"He looks like he climbed out of his own grave."
Sam's pretty sure that's not right. He didn't have a grave. He's pretty sure he wasn't dead. He's not positive, but he thinks… he was dead before, and it had been different to be dead. He had been… away… It was hard to remember.
He'll worry about that later. He's so incredibly tired, tired like he's never been before.
But he's also mostly sure that it's really Dean, slightly less sure that it's really Cas, and completely sure that this is really hot water. Wherever it is that he's been, there hasn't been hot water.
He wants to talk to them, but just can't quite manage it yet.
He feels better by the time they dress him. The clothes don't feel good, but how clean they are does. He missed clean. He recognizes Bobby's house. He's been here recently but it wasn't… right. Things were missing. Things were wrong.
Dean and Cas help him down the stairs. His whole body feels heavy and his stomach feels painfully empty, like he's never eaten before in his life.
Then it's wrong again. The door opens and it's not Bobby, it's some woman, someone he doesn't know and he's worried that he was wrong.
"It's okay. She's a friend. Nothing is going to hurt you," Cas assures him. He believes Cas. Has someone been hurting him?
He's a little more sure of himself when they get into the living room. It's Bobby's living room. It smells right, like old paper and dust and old wood and iron… from somewhere…
The kitchen is different, but Sam thinks that might be him. He doesn't really think about Bobby's kitchen.
The smell of coffee is definitely real.
The woman is still here. Dean and Cas don't seem to mind her being here. Cas gives him a glass of milk.
The milk is real, and it feels so good going down his throat. He knows he hasn't had anything to drink, he knows he's been thirsty. He can feel it in his stomach. So this all must be real.
Cas looks weird… but he could feel Cas. He couldn't feel things while he was away… he shouldn't just grab the woman to check that she's there. She knows his name, but had to be told.
He's tired again and things are starting to spin and feel… not right.
She's happy to see him, but doesn't know him and he's worried about her when she reaches out for him. He's upset her. He feels bad.
He can feel her skin against his when he shakes her hand. She's real too. It's all going to be okay. Because Cas and Dean are here and he's in Bobby's house.
And Dean's telling him that Bobby's alive, and he knows Bobby's not, but Dean's really here… right?
The heavy fog in his mind starts to dissipate as he feels the calories start to work their way to his blood stream.
He's not sure where he's been, but he can feel in his mind where those memories should be but aren't. He can remember Lucifer in his body. He can remember Dean's face beaten until it looked more like a hamburger in a leather jacket than like Dean.
He can remember the sound Cas made. Splash. The sound Bobby made. Crack.
Maybe they're all in Heaven?
But he can remember Heaven too… it was… plastic. This isn't. He can feel how solid the world is, like it hasn't been in too long.
And he can feel his own body now. Different. Weak.
He knows something's changed he just can't put his finger on what it's changed from.
The pancake is too heavy in his stomach and the world goes foggy again.
Sam wakes up to the sound of Dean snoring lightly and knows he's home.
He sits up and sees Dean asleep in the armchair where he had clearly watching Sam sleep. He wonders how out of it he was. He feels a little like he just woke up from a major bender, that same sticky mouth, inexplicable body ache feeling.
There are soft clangs and voices coming from the kitchen. He walks toward them. His body feels so strange like this, like he can feel the bones moving inside of him instead of the muscles.
"Hello?" he says quietly, when he peeks his head into the kitchen. Cas and… Chelsea? Smile at him.
"Hello Sam," Cas says. Sam looks him over. How long has it been? Cas is so different. The hair, the clothes. He's slicing a piece of chicken up into slivers of meat when he looks over at Sam and the smile on his face is so… human. "How are you feeling?"
"Better," Sam says. "A lot better. Do you guys need any help?"
"Sure. Let's get you out of Dean's clothes though," Chelsea says. "Not that you don't have nice ankles, but I'm sure you're not really in a mood to show them off."
She has a wonderful smile, Sam thinks.
"Sweetheart? Why don't you go give him a hand with that?" She says to Cas, patting her hands against the small of his back. Sam entertains a truly weird thought about that.
Cas takes him out to the living room where Dean is still snoozing, making a sound like someone very quietly, very slowly sawing a log in half. He grabs a Target bag from near that couch and fishes out a pair of jeans and a couple of long sleeve flannel shirts. "We went to get you clothes that fit. Chelsea says if we're off the mark we'll just return them for new ones. Do you like these? I picked this one out for you."
It's really strange to think of Cas not just understanding clothes as something that people change in and out of instead of just magically heal and clean, but it's so… frigging nice to think of Cas picking clothes out for him that Sam feels weird about how happy it makes him.
"Yeah, Cas, it's great," he says taking the blue and green flannel shirt that Cas apparently picked.
"Do you need help?" Cas asks. Sam is about to give him a look like he might be crazy, then remembers that since he got here he's been carried up and down the stairs and bathed. But he doesn't want to feel like a complete invalid. "I think I got it." He unbuttons his jeans and let's them drop. Cas politely looks up and away. And it's such a human thing Sam's question pops out of him before he can stop himself.
"Cas… how long have I been… gone?"
"About a year. How long was it for you?"
"I… I don't know." Sam lifts his legs out of his jeans and stumbles forward. Cas catches him easily, as though he were expecting it. He braces Sam carefully while Sam kicks his way out of his jeans, then hands him a new pair and holds Sam up while Sam pulls them on. Sam hopes this is some hangover effect. He can't actually be this weak.
"A lot has changed," Cas says, as though he guessed what prompted Sam's question. "Bobby lives in Mitchel. Chelsea and I invited him over for dinner. He's very excited to see you. We thought you'd like to see him."
"Yeah. I do. I really do."
"He has a repairs and design business. He enjoys it. His wife Karen was brought back from the dead- as a living woman this time. I think Bobby is very happy. He's quit drinking."
Sam can just barely process that, Bobby happy and married and sober.
"Dean and I live here. Bobby is going to give us the house he says. Dean works as a mechanic in town. Our friend Thomas, one of the other mechanics, used to be a Hunter as well. Chelsea owns a hotel. I sometimes clean there and she pays me."
"You're a holy hotel maid?" Sam laughs, trying to fit this image into a rapidly shifting world that's actually a little overwhelming.
"I'm human," Cas says. "And I'm aging. I found a grey hair last week."
"Oh. I'm sorry."
"I'm beginning to be resigned to it. There are worse things to be than human. It does have its perks."
"Still…" Sam gets his jeans on and Cas lets him go, but picks the shirt up off the floor for him. He fiddles with Dean's blanket while Sam painstakingly works the buttons.
"And Chelsea? Is she… I can't believe I'm even asking this- is she your girlfriend?"
Cas looks up at him, clearly startled. "No, no, she's… she's a dear friend."
Sam thinks of something else, less weird, but seemingly as impossible. "Is she Dean's girlfriend?"
"No." Cas relates the story of how they met Chelsea, how he tried to set her up with Dean and how it didn't work out but she became part of their lives and their "desk side hunting".
Sam is trying to digest the fact that Dean and Bobby are pretty much safe and happy and out of the game when he starts having a lot of trouble with his buttons and Cas carefully takes over.
"Chelsea is lovely, but I think- romantically and sexually- I prefer men," Cas says as he finishes buttoning up Sam's shirt all the way, just like his own shirt is buttoned.
"Oh," Sam replies, stopping Cas before he gets choked from having his collar buttoned up like a 7th grade altar boy. "Alright." Cas looks down sadly at his hands and Sam realizes that his timing with brushing Cas away wasn't great. He tugs at the ex-Angel's hair. "What about this?"
Cas shrugs. "I like it."
Something niggles at Sam. "Does… does Dean know about this whole… gay thing?"
Cas looks shocked again, then laughs one loud, strange laugh that Sam's never heard before, then he shushes himself when Dean stirs, just a little.
Sam likes the laugh on Cas, but it does make him feel a little lost- there's clearly a story there and Sam doesn't know what it is.
"I'm sorry," Cas says. "That was funny. Yes. He definitely knows."
Sam turns this over in his head as he carefully cuffs his sleeves. "So… you, like… date now?"
Cas shrugs. "There have been a couple of men."
And that, more than anything, cinches it for Sam. Manic-Depressive Teddy Bear. Attacked by Pagan God who looked like Paris Hilton. Bathed by shy gay Angel who was rooming with his homophobic brother. This was definitely his real life, it was too weird to be anything else.
"It's been a hell of a year for you, huh?"
Sam hugs Cas, who squeezes him tightly back and they walk into the kitchen, Cas's arms up just a little as though he expects to have to catch Sam. Cas gives him a way to help with dinner and he feels a little less helpless, but a little more…set apart as he watches Cas and Chelsea moved around each other.
Sam knows that Dean trusts Cas more than anyone, maybe even more than he trusts Sam. And as out of it as he had been, he remembered that Chelsea had just walked in. She knows them. She might even live here.
She says something quietly to Cas, who laughs again as she bumps her hip against his. She ducks around Cas and grabs an Equalite out of the fridge and hands it to him. "Here. You seemed hungry, but we figured you'd need to take it easy for a little while. Try this. And Cas is making chicken noodle soup for dinner. From scratch."
Sam tears at his salad leaves as things start to smell good around him.
This is like college, he thinks sadly. When he and Jess and their friends would get together at someone's apartment and they would all hang out in the kitchen and drink wine and laugh while they cooked. It's- from afar- that same feeling of warm and cozy family-ness that he had never experienced before Stanford. Not even Jess had ever known just how alien an experience it had been for him.
And this was Dean's little surrogate family. Sam choked up a little at that. Not just because Dean deserved it, but because Sam was grateful and little embarrassed. He had always assumed that if they didn't hunt- he would be the one that was okay, and Dean would be the one that wasn't.
When Dean had died on a Wednesday after an eternity of Tuesday's Sam had become a shell without him. A year without "Looking after Sammy. Look after your brother, boy," and Dean had a house and a job and friends and a life that looked like it worked. It made Sam feel like he'd been the one holding Dean back this whole time.
"I'm in here!"
The slight undercurrent of panic in Dean's voice hurts. A few fucking hours and Dean's already got his little charge back on his list of worries. And if Dean had been overprotective back when Sam could actually take care of himself, this was going to be a nightmare.
"What are we making?" Dean asks dropping down across from Sam.
"We are making soup," Cas replies. "Sam is making salad. You are making mashed potatoes." Cas sets a bowl of boiled potatoes, cream and butter floating around them. Dean starts mashing and Sam chuckles. He's never seen Dean cook anything that didn't involve a box or a can.
Dean smiles warmly at him, but wriggles slightly out of Cas's hand when the angel squeezes his shoulder.
That's weird. Dean had gotten practically immune to Cas's rudimentary understanding of personal space.
Sam goes back to his lettuce tearing. Chelsea gives him some hardboiled eggs to slice up.
"So… I just missed everything I guess?"
"Everything?" Dean asks.
"Yeah. I… it's been a year Dean. What's happened this year that would surprise me? Or that I might not believe?"
Sam doesn't want to fill in the gaps around that. That he doesn't know what's happening in anyone's life anymore and he feels disconnected and weird. That maybe he was more dependent on his 24/7 life with Dean than he thought and the idea of Dean off living a life entirely without him that he has to slot himself back into makes him a little panicky.
Dean coughs, like he's choking and gives Sam a look that Sam doesn't really understand, which just makes Sam more upset.
Something behind Dean catches Sam's attention and he looks up and the horror hits him like a fist in the stomach.
He's on his feet instantly, letting out a yell with the effort of trying to hurl the heavy glass salad bowl at the Archangel. It's not a good weapon, but it's what he has and it doesn't even make it toward him.
And then Dean is throwing him down to the ground.
Sam struggles against him, and Dean effortlessly grabs his arms and pins them above his head.
Sam's heart drops instantly. It's not real. He's not home. It's still happening. He pushes up against Dean. He can still feel him but maybe that's… maybe it doesn't mean anything. He struggles wildly, trying to break Dean's grip, but he's not strong enough.
"Get off me!" He yells. It's coming back to him now. Where he's been. He remembers parts and broken bits like shrapnel. Michael pouring out of Adam like lightning made liquid. Lucifer screaming under his skin. And woods and sulfur and flames and ice and clouds and light and music but still dark patches where they should be something. "Get off me!" he screams.
His arms are freed for a second before he feels them pinned back to the floor.
He can hear "Sam! Sam! Sam!" over and over and suddenly there's a splash of cold water in his face. It's so unexpected, and so obviously happened and he's trying to cough up the part of it that wound up down his throat. The hands clamped around his wrists loosen and push him over to his side so he can cough the water back out.
"Christ, I'm sorry," a woman's voice is saying. "I should leave aiming to the professionals. I thought it would help."
Chelsea, Sam thinks as he tries to cough up a lungful of water.
"What did you see?" Dean is asking, his arm tight around Sam's arm. "Sammy, what was it, what did you think was there?"
He coughs and another hand pats his back.
"Dean? Don't interrogate the kid, let him get the water back up."
"Shit, I'm so sorry."
"It's fine," Dean says.
Sam gulps in a few breaths and Dean starts hauling him back up to his feet. "You okay?"
Michael is still standing in front of the fridge, looking down at the shattered salad bowl with a smirk. Dean shakes him.
"Sammy? There's nothing there. You know that right? Sam? You know I'm real?" Dean shakes him again and Sam closes his eyes and grabs onto Dean's shoulders.
"Don't shake him, Dean." Cas's voice.
"Stop it," Sam manages. "Quiet. Please."
He's not sure if nothing is there. It doesn't make sense that Michael wouldn't start smiting if he was out. He can feel Dean. He can hear Bobby. He takes a deep breath and opens his eyes. He sees Cas. Long hair, cooking, gay Cas. He moves his hand from Dean's shoulder to Cas's. He can feel Cas. He's right there. Cas sets his hand over Sam's. Sam looks past him. Chelsea- who he doesn't know and who doesn't make sense as someone he'd bring in is here. If he's being punished for something why make him watch anything that might happen to some strange woman? Right?
Has he been watching terrible things happen to people?
He looks back up. Michael is still there. Still not moving.
"Sammy?" Dean asks quietly. "What do you see?"
"Umm… it's Michael."
"What's he look like?"
"What?" Sam asks, letting his eyes move back to Dean. Dean looks terrified, but in that firm hard way, like when he's pretty sure he's going to die and he's pulling his gun out anyway.
"Who's he wearing?" Dean clarifies.
"Dad," Sam says. "Like Dad."
Dean's eyes close. "Okay. Okay. What else?"
Sam gulps and looks at him again. And realizes. "Like Dad in the 70's. Back when we… back then. Back when Dad said yes because of us and mom."
"That doesn't make sense, Sam."
Sam nods. Yeah. It doesn't make sense. If Michael had been able to use their father as a perfect vessel why hadn't he just tricked him back then like they'd tricked Jimmy Novak?
"It doesn't make sense," Sam repeats. "I know that."
He watches Michael, in his father's body from forty years ago and thinks about that. It doesn't make sense. The Archangel, who had been solid enough to throw a bowl at a few minutes ago, starts to fade, almost like a TV going to static until he's gone.
That pretty much kills the family relaxation vibe of the night. Sam tries to catch up with Bobby, but feels awkward that the first time Bobby saw him in a year he was screaming and writhing on the floor. He feels sick with an all encompassing worry. He's had hallucinations more than once. Back in the Demon blood days they were de riguer. And then he reminds himself that he realized this one was a hallucination. You can't be crazy if you realize you're seeing things right?
He's tired again, bone dead tired, and dinner gets cut short. No one wants to be there, but no one wants to leave, and Sam gets hauled up to Bobby's old bedroom, where Dean must be sleeping now, because it's set up like a bedroom not a guestroom.
Or maybe it isn't and Sam's just imagining it for no discernible reason.
Dean throws the covers back and sets Sam, unresisting in the bed. Cas and Chelsea are shacking up down the hall and Bobby took the last bedroom.
"I'm sorry," Sam sighs as Dean settles onto the other side of the bed.
"I only eat the damn salad because Cas insists," Dean says, his tone forced and light, like a pop fly waiting to crash back down.
"I'm sorry about me," Sam says. "You have this nice little life going for you and now I'm back and I'm crazy and I can barely get up the stairs by myself and-"
"Sam? Shut up." Dean says, flicking the light off. "You're not ruining my idyllic life. You ask Cas and Chels in the morning about life without you if you think that's what's going on. Besides. You're going to get better. When Cas came back he had a total melt down like every week. He broke all the dishes and most of the glasses. He lit a car body on fire. I came home once to strawberries smashed all over the kitchen. He's fine now."
"Yeah. He said. Cooking an laughing and wearing jeans and dating dudes."
"Go to sleep, Sam. You'll be better in the morning. You'll be better sooner than you know."
"And if I'm not?"
"We've got friends in high places. We'll make calls. First, you calm down, you forget about tonight, and we all get some sleep."
Dean can't sleep. He believes Sam's going to be better, he does. He recovered from Hell. He still has nightmares and he was a gibbering mess once or twice when Sam wasn't looking. Whatever happened to Sam was a long run.
And if it's not fine he's going to trap Gabriel in a very small ring of fire and reimagine all of the Alaistar's greatest hits until someone makes Sam better.
He can't sleep. He doesn't want to leave Sam but he can't just lie here. He listens to Sam's steady breathing for a moment. He sounds like he's pretty solidly asleep.
Dean carefully scoots out of bed and goes out to the hallway. There's a light on in the bathroom, the door's ajar. He takes a step toward it and stops. He can't take Bobby's worry or Chelsea's pity. The hinges on the door aren't tightened right though, and it creaks a little further open.
Dean can see Cas, drinking water, reflected in the mirror and feels the other man's eyes settle on him. Cas offers him a weak smile, and it makes Dean weak. He walks toward the bathroom.
He's… he's not even sure how he feels, other than guilty. He should have gotten Sam out earlier. He shouldn't have freaked out this morning. He should have already called Gabriel, even if this nights already over it's sudden archangel quota.
And mostly- he wants this, he wants to steal a moment of that near bliss he'd gotten from Cas yesterday (fuck, yesterday?) and he doesn't deserve it. Not with that duffle still laying in it's piss poor hiding place in the kitchen.
Cas nudges the door open for him, pulls it closed behind him, wraps his arms around Dean's shoulders and kisses him.
Fuck, fuck, fuck.
It shouldn't feel like the apocalypse all over again.