debbiel66: (Winchesters sleeping)
[personal profile] debbiel66
Title: The New Normal
Author: [ profile] debbiel66
Word Count: 3900
Genre: gen
Rating: R (language)
Warnings: Spoilers through 6X11; AU from that point on
Author's Notes: Enormous thanks to my amazing beta, [ profile] callistosh65.

Written for a prompt from [ profile] de_nugis for the oh!sam h/c fic challenge.

Summary: Sam's got his soul back, but he doesn’t wake up for a cheeseburger or for the job or to keep himself from getting killed or for much of anything else.

But Dean refuses to believe his brother is too damaged for this world….

The New Normal

Dean is so damn tired, it’s like he’s been driving for miles on an empty tank. He rubs a calloused hand over his aching eyes and wishes he’d stopped to get another cup of coffee. But for once, Sam had actually been awake and eager to go, so Dean hadn’t wanted to push his luck. They’re on a case, and he’s a professional. He’s not going to throw in the towel just because he’s a little worn out.

For the first time in as long as Dean can remember, he feels like he’s got something under control. This…this is what he has chosen to do. He chose Sam over Adam…he chose Sam over Lisa and Ben and any life he’d ever imagined for himself. Sam is back with him, body and soul, and Dean knows enough not to take miracles for granted.

Working a case with his brother—his real brother, not the sociopath with his brother’s brain and body—is a damn good thing, and it’s all Dean can do not to high-five the universe over it.

But now it’s time to put his game face on. They’re on a job. He’s supposed to be an FBI agent today, investigating some demonic rumblings in Small Town, Suburbia, USA with his bleary-eyed partner. He sneaks a glance at Sam, in the chair next to him. Dean is so relieved to have Sam by his side, playing good cop to his badass one.

They need to interrogate the coach, even though he’s not sure why they are bothering. The guy already made his deal. There is nothing more they can do for him, but Sam has insisted that they at least try. But as far as Dean is concerned, anyone who believes the FBI really does have a unit dedicated to supernatural disturbances kind of deserves what’s coming to him.

“Okay, Mr. Vince. So you thought making a deal with a crossroads demon in order to win a Little League game was a good idea because…”

Dean pauses, hoping the douchebag will help him out because he really doesn’t get it. Why make a deal for your immortal soul in exchange for another trophy on a shelf? Souls are the most valuable commodities in the whole fucked up universe. Only an idiot or an asshole would just toss one away like freakin’ Esau and his birthright.

Little League?” the coach asks incredulously and crosses his arms tightly against his chest. The tips of his ears are getting red. “Are you serious?”

God, Dean is sick of this. “What are you talking about?”

“Club soccer,” the guy says with obvious disdain. “Not Little League. And it was for the State Cup, not just an ordinary game. What kind of FBI agent are you, if you can’t get your basic facts straight?”

Dean glances at Sam, ready to exchange a ‘can you believe this asshole’ look with his brother, except for the fact that Sam isn’t exactly following the conversation.

Because Sam is asleep. Again. Head knocked back, eyes closed, hands lax, and their research is about to slide off his lap.

The soccer coach is frowning. “Hey, is your partner okay? Did he faint?”

Dean would smirk at the idea of Sam fainting, if he wasn’t so busy getting his arms around the boneless weight of his brother, bracing his own feet so they don’t both slide off their chairs onto the linoleum floor. “It’s his thyroid,” he grits out. “Side effects from his meds.”

The guy looks dubious, but he nods, and Dean jostles his armful of Sam, vainly hoping it will wake him up. “C’mon, Sammy, now’s not a good time for this,” he mutters.

But Sam only makes a snuffling sound and tucks his head against Dean’s neck. If anything, he seems to settle more deeply into sleep. Dean tries leaning him against the table just for a second so he can grab his keys out of his pocket, but Sam is slipping . Dean catches him in time because he’s been doing it all his life, and he’s not about to stop now. Loose-limbed and breathing slowly, Sam sort of sprawls across his lap.

“You need some help?” the coach asks, and Dean glares, ready to tell the sonofabitch what he can do with his “help.”

But the guy is already standing beside him, looking like he honestly does want to help.

Dean nods reluctantly. “I need to get him to the car.”

It isn’t easy, but together, they manage to manhandle Sam out the door and all the way to the Impala. Sam is leaner than he’s been in a while, but he’s solid muscle now, and muscle weighs a freakin’ ton. Apparently, being a soulless sociopath requires having well-defined abs.

“C’mon, Sammy, move your feet,” Dean gripes, but Sam doesn’t wake up at all, not even when they dump him onto the passenger seat.

Not for the first time, Dean wishes the car had seatbelts. He’s learned from experience that when Sam is out cold like this, he ends up sliding all over the seat, which is a serious safety hazard for both of them, not to mention inconvenient. But he’s in at least, and Dean carefully shuts the door before Sam face-plants out the car and onto the road. Grimacing, Dean straightens up slowly, rubbing the back of his neck. If this doesn’t get better soon, they’re going to have to spring for PT. He’s getting too old for this shit.

“You sure your partner’s okay?” the soccer coach asks again, peering at Sam through the window.

Dean sets his jaw. “He’s fine. He was…sick…for the past year. His body needs time to recover.”

“You should get him checked out. He shouldn’t check out like that. My son...” The guy looks away, and Dean instinctively knows this is important—they still need a motive to close their case. He wants nothing more than to get Sam back to the motel, but Sam would kill him if he let this drop.

“Your son?” Dean prods.

“My son—Josh. He’s been in remission for three years now. His first symptom was severe fatigue. He would fall asleep everywhere. We thought he was just going through a growth spurt. Really you should…you should tell your partner to see a doctor if he doesn’t get better soon. Exhaustion like this isn’t normal.”

He wishes like hell that Sam was awake. Empathy has always been Sam’s gig, but more now than ever. “Is your son on your soccer team? Is that why you made the deal?”

The guy looks meaningfully at Dean. “Josh wanted that trophy real bad. This was the first year he made the team. There was no guarantee he’d have another chance at the State Cup.”

Josh wants a dad more than a trophy, Dean thinks to himself.

More gently than the idiot deserves, Dean says, “Okay, so here’s the thing about deals with demons. They always go bad. You have ten years left, and let me tell you, those years are going to go fast. Your time will be up before you know it.”

The guy shrugs. “Then I’ll make them count. Ten years is what the doctors are giving my son. Tops.”

Dean rubs his hands over his eyes. The thing is he gets this—it’s the kind of absolute selfishness that’s only driven by absolute love. He doesn’t want to tell the poor sap that death is only the beginning of what he’s up against.

“Good luck,” Dean says and means it. After a moment’s hesitation, he reaches into his pocket and hands the guy a business card. Of course the name isn’t real, but the phone number is, and Bobby can pass on a message. “Feel free to call if you need something. My partner and I’d be happy to help you, if we can.”

Who knows? Maybe they can track down the bones of the crossroads demon. More improbable things happen to them all the time.

“Thanks for taking this seriously, Agent Freed. Good luck to you. Look after your partner.”

“I always do,” Dean says under his breath as he walks to his side of the car. He wishes he could do more, but a deal is a deal.

Nobody knows that more than him and Sam.


“Poor thing! He must be awfully worn out.” The waitress’s voice is honey-edged but is clearly made of sterner stuff. Just looking at her, Dean can tell she’s probably got a pack of kids at home, and she’s seen it all. Dean knows the feeling.

“Yeah, it’s been one of those weeks.” That’s putting it lightly. Sam’s face is currently pressed against the Formica table. It looks like he fell asleep before he had a chance to rest his head in his arms. “My brother here’s gonna have a double bacon cheeseburger.”

She smiles a little at that, but she does jot the order down on her pad. “What about you, hon?”

“I’m good,” Dean says absent-mindedly because he’ll probably just end up eating Sam’s. But he doesn’t want Sam waking up and accusing Dean of not feeding him.

“How about some coffee?”

Dean would love some coffee. He’s been starting to wonder if narcolepsy is contagious. It’s been weeks since he got Sam back, but Sam’s weariness is starting to seep into the marrow of his own bones.

“Bring us both a cup,” he says and smiles when she tsk tsks at Sam before heading toward the kitchen. There’s always been something about Dean’s motherless kid brother that inspires that kind of reaction.

But Sam really does need to eat—he was famished when they walked into the diner just a few minutes ago. Dean could try shaking Sam awake, but he’s pretty damn sure it won’t work. Sam will wake up when Sam is ready to wake up. That’s how it goes. They work a little…Sam sleeps a lot. Dean eats, Sam sleeps. Dean worries and researches all the things that could make a grown man need to sleep twenty-two hours out of the day. Strangely, coming back from Hell with bad memories shored up behind a wall is not one of them. Meanwhile, Sam sleeps and sleeps and sleeps.

Dean supposes this is their new normal, or whatever the cool kids are calling it these days. But he’s got to wonder if this is the price of that wall Death erected. He worries that it may cost Sam his waking life to ensure the bricks and mortar will hold and Hell won’t come flooding in.

Or maybe Sam really is too damaged for this life…

But screw that. Dean’s not even going there. He’s got Sam back and that’s what’s important. If Sam’s kind of tired, well who can blame him?

Bobby says Sam is simply catching up on a year’s worth of missed sleep and that he’ll come out of this all right. But just to cover their bases, Bobby has been hitting the books, checking that there’s no demonic portent behind all this sleeping, but hasn’t found much of anything yet. So Bobby tells Dean to make his brother drink more coffee, dose him up with no-doze, do whatever it takes to get through this. They’ll get through it. They always do.

Dean just needs to stop worrying.

“Yeah right,” Dean mutters under his breath and gratefully takes the cup of coffee from the waitress. He’ll need this and Sam’s both, just to get through the rest of the afternoon.

Dean sneaks a look around the diner. It’s pretty empty, just a couple truck drivers hunched over the counter and an elderly couple sharing a table by the window. Nobody is going to notice if he pushes Sam’s hair out of his eyes because honestly, if Sam’s gonna keep this up, he’s gotta get a haircut—he can hardly stay awake long enough keep it clean and off his face. The other day, Dean heard a crash from the bathroom and found Sam sacked out in the tub, head against the wall, legs all askew. Dean could just see the reapers having a field day by getting Lucifer’s former vessel returned to them because he hit his head slipping in the tub.

Dean runs his hand over Sam’s unkempt hair. It would serve him right if he just went ahead and cut it. Not like Sam stayed awake long enough to notice. Dean dips his fingers in his water glass and begins twisting it into little spikes. He looks around first, but still nobody is watching.

“The least you could do is braid it,” he says in a voice that is way fonder than what he would use on Sam awake.

It’s the way he used to talk to Sam late at night when he was little…when Sam was still soft and warm and even though he was just a scrap of a kid, he took up most of the bed. Dean used to tell Sammy secrets and stories for long stretches into the night. It was always so hard for him to believe that Sam was really his.

Sam doesn’t wake up for his cheeseburger, which is okay. He’ll wake up when he’s ready. Sam may look dead to the rest of the world, but Dean knows the difference.


The thing can’t be more than four feet tall, but it’s wickedly fast and it’s gnashing its razor-like teeth as it charges at them. Honest to God, Dean wished he’d been listening to Sam’s recitation about the damn thing. But when Sam told him, straight-faced, that demon monkeys were related to the “Legendary Honey Island Swamp Monster,” not a hunter on the planet would blame him for laughing his ass off.

But Dean’s not laughing now.

The all too real devil monkey is bouncing toward him like some kind of demented kangaroo, and he understands now how those claws could do so much damage to that tourist’s car. Dean doesn’t think he can get a warning shot off for Sam’s benefit, but that’s okay because he has it in his crosshairs, and you better believe he’s going to shoot this furry sonofabitch right between the eyes.

He’s about to squeeze the trigger—it’s a perfect shot—when out of the corner of his eye, he sees that Sam is down.

Dean’s concentration is thrown. He still takes the shot, but he only grazes it just enough to piss the damn thing off. It picks up speed, a howling dervish of red-eyed fury headed straight for Sam, who is still lying there like an all-you-can-eat buffet.

Swearing under his breath, Dean takes his shot as the monkey leaps mid-air toward his brother. Desperation makes him more accurate than he has any right to be. The creature lands head first in an undignified sprawl of rank fur and pooled blood. Dean kicks at it, just to be sure it’s dead, but green-blue pus is oozing out of a gaping head wound, so killing it any more would be kind of like breaking an egg with a hammer.

Dean crouches beside his brother. He checks for a pulse and allows himself to breathe when he finds it right where it should be, perfectly regular and steady. Sam’s asleep, not unconscious.

Heart pounding in his chest, Dean falls back onto his ass and tries to think this through. Up to now, he’s stubbornly held that getting back to normal would be the best thing for both of them. But as he watches Sam sleeping peacefully next to the festering corpse of the devil monkey that almost killed him, Dean is willing to admit maybe there is a problem with the status quo.

When enough time passes and a pack of avenging devil monkeys don’t appear, Dean reaches for his cell phone. Bobby’s number is on speed dial, most frequently called, other than Sam. He has no idea what he’s going to say, but he knows one thing for sure. Sam needs a break. They both do. They can’t hunt like this. It’s not safe for either of them.

Dean cups his hand on the back of Sam’s neck and closes his eyes, taking a deep breath while he figures out how to get his brother out of here. If he drives hard all night, they’ll be in South Dakota by morning. Sam can sleep in the car.


Bobby’s house has always been the closest thing to shelter they’ve ever had. But as a home, it’s strangely inert.

Home, for the two of them, has always been about forward motion, polished chrome, an awesome paint job, and an engine that can haul ass for a thousand miles in any direction. He and Sam don’t need a firm foundation—they’ve got each other and enough gas in the tank to go wherever the road takes them.

But this is uncharted terrain, every bit as inaccurate and unreliable as Sam’s stupid smartphone GPS has been, ever since some virus infected it.

Bobby has changed his mind—he no longer thinks Sam is simply making up for lost time. He thinks something is wrong and that they should take Sam to the ER—get him checked out. It’s just not normal for a human being to sleep so much without something seriously being wrong with him.

But Dean says no, and he’s talking from experience. Coming back from hell, even if you don’t remember it, isn’t something that any medical expert in the world is going to understand. It could be Dean is just gamefully ignoring the warning signs. This could be the biggest red flag of them all, the sign that Sam’s little wall of sanity is about to come crashing down. But Dean is willing to give Sam the time he needs.

It’s not like Sam is dying. Not this time. Sam sleeping all the time is not the worst thing. Maybe it’s just what it seems like…their new normal.

After all, Sam usually wakes up enough to eat and drink. He wakes up enough to get in the shower, and sometimes stays awake long enough to get out. He wakes up and checks over Bobby’s research before he’s dozing over the books. He wakes up long enough to act as Dean’s moral compass again, and more than anything else, Dean is grateful for that. Jiminy Cricket was never his gig.

If Sam needs more sleep than everyone else to cope with this fallen world, Dean isn’t going to begrudge him that. Even if they never get on the road again, never take another job, never hunt again, Dean figures they’ve gotten off easy. Sam deserves all the respite he can get.

They’re back to sharing a bed at Bobby’s, just like they did as kids. Bobby offered them each their own room, but Dean turned him down, not giving a damn about Bobby’s raised eyebrow. He doesn’t want Sam waking up and thinking he’s alone. It’s a big bed—they’ll make do.

So Dean sits on a chair by the bed and watches Sam sleep. He’s so still. It’s weird because Sam used to be a restless sleeper. Dean hated sharing a bed when they were kids. No matter how tightly Dean tucked the top sheet under the mattress, he would wake up with all blankets and sheets pulled off the bed and tangled around Sam’s legs. But as long as Dean was within reach, Sam was good and didn’t panic. Smart kid.

Dean is here now, and he’s not going anywhere. He’s not going to let anything bad happen to his little brother.

Dean knows how this is going to go.

It won’t be long before Sam’s loudly growling stomach wakes him or whatever it is that pulls him out of sleep’s dark hold. When Sam wakes up, he’ll reach for the clock by the bed and then will scowl at Dean for letting him sleep so long. Dean will crack up because Sam will look exactly like the uptight kid he used to be—bleary-eyed and accusatory but not wanting another tardy.

Dean will drawl a deadpan, “Morning, sunshine,” because he knows it pisses Sam off.

Sam will grumble, “Why’d you let me sleep so long? I don’t know what’s wrong with me. Must be coming down with something.”

That’s the thing Dean is counting on—the fact that Sam doesn’t know what’s wrong with him. He doesn’t know why he is sleeping all the time. The last thing Sam remembers is falling backward into that hole, Lucifer riding him all the way down. The rest is vast darkness, the echo of nightmares best forgotten by morning.

And you know, Dean thanks God that Sam doesn’t remember. He thanks Death too, thanks whoever… Dean is so freakin’ grateful, he doesn’t know who to thank first.

Bobby thinks they should start working again once Sam can stay awake for longer. He’s found them a job, something about portents left over from the apocalypse. Animals dying in herds and packs, birds dropping from the sky, fish lying belly up on unpolluted shores… that sort of thing. Dean isn’t sure—anything connected to the apocalypse still cuts too close to the bone.

But Sam will want to do something when he wakes up…Dean knows his brother. They’ve already saved the world…he supposes they could save it again. Maybe they could rescue some whales or scrub the tar off baby seals. Sam always loved that sort of crap. Or maybe they could head west, drive along the coast to California where it don’t ever rain because Dean doesn’t want Sam getting cold. Hell was so fucking cold. Dean remembers even if Sam doesn’t.

Or maybe they could get a dog…some kind of golden retriever mix like the one from Sam’s fucking Flagstaff. They could name him Fido or Sparky or Princess and teach him tricks that would make Sam get out of bed and want to start living again. Dean can see that. Sam could go jogging on a Californian beach in the middle of winter and throw the ball for the damn pooch as long as he wanted, for hours and hours because he wouldn’t be tired any more.

Dean sighs and tries not to turn it into a sob. He’s a freakin’ fool for this…he knows that. But he is never going to give up on his brother. He watches Sam take a deep breath in, deep breath out. Dean had asked Death if he could hack the hell part off Sam’s soul, and he’s glad Death said no. There isn’t any part of Sam that Dean could stand to lose.

So if Sam just needs to sleep, that’s okay. Dean is good with that. It wasn’t for nothing he worked in construction the year Sam was in Hell. If anyone knows how to keep a wall in place, it’s Dean. He won’t let it go wrong.

He’ll just be sitting here by the side of Sammy’s bed, ready and willing to fill in the cracks.

The End

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