I Think, Therefore I Am Not
A/N: Pointless brotherly mush featuring crazy Sam. Another vague instalment of my Genesis 'verse.
“Do you think about it?” Sam asks, out of the blue and without any of the necessary clarification, which is still fairly typical of Sam. He's gotten better, over time, or maybe Dean's just gotten better at following his brother's odd trains of thought, but this time Sam has him stumped. Dean looks up from the Impala's engine, where he's been tinkering for the last half hour. There's nothing wrong with her but this, working on Baby with Sammy at his side? There's nothing more normal, and after the week they've had, normal is something they need.
Sam is perched on Bobby's work bench, which is meticulously clean – all the tools are under lock and key these days – twisting the hem of his shirt between restless fingers, the notebook he'd been flicking through abandoned at his side. He chews his lip nervously as he waits for an answer.
Dean grabs a rag to wipe off his hands. “You're going to need to give me some context, Sammy.”
Sam's eyes are on his fingers, the floor, anywhere but Dean's face. “I'd get it, if you did. I think...” Sam swallows. He takes a breath, like he's bracing himself for something bad. “I don't think I'd like it, but I don't really know anything anymore, right?”
Not right. Dean frowns. “That's bullshit, Sam. You know lots of things.”
Sam shrugs a shoulder. “Not really. Not always. Sometimes I know lots of things but not all of them are real.”
“Sam, what is it that you think you wouldn't like?” Simple questions, that's what this calls for. Sam's thoughts are obviously running a little wild and if something is upsetting his brother, Dean damn well needs to know, before something else happens.
“Maybe I don't think that,” Sam backs down, shrinking into himself. “I can't remember what the right thing to think is. Sometimes I think I do but sometimes when I listen to myself I do crazy things.” Sam bites his lip again, fingers moving to the bandage that wraps neatly around his wrist, the stripes of white peeking out beneath the sleeve of his hoodie, and Dean automatically steps closer, dropping the rag and gently tugging Sam's hand away before his fidgeting unravels the cloth, again. He doesn't share Sam's morbid fascination with the dark web of stitches beneath.
“Hey, rules, remember?” Dean reminds him. “Leave it alone.”
Sam takes back his hand and wraps his arms around himself, curling forward. “I keep forgetting. I keep forgetting but I don't mean to, I swear.”
The pleading note that creeps into Sam's voice makes Dean's stomach sink. Sam isn't talking abut the way he keeps fucking up his bandages. This is something else, something bigger. He's been quiet all week, but that's not entirely abnormal for Sam, particularly while recovering from a meltdown, and this meltdown was bad. The absolute worst meltdown since the weeks immediately after the Cage, and it took them all by surprise, given how much more functional Sam has become since then.
“All right, wait,” Dean says, before Sam gets any more worked up. He turns and boosts himself up onto the bench beside Sam, not too close, in case this isn't a touching sort of day, but not too far either, in case it is. “Lets start again because I'm having a hard time following, okay?”
He waits while Sam takes a deep breath that turns into several before he relaxes a little, the death grip he has on himself loosening. Dean imagines him counting in his head, timing his breaths like they've done together so many times before – Sam is a walking bundle of coping mechanisms Dean found on the internet.
“Okay,” Sam says after a moment. “Where was the start?”
“You wanted to know if I was thinking about something,” Dean prompts patiently. If he's learnt anything sine Sam came back, it's how to be patient. “Something that you might not like.”
“Oh yeah.” Sam's face darkens as he picks up his train of thought. “The hospital. I didn't like the hospital.”
“Okay,” Dean says slowly, trying to think of what could be bothering Sam about last weeks hospital visit. Lots of things, really. All the things. “I didn't like it much either.” In fact, it was pretty much his worst nightmare brought to life. “But you lost a lot of blood, Sammy. We had to take you.”
“I know,” Sam agrees quickly. “I know. Sometimes I have to do things I don't like because it's what's best for me,” he recites, nodding to himself. “That's why I thought you might think about it, because I don't always like what's best for me but it always works out okay when you say it will so maybe it would be okay, if that's what you thought, even if I really don't think I'd like it...”
Sam trails off, tilting his head to peer sideways at Dean through the hair that fans across his face, always in his eyes these days because Dean still hasn't found a good time to introduce the concept of haircuts to his hell-scarred little brother and the idea of putting sharp objects near Sam's face doesn't seem like a good one anyway so fuck it, long hair it is. He looks at Dean expectantly, waiting for an answer to a question Dean still hasn't figured out. It's kind of terrifying, the trust Sam has in him, the way Sam just puts his life in Dean's hands like Dean hasn't pretty much just been winging it this entire time, fumbling through trial and error, getting by out of sheer stubbornness. He thinks hard, trying to put the pieces of Sam's scattered conversation together.
“Are you worried about going back to the hospital?” he guesses. “Because we don't need to. I can take out your stitches myself.”
Sam shakes his head. “No, not... not for the stitches. The doctor, or the nurse or someone, I don't know, they said...” Sam's hand has crept back to the bandage at this wrist, fussing with the edges, and Dean reaches out to pull it away again.
“What'd they say?” Dean frowns. If he finds out that one of those douche-bags at the hospital said anything to Sammy behind his back that has him fucked up, Dean is so going to march down there and raise all kinds of hell.
“They said... they told you...” Sam takes a deep breath behind his curtain of hair. “They said you should think about committing me, right? I didn't imagine that?”
Dean actually has to think for a moment, a denial on the tip of his tongue, but, oh yeah, one of the doctors had brought up the idea of 'in-patient care'. Dean had dismissed the notion so fast that the conversation had barely warranted remembering.
“Fuck, Sammy, is that what you've been thinking? That I'm going to ditch you in some locked ward?” Dean shakes his head firmly. “That was one dumb-ass doctor's dumb-ass opinion, Sam. It's not happening.”
Sam twists his fingers in the hem of his shirt, quiet. Dean waits.
“Are you sure?” Sam asks finally. “I know I scared the ever-living shit out of you.” It's funny sometimes, hearing Dean's words coming out of Sam's mouth, the way the kid parrots his phrasing and inflections since he got back from the Cage – words like 'Impala' and 'son of a bitch' filtered through even in the early days when Sam mostly spoke Enochian - but not now when the phrase is heavy with memories of white corridors and black stitches and a woozy, blood-deprived little brother. He remembers clutching Sam's hand – the one not attached to the sewn-up wrist that Sam tore apart with his fucking teeth – and breathing those words, 'fuck, Sammy, you scared the ever-living shit out of me', as the kid fuzzily returned to consciousness. “If you needed a break from all the crap that comes with taking care of me, I'd get it,” Sam says, shoulders slumping. “I'd take a break from me, if I could.”
Dean tenses at all the horrible implications he can find behind those words but Sam rushes to speak before he can.
“Not like that. I wasn't trying to kill myself. It was just... I was... I don't know.” Sam scrubs his hands down his face. “I don't know anything anymore.”
“Okay, stop.” Dean takes Sam's hands and tugs until Sam dubiously turns to look at him. “Let's get this straight. I do not need or even want a break from you. Every day, even the ones that suck, I am so damn happy that you're here. I will always choose you over no you, no matter how much crap comes along with the job. Looking after my pain in the ass little brother; that's what I do. And as long as you know that, you know enough. Got it?”
He pokes Sam in the chest to make his point and watches with relief as Sam's uncertainty dissolves, a small smile tugging at the corners of his lips as he bats at Dean's hand.
“I got it,” he says, rolling his eyes. “You mean I'm stuck with you. Jerk.”
Dean reaches out and ruffles Sam's hair, grinning when Sam squawks indignantly. “Damn straight, bitch.”