Author's Note: This is a AU re-write of The Fault in our Stars. I have changed some aspects of the story to accommodate Supernatural into it, so I hope you like it.
Late in the Winter of my eighteenth year, my father and Bobby decided I was depressed. Bobby is an old coot who lives up in South Dakota with not much more than an old wooden ramshackle house that looks as if it would blow down in a light wind, the scrap cars out in the yard, and an impressive library to his name. He helped out my Dad after my Mom died. Bobby also tried to talk my Dad out of becoming a hunter, stating that the life is no place for a child. My father, blinded by the pain of losing my Mom, ignored him and began searching for the thing that killed her. I have been a hunter ever since.
Well…until I was thirteen.
That's when everything in my life changed.
I found myself feeling more tired after every hunt, ate infrequently, and spent a lot more time sleeping.
Of course my Dad thought it was just me going through a hormonal stage in my life as I made the transition from a kid to a teenager. I wasn't exactly fat back then, but in the weeks that followed, I began to slowly lose weight until on a trip to Bobby's one day, I collapsed on the floor of his living room. When I woke up, I was in a hospital bed with Bobby and my father stood in the doorway with saddened expressions. The doctor explained everything, and that's when my life hit its all-time low.
I spent the time during my early teenage years at Bobby's after he had won the extremely heated argument over my health.
'He's sick enough already, John! What good is dragging him around the country with you gonna' do?' Bobby had shouted. 'He's gonna' need regular treatment until he fights this thing off, and if you can't offer him that, then the boy's staying here with me.'
And that had been that. Bobby's became my home, and Dad would pay a visit at least three times a week, usually having driven hours from various states across the country just to see me. Despite my attempts to tell him that I wouldn't break if he didn't make it back one night, Dad swore that he would always make it back to me if he could.
Whenever you read a cancer booklet or website or whatever, they always list depression among the side effects of cancer. But, in fact, depression is not a side effect of cancer. Depression is a side effect of dying. (Cancer is also a side effect of dying. Almost everything is, really.) But my Dad and Bobby believed I required treatment, so Bobby took me to see my Regular Doctor Mills, who agreed that I was veritably swimming in a paralyzing and totally clinical depression, and that therefore my meds should be adjusted and also I should attend a weekly Support Group.
This Support Group featured a rotating cast of characters in various states of tumor-driven unwellness. Why did the cast rotate? A side effect of dying.
Dying is something I've thought about many times through my childhood after I found out about the supernatural and became a hunter. Considering the big questions like 'does Heaven actually exist?', because I obviously already knew that Hell did. I have always thought about which one I would go to. Heaven or Hell, because is there a space in Heaven for hunters? Would God (if it turned out that he actually did exist) allow hunters into Heaven? What would be his take on them? Because the Ten Commandments state 'Though shall not kill', but though shall not kill what? Do monsters and demons fit the bill, or are they exempt? These are the real questions, and I don't know why my Dad and Bobby always get so antsy when I ask these questions out loud. Because that's another thing about dying, no one else wants to talk about it, even though they're not the ones doing the dying.
The Support Group, of course, was depressing as hell. It met every Wednesday in the basement of a stone-walled Episcopal church shaped like a cross. We all sat in a circle right in the middle of the cross, where the two boards would have met, where the heart of Jesus would have been.
I noticed this because Garth, the Support Group Leader and only person over eighteen in the room, talked about the heart of Jesus every freaking meeting, all about how we, as young cancer survivors, were sitting right in Christ's very sacred heart and whatever.
So here's how it went in God's heart: The six or seven or ten of us walked/wheeled in, grazed at a decrepit selection of cookies and lemonade, sat down in the Circle of Trust, and listened to Garth recount for the thousandth time his depressingly miserable life story—how he had cancer in his balls and they thought he was going to die but he didn't die and now here he is, a full-grown adult in a church basement in the 137th nicest city in America, divorced, addicted to video games, mostly friendless, eking out a meager living by exploiting his cancertastic past, slowly working his way toward a master's degree that will not improve his career prospects, waiting, as we all do, for the sword of Damocles to give him the relief that he escaped lo those many years ago when cancer took both of his nuts but spared what only the most generous soul would call his life.
AND YOU TOO MIGHT BE SO LUCKY!
Garth would make us introduce ourselves to the rest of the group. Name. Age. Diagnosis. And how we were doing today. I'm Sam, I'd say when they'd get to me. Seventeen. Thyroid originally but with an impressive and long-settled satellite colony in my lungs. And I'm doing okay.
Once we got around the circle, Garth always asked if anyone wanted to share. And then began the circle jerk of support: everyone talking about fighting and battling and winning and shrinking and scanning. To be fair to Garth, he let us talk about dying, too. But most of them weren't dying. Most would live into adulthood, as Garth had.
(Which meant there was quite a lot of competitiveness about it, with everybody wanting to beat not only cancer itself, but also the other people in the room. Like, I realize that this is irrational, but when they tell you that you have, say, a 20 percent chance of living five years, the math kicks in and you figure that's one in five…so you look around and think, as any healthy person would: I gotta outlast four of these bastards.)
The only redeeming facet of Support Group was this kid named Cas, a blue-eyed, skinny guy with black hair.
And his eyes were the problem. He had some fantastically improbable eye cancer. One eye had been cut out when he was a kid, and now he wore the kind of thick glasses that made his eyes (both the real one and the glass one) preternaturally huge, like his whole head was basically just this fake eye and this real eye staring at you. From what I could gather on the rare occasions when Cas shared with the group, a recurrence had placed his remaining eye in mortal peril.
Cas and I communicated almost exclusively through sighs. Each time someone discussed anticancer diets or snorting ground-up shark fin or whatever, he'd glance over at me and sigh ever so slightly. I'd shake my head microscopically and exhale in response.
So Support Group sucked ass, and after a few weeks, I grew to be rather kicking-and-screaming about the whole affair. In fact, on the Wednesday I made the acquaintance of Dean and Jessica Moore, I had tried my level best to get out of Support Group while sitting on the couch with Bobby, trying to block out the old coot's ramblings about how it was good for me to actually be out in the world and interacting instead of hiding away in his house, by burying myself into a book.
"I'm not going back to the support group."
"One of the symptoms of depression is disinterest in activities." Bobby stated.
"Where'd you read that…Hunter's Weekly?"
"I'm just saying that this could a great opportunity for you to make some friends. Being perfectly honest, Sam, you don't exactly have any, and teenagers should. You're not a little kid anymore. You should be out there living your life."
"If you want me to be a teenager, don't send me to Support Group. Buy me a fake ID so I can go to clubs, drink vodka, and take pot."
"You don't take pot, for starters."
"See, that's the kind of thing I'd know if you got me a fake ID."
"You're going to Support Group."
"Sam, you deserve a life." Bobby stated.
That shut me up, although I failed to see how attendance at Support Group met the definition of life. Still, I agreed to go.
I went to Support Group for the same reason that I'd once allowed nurses with a mere eighteen months of graduate education to poison me with exotically named chemicals: I wanted to make my Dad and Uncle happy. There is only one thing in this world shittier than biting it from cancer when you're seventeen, and that's having a kid who bites it from cancer.
Bobby pulled into the circular driveway behind the church at 4:56. I pretended to fiddle with my oxygen tank for a second just to kill time.
"Do you want me to carry it in for you?" He asked softly.
"No, it's fine." I said with a slight smile, hoping to offer a little reassurance to the man who was clearly having a hard time of it at the minute. I hated what the cancer was doing to Bobby. Because that's the thing about cancer, it doesn't just affect the person who has it, it affects everyone around them too (like a modern day plague). It was clear that Bobby hated having to force me to come to the Support Group, because he hated seeing me beaten down like this.
The cylindrical green tank only weighed a few pounds, and I had this little steel cart to wheel it around behind me. It delivered two litres of oxygen to me each minute through a cannula, a transparent tube that split just beneath my neck, wrapped behind my ears, and then reunited in my nostrils. The contraption was necessary because my lungs sucked at being lungs.
"I'm proud of you, Sam." He said as I got out.
"Thanks, Bobby." I walked off, trailing my oxygen tank behind me.
"Make some friends!" I heard him say through the rolled-down window of his old Jeep as I opened the door to the church.
I didn't want to take the elevator because taking the elevator is a Last Days kind of activity at Support Group, so I took the stairs.
Grabbing a cookie from the table, I also poured some poured some lemonade into a Dixie cup before turning to find a seat.
A girl was staring at me.
I was quite sure I'd never seen her before. Petite with blue eyes and long, blonde haired that flowed past her shoulders in loose curls. She looked younger than me, maybe by a year or two.
I looked away, suddenly conscious of my myriad insufficiencies. I was wearing old jeans, a grey t-shirt that had been white many moons ago and a tatty dark red plaid shirt that hung loosely from bony shoulders. Furthermore, I resembled a chipmunk in the way that my cheeks appeared almost puffed, a tedious side effect of treatment. And yet—I cut a glance to her, and her eyes were still on me.
It occurred to me why they call it eye contact.
I walked into the circle and sat down next to Cas, two seats away from the girl. I glanced again. She was still watching me.
Look, let me just say it: She was hot. A non hot girl stares at you relentlessly and it is, at best, awkward and, at worst, a form of assault. But a hot girl...well.
It was then that another new face appeared, taking the empty seat next to the blonde girl who was staring at me.
The boy immediately slumped down, dwarfing the moulded plastic chair. Like me he seemed tall, with lightish brown hair. He sat with his tailbone against the edge of the chair, his posture aggressively poor, one hand half in the pocket of the long, brown leather jacket he was wearing.
Yep, she's still looking over at me. Although she is doing it in short glances now.
I pulled out my phone and clicked it so it would display the time: 4:59. The circle filled in with the unlucky twelve-to-eighteens, and then Garth started us out with the serenity prayer: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. The girl was still staring at me. What am I supposed to do in this situation?
Finally, I decided that the proper strategy was to stare back. So I looked over and maintained her eyes contact as Garth acknowledged for the thousandth time his ball-lessness etc., and soon it was a staring contest. After a while the girl gave a giggly smile before her blue eyes glanced away. When she looked back at me, I flicked my eyebrows up to say, I win.
The new boy looked between us with a sort of mischievous expression before turning slightly to the girl and jabbing her slightly with his elbow on the arm. When she turned to him, he raised his eyebrows twice before grinning as if to say I can see you two flirting.
The girl rolled her eyes before crossing her arms.
Garth continued and then finally it was time for the introductions. "Cas, perhaps you'd like to go first today. I know you're facing a challenging time."
"Yeah." Cas said. "I'm Cas. I'm seventeen. And it's looking like I have to get surgery in a couple weeks, after which I'll be blind. Not to complain or anything because I know a lot of us have it worse, but yeah, I mean, being blind does sort of suck. My girlfriend helps, though. And friends like Dean." He nodded toward the boy, who now had a name. "So, yeah," Cas continued. He was looking at his hands, which he'd folded into each other like the top of a tepee. "There's nothing you can do about it."
"We're here for you, Cas." Garth said. "Let Cas hear it, guys."
And then we all, in a monotone, said, "We're here for you, Cas."
There were five others before they got to her. She smiled a little when her turn came. Her voice was...well amazing. "My name is Jessica Moore." she said. "I'm sixteen. I don't have cancer, I'm just here today at my brother's request."
"That's great to hear that you're supporting him." Garth smiled before turning to the newly identified Dean and motioning for him to introduce himself.
"Name's Dean Moore. I'm seventeen and I'm an aquarius. I enjoy sunsets, long walks on the beach, and frisky women." He cockily grinned. "I had a little touch of osteosarcoma a while back but that cleared. My Mom thought I needed to get out more...so here I am."
"And how are you feeling?" Garth asked.
"Oh, I'm grand." Dean Moore smiled with a corner of his mouth. "I'm on a roller coaster that only goes up, my friend."
When it was my turn, I said, "My name is Sam. I'm seventeen. Thyroid with mets in my lungs. I'm okay."
The hour proceeded apace: Fights were recounted, battles won amid wars sure to be lost; hope was clung to; families were both celebrated and denounced; it was agreed that friends just didn't get it; tears were shed; comfort proffered. Neither of the Moore siblings nor I spoke again until Garth said, "Dean, perhaps you'd like to share your fears with the group."
"I fear oblivion," he said without a moment's pause. "I fear it like the proverbial blind man who's afraid of the dark."
"Too soon," Cas said, cracking a smile.
"Was that insensitive?" Dean asked. "I can be pretty blind to other people's feelings."
Cas was laughing, but Garth raised a chastening finger and said, "Dean, please. Let's return to you and your struggles. You said you fear oblivion?"
"I did," Dean answered.
Garth seemed lost. "Would, uh, would anyone like to speak to that?"
I hadn't been in proper school in three years. Dad and Bobby were effectively my only friends (which sounds sad when you say it like that). My third friend (at a push) would probably be Cas (if he classed me as his).
I existed. I was a fairly shy person—not the hand-raising type.
And yet, just this once, I decided to speak. I half raised my hand and Garth, his delight evident, immediately said, "Sam!" I was, I'm sure he assumed, opening up. Becoming Part Of The Group.
I looked over at Dean Moore, who looked back at me. "There will come a time," I said, "when all of us are dead. All of us. There will come a time when there are no human beings remaining to remember that anyone ever existed or that our species ever did anything. There will be no one left to remember Aristotle or Cleopatra, let alone you. Everything that we did and built and wrote and thought and discovered will be forgotten and all of this"—I gestured encompassingly—"will have been for naught. Maybe that time is coming soon and maybe it is millions of years away, but even if we survive the collapse of our sun, we will not survive forever. There was time before organisms experienced consciousness, and there will be time after. And if the inevitability of human oblivion worries you, I encourage you to ignore it. God knows that's what everyone else does."
After I finished, there was quite a long period of silence. My eyes fell to Jessica as I watched a smile spread all the way across her face.
I smiled back.
None of us said anything for the rest of Support Group. At the end, we all had to hold hands (the gayest part of the group, after Garth's hand puppet Mr. Fizzles) and Garth led us in a prayer. "Lord Jesus Christ, we are gathered here in Your heart, literally in Your heart, as cancer survivors. You and You alone know us as we know ourselves. Guide us to life and the Light through our times of trial. We pray for Cas's eyes, for Michael's and Jamie's blood, for Dean's bones, for Sam's lungs, for James's throat. We pray that You might heal us and that we might feel Your love, and Your peace, which passes all understanding. And we remember in our hearts those whom we knew and loved who have gone home to you: Maria and Kade and Joseph and Haley and Abigail and Angelina and Taylor and Gabriel and . . ."
It was a long list. The world contains a lot of dead people. And while Garth droned on, reading the list from a sheet of paper because it was too long to memorize, I kept my eyes closed, trying to think prayerfully but mostly imagining the day when my name would find its way onto that list, all the way at the end when everyone had stopped listening.
When Garth was finished, we said this stupid mantra together—LIVING OUR BEST LIFE TODAY—and it was over.
Jessica Moore got up out of her chair and walked over to me. "What's your name?" she asked.
"You got a surname, or is it just Sam?" She smirked.
"Sam Winchester." Jessica was just about to say something else when Dean walked over with Cas in tow. She turned to her brother before resting a hand on Cas' shoulder. "See, I told you it would be fine."
"You've done it. It's out there." Dean nodded. "It may be extremely bleak, but it's all done with. If you hadn't of came out and admitted it, you probably would have had to tell Mr. Fizzles, so you know, silver lining and all."
Jessica leaned in towards Cas so she thought I couldn't hear. "He's a regular?" I couldn't hear Cas' comment.
Dean clasped Cas by both shoulders and then took a half step away from him. "Tell..."
"Sam." I filled in his blank.
Cas leaned a hand against the snack table and focused his huge eye on me. "Okay, so I went into clinic this morning, and I was telling my surgeon that I'd rather be deaf than blind. And he said, 'It doesn't work that way,' and I was, like, 'Yeah, I realize it doesn't work that way; I'm just saying I'd rather be deaf than blind if I had the choice, which I realize I don't have,' and he said, 'Well, the good news is that you won't be deaf,' and I was like, 'Thank you for explaining that my eye cancer isn't going to make me deaf. I feel so fortunate that an intellectual giant like yourself would deign to operate on me.'"
"He sounds like a winner," I said. "I'm gonna try to get me some eye cancer just so I can make this guy's acquaintance."
"Good luck with that. All right, I should go. Hannah's waiting for me. I gotta look at her a lot while I can."
"Counterinsurgence tomorrow?" Dean asked.
"Definitely." Cas turned and walked off with Dean.
Jessica shook her head before turning to me. "I don't know which one's the bigger saddo?"
She continued to look at me.
"What?" I asked.
"Nothing," she said.
"Why are you looking at me like that?"
Jessica half smiled. "You seem nice. I like nice people, I feel that there's not enough of them on our little big planet." There was a brief pause. "So...you've clearly thought after what happens after all of this. I mean...as you pointed out, all of this will end in oblivion. It is inevitable."
"My brother fears oblivion, yet in a way, I also think he quite likes the idea of it." Jessica sighed. "He'd been fighting for...well it seemed like forever at the time. Just endless days of watching him putting on this brave face for Mom and for me...but anyway...you should come round to ours sometime...or how about now even?"
"Are you sure your brother wouldn't have something to say about that. I mean...for all you know, I could be some kind of axe murderer."
She nodded. "True enough, Sam Winchester." Jessica walked past me, her blonde hair blowing slightly backwards as she made her way through the door into the hallway.
Grabbing the handle of my oxygen tank, I tilted it onto its wheels before following her upstairs, losing ground as I made my way up slowly, stairs not be a field of expertise for my lungs.
And then we were out of Jesus's heart and in the parking lot, the spring air just on the cold side of perfect, the late-afternoon light heavenly in its hurtfulness.
Bobby wasn't there yet, which was unusual, because Bobby was almost always waiting for me. I glanced around and saw that a tall, curvy brunette girl had Cas pinned against the stone wall of the church, kissing him rather aggressively. They were close enough to me that I could hear the weird noises of their mouths together, and I could hear him saying, "Always," and her saying, "Always," in return.
Suddenly standing next to me, Dean half whispered, "They're big believers in PDA."
"What's with the 'always'?" The slurping sounds intensified, making me want to throw up.
"Always is their thing. They'll always love each other and whatever. I would conservatively estimate they have texted each other the word always four million times in the last year."
"Leave them alone." Jess hit her brother lightly on the arm as she walked over. "It's love."
"It's disgusting." Dean followed up.
"Whatever, just go get the car." Jess stated.
"You mean my car." He grinned with a smug grin that he had obviously only deployed to purposely annoy his little sister before walking off.
A couple more cars drove up, taking Michael and Alisa away. It was just Jess and me now, watching Cas and Hannah, who were still eating each other's faces off and grabbing each other in...interesting places, as if they were not leaning against a place of worship.
"Imagine taking that last drive to the hospital," I said quietly. "The last time you'll ever drive a car."
Without looking over at me, Jessica said, "You're killing my vibe here, Sam Winchester. I'm trying to observe young love in its many-splendored awkwardness." Jessica reached into a pocket and pulled out, of all things, a pack of cigarettes.
"You smoke?" I asked. "Seriously?...You think that's cool?"
"Well for one, Sam Winchester...they're not mine." She answered.
"So they're not yours, but they're in your pocket." I paused for a few seconds. "...but seriously?! Your brother had freaking cancer, and now you're giving money to a company in exchange for the chance to acquire some yourself while also giving your brother yet more cancer. Let me just assure you that not being able to breath...sucks!" I paused once again. "That's your hamartia."
"A hamartia?" She asked.
"A fatal flaw." I explained.
"Well I hate to break it to you, Sam Winchester. Even after you gave that amazing speech, like I said, they're not mine." Jessica explained. "They're my brothers."
"Dean smokes?" I furrowed an eyebrow. "But Dean had cancer."
"I'll let him explain that to you."
Turning away from her, I stepped toward the curb as I heard a car start down the street. It was Bobby. He'd clearly been waiting for me to make friends or whatever the hell the purpose of sending me to the support group was.
I felt this weird mix of disappointment and anger welling up inside of me. I don't even know what the feeling was, really, just that there
Stood in my beat up sneakers on the edge of the curb, Bobby pulled up alongside.
"He says it's a metaphor." Jess shouted across.
I glanced at her, noticing her stuff the box of cigarettes back into her pocket before I turned back to the car and tapped on the window.
Bobby rolled it down.
"Can I go to a friend's house?" I asked.