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Fic: Saving Sam

Title: Saving Sam
Author: brightly_lit
Rating: PG, nothing they can't show on t.v.
Genre: gen, hurt!Dean, h/c, meta
Characters: Dean, Sam, John, Dr. Hydeker, Karla, Tessa
Word Count: ~2,200
Summary: Dean wakes up in the hospital. He's told he was in a coma, his mother and father are still alive ... and that he is Sam, an only child. There never was a Dean.

"Take away Sam, and what was Dean? Nothing."

Dean woke up, as he had enough times before, shackled to a bed in a hospital. He started trying to work his hands out of the leather cuffs immediately, at the same time trying to figure out how he had ended up here. The last thing he remembered was Sam, Sam sick, Sam nearly dead, angels falling ... it wasn’t the end of the world--he and Sam managed to avert that--but it felt like it. For the angels to fall out of heaven, for angels to be dicks, for God himself to be AWOL ... his life was like a neverending nightmare.

However he ended up here, then, it couldn’t be good--angels, maybe, or more likely Crowley, demons in the bodies of nurses. They had some kind of plans for him undoubtedly--torture of some sort or another, whoever got him here. Best case, he’d gotten his ass seriously kicked by someone or something and landed himself in the hospital again, but with Sam so weak, he couldn’t come for Dean. As it had always been, Dean had to do it all, look after himself and Sammy, and jesus, why did this have to happen now, with Sam in the condition he was in? He had to get back and take care of him.

He wasn’t having his usual luck with the leather cuffs. There was no lock to pick--they were strapped and belted on--but truth was, even if there was a lock, he couldn’t quite seem to remember how to pick it. Weird; it had been second nature for decades now.

He heard a female voice outside his room and saw movement through the small window in the door. “Oh, my God, he’s awake!” Oh, boy, here we go. He remembered the wraith in the mental ward. He remembered the reaper right before Dad died trying its best to kill him. He remembered lots of things. He redoubled his efforts.

The door flew open. “Sam?” said a sinister-looking doctor, all kind concern--the shtriga, it was the shtriga! They hadn’t killed the bastard after all.

“I’ll kill you!” Dean shouted. “How did you get away?! I saw them--I saw the life-force go out of you, and the kids were okay! I know I killed you, you son of a bitch, so how are you here?”

The doctor feigned alarm; the nurse’s might be real. The doctor nodded at the nurse, murmuring something to her that Dean could swear was, “Call his father.” She nodded and left.

Another nurse came in and started filling a syringe. Dean struggled harder and protested, but he was weak, so weak. He couldn’t remember ever being so weak.

The shtriga guy held out a hand to her, telling her not to administer whatever it was just yet, and gingerly sat down on a rolling chair by Dean’s bed. “It’s okay, Sam,” he said. He reached to pat Dean’s shoulder, but thought better of it at Dean’s violent response, lunging toward him with everything he could--his torso and his head--his ankles were shackled, too, he now discovered. “It’s okay. You’ve been dreaming for a long time; it’s normal for you not to know right now what’s real and what’s not. You know how we know you’ve been dreaming? All the thrashing around,” he said with a smile, nodding to the shackles, which he reached for and then seemed to think better of unbuckling, at least for the moment. Wise fellow.

“I know exactly what’s real, you bastard. I know what you are and what you’ve done, I just can’t figure out how you’re still alive.”

The look of concern that rippled across the shtriga’s face seemed so genuine. So did the look he shared with the nurse. His face seemed so real, greyish under fluorescent light, aged ... human in a way no one had looked human in years. His emotions were so real, so transparent, complicated and raw and fragile. The nurse, too--Dean looked, and saw that humanity, that fragility, right before he realized it was the wraith, the wraith! Dean struggled in earnest now. There was nothing in Dad’s journal about wraiths and shtrigas teaming up. Most monsters would just as soon kill other kinds of monsters as kill you. If they were joining forces, the shit must really be about to hit the fan. Dean wondered vaguely how much more shit could possibly hit the fan as he tried desperately to escape, but he was tiring fast, out of breath, from this little struggle; what the hell was going on??

The first nurse appeared in the doorway, nodding to the doctor, saying, “He’s on his way.”

Dean got his first real look at her, and there she was: Tessa, the reaper who had tried so hard to kill him before Dad gave his life for Dean’s. “What in the name of all that’s holy--Tessa, what the hell are you doing here, working with these monsters??”

Tessa exchanged quick looks with the shtriga and the wraith, and Tessa’s face showed only a simple joy. She flushed slightly, smiling, as the doctor noted, “He knows your name!”

“Guess you must remember me from all the times I read to you.”

“Seems like he remembers what you read a little too well, Tess,” said the doctor, with a rueful smile shared to some degree by all of them. “Told you not to read to him from those horror comics.”

Tessa looked genuinely regretful. “His dad said he liked comics,” she defended weakly, nothing like the Tessa Dean knew. “He said that’s all he ever read ....”

“I read him the Bible,” the wraith noted piously.

“And his dad read him adventure stories,” said the doctor.

“What about his mom?” asked the wraith innocently. Dean gritted his teeth, remembering all the havoc her innocent act had led to. He and Sam had been fooled once by it, never again.

An odd reluctance came over the doctor’s face--a professionalism--as he said delicately, “She, uh ... she didn’t make it in to see him that much.”

Dean had been screwed with by monsters talking about his mom one too many times to fall for that now. “Where’s Sam?” Dean demanded.

“You’re right here, Sam,” said Tessa kindly, patting his foot.

“No one believed you would wake up,” said the wraith in wonder, “but I prayed, and look, a miracle!”

“I’ll show you a freakin’ miracle, you evil bitch! Tell me where my little brother is!” Dean was watching their faces closely for anything they might let slip, so he saw the confusion and concern come over all three of them at the same time.

“You don’t have a brother, Sam,” the doctor finally said gently. “It’s just you, and your mom and dad, so you can imagine how happy they’ll be when they see you’re finally awake.”

Dean didn’t seem to have his usual mental toughness any more than the physical strength he was accustomed to. That was the only explanation he had for why his eyes suddenly filled with tears and his heart felt too heavy to bear, for why the best retort he was able to come up with was, “No, I’m Dean.”

The look they shared now was one of pity. The wraith stroked his head tenderly. “You’ll get it all sorted out in no time,” she said, and the pity in her voice would have made him punch someone yesterday. Today, it made him hate himself as much as he ever had. He couldn’t even keep his little brother alive. He couldn’t even deserve one in the first place.

They left him alone for a few minutes, where he struggled vainly with the cuffs, weaker by the second, wondering what kind of world he’d ended up in. Maybe this was one of those djinn who fed off of fear, but this wasn’t fear he was feeling, it was devastation, confusion, desperation. All was lost. Was there a djinn that fed off of that? He’d have to get to Dad’s journal and see.

Twisting around, he caught sight of himself in a mirror, and he looked like Sam! Only ... only he wasn’t Sam, he was too short and too young. Way too short, and not that cute, and without the air of genius Sam carried around. No way. Sam wasn’t bad, but everyone knew Dean was the cute one. Sam might be the smart one, but Dean was better-looking than pretty much anyone else on the planet. It had never been much fun to be Dean, but that had definitely been one of the perks. What kind of perfect world had the djinn created for Dean?! That settled it; it definitely wasn’t a happy-dream djinn.

The voice in the doorway shot through him like a bullet--a sensation he was all too well accustomed to by now. Dad. Dad there, looking so normal in khakis and a sweater, kind of like the sweaters Sammy wore when he was at Stanford. Dad didn’t seem badass at all, especially once the tears started streaming down his face, like they did that one time Dean almost died, when Tessa almost took him, when Dad told him the secret about Sam, that he might have to die.

“Son,” Dad cried, then sat beside him and clutched him to him as tightly as he could, and all Dean could think was how real he smelled, more real than he could ever remember him smelling, even when he and Sam were kids. This was not the dad who had acted like he barely cared when he knew Dean was dying, not the dad who barked orders at them and taught them to bow-hunt (Dean loved it, even when Sam hated it), not the dad who was obsessed with hunting down the demon who had done what it did to Sam in order to kill it and make all the badness go away, make everything go back to the way it used to be. It was just ... Dad.

“Dad, where’s Sam?” Dean asked him urgently.

Dad didn’t even hesitate. “You’re right here, son,” he wept, stroking Dean’s head with trembling hands. “You’re finally back home, my sweet boy.”

If even Dad didn’t know the truth, then it couldn’t really be Dad. It couldn’t really be Dad, anyway; Dad was dead. Dean tried to steel himself against that knowledge, to prepare to kill whatever monster was taking Dad’s form. Instead he wept, too, beyond thought. Was he really so weak that some monster could come along and say a few words and reduce him to this childish neediness? Had his real dad taught him nothing? This monster must be inside his mind. It must know all his weaknesses. Take away Sam, and what was Dean? Nothing.

It had to be a djinn. When the djinn got him that first time, that was the one thing he didn’t have in his perfect fantasy world that he had in the real world: Sam. Sam hated him in that world, but at least he was there. To take him away? “You made a serious miscalculation, buddy,” Dean managed to choke out. “You’ve got me now, I’ll give you that, but I’ll get out of this. I know what you are.”

His dad drew back to peer into his face for a moment, plainly confused, then looked to the shtriga doctor, who sighed. “It’s been like this since he woke up. It makes sense. Some coma patients remember dreaming, sometimes very meaningful dreams. Some of them even remember the dream that sort of brought them out of it. He’s been dreaming all this time--vivid dreams, from the sound of things. He just hasn’t quite come all the way back to reality yet. He’ll get there.”

Dad gave a rueful smile. “Those adventure books I read him,” he sighed.

“It wasn’t just you,” said Tessa guiltily.

Dad looked at him, deep in his eyes, with no trace of fear or doubt, just absolute sincerity, and Dean couldn’t remember Dad ever looking like this before, ever, so vulnerable. “Do you remember what happened, son?” he asked gently. At the look on Dean’s face, Dad went on, “You were playing soccer, goalie, and--and there was an accident with the goal post, you hit your head so hard ....” His eyes welled up again, and Dean stared, entranced, at the lines on his dad’s face, at the way the tear traveled down it. Was it his imagination, or had everything all this time had this veneer of perfection, every face just a little too beautiful, every body a little too perfect, the lighting just right? What was real?

“But--but it’s Sam who played soccer,” Dean stuttered.

Dad smiled and nodded. “That’s right, Sam. Oh, god, Sam. Eight years. It feels like a hundred. You were so young, and ... and you’re a man now! Twenty-two. We can celebrate your twenty-first a little bit late.” He grinned through the tears. A vague memory came to Dean, among memories already beginning to fade, of a grown-up little girl in a hospital bed in a coma who looked like Snow White, making her fairy-tale dreams into nightmares come true.

“We have to find Sam,” Dean insisted, getting close to hysterical. “I have to look out for him, that’s my job, my only job, Dad, don’t you see? I have to save Sam!”

“You did it, son,” Dad sighed, kissing his head and hugging him tight. “You saved my Sam.”

~ The End ~

- I have written a long author's note/meta about this story and its inception, which talks a lot about problems I have with S8, so if you are afraid that might ruin the fic for you, don't click! :-) Likewise if you have your own interpretation of this fic that you're attached to. I believe the author's interpretation is only one of many that are all equally valid, but mine might differ significantly from yours and I don't want that to interfere with your reading of it. Even if you do read the author's note, I'd love it if first you'd comment here and share your reading of it before it may be altered by mine. Hope you enjoy!


( 26 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 8th, 2013 12:43 am (UTC)
Oct. 8th, 2013 08:29 pm (UTC)
Ooh, thank you!
Oct. 8th, 2013 01:39 am (UTC)
for me, this is a horror fic..... a well done one!
Oct. 8th, 2013 08:30 pm (UTC)
Oh, thank you very much.
Oct. 8th, 2013 02:07 am (UTC)
Holy crap, this was depressing...in a good way.

My favorite line: The voice in the doorway shot through him like a bullet-
Oct. 8th, 2013 08:33 pm (UTC)
Aww, it is sad to imagine not having our Sam and Dean ... but it's also their only shot at having a real apple-pie life. It never occurred to me that it was depressing until I got these comments!

Glad you liked.
Oct. 8th, 2013 02:29 am (UTC)
This is a horror story!
Oct. 8th, 2013 08:31 pm (UTC)
I was surprised to get this reaction! I thought of it more as pretty much the happiest ending Sam and Dean could hope for at this point ...
Oct. 8th, 2013 03:43 am (UTC)
Very nice. Can't wait to read your notes on this.

Oct. 8th, 2013 08:29 pm (UTC)
Glad you liked!

Just posted 'em: http://brightly-lit.livejournal.com/19290.html :-)
Oct. 8th, 2013 08:59 pm (UTC)
I absolutely, completely adore this fic, on levels I didn’t know fan fiction (as much as I love it!) could reach. Holy. Crap. This is amazingly deep. The longer I think about it, the more things in the SPN canon feed into it, until it feels like it explains/redeems/makes more tragic/cures the pain of/beautifully deepens the pain of/fixes/delightfully breaks/encompasses the whole thing. Thank you, so much, for writing this.

Funny, the comments that say this is a horror fic. I mean, I know it’s because the idea of no Dean or Sam the way we know them is horrific, because we love them so much. :-) But to me, this is the exact, polar opposite of horror! It’s anti-horror, waking up from the nightmare you are SO relieved to find isn’t real. I mean, haven’t we all desperately wanted to rescue Sam and Dean? As much as I adore SPN, how much of a relief is it, on a real world level, to imagine that none of those horrors ever happened? That angels aren’t just as evil/selfish/amoral as demons or anything else, that monsters aren’t trying to kill us at every juncture, that these poor, beloved, heroic men haven’t suffered so terribly, that love and belonging and a fulfilling life are actually possible for them. Which, in canon, we are constantly reminded just can never be.

The symbolism, the way Sam split his mind into two archetypes, trying to deal with the (common, every day, but no less tragic than the supernatural) horror of his situation, is just stunning. Of course all Sam and Dean ever had was each other, as young Sam was trapped inside himself. I adore how he created characters of the people around him who tried, but failed to help him, and in his mind became the shepherds of death (the inclusion of both the shtriga as the doctor, the monster that tried to kill his “other” self at a tender age, and of Tessa in this way was BRILLIANT). I love, so much, how what people read to him obviously affected the creation of his coma-‘verse: horror comics, adventure stores, and the Bible. That IS what Supernatural is! His mother, in a tragically realistic detail, isn’t around much; he feels abandoned by her, so he burns her on the ceiling; easier to deal with a dead mother than to try, in his teenaged mind, to understand why she had abandoned him.

This part just absolutely KILLED me:
Dean didn’t seem to have his usual mental toughness any more than the physical strength he was accustomed to. That was the only explanation he had for why his eyes suddenly filled with tears and his heart felt too heavy to bear, for why the best retort he was able to come up with was, “No, I’m Dean.”

In that moment, we have to let the Dean we know and love die. He’s gone forever, and we feel the grief, and how much like real life is that? Aren’t joy and grief separated by a razor thin line, and how easy is it for them to bleed into each other? What could be a greater joy than a young man waking from a coma, returning to the arms of his loving family in a miraculous way? It’s a joy too great for the spirit to bear, and on the other side of it is grief for the death that had to precede this rebirth.

And all the details—few words packing an incredible punch!—that illustrate the real world in contrast to Sam’s (so funny; it’s the real Sam, but I can’t think of the POV character as anyone but Dean!) journey into the universe his unconscious created. The simple line about how the doctor looks “human in a way no one had looked human in years.” It says it all. And somehow he’s completely helpless to pick a lock, though he’s “done it” hundreds of times; he’s weak, he’s tired out by a tiny struggle when he’s used to being this larger-than-life, strongest-of-the-strong hero... which he truly is, having fought nearly impossible odds to come out of a coma after 8 years.

As John said, he did it. He finally saved Sam. <3 <3 <3
Oct. 10th, 2013 03:24 am (UTC)
Okay, well, since this is basically the best comment ever, I'll let it stand in all its beauty.

(I do want to add, though, that you mention the lock-picking detail, because isn't that exactly like a dream? You're perfectly able to do something in a dream, and it seems all logical and you feel like you remember every detail, then you wake up and you're like, "Wait, how does that work?")

Thank you, so much, for this glorious comment/analysis of my fic!
Oct. 9th, 2013 06:42 pm (UTC)
So basically septembers_coda septembers_coda said everything I wanted to say, but this is a beautifully written story. Deep and fascinating, and I love how it extrapolates canon, brings this heartbreaking, incredibly brutal theme of how the brothers are just the more perfect figments of a young imagination to fray. Dean, the performer, the loyal, the ultimate hunter and Sam, the reluctant hero, the compassionate, the smarter: both just archetypes of someone imperfect and not really either of them. And in the end-- the line from John! After years and years of "Look after Sammy!" and "Save him or kill him," to wrap it into the shell of this story and to bring it out at the very end, it's a real punch to the gut.
Well done, you.

Edited at 2013-10-09 06:43 pm (UTC)
Oct. 9th, 2013 07:20 pm (UTC)
I'm agreeing with septembers_coda here. I really liked it (admittedly, I have a soft spot for fics that explore different mental twists). It didn't feel like horror at all. Well, at least if you think of it as that Sam will eventually find his footing and that if part of his mind created Dean for X years, then some part of that 'personality' will live on. The clash in personalities would be like a train wrack though. ^^
Oct. 10th, 2013 03:18 am (UTC)
(I love a good mind-fuck story, myself. LOVE it.) I'm glad to hear it didn't read to you like horror. To me, Sam/Dean now gets to live a normal, "apple-pie" life, he's never truly been so horrifically traumatized, demons and monsters aren't after him, angels aren't dicks, heaven hopefully isn't in shambles and run by bad guys--and as a bonus, Sam and Dean aren't just together, they're ONE, which I can't help but think is what Dean wants more than anything in the world deep down.

septembers_coda said she can't think of the POV character as anyone other than Dean, and neither can I, because he's a normal kid who reads comic books and isn't that smart, more like Dean than Sam, but I think potentially they could meld well ....

Thanks for an awesome comment.
Nov. 13th, 2013 12:54 am (UTC)
I think all of this--especially in light of your author's note--makes sense, and that's the most important thing about writing in general and fanfic in particular. Does it make sense? Does it fit? Does it have its own consistent internal logic? Whether someone agrees with your interpretation is "different strokes for different folks" but I think even people who don't agree can at least say "Yeah, that makes perfect sense and fits into the SPN universe."

And your author's note really makes me think of two other "inseparable pairs" that in their own way remind me of Sam and Dean--Kirk and Spock, and Starsky and Hutch. Particularly in the way that both pairs are co-dependent and incomplete without each other. Kirk without Spock is half a man. Every time Starsky or Hutch are in life-threatening danger you see the desperation in the eyes of the one trying to save the other.

But for me the difference is that as linked as they are, all four of those characters do have their own "selves" and one of the things that hurts me so much with SPN is to have formed such strong feelings for Dean, who really feels like there is no "him" without Sam and that he is nothing without his brother. It's one of the reasons for my entire AU, to fix the things that just hang out there unresolved, but facing the challenge of seeing if it's possible to have a Dean who doesn't hate himself. (Personally I think it is.)

I wish the writers would stop treading the same waters and see about going in a different direction. I like dark and angst, but after a while it gets old. I'm beginning to wonder if Sam and Dean are just destined for tragedy and pain and absolutely nothing else, and it almost makes me mad that they created these wonderful boys that I am damn near in love with only to use them to tear out my heart.

I mean, I'll still watch because I'm one of those people who HAS to see how things end, but I'll have to have tissues along the way.

Edit: Because of course I forgot to put in the most important thing--I loved this fic and it might not be something I'd ever have thought of, it feels real in its own sense because it fits and makes sense in a way that we can understand. I guess I just have to cling to the idea of Sam AND Dean because there's a lonely girl who would be pissed at me if I didn't. ;)

Edited at 2013-11-13 12:59 am (UTC)
Nov. 16th, 2013 12:08 am (UTC)
"Yeah, that makes perfect sense and fits into the SPN universe."

Ah, I'm so glad to hear you say this. Even if it's not something people WANT to believe, that doesn't make it meritless.

You're quite right about Dean's unique place as a character with no sense of self outside of his brother, although at least Show is going into the true consequences of that, which is to say, a complete lack of self-worth ends up profoundly destructive to everyone that person knows, especially the object of their "love" ... and that's one of the reasons I love SPN, is that it goes deep into stuff virtually no other show does. Yet ...

I wish the writers would stop treading the same waters and see about going in a different direction.

I could not agree with you more on this. It's almost getting to the point of ridiculousness, especially since it's all the same (implausible--how many apocalypses do we really need?) thing again and again.

There are people who are clamoring for a tragic ending to the series, and I can see their perspective, but man, I'm clamoring for a happy one, or at least as happy as these boys could manage.

So glad you liked the fic! I prefer Sam and Dean as their own people, myself, of course, but exploring this idea helped me come to terms with where the show is going now.

Thanks for a great comment!
Nov. 16th, 2013 12:32 am (UTC)
I read a fic that had Sam and Dean in the future--Dean in his late forties, I think, or somewhere around there, heading home to take care of Sam, who has a really bad cold. It was sweet and realistic, with them being the teachers of the next generation of hunters, and settled into a reasonably stable life. And it was so nicely done that I could see something like that being a viable alternative to going out in a blaze of glory.

I think that's why even if no one else reads my AU I'll still keep working on it, because so much of my own feelings get worked through along the way, and I can express things that I can't any other way. But I love AUs because exploring other interpretations, other forms, or perspectives is such a valuable and rewarding exercise for any writer.

Nov. 16th, 2013 12:37 am (UTC)
That's the only way to write. Sometimes I write something I know (or at least think!) will be wildly unpopular, but if it's something I have to work out or express for myself, then good enough. It can be very frustrating not to get the response you're hoping for ... but as you write more different kinds of fic that may get different kinds of response, that tends to get easier. Have you put your AU on AO3? Sometimes you find a different audience there.
Nov. 16th, 2013 01:03 am (UTC)
I'm not sure what AO3 is, but at this point I'll try anything. I've gotten enough feedback from writer friends and a few acquaintances who have no reason to lie to me that it's a solid work, so my skin is thick when it comes to it. :)
Nov. 16th, 2013 01:06 am (UTC)
:-) Yay! Here you go: http://archiveofourown.org/ It's an archive, so people can always go back and find your work, as opposed to on lj where they're mostly only aware of it if they happened to see it cross-posted.
Nov. 16th, 2013 01:11 am (UTC)
Awesome! I'll give it a try!

And now I'm heading into season two with my AU, and things are getting interesting from here . . . I haven't been this active and excited writing-wise since my Monkees days. :-D
Nov. 30th, 2013 03:24 am (UTC)
Very interesting and so heartbreaking for Dean seeing the people he's dealt with as other "things" and being called Sam. Man that's just heartbreaking for him.

Thank you for sharing.
Dec. 2nd, 2013 01:32 am (UTC)
Yes, poor Dean. Can you imagine finding out the person you thought was you was never really a person? :-(

Thanks for reading.
Apr. 4th, 2014 03:13 am (UTC)
I read it as psychological horror. A young man trapped in an extremely long period of lucid dreaming and the people around him unintentionally feeding those dreams with what they were reading to him which was twisted into battles between good and evil, sacrifice and constantly trying to achieve redemption. I think Dean was created so he wasn't alone and as a ferocious protector of 'Sam' who would do anything to save him. I do feel it as horror though because he has now awakened to find his personality literally torn in two and has to face the loss of not only what he believes to be his own identity but a gaping loss where his brother should be. Remarkably well done.
Apr. 9th, 2014 02:28 am (UTC)
You're the only person who shared her interpretation before reading the meta! *hugs you* I looove your interpretation, which cleaves very close to mine. I also felt like "Sam" is sort of lost in his mind, at the mercy of his hallucinations/dreams, so the mind created Dean in an attempt to make himself feel safer and (as you said) give him a companion, someone to talk it all through with and go through it with, etc.

So glad you found this fic and liked it, my dear! :-D
( 26 comments — Leave a comment )


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