair shampoo, and his comb, and grabs both of their post toothpaste cups from the sink.

Sam starts unbuttoning his shirt. He's not having a lot of success. Dean keeps himself from doing it for a moment then gives up.

"Come on," he says, brushing away Sam's hands and doing it himself. "We gotchya. We'll get you cleaned up. Get you fed. You'll be good as new."

He won't. Dean can tell he won't. But it doesn't look like they need to rush him to the hospital either. He's weak, but he doesn't seem sick, and a year of taking care of an Angel who only learned in the last few months how to tell when he was sick had made Dean a pretty decent judge of when something was too big to deal with without a doctor. Besides, what would they tell a civilian? That much muscle loss, this much trouble moving and walking and balancing? Sam seemed atrophied. Like he hadn't been moving, at all, in months, maybe this whole last year. Maybe longer.

Dean pulls Sam's shirt off and just throws it away. Works him out of his undershirt. He deals with the pants clinically while Cas finishes with the tub.

Sam's so thin. There's nothing to him. Dean barely needs Cas's help to move Sam from the floor to the bathtub. The blissful sigh as the settle him into the water makes Dean feel a little better. Sam lays back against the tub wall, knees up a little so that he can lean back and still fit.

It should be weirder. His brother naked in the tub while Dean carefully washes him, like when they were really little and Dean used to bath Sam in motel room sinks. Or usually next to them. What really should be weirder is Cas, sitting on the ledge of the tub and patiently combing the snarls and clumps of dirt out of Sam's wet hair, like a little girl with a ravaged but beloved doll.

Sam just lays there. Dean hopes he's asleep, he obviously needs it, and that will make this slightly less awkward later, especially because based on the state of the water they're going to have to drain the tub and start over to get him from "Not Dirty Anymore" to actually clean.

"He looks like he climbed out of his own grave," Cas whispers eventually.

"Don't say things like that," Dean replies.

"But he's back. We can fix him." Cas dunks a cup into the dark grey bathwater and pours it over Sam's head, carefully cupping his hand over Sam's forehead so the dirty water doesn't pour down his face. "It's going to be okay, Dean."

Dean's throat clenches. Sam makes a familiar, sleeping type of noise. Dean lets Cas finish with Sam's hair before they pull him back out of the tub and drain it, using the toothpaste cups to scoot the mud down the drain.

Dean wishes they had big fluffy towels to wrap him in, but Bobby's towels are all thin and threadbare and utilitarian. Cas nests Sam in his blanket and they set him against the wall while they draw him a second bath. Dean keeps a careful eye on him. He doesn't seem like he's dreaming, he seems restful. Like he knows where he is and thinks he's safe. He's not struggling, he's not asking questions, he seems to just be too tired to participate, and not worried enough to try.

They pile him back in the tub, soap actually coming into play this time. He looks human when they're done and he's gone from completely asleep to dozing, opening his eyes every once in a while to check that Dean and Cas are still there. Cas fetches him some of Dean's clothes. He looks ridiculous. The jeans are hanging off the belt more than off of Sam, but they're still too short and a few inches of Sam's leg above the ankle are showing. The shirt is way to big on him, Dean's actually much broader than he is now and it hangs most of the way down his thighs. Cas has carefully braided his hair.

The two of them start helping Sam down the stairs, he's already better coordinated with it, could almost do it himself, but there's no reason to spend your first day back on earth falling down stairs.

They're just reaching the landing when Chelsea walks in. Sam flinches.

"It's okay, she's a friend," Cas says quietly. "Nothing's going to hurt you."

Dean's still holding back the urge to interrogate Sam, but it can wait. First cleaning, then eating, then sleeping, then they'll find out. He's here now, they have time to make him better first.

Chelsea is staring up at all of them. She looks like she's trying out a greeting when the usual, "Hey, sweetheart, how's it going?" is not going to be appropriate.

"What do you guys need?" She finally comes out with.

"Breakfast," Sam answers. He's so firm about it that Dean chuckles, just a little.

Chelsea nods and she's already moving toward the kitchen. She's setting out plates by the time Dean and Cas get Sam into the kitchen and lower him into a chair. The coffee pot is gurgling.

Cas gets Sam a glass of milk and Chelsea is pulling out pancake mix. "So… are you going to introduce us… or tell me what's going on?"

Sam is staring at her. "Who are you?"

Chelsea smiles. "Chelsea Clearwater. I'm a friend of Dean and Cas."

"A friend?" Sam seems unfairly incredulous, Dean thinks.

"She's a Hunter, sort of," Dean says.

"Yeah. Strictly desk side, but sure. I guess I am." Chelsea shrugs.

"Chelsea- this is Sam," Cas tells her.

Chelsea's face is a picture. Of all the things anyone could have said at that point, that was clearly the one that she was expecting the least.

"Oh my god. Sam as in Sam Sam?"

Sam is staring at her like he's trying to determine what she is. He looks like he suspects some sort of spell or shifter or monster out of her. Chelsea extends her hand to him and he flinches backward in alarm. She hurriedly retracts it.

"I'm sorry, sorry."

"No," Sam sighs. He offers his own hand, looking at Dean for guidance. It's like the first time Dean taught him to talk to girls. Chelsea takes his hand cautiously, and Dean can see Sam squeeze it. "It's nice to meet you."

"It's so good to finally get you back, Sam," Chelsea says. She sounds so warm and sincere it surprises Dean. "We've been worried out of our minds."

She wants to hug him too, Dean can tell. Sam's absence has cast such a shadow on Dean even someone like Chelsea, who's never met him, has missed him.

Sam drops her hand, picks up his milk glass and drains it in one gulp. Cas is pulling bowls out and Dean's watching him, on edge as he never actually opens the cupboard with the duffle in it. Chelsea joins him at the counter and shoos Dean toward the table.

Dean drops down as his weird little family makes pancakes happen around him.

"What do you remember, Sammy?"

Sam's eyes go a little blank. "I… I don't know. It's all… really far away. I was… I wasn't… real? I think-"

"Okay. Okay. Well…. Eat something. We'll figure it out."

"We need to call Bobby," Chelsea said, setting coffee cups in front of both of them.

"Bobby?" Sam asked, his eyes locked on Dean. "Bobby? I remember… before. Lucifer killed him. And he killed Cas… and…"

Dean reaches out and grabs Sam's arm, which seems to calm him down. He focuses on the hand and Dean squeezes. It's like proof. You can feel me, so I'm real. Like when Cas came back.

Despite everything, Dean feels a little bubble of happiness coming out of him as he says, "Yeah, well, that doesn't seem to be sticking these days."

Sam nods, pulls his arm out of Dean's grip as Cas deposits a pancake in front of him, and proceeds to inhale the pancake. Cas sets one in front of Dean too and Dean hates himself for a second. He would've come back, he tells himself. He would have gotten to a motel, realized what he'd done and come back. He would have.

He hopes.

Sam starts to feel sick two bites into his second pancake. They move him out to the couch and he falls back to sleep. Dean doesn't realize that he's just staring at him until Chelsea's hand settles over his. She smiles gently at him. "He needs clothes that fit. I've got a brother-in-law about his size that I always buy clothes for Christmas. I'll make a run."

"Yeah… that would… thank you," Dean manages. She kisses his temple as she stands up. Dean's phone rings in his pocket. He picks it up without looking at who it is.

"Dean! Sam's coming back! He's alive and he's coming back!"

Dean sets his forehead in his hand. "Thanks, Chuck. But you're behind the times, especially for a prophet. He showed up like two hours ago. You wanna be helpful you call me if you get a vision about where he's been."

"Fine," Chuck snarls. "Well, I feel a debilitating head ach coming on, so I'll be sure to call you when I can work a phone again."

"You do that, because I'm feeling a little prophetic myself and I'm seeing me, my car, and my trunkful of guns coming to negotiate how much of your royalties you owe me."

"Oh come on-"

"And you're exploiting Cas's life for profit now. We'll figure out what you owe him too."

He hangs up. Cas quirks his head at him. Chelsea clears her throat. "So… in questions I never thought I'd ask- if the prophet is getting visions again does that mean that God's back?"

Dean shrugs. "Chuck was getting prophecies while the world was dying bloody. I don't know if it has anything to do with God being around. He's the only prophet we've got. Honestly, I'd rather have Gabriel at the helm. He's a prick but he cares."

As though on cue there's a rush of wings and Gabriel is standing in the living room. He opens his mouth, sees Sam and closes it again. "Oh. Never mind. You already know." His gaze sets on Cas and turns to a smirk. He brushes his thumb at the side of his neck. "You've got a little… right there, bro." and he disappears.

Cas brushes his own neck, confused.

Chelsea sees the mark. Her eyes widen, her mouth drops open and she blanks the look out almost immediately. Almost.

"Okay. Well. I'm off to big and tall. Be back in a couple hours."

"I'll go with you," Cas volunteers. "I'll go dress first."

"Okay. I'll… umm.. go wait in the car." Chelsea says as Cas goes past her.

Dean's relieved. This is a lot. He'd like to have some time to himself to digest it. Just sit with Sam and … think.

Chelsea squeezes Dean's arm, tosses a blanket over Sam and goes out to the car. Cas comes down the stairs, ducks behind Dean's chair and also kisses his temple with a whispered "Everything will be okay."

And they leave.

Dean's not sure what to do with himself. Normally if Cas was gone he'd be researching. He doesn't need to now. Sam's here.

He makes a list in his head. They'll need easier food. If a pancake and a glass of milk made Sam sick they'll have to be careful of what he's eating. He's going to need help getting his strength back. Chelsea's hotel has a little gym and a pool. Cas has keys. Dean can google some old fogey water exercise videos. He needs to go make up a bed. Schedule a doctor's appointment just in case. He should go through the pockets of Sam's dirty clothes in case he's got miracle stuff like Cas and Bobby did. He needs to call Bobby and Ellen. He needs to call off a nation wide manhunt actually.

But right now, he's going to sit, and watch over his brother as he sleeps.


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