The cuts won't stop bleeding, deeper than he'd initially thought, and he hadn't bothered to pack a proper first-aid kit when he'd loaded up Jo's little car. There are old napkins and a bottle of holy water in the glove compartment, though, so he makes do, the napkins sticking to his wounds and fluttering every time he moves a muscle.
The holy water stings like a bitch, and he doesn't know if there's any way that the blood already on the pic - from the first time Nobody committed suicide - could have mixed with his. His mind keeps replaying Nobody's unerring tracing of the slit in his throat with the deadly pic, and he casts about for something else, anything, to think about. When he finds something, he wishes he hadn't. Because now he's stuck wondering, despair and betrayal sinking his stomach, if Jo's faith in Rob - the faith that he'd clung to in order to persuade himself he was doing all he could for Dean - is real, or if it's just been fucked into her.
He throws up every last bite of that big, hearty meal he'd eaten, right there next to the little blue car. There's a pink splash of vomit on the left front wheel, and he steps around the puddle to get into the car, pull another napkin from the glove compartment, gargle with some holy water, and wipe his mouth temporarily clean.
Only a few of the cuts are clotting. He's trimmed the napkins away so that only the parts glued to him with blood are still on, but even those small scraps, yellow dyed red, make him look strange and he gets a few odd looks when he's stopped at traffic lights. The blood loss isn't nearly enough to make him pass out, but he is a little woozy, browning out every once in a while as he chugs quickly down the highways and streets back to Jo's. That's all he needs, is to get back in one piece and he'll have all the time he wants to recover.
Of course, traffic is a bitch and a half, the West Side Highway backed up with cars barely moving at a crawl. He cracks a window just to keep himself awake, but it's too cold to keep open for more than a few seconds. He pops Jo's rousing mix of angry-girl rock into the CD player and lets the rhythms of the guitars and drums do the work for him.
He pulls into the little space behind the bar reserved for employee vehicles, then just sits and rests for a moment. The ring of keys Jo loaned him thankfully includes one for the back door of the bar, so he slips through the door and heads straight up to her apartment. His duffel bag is heavy, pressing mercilessly down on his shoulder, and he fumbles at the top of the stairs for the key to this lock.
"Sam!" he hears, a carrying whisper behind him. He swivels a little unsteadily and Jo's big eyes get wide and spooked at the sight of him. "God, what happened?" she asks, pulling the keys from his grasp and fitting the right one into the lock in short order. "Get in, quick," she hisses, not being all that careful with the pressure of her hand against his lacerated skin.
"Ah, fuck," he groans. "Careful."
"Keep it down," she says quietly and firmly, taking his bag off his shoulder and dumping it unceremoniously on the floor, and eyeing him speculatively. He sits on the couch and tries to pay attention. "I've got some stuff for those cuts. Are they just on your face and arms?"
"Torso too, I think," he says, trying to lift his shirt to check. Her hands take over the task before he can finish or his shoulders protest. He's never seen her this fidgety. "What's wrong?"
"Did you know you had the FBI on your tail, Sam?" she asks, grim-faced, while she pulls his shirt off; her hand reaches up to smooth his hair down automatically.
"Oh, fuck," he says.
"This guy walks into the bar, suit and tie and badge, and says there's a dangerous criminal in the area, and he's going around to all the bars and libraries and motels in the area to find out if anybody's seen Sam Winchester."
"How -" No, he already knows. He'd used his real Stanford ID at the library, and to get the youth rate at the hostel. Not that he'd put it past Guitierrez to snitch, but he's the one who screwed this up. God, is he glad that Dean can't be gotten to by any FBI agent right now. "Was his name Henrickson?" God damn him for thinking the FBI would listen to reason.
Jo was just waiting for him to piece it together in his head, apparently, because she says, "You know you can't go back to that hostel, right? This everything you got right now?" She prods his duffel bag gently with the toe of her shoe and looks unsurprised by his stunned nod. "Guess you're sleeping on my couch, then." She sighs. "And you can't work at the bar anymore; we just got lucky that Henrickson only asked me and June and not any customers if we'd seen you."
"She was on today, went and got me when the guy showed up, and lied like a champ for you." Jo's already evaluating how the new living arrangements are going to work; the lack of attention in her voice gives her away.
He knew he was right about June; he knew Dean would love her.
Jo comes at him with gauze and ointments and more holy water then, and Sam braces himself, staying silent while she works. "Done," she says, satisfaction in her voice as she starts cleaning up. He's not really paying all that much attention to what she's doing as she moves around the apartment, and he nearly face-plants in the meal Jo puts in front of him. "Got it," she says. "I'll just leave this in the microwave for if you get hungry later. Go ahead, lie down. I'll get you some blankets and a pillow."
He pulls his jeans off while he's still sitting, too tired to contemplate getting up to pull his sweatpants out of his bag. "Jo," he mumbles when she appears before his blurry eyes again, shaking a blanket out of its folds and laying it over him.
"Yeah, I know," she says, light as a lullaby, while she tucks a soft, cool pillow underneath his heavy head.
When he wakes up, stomach growling and mouth tasting incredibly vile, the apartment is empty. He has no idea what time it is, other than clearly time to rejoin the land of the living.
The apartment is cold, but not as bad as it could be, given that there's a blustery February wind howling outside, tossing flakes of snow in every direction. He scurries into the bathroom, snagging his duffel on the way, and flips the light. He has to squint because the light bulb is bare and harsh, but from what he can see in the mirror, Jo took good care of him. The cuts are dry and dark, healing instead of still oozing. As long as he's gentle with the soap and judicious with the hot water, they should keep knitting instead of opening back up.
He brushes his teeth, bending far down to spit into Jo's low little seashell-shaped sink and nearly cracking his head on the medicine cabinet when he straightens back up. There's a clean towel folded on top of the commode; he uses the toilet and hops right into the shower. It sputters for a moment but then comes on strongly. The water is scalding but loses heat steadily after the first two minutes or so. The bar of soap is nearly gone, but its fragrance of flowers is still strong; same with the bottles of shampoo and conditioner he finds perched in the lime-crusted shower caddy.
All of these girl-scents are overwhelming him, so he scrubs up quickly and gets out of the shower as soon as he can. He stays in the bathroom to keep warm while he towels dry his hair and body, pulls on underwear and a clean pair of jeans, and then leaves with the duffel in his hand. He dumps it on the couch, folds up the blanket, and opens up the coffee-table trunk. He's unpacking Jo's weapons from his bag and putting them back into place when his stomach growls again. He finishes up quickly and turns to the little nook that makes up the kitchen.
There's a pre-packaged calzone sitting in the microwave, looking like a mini-football and about as appetizing, but he's not going to turn his nose up at what he's offered. He scarfs it down as quickly as he can, given that its shell has gone pretty tough, and opens the fridge to find anything else edible.
A hand curls over his on the refrigerator handle, making him jump. "She sent me up to check on you," Rob says.
"I'm fine," Sam snaps. He doesn't know what to make of this guy, but something is telling him not to trust him. "Do you always do what Jo tells you?"
Rob just laughs. "You jealous?" he taunts, and Sam's jaw clenches. "She's a pretty girl with a heavy heart, and there's nothing wrong with her taking whatever comfort I offer."
"She's married!" Sam hisses.
"What's Sean's is mine. You know all about sharing with your brother, don't you, Saintly? Now get over there."
"Go stand in the light; I need to look you over."
"I said I'm fine."
"And I'm just looking to verify that so I can tell Jo what she wants to hear."
Sam stays stubbornly rooted to the spot. "Jo wouldn't cheat on her husband."
Rob's hand shoots out, quick as a snake, and drags him into the light. "Oh, you are jealous. No need, Saintly. She just misses him and I'm all she's got left. But you - I've heard all about you." Rob's fingers are warm and thick, prodding gently at his skin, and Sam looks down at his own chest, lit up and covered in goosebumps, and realizes he never put a shirt on after his shower. "Word is, you could charm the pants off anybody you wanted, and I've seen enough to know people are right about that, but they say you don't because you don't want anymore, not after what happened to your girlfriend." Sam feels himself rebelling, starting to protest when he hears Rob so casually dismiss Jess, but those heavy fingers flatten against his sternum and push firmly until his back is against the wall. "But I think it's simpler than that - you just don't know who you want, so you haven't made a move."
That hand slides down and forms a warm cup over the jut of his left hip. "Do you, Saintly?" Rob asks, still sounding amused, and before Sam can process anything that's happening, Rob's mouth, hot and wet and wide, is on his.
Sam struggles and bucks his hips away from the wall, attempting to shake free, but Rob just shifts to press Sam back with his body, pinning his wrists against the wall with his hands, and not letting up at all. The kiss goes on and on, and Sam is getting lightheaded. He can feel fingers stroking his hips, dipping just below the waistband of his jeans, and he vaguely registers that that must mean that his own arms and hands are free. That is important information to have, he's sure, but he can't really remember why.
Rob is licking at his mouth, at his cheeks, everywhere, and Sam tries to keep his grip on Rob's shirt so that he doesn't fall; his knees are refusing to lock. Rob's mouth is on his neck, warm, so warm in this cold room and he really should have put a shirt on at some point, or maybe he should just get back under the blanket, and Rob must have the same idea, because he's undoing Sam's pants like it's inevitable, not even a question, and Sam's head lolls when Rob's hot hand slips inside, burrowing past his underwear to find his cock. The heat passes from Rob's hand to Sam's dick, Sam feeling the flood of blood rushing to fill him, and he hears Rob saying something in a pleased tone, feels the pleasure of Rob's unhesitating grip and clever fingers, the wet suction of a grinning mouth against his neck, and the exhilaration of all thought except release being wiped from his mind.
He comes back to himself, to the real world, when he registers that he's shivering, barefooted and bare-chested, trembling against the wall. He pushes away from the wall, does up his jeans, and curls back up on the couch, spreading the blanket clumsily over himself. He looks around for some sign that he imagined the whole encounter, but his head is too heavy to hold up for very long, and he falls asleep within minutes.
Sam spends his days split into two different people, neither part a comfortable fit. With Jo, it's researching what he can on her second-hand desktop with dial-up modem, shared meals, staying in an apartment crowded with perfume and rituals, and her clear eyes watching him, weighing his fitness for what lies ahead. All of that disappears when Jo is at work behind the bar and Rob comes up to the apartment, heavy tread on creaky stairs that Jo has to hear, opens the door, draws near, and Sam's mind goes hazy.
There's a loose cloud of pleasure around everything he does, the sweet slide of going to his knees and pulling Rob's jeans open, dragging the zipper down tooth by tooth and hearing each click; the way his thighs go numb from being locked into position as he bobs his head, throat opening with each pass; the euphoria of eliciting those groans and grunts from Rob's pale pink mouth. Sam opens his mouth for Rob's heavy kiss.
When they break apart, the world stops shimmering and starts to take on a more definitive shape. "What are we -" he asks, his heart racing in his chest, his breath coming in short little bursts.
"You'll get your brother back," Rob promises, answering a different question entirely.
"The vernal equinox is in three weeks," Sam says, pushing his chair back from the kitchen table and getting to his feet. He can feel his face go red with anger. "I need to know how we're getting Dean back."
Rob looks up at him, eyes staying on him even when the front door opens and Jo walks in, juggling three bags of groceries. "Do you trust me?" he asks.
"No," Sam says. It's the truth. He glances sidelong at Jo, who's putting the food away; his view of her face is blocked by one of the cabinet doors, but he knows from the way she stays flatfooted, doesn't get up on her tiptoes, that her movements are pretty much automatic and that she's thinking more about what she's hearing than what she's doing.
"All the research I've done suggests that Midsummer is the time when the barrier between the worlds are thinnest. If we push on the equinox instead, we could fail and not get another chance."
Sam's eyes narrow. "Why do you think we'll fail? What don't you know?"
"We should wait until Midsummer." Rob gets up, gets himself a beer from the fridge, cracks one open for Jo while he's at it. They clink bottles briefly, unthinkingly, and it sets Sam's teeth on edge. He's ready to start screaming when Rob continues, "And that friend of yours, what's her name, said that Dean was just sleeping, right, not being hurt. He won't mind the wait."
Dean might not, but every day without his brother is another lash from the whip. He's clinging to what he knows with bloody and slipping fingertips. He shakes his head, still arguing, though mutely, because words are failing him now.
Rob's throat is long and pale when he drains his beer. Jo hops up and perches on the one square foot of counter space in the kitchen. "Well, what do your visions tell you? Anything saying vernal equinox or summer solstice?" she asks, her voice carefully reasonable, and Sam hates her for a moment for taking Rob's side, for letting Dean stay in this new, unbearable coma.
But Rob's eyes are trained on him like twin blue lasers and Rob's gone motionless and somehow looming in that moment. For once, his expression is easy to read, even if not to decipher; Sam sees a mixture of avarice and calculation and puzzlement on his face. It's setting off all sorts of warning bells in his head, but there is none of Gordon's hatred and fear in it, so he stifles his alarm - his reactions are all fucked when it comes to Rob - and tries to answer on Jo's question.
Try as he might, though, he cannot think of the answer. He racks his brains and finally looks up at her, posed like a stone angel, and says slowly, "I don't think I've had one - a vision - since Dean killed the Yellow-Eyed Demon." She takes a long, slow sip of her beer. "But that makes sense, doesn't it?" he asks. "I mean, he gave 'em to me, so I guess they stopped when he died."
Jo shrugs. "I'm not exactly an expert on visions, Sam. Maybe you should talk to somebody who is."
She means Missouri, even though she's never met the woman or heard her full name. Lost as he is, Sam can still recognize a good idea. As soon as he's got the place to himself - as soon as he can escape Jo's quiet persistence and Rob's intent gaze - he'll make the call.
The moment his chance comes, he seizes it, pressing send on his cell phone as soon as Missouri's name pops up on the screen. "Missouri!" he says as soon as the line is picked up.
He only hears the hesitation because he was listening for it. "Sam, I'm glad you've called, sugar," she says, her voice, as ever, high and sweet, but he's too keyed up to be soothed even a little bit.
"Why? What's going on?"
"I wanted to try - yes, there he is. You remember last time we spoke, I could sense Dean just by hearing your voice?"
"I wanted to try to see him again, make sure I didn't tell you wrong, but I couldn't locate that boy for the life of me, but now that I can hear you, I can see him, clear as day."
"How - how is he?"
"He looks just fine, baby," she says. "Sleeping. The sunlight is warm on his face and there are flowers everywhere, heaped up all around him." She continues and he closes his eyes, trying to get the image into his own mind.
All he can see are funereal, nightmare images of Dean crushed under the weight of flowers, the blossoms making a coffin of sorts as he's lowered into the ground, the sun shining brightly as he sinks into the cold earth. "He's really okay?"
Missouri doesn't sigh or get impatient with him. She just says "yes" over and over, a litany of affirmation, and he lets each repetition push away a piece of that image.
When he's finally calm, he says, "Missouri. I have a question. About visions."
She sounds dubious but willing to listen. "Sure, sugar. I'll do my best."
"The Yell - the Demon that you sensed in our house in Lawrence - I mean, the first time, after my dad needed to know what happened to my mom. That Demon said he'd given me the visions. And I haven't had even a single one since the Demon was killed, and ... I don't know, I just wanted to make sure that made sense?"
She sucks in a breath. "No," she says, firm as he's ever heard her. "Visions are powerful creations. And you know gifts don't go away once the giver's gone. That kind of energy doesn't die out; it can get channeled differently, maybe, or passed along. But that power remains." She pauses, and he can sense her reluctance to continue.
"What? Tell me."
"It's too powerful an ability to be given, even by something like the Demon I sensed in your house. That Demon lied to you, Sam; he didn't give you anything, and he for sure couldn't have taken it away."
"Then where did the visions go?" he asks, frustrated. She says something in response, but he's stopped hearing her, because every part of his subconscious has reared up to shout the ugly truth at him. He knows where his visions went. It's just that he can see no way to fix it.