Detox is exactly as awful this time as it was before.
Consent doesn’t change that: shame doesn’t change that: Sam making better choices doesn’t change that.
It’s shorter this time around, which is a small mercy. (Sam doesn’t use the word blessing anymore, at least in regard to himself. It would seem hypocritical).
Shorter or not, the usual crowd of hallucinations wander in to be angry at Sam, or disappointed, or mocking. Hallucination-Dean is, as always, his harshest critic. He knows Dean would never say the shit his hallucinations do, would never even think half of it. He’s not really sure when the voice of his self-loathing became embodied as his brother, who loves him enough to forgive him for the all the crap Sam can’t forgive himself.
Dean comes in to check on him every four hours like clockwork, but he doesn’t stay, just gets him water and painkillers and leaves again. Once Sam is asleep when he comes in, actually sleep, and he wakes to the feel of Dean’s hand on his forehead, checking his temperature the way he did when Sam was eight and had the flu. Sam pretends to stay asleep, basking in the touch he’d never get if Dean knew he was awake.
Dean reeks of bourbon and stale sweat, but Sam’s sure he smells worse.
Cas comes in a lot, which surprises Sam.
He doesn’t do much, mostly just sits and watches, but Sam feels a little easier when he’s there.
“Angels are watching over you” is now literally just about the creepiest thing he can think of, creepier than Ronald MacDonald, even, but somehow one partly-fallen angel in a rumpled trenchcoat watching him go through the DTs isn’t so bad.
They talk sometimes, when Sam is lucid enough.
Castiel is worried. He is worried about finding God. He’s worried about Dean. So is Sam, of course, but Sam’s not really in a position to do anything about that worry, at least until he sweats the demon blood out of his system. Cas is worried specifically that Dean is close to despair.
“Despair is a mortal sin, Samuel,” Cas says earnestly. “It is one of the few to which you have not yet succumbed.”
“Thanks, Cas, really appreciate the vote of confidence there.”
Cas just looks at him.
Later, after a series of conversations with dead girlfriends (Sam never wants to think about those three hours again), he realises that Castiel is back. He’s just watching, as before.
“You hallucinate the spirits of those you believe you have wronged,” Castiel says.
Sam grimaces. “Yeah, well, it passes the time. What are you doing down here anyway? Shouldn’t you be out looking for God or something?”
“I will resume my search when you are recovered.” Cas replies. “Dean is worried you may find some way to harm yourself, so I will keep watch.”
“Thanks, Cas. I appreciate the company.” Sam says. “But you don’t really have to do this, you know. I’ll be fine on my own.”
Cas looks down. His trenchcoat is more rumpled than ever, though somehow the stains from his hamburger-binge seem to have vanished. “I don’t mind staying. I am indebted to you, Sam. This is the second time you have saved my life.”
“Oh,” is all Sam can muster by way of reply. “Uh, you’re welcome, I guess?”
“I used to judge you for your weakness, your addiction. The stench of it on you was -- offensive to me. A human, one of God’s most beloved creations, sullying his soul with corruption -- it was anathema.”
Sam groans, nausea rising in his throat.
Cas continues. “But I had no control over my vessel’s urges, his craving for food, for flesh. I couldn’t stop myself. I cannot understand how you can live this way, how you can function at all when you are at the mercy of these fleshly desires.”
All this talk of flesh is too much for Sam, and he rolls to his side on the narrow cot, retching.
Cas hands him a clean pail to throw up in. “Bobby said I should give you this if you had to puke. That is what you’re doing, right?” Sam nods and heaves until he feels emptied.
After that, the fever returns, and Sam has very little memory of the rest of the night. Dreams come and go almost too fast to follow.
Here is Mary beautiful and blonde, telling him she loves him, that it will be alright, until she burns to ashes on the ceiling.
Here are Azazel’s other children, Max and Andy and Ava and Jake, telling him that he’s a fool for holding out, that it’s only a matter of time until Sam accepts his destiny, that he should have been strong enough to take Max Miller’s way out, and how many have paid the price for his failure to shoot himself when he had the chance?
Here's Cas again, telling him that it’s not all Sam’s fault, that Cas opened the door, he thought it was the right thing. Dream-Cas seems so upset about this that Sam ends up comforting him, patting him on the back (even in a dream, it seems wrong to try to hug him). “It’s OK, Cas, we all had good intentions,” he says. “None of us meant for it to be like this.”
And then Cas is gone and here is Gordon Walker, and so it goes for the rest of the night.
When he wakes, he is alone. No angels, no demons, no dead people. Just Sam, weak and filthy and worn, hollowed out, but clear-headed. When Dean comes in to check on him, he looks worse than Sam feels. His skin is ashy in the thin grey light that trickles through the vents, and there are violet shadows below his eyes.
“You look like shit, dude,” Sam tells him.
“Yeah, well you look ready for a beauty pageant, princess. Smell like it too.”
It’s a pretty pale imitation of the insults of yore, but it comforts Sam anyway, the familiarity of the banter helping him to ground himself in the world.
Slowly, painfully, Dean helps him up the stairs. He emerges into Bobby’s kitchen, full of warmth and light and the smell of coffee. Bobby wrinkles his nose. “Shower first, then breakfast. You don’t smell so good, son.”
Sam feels like Persephone returning from the Underworld, like a miner emerging into the sunlight after weeks trapped underground.
Two Horsemen down, he thinks. Two to go. Maybe we can do this after all.