running_hot (running_hot) wrote,
running_hot
running_hot

shiver and quiver, little tree

Title: shiver and quiver, little tree
Author: running_hot 
Rating: PG
Summary: He is hypothermic when he wakes. Cold, bare feet, dumb and shaking hands, lips that might be blue if he could see them. He is half-blind in the daytime as if he's stared too long at the sun. He doesn't know his name, he doesn't know where he's from, he only knows that he has to go home.
Wordcount: 6800 (approx.)
Disclaimer: None of this belongs to me, nor will it ever. Title taken from the song Cinderella at the Grave from Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods.
Betas: Many thanks to sakura_no_mi , who read through this at several stages of development, pointed out weird spellings, and helped me with my Cas voice. Also thanks to the several people from the Pinto chat who read through this, even with no knowledge of SPN, just to stop me from freaking out.
Author's Note: Full prompt at bottom. Written for the ohsam h/c fic exchange, for a beautiful prompt by [info]rainylemons.

He shivers.

It’s too cold, and he can’t see. When he opens his eyes, nothing but flares fill his vision.

Trying to stand is a mistake. His knees tremble and shake; he falls to the ground and lands heavy on a shoulder that complains at the impact.

Finally, some semblance of balance returns to him, but his bare feet don’t like to touch the chilly asphalt. Again, he hits his knees, only a thin layer of fabric protecting him from the sharp pebbled ground.

To get help, he knows that he needs to stand up and walk. There’s somewhere he needs to go, someone he needs to see. The absence of that someone is probably what’s making him so cold. If only he could remember exactly who it is.

Or who he is, for that matter.

He is a person, probably. Even if some deep part of him yells and screams that he doesn’t belong, that he’s one floor too high, he can tell that he’s most likely human.

A slow unproductive pace is all he can manage when he finally convinces his legs to work. Something comes roaring up behind him far too quickly for him to react or get out of the way -- it’s a car, he remembers. At least that’s something he can recognize. It squeals to a stop mere inches from knocking him over.

“Hey, man, you can’t just walk in the road like that, especially not in weather like this!” the driver hollers at him, and he can’t help but flinch away and stumble backwards. His hands fly to his face, shielding from the too-bright headlights and the halos of sun.

“You alright?” He tries to go farther back but something runs into the backs of his knees and he falls backward, tumbling down, down, down, into a little gully. “Oh, shit, I didn’t mean to -- hold on there, guy, I’m just gonna call an ambulance. Are you okay down there?”

He hurts. Even before he’d fallen, he’d been aching and sore and alone, and now his shoulders hurt and his head pounds and his hands won’t stop shaking when he tries haphazardly to push himself up off the ground. He stares at his hands for a moment.

Shake, shake, shudder, shake.

Someone should be there, grabbing onto his trembling fingers and calming them down, muttering to him that he’s gonna be alright.

But he’s alone.

Warm wetness trickles down his cheek, down his forehead. He can’t tell which droplets are tears and which are blood.

“Sir? Can you hear me?” He looks up. It’s too bright for him to see anything, except the hazy outline of a figure looming over him, and he can’t, he can’t -- tries to roll away, but there are hands on his shoulders and he panics, thrashes as best he can with a body that’s a day old and a thousand years old all at once.

“Strap him down, but watch his neck, don’t know if he hurt anything in that tumble. Christ, what’s wrong with him? See if you can get a blood sample, make sure he’s not on anything.” Binds cross over his chest, pinning down his arms, trapping his legs in a snare. A hair-thin needle pricks into his wrist.

It’s starting again, the thing he’d thought he’d just gotten away from. He’s not sure what it is that he’s anticipating, what he’s so terrified of, and yet the radiating pain from the steel in his vein is just enough of a clue. “We’re gonna have to knock him out, he’s freaking and his heart rate’s through the roof. Who is this guy anyways? He looks like he’s been out here for days.”

Calmness rushes with every heart beat, pulsing like thunder, until he can’t help but fall back down into the black.

---

It smells like chemicals.

He’d thought he would be outside again, in the burning hot sun and the icy wind. It’s much warmer here with something soft and heavy wrapping him in tightly. It’s like a womb, his tiny little comfy space, and he finds himself disinterested in leaving. The quiet beeping sounds are soothing music, the whir of machines a steady beat to grab onto as his head reels.

At about that moment, there should be a hand pressing into his, a gruff voice whispering his name. It’s the next movement of this sonata, he knows that much. Of course, the lyrics are completely lost -- he’s not sure if there ever were any, if he ever even had a name -- but even wordless, the intent would be clear.

The beeping chorus repeats and repeats, the whirring drums drone on and on.

“I see you’re awake, Mr. …” a voice prompts from his side. He whips his head over to look, only to find himself still sun-blind. Glowing white sunspots are spattered across his field of vision, obscuring the person who’s talking to him. Looking around in mad circles doesn’t help; the spots stay in the same place, no matter how hard he tries.

“Calm down, sir. Everything’s alright. I’m Doctor Eastbrook, and I’m just trying to figure out exactly what happened to you. Do you remember what happened before you fell?”

Before he fell?

There wasn’t anything. There was nothing, emptiness, and then he was shivering. He’s still shivering, for some reason. His toes are numb. If he could remember how to form the words, he’d tell the woman that, but his vocal cords are uncooperative.

When he doesn’t respond, the woman places a hand on his shoulder. He jumps, as well as he can when prostrate, and huddles against the other side of the bed. “Alright. I won’t … touch you anymore. Can you tell me what your name is?” she asks gently.

He doesn’t have a name. He’s sure that whoever he’s looking for can tell him what his name is, but until he figures out how to find his missing piece, he has no idea.

It must be clear on his face, because the doctor forges on. “Where are you from? Are you from around here? Is there someone we can call to come see you, give us some information?”

“D’,” he whispers, and he would say more, but he can’t remember what else comes after. He can’t remember if anything else really matters. He tries to repeat it, because D is really important, whoever it is, but his throat hurts even more now that he’s tried to coerce it into working.

“Who’s D?” the doctor prompts. Out of the corner of his eye, he can see that she’s smiling, all glistening white teeth that throw back the sunlight in tiny glimmers. He can’t help but smile back as best he can, with stitches running down the side of his face.

He manages a sort of shrug and mouths it again. “Is that … is that a place or a person?” Again, the half-shrug and the silent plea. “Alright. Well, if you’ll just stay right here for a second, I’ll be right back. Just … don’t go anywhere, okay?”

The woman returns with another faceless figure in tow, and they each settle themselves in chairs on either side of his bed. He’s trapped, and the feeling is unpleasant, but at least he’s trapped and warm.

“So, I’ve been told you’re having a little trouble with your words. I figure I’ll just ask some questions and you can tell me yes or no, alright?” The person who speaks is another woman, but she sounds more like a girl, all bubbles and feathers. “Are you from the United States?”

That sets off faint bells in his head, but it’s probably from the ringing of her chime-like voice in his ears. “Okay. Well, are you from Alabama?”

He’s heard the word before, he’s sure of it, and yet he makes no connections. It sounds more like gibberish than anything else. She continues to rattle off nonsense words, and the lack of familiarity is starting to frighten him. His fingertips are twitching by the time she reaches Iowa.

“Are you from Kansas?” she asks, hand flopping down on the blanket beside his. He pulls his hands against his chest and wrings them together: finally, a name he recognizes. Shyly, he lets his head drop to his sternum and brings it up again. His thumbs tangle with each other like twisting vines, like coiling wire.

“So, Kansas, then? What part of Kansas? Are you from Wichita?” No response. No recognition. “Kansas City?” His fingers knot up in each other. “Topeka?” His teeth chatter and clatter. “Lawrence?”

He doesn’t like to think about Lawrence.

There’s fire behind his eyes, fire and blood, and before he even comprehends what he’s just heard, he’s nodding and crying, and he can’t stop crying, and the tears come down and down and the two women are talking to each other urgently, the words flying over his head, and he cries and cries.

“Hey, sir it’s gonna be alright. We’ll figure out what’s happened to you and get you in touch with someone who can help you, okay? I promise. Can you stop and take a deep breath for me?” No, he can’t, there’s smoke in the air and he can’t breathe, he can’t get his lungs to expand like they should, and yet he can’t stop whimpering ‘D’ over and over again through vocal cords rubbed and scraped completely raw.

“Yeah, we’ll get in touch with D as soon as you calm down. Can you remember a phone number? Anything?” the woman asks, pressing a cell phone into his twitching hand. His fingers flutter over the buttons, but he can’t remember the right combination of digits that would get D to hear him, to come get him.

Someone lays a hand on his shoulder, then starts back. “Oh my gosh, he’s freezing, still. Get him a blanket, someone, and some hot soup if there is any. Poor guy.” There’s a pause, and then he tries to open his eyes. They hurt a little less, but it’s too bright for him to keep them open all the way. He has to squint as he looks up at the person beside his bed.

It’s a young woman, he thinks, looking around the burnt white circles in the center of his vision. She has a lot of black hair tied into a big, long braid that drapes over her shoulder. “Are you sure there’s nothing you can tell us?” she asks, and she gives a sad little smile that he can only half-see. The light glints off her perfectly white teeth.

What could he tell her? He doesn’t seem to know anything, and his memory flees in the face of the light every time he tries to recall anything. Half of the words they speak, he doesn’t seem to know. They fly over his head, no matter how hard he tries to grasp them.

His eyes slide shut, and he allows his head to loll to one side. Maybe, if they think he’s asleep, they’ll leave him alone so he can try to figure things out, get to D. After he’s been settled for a few minutes, though, they start to talk across him as if he’s not even there.

“You didn’t get any information out of him?”

“Other than that he might be from Lawrence, Kansas, no. And his reaction to that might have been anything, not an indication that he’d ever even been to Lawrence. Oh, and there might be someone who knows what happened to him, but we didn’t get a name, only that it starts with D.”

“I feel so bad for the poor guy. Is he officially a John Doe?”

“Since we don’t have a name and we have to admit him, I’d say yes. How long was he outside, do you think?”

“A few days, if not a week or two. He’s undernourished, but nothing too serious. The fact that he’s still not warming up though, that worries me a bit. We’ll see if we can get a heating blanket in once he’s woken back up.”

“We’ll have to figure out somewhere to send him, if we don’t find out where he’s really from. He can’t stay here taking up a bed forever, unfortunately --”

“No need to think about that just now. He’s only been in for a few hours, we can give him another few days, at least. Let him get his bearings, calm down for a little while, and then worry about his future.”

“I just hope that D, whoever he is, gets here soon, because I can’t stand to see anyone as freaked out as that. Who could leave such a sweet-looking guy to fend for himself like that?”

It’s right about then that he opens his eyes to glare up in the direction of whoever said that, because no one left him. D would never leave him. He didn’t. He went of his own accord, and D was going to come find him, no matter what, because D was -- D was -- D was something to him. Something.

"Oh, no, don't ... don't worry, you're gonna be alright. You don't need to cry. D's gonna come. We'll find him for you. Come on, John Doe, no need to be upset. Are you cold? Do you want some more blankets?" The woman with the long black hair stares down at him, eyes sparkling. His shoulders twitch with residual shivers as he nods.

Someone rolls a tray over him, and right in the center, there's a bowl of steaming hot soup. He can feel hunger gnawing like a vicious beast in the pit of his stomach, but the soup looks too hot. He doesn't want to get burned.

"Sweetie, do you need some help? It's just soup - tomato and rice, to be exact. It's really good, I had some for myself just yesterday." He hesitates before grasping at the spoon, holding it in his fist and dipping it into the broth.

"D," he mumbles around a mouthful of rice, because this woman shouldn't be the one caring for him. He's missing D, needs him like he needs air to breathe, but instead, he's completely alone.

---

No one comes for him.

Two weeks go by, and he calls out for D as loud as he can. His throat makes a valiant effort to heal itself up, voice growing gradually stronger, but he tears it back down, because they tie down his hands whenever he gets upset and he needs to fight against something. If he stops fighting, D won’t be able to find him anymore. They’ll take him back.

He doesn’t want to go back.

They try to get him to remember where he’s from, to tell them a name (“Come on, John, just say anything other than D! I know you can do it. Come on, John, please. They’re gonna send you away if you don’t give me something to work with, here.”). But there’s nothing he could think of to say, and even if he could, all that comes out is D.

“Hey, John, I’m really sorry to say this, but we gotta move you, okay? Someone else needs this room, and there’s not much else we can do for you here. I’ll come visit you, okay? You remember me, right? I’m Lacey. Can you say Lacey?” Her fingers run through his roughly buzzed hair, and he looks up to stare at her, but the sunspots are back.

No, just one sunspot. It’s shining over her head just like a --

Like a --

“No, what are you -- I know you’re gonna miss me, John, I’m gonna miss you too, but you don’t need to worry. I’ll come to see you every single day. It’ll be like you never left, yeah? Don’t freak out. They’re gonna have to restrain you again, and I know you don’t like that.” His wrists are rubbed raw, cheeks bitten and gnawed to shreds, but he can’t look at her anymore, not if she’s one of them.

Her hands are in his hair again. She has delicate fingers, and the tips massage into his scalp. He can’t help but calm down a little bit. It’s easier if he closes his eyes. “Okay, there you go. See, it’s not so bad. You’re gonna be just fine. They’ll take good care of you. Can you stand up for me? We’re gonna get you into a chair so they can take you to the new place. It’s really nice -- they have lovely gardens, and you’re allowed to go outside whenever you like. Does that sound good?”

He’s learned, by now, that she reacts better when he smiles. Even if the letters that fall from her mouth don’t reassemble in his ears, at least she stops looking at him with her huge, shining eyes. “I even made sure they’d have plenty of tomato and rice soup for you -- that’s your favorite, remember? That’s the one you like.” The memory of hot, salty broth, little grains of rice that stick between his teeth, is the closest thing he has to home, to D. He clutches it close to his chest, rocking from side to side and muttering to himself.

“What was that? I couldn’t quite hear you.” She always asks; the answer is always the same.

“D,” he mutters, and he realizes that saying it isn’t enough, that eating soup that tastes like gunpowder and salt won’t get D to him any faster. He just has to get out, and D will find him.

--

He can’t get out.

It’s night time, and that should be the time he can get out, he knows that. He should be able to slip out between the cracks, because no one can really see him. Without D, he’s invisible. He doesn’t matter. He’s nothing.

Moonlight dances on his skin. He looks up, and there’s a pristine white globe staring back at him. It never blinks. It just stares down and down and down, and it’s far too bright. There’s a tugging on his arm, and he lets himself be dragged back inside, just as he does every time the moon stares down at him. The light is round, and clean, and pure, and he can’t let it see him. They’ll take him back if he does. They’ll come down and find him, and everything will be too bright and dark again. He just needs D to come back. D will protect him.

She comes to visit every day, and every day the light around her head grows brighter. Eventually, he takes to hiding his head between his arms when she walks in. She’s the only one that comes to see him. (“You’re the only one who can touch him. I know you don’t work here anymore, Lace, but can you … can you just … can you please take care of him?”)

“Good morning, John. How are you today?” Her teeth are gleaming white, just like always, and they shine in the sun that beams in through the little window. He mumbles his usual response. “No, I’m not D, I’m Lacey. I have soup, for later. Does that sound good to you?”

Lights flare behind her head, brighter than ever. He’s gone blind again, and cold. A shiver races down his spine as he hides his head. “Not a good day, huh? Well, it’s okay. I don’t mind. At least you know I’m here today, right? That’s better than yesterday. Did you go outside last night?”

Even her voice has halos hanging off of every syllable. A scream keens high in his throat, and he rolls into the corner. “Hey, sweetie you don’t need to be afraid. It’s just me. Just Lacey. You know me, right? Don’t you remember me?” She puts her hand on his shoulder. Again, he screams, because her hand is so bright he can feel it as it burns his flesh.

“I believe I may be able to be of assistance with Samuel, if you’ll permit my intrusion.”

It’s not D.

The man who stands in the doorway, eyes flaring with righteous fury, is not D. He would know, because if it were D, he would be certain. And this is not D. The light that burns so bright behind her head blazes like an inferno behind the man, making him scream yet again.

“Don’t be afraid, Samuel. I will be back tomorrow, when you have regathered yourself.”

Silence fills the hole the man leaves in the room, as he cradles his head in his hands and sobs. “Samuel? Is that your name?” She pauses. “Was that D, Samuel? Was that him?”

It’s never going to be him. D’s never coming back.

At least he has a name.

He has a name, and there’s no one to call him by it.

--

“Samuel, wake up. It’s morning, and I’ve been informed that it’s time for breakfast.” The man’s hand is tugging on his blankets. When he opens his eyes, the light burns a little brighter than yesterday. Samuel -- that doesn’t seem quite right, he notes, but it is much more fitting than John, a name for darkness and growling and drinking -- presses his face into the pillow, so he doesn’t have to watch.

“I’m not going to hurt you. I’m here to bring you home. I am a friend, Samuel. You don’t need to panic.” The man kneels down beside the bed, and his hands are all over Samuel, rubbing and coaxing and waking until he bucks and writhes beneath the burning hot touch.

“Dean is waiting for you. He can’t come here to see you, but as soon as you’re ready, I’ll take you to him.”

He’s lying. The man is lying. He’s looking for D, not Dean, and D’s going to come find him. The man is a liar, and just looking at him makes Samuel’s eyes burn. He wants to scream him away, until his voice chases the man out of the room. He wants to be alone. He’s just going to lie here and wait for D, and if he stops paying attention to him, maybe the man will just leave.

“Your breakfast’s here for you when you’re hungry. I can tell that I’m disturbing you, so I’ll leave. But I’ll be back tomorrow. Farewell, Samuel.” It’s at about that time that she comes in, all flustered with worry, running her tiny hands across his scalp.

“I’m so sorry, Samuel, I never meant to let him in here. I thought I told the receptionist that he wasn’t to be let in, I don’t know how he snuck past, I’m so sorry. If I had known, I would have told them to change the passwords on the doors, I had no idea he was going to try to get in here again. It won’t happen again, Sam. I can tell you don’t like him. It’s okay, you don’t need to worry. I’m gonna protect you.”

For a brief moment, her hand is big, and calloused in all the places where the handle of an old gun has rubbed against it for too long. His head is dwarfed by her grip, and his long, shaggy hair hangs in his face, as he wipes the remnants of salt from his fingers and puts away the knives he’d been practicing throwing.

Then it’s all gone, and she’s got her fingertips on his cheeks as he wails and cries. The -- memory? dream? does it matter? -- has vanished, and he can’t even recall what it was about. “Just calm down. Mr. Novak’s gone, he won’t be back --”

Wings.

The man has wings.

He’s standing outside the window, and there are wings growing out of his back.

Samuel closes his eyes, turns his awareness inside out until the only thing he can see is his memories, foggy, swirling things that can’t hold his attention. He drifts on the eddies, riding the ebb and flow, waiting until it’s safe to come back outside.

--

“Hey, Sam? You wanna come out of there and eat? They’re gonna have to give you a feeding tube if you don’t start eating soon. I can guarantee you wouldn’t like that very much.”

The voice startles him, and he flinches, smacking his head into the wall. “There you are! Good to see you. It’s been a little while. Do you wanna maybe eat some of your lunch? The chef in the kitchen’s been very offended that you haven’t been eating his food the past couple days.”

She smiles at him, around the flaring sunspots that still refuse to go back into the sky where they belong, and nods at a steaming tray on the table beside his bed. He glances around in a panic before realizing that he’s curled into a tiny ball between the frame of the bed and the wall, joints far past complaining and into icy numbness from lack of use.

“Do you need a hand? It’s been a while since you -- there you go, that’s it. Just stand up nice and slow --” He gets up onto two shaking twigs that once resembled his legs, but quickly tumbles forward and lands trapped in a cage -- in her arms. She’s caught him, and her light laughter rumbles and roars through his ears. “Alright, we can sit for awhile. Not too long, though, or the soup will be cold, and that wouldn’t be fun.

“Did you have a nice vacation? I know it can be stressful sometimes, and it must have been nice to be off by yourself for a little bit. Glad you decided to come back, though!” He staggers to his feet, her protests unheard, and trips across the floor until his nose is pressed against the cool glass pane of the window.

The man isn’t there.

“What are you looking at? Something I should know about? Why don’t you come sit back down here? I’m sure you’re a bit achy, after all that sitting.” There’s no halo behind her head; he stares straight at her face, and his eyes don’t burn. The man has stolen her light, and he’s going to steal Samuel’s, too, if he doesn’t get away.

“Mr. Novak keeps coming by to see you. I let him in -- just once, mind you, and I was sitting here the whole time -- but he didn’t say anything. He just sat here and watched. I told the security guards that they could allow him up to visit you, but only when I’m here, okay? You won’t have to be alone with him.”

He can’t stop staring into her eyes. They’re hazel and green, like honey spilled on wintry grass. Seeing them drags another memory -- ? -- forward, and he’s sitting in the passenger seat of an old car while a bass beat pounds in his ears.

The driver is singing loudly, fingers tapping on the steering wheel in perfect rhythm. It should be too loud, too irritating, but it isn’t. It’s home.

It’s D.

He remembers now. He remembers something, at least. D has hazel eyes.

D is a person. He’s a real person.

Samuel’s not crazy.

--

The man comes every morning, right after breakfast. He stays until she leaves, and then Samuel is alone in his little room.

He’d rather be alone than be with the man. Sometimes he glances up and the man looks just like a man should. Sometimes though the lights are so bright that his eyes are twin torches and his clothes are all set ablaze, and he burns pure white, sparking like fireworks that leave imprints on Samuel’s eyelids.

At least the man hasn’t hurt him yet.

He’ll lay a hand on his shoulder, gently, but he takes it away as soon as Samuel starts to shudder and moan. It’s far too hot, and it hurts. After a while, he starts running his fingers up and down his back. The motions leave trailing burns on his skin.

She comes to him one day, and there are tears glistening on her cheeks. “They’re letting him take you, Sam. They’re letting Mr. Novak take you away today.”

They’re making him leave her again. To go with the man.

“No, Sam, no. Don’t scream like that. It’s gonna be okay. I mean, he’s a good guy, he’s gonna take care of you. He will. Don’t you worry. And I’ll make sure to visit you once a week. Twice, if you want. It’s gonna be fine. Don’t freak out, Sammy.”

He buries his face in the crook of her shoulder, long arms squeezing her tight against his chest. “D,” he whispers, because how will D see him if the man’s light blocks him out? If the man snuffs out Samuel’s light, D won’t be able to find him.

“Yeah, he’ll help you find D. You’re gonna find him, I promise. You’re gonna get better, Sammy. You will. I know it. I can tell.”

White moonlight glows on her face, turning her tears to crystal. He hides his face again and sobs, because the man’s halo is going to burn him away, and he’ll be alone forever.

--

“Samuel, I’m taking you to see Dean. He’s been waiting a long time to see you, but I encouraged him to wait until you’d been released.”

He doesn’t even know who Dean is. The man’s settled him in the passenger seat of the wrong car -- this isn’t the one that will take him to D, it’s not even the right color -- but instead of driving away, the man closes his eyes.

When Samuel blinks, he looks around to find himself somewhere completely different.

“We’re at Bobby’s house. Dean is waiting inside for you. Are you ready? Are you ready to come home, Samuel?”

D isn’t here. This isn’t home. This is the man blinding him, stealing him away and keeping him for himself. D’s going to save him, soon. He just has to wait.

The car door opens with a loud creak. Samuel steps out and follows the man towards a small house, where they both stand on the porch while the bell echoes. “Sam? Is that you?” another man asks. He sounds awed.

“I’ve got him. But he’s … not himself. Is Dean inside?” The new man is old, wrinkled, familiar like worn-out tennis shoes. Samuel can’t help but smile when he sees him, because while he’s not D, he’s close enough to take the edge off his want, for a little while.

“Yeah. Just bring Sam inside and I’ll get Dean.” The old man pauses. “What should I tell him, Cas?”

The man just nods toward Samuel, his light a spotlight, a beacon that hides rather than reveals. He’s going to fade away in its brilliance. He’ll never find D again.

He walks inside, following the man, and when he reaches a room filled with comfortable couches, he sees him.

It’s D.

It’s him.

It’shimit’shimit’shimit’shimit’shim.

“Sammy? Sammy, s’that you? Oh, God, Sam. Sam, I couldn’t -- I didn’t -- Jesus, Sammy. Why didn’t you come back earlier?”

His eyes are just the right shade of hazel and his voice is gruff and he’s wearing an old leather jacket and it’s him.

“D,” he whispers, because there’s nothing else he can say. Nothing else he needs to say.

“What happened to you, bro? Cas told me you were locked up. You’re alright now, though, right? You’re fine. You’re here now, you must be fine.”

Sam -- that’s his name, isn’t it? If that’s what D calls him, it must be right. -- takes two long steps forward, and then he’s entirely tangled around D, grip far too tight to be comfortable, but it doesn’t matter. Because it’s him, it’s D, and he’s here, and Sam’s here, and everything is alright.

“D,” he whispers again, against the skin of his neck, and he just wants to go to sleep and wake up again, to confirm that he’s not dreaming again. If this were a dream, D would be on fire, or Sam would be. So he must be awake. And D’s here.

“Can’t you say anything else? That’s not even my name, man.” D laughs, and his grip is just as vicelike, and he doesn’t stop laughing.

Sam pulls away.

This has to be D. It has to be. He looks like him, he sounds like him -- it can’t not be. Sam doesn’t know what he’ll do if this isn’t him.

“It’s me, Sammy. It’s Dean. I’m sorry I didn’t come earlier, but I didn’t think you’d … I thought you’d react better to Cas. I thought he could … could help, maybe. I guess not. But I wanted to come, I swear to you. Every day since we knew you were back, I had to resist showing up in that room of yours and busting you loose.”

The silence fits around them like an old, worn blanket, familiar and comforting though it provides little warmth. Sam tries out the flavor of ‘Dean’ on his tongue, silently, and decides he rather likes it. It belongs there.

“Dean,” he murmurs, as the man walks in. His light is enough to block Dean out of Sam’s vision, and he screams, because he can’t stand to be alone again. He can’t.

“Whoa there, slow down, Speedy. No need to run off. It’s just Cas. He came to visit you every -- fuck, why doesn’t he remember, Cas? Does he remember anything? I can’t -- can you fix it? Please?”

The man looks down at Sam, eyes sad and pitying. Sam wants to rail, to shout, to scream with rage, but he’s too busy reaching out madly to yank Dean down to his level. “I cannot. His mind is too damaged for me to heal. I tried, before I arrived in his room, and soon after, but he was … harmed by my attempts. I did not try again after that,” the man replies, and Sam realizes that’s what caused him to shut himself in, that first time. He’d thought it was his own choice.

The man was hurting him, even then.

Sam glares at the man as best as he can, finally ceasing his screaming. “Dude, why does he seem to hate you so much? He screamed when you came in, and now he’s giving you the death face.” Dean pauses and stares at Sam. “What did you do to him, exactly?”

“I do not believe Samuel would wish me to speak of it.”

Dean sighs and puts an arm over Sam’s shoulder. “Come on, Sasquatch. Let’s get you your bed and all that. I’m guessing you don’t have too much stuff with you?” He doesn’t wait for an answer before tugging Sam up the stairs.

He wishes he was able to tell Dean that he didn’t need to pull; Sam will follow wherever Dean wants him to go.

--

“What did Cas do to you, huh? Did he hurt you somehow?” Dean asks, once they’re in a tiny bedroom that reeks of salt, sweat, and steel. He pushes Sam down onto the near bed and sits himself on the far one, so there’s nowhere for Sam to look but directly at Dean. Staring so intently into Dean’s eyes is making his head hurt, but he can’t bring himself to turn away.

“Come on, Sam. You can talk to me. You know that. Did he mess with you? I need to know so I can tell how hard I need to punch him.” Sam doesn’t answer; he’s far too busy remembering how to shape the word ‘yes’ to give any sort of acknowledgment.

“Sam, if you don’t answer, you’re a prissy little girl who loves playing with My Little Ponies.”

“Answer me, Sam!”

“Y-y-y-yes...” he stammers. It’s far too drawn out, he can tell, but Dean seems to know what he’s trying to say.

Still, Sam has enough time to snare his arms around his own chest, to curl inward and stare down at his own elbows before Dean responds.

“What did he do to you? I swear to God, I’m gonna kill him.” His rage is quite obvious, as he tries to yank Sam’s arms back to a normal position. “Look at me. Tell me what he did.”

“L-l-lights,” Sam gasps. “Heat. W-wings.” The words are coming easier, crowding up against the backs of his teeth as he tries to convince himself that the man isn’t listening to him. “He’s too -- too bright. Hurts.”

“Dean? Is something the matter?” the man calls, from the doorway. Dean shoots up onto his feet, suddenly towering over everything else in the room.

“You fix what you did to my brother, you son of a bitch, or I won’t hesitate to tear your haloed head right off your shoulders.” There’s almost no emotion; he’s too far gone in anger to express himself.

The man begins to glow, and Sam whimpers, hiding even further within himself. “I didn’t do anything to him -- as soon as I tried, he panicked. The problems he’s experiencing are side effects of his time in the cage. If he’s attached some of his issues to me, then I apologize, but there’s nothing I can do to abate the symptoms,” the man explains, his glow growing ever brighter. Sam’s awareness begins to fade away, and he can feel himself slumping down onto the bed.

It’s far safer within the confines of his own head. The space is comfortably small, and completely dark, and silent. No screaming, no lights to blind him, no men to hide Dean from him. Here, he can imagine that he’s not terrified anymore, that he and Dean are sitting in the car, guns in the trunk, on the way to --

“Sam! Cas, just fix him already! For Christ’s sake, fix him! Why won’t he stop screaming?” Shouts echo against the cavernous walls of his skull, and he pulls himself into a ball. “Chill out, Sam! Everything’s fine, he’s not gonna hurt you. You’re fine, just calm down!”

Sam falls silent. If he says no to Dean, he might be forced to go away, and they’ll put him back in the -- where he came from. Wherever that was.

“Get outta here, Cas.” He doesn’t even sound angry. He sounds … empty. It mirrors Sam’s feelings exactly.

“I want to speak to Sam in private for a moment. Would you mind?” Cas requests briskly. Neither Sam nor Dean seem to know how to respond to that.

“Five minutes. That’s it. Then I’m coming in. And if he starts screaming, you leave. End of story.” Dean walks away, then, with intense purpose, and he slams the door behind him. The room is filled with the man’s light, and Sam sits down heavily on the bed, cradling his head in his hands. Something is buzzing, very loudly, filling his ears.

“Sam, I don’t understand why you think I’m going to hurt you, but I can assure you that I bear you no ill will. I only want to help you, although I realize I’ve wounded you in the process. That was never my intent. I just wanted to get you to a point where you could come home. Dean needed you. Needs you.”

The man sits down beside him, too close for comfort. Sam sidles away, but the man just follows like a dog after a bone. “You have to forgive me. All I wanted to do was fix the damage you received in the cage,” he explains. Sam looks over at the man, squinting at the sunspots smattering his vision.

“The cage?” he parrots. He thinks he’s heard the term before, but he has no idea what it means.

No answer is offered.

It’s clear the man is not going to respond, so Sam tries to open his eyes fully and stares at the man. He has bright blue eyes that shoot arrows straight into Sam’s chest, but at least they’re pleasant. His mouth is open in a hesitant smile. “You’re going to be alright, Sam. I’m sure of it.”

They sit in silence for several minutes, until Dean opens the door, slowly and carefully. “You done terrorizing my brother?” he asks, voice a growl.

“I believe Sam’s going to be fine,” the man answers, as if that explains anything.

“We’ll deal with it, between the three of us. Now go see if Bobby’s ready for lunch. I’m sure Sasquatch here is starving.”

As Dean leads him down the stairs, rambling absently about some girl he’d met before Sam came back, Sam decides that Dean is right. That they’ll deal with it, somehow.

He might even spend the effort to learn the man’s name.

END

Prompt: He is hypothermic when he wakes. Cold, bare feet, dumb and shaking hands, lips that might be blue if he could see them. He is half-blind in the daytime as if he's stared too long at the sun. He doesn't know his name, he doesn't know where he's from, he only knows that he has to go home. Where is home, they ask him? And they name towns and cities and states. He denies them all, though he pauses on South Dakota and Kansas without knowing why. He must live somewhere, they tell him, but he can only say D and no one knows what that means. But they give him warm blankets and hot soup, socks for his chilly feet and a white band on his wrist that names him John Doe. He is kept with the medicated and the mad and he hides every night that there's a clear full moon. Hides from its light like he expects it to burn him. Maybe he is mad. He thinks so because an angel - and angels are badwrongpainhurt - starts coming to him. A little bit every day and approaching him slowly, carefully like he's a stray dog in desperate need of help, but who might still bite. The angel says he can take him home, but angels hurt and he just doesn't know.

Author's Note Redux: I am insanely nervous to post this fic. One, because all the fics written for this exchange have been amazing so far, and two, because this prompt is so beautiful that I'm still worried that I didn't live up to it in the slightest. (also, my Cas voice is terrible! grr. if only I had time to watch S4 and S5.) Still, I hope you all enjoyed!
Tags: fic, h/c exchange, supernatural
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