Sam frowns down at his hands, transfixed by the red staining his fingers (there's something eerily familiar about that, but he doesn't know why, can't know why, may never know why). Gutting pomegranates of their seeds is a messy business; he hadn't known that (had he?). It seems like an awful lot of work for little enough reward. But it's not like he has anything better to do with his time.
Time, time—all he has is time these days.
Some days he wonders if time is even passing at all. How long has it been since he checked out of the hospital? Three weeks? Four? Nothing has changed since then, not really. The bandages have come off and the stitches have come out, but he still has headaches. He still sees a stranger whenever he looks in a mirror, at the portraits on the wall, at the snapshots littering the mantelpiece.
Luc still looks at him like he might disappear at any moment. "I almost lost you," Luc always says and smiles strangely when Sam says, "Sorry," says, "I'm not what I was, but I'm here," says, "I'm not going anywhere." Nothing makes that terrible look go away.
That's probably the worst part: knowing that's he's hurt someone who clearly loves him, while being helpless to fix it. Luc has been so good to him, so kind and patient and wonderful. Sam's not sure he deserves it.
"How long have we been together?"
"Ages and ages."
"When did we know it was love?"
"I always loved you, Sammy. But…"
"I'm not sure you ever loved me back in quite the same way."
Sighing, Sam wipes his sticky hands off with a damp towel and eyes the bowl of pomegranate seeds in front of him distrustfully. Trying new things is always a risk. Sam isn't sure whether Luc just likes seeing the faces Sam makes when he bites into something revolting or whether his tastes have changed since the accident (is that even possible?), but mealtimes have become a series of unwelcome adventures. Just last night Luc had convinced him to try a forkful of string beans. It had been like swallowing a forkful of worms.
Warm arms wrap around Sam from behind, a stubbled cheek nuzzles against Sam's neck. Sam startles, tensing, the counter stool wobbling under him for a moment, but quickly settles back into the embrace. It's only Luc. Nothing to be afraid of.
"You're up early," Luc murmurs, a question in his voice.
"Nothing I remember."
Nothing but fire and heat and pain. Nothing distinct. Nothing important. The doctors had warned him that his dreams might be troubled for a while, that it's his brain's way of coping with the trauma.
Luc hums noncommittally and relinquishes his hold on Sam to settle on the stool beside him and pluck a seed from the bowl. He rolls it thoughtfully between his fingers for a moment before directing a smile at Sam.
"There's a story about pomegranate seeds. Do you know it?"
Sam shakes his head.
Luc's smile wavers and fades. "No," Luc says quietly, "I suppose you wouldn't." The line of his gaze darts back down to the seed; though Sam's not sure he's actually seeing it.
"You can't tell me it doesn't bother you."
"I'm bothered by the fact that you were hurt. That you're still hurting. But you're here—with me—and that counts for a lot. If you never regain your memories, well—we'll just make new ones. Better ones."
"So you don't miss the old Sam at all?"
They never talk about the reason Sam was in that car halfway across the country. Or about how Sam has finally figured out that when Luc says, "I almost lost you," he's not talking about the accident. Not really.
"Won't you tell it to me? The story, I mean."
Luc looks back at Sam, smiling again—though this time there's something sad in his eyes, like he's smiling only for Sam's benefit. "Of course." He clears his throat. Steals a sip from Sam's mug of coffee. Then starts, "There once was a god called Hades, whose fate was to rule over the underworld. Death was his domain—and it made him cold. Hard. Bitter. But he was not heartless, merely desperately lonely. The souls of the dead were poor company, you see, and he longed for a companion with whom he could share eternity. But who would consent to love death? No one.
"Then one day, as he was spying upon the world of the living, his gaze fell upon the maiden daughter of the goddess Demeter playing in a field, weaving flowers into her hair. Persephone. She was beautiful, the most beautiful woman he had ever beheld, and he loved her instantly and could not resist going to her. She was the one he had been waiting for, he was sure of it. She would love him and he her. They would be happy.
"So, Hades called for his chariot and burst forth from the ground in what he hoped would be an impressive display of power—but rather than being impressed, Persephone was frightened. She cowered from him. She refused to hear his tender words, his heartfelt promises.
"A kinder man might have let her go. But he was not a kind man and he was sure that she would come round to his way of thinking, sooner or later. So he took her. Spirited her away to his dark kingdom, where he showered her with gifts and tried to show her that to be loved by a god such as he was not such a terrible thing, nothing to be frightened of.
"She denied him again and again, refused all his gifts—all his gifts but the last, the seeds of a pomegranate. Seven seeds did pass her lips before rescue did come, her mother's fierce love having persuaded the other gods to intervene. Those seven seeds changed her fate forever, for none who imbibe the food or drink of the underworld may walk away unchanged. She could leave, yes—but she was bound to return.
"One month per seed, the gods all agreed. Seven months out of each year would she spend in Hades' care. Seven months while her mother mourned.
"Some might say that Hades had won, but I say that just as those seeds cursed Persephone, so too, did they curse Hades, for he would never know if she would have chosen to stay of her own free will."
Luc's voice trails off and Sam considers his words. Considers what he knows and what he doesn't know.
Slowly, Sam says, "I think she knew the risks better than he thought she did," and he takes Luc gently by the wrist and guides his hand toward his mouth to suck the fingers holding that single pomegranate seed past his lips. The flavor is sour-sweet. Perfect. Sam moans around the fingers, low and pleased.
"Sam," Luc rasps.
Sam releases Luc's fingers with an obscene pop.
"You always were an incorrigible tease."
"Angels have fallen for the promise of a taste of that sinful mouth."
"I may not remember anything about before. But I know how I feel about you right now. And I know there's nowhere else I'd rather be, no one else I'd rather be with. I'm yours. If I ever leave, I'll always come back. I'll tell you that as many times as I must until you finally believe it."
"Oh, Sammy," Luc says, "keep saying such sweet things and I really will drag you down to the underworld with me and keep you forever," and then they're kissing, their fingers lacing together, and Sam spares a moment to pity poor Persephone, whose heart was so divided, and to pity the old Sam, who perhaps hadn't understood just how lucky he was.
"Sammy," Dean says, clutching one of his baby brother's cold, limp hands between his own, swallowing back his rancor. "It's gonna be okay, Sammy. I've found a lead. There's this guy—Emmanuel. He's a healer. A real miracle worker. I'm gonna find him and he's gonna make you better, alright? He's gonna fix you. You'll be waking up in no time. You've just gotta hang on while I'm gone. Hang on for me, Sammy. You can't." Dean's breath hitches and he blinks back tears. Must be something in his eyes. "You can't leave me."
Dean releases his brother's hand reluctantly. Pauses. Leans down to press chapped lips to Sammy's forehead.
"Don't give up," he whispers.
Then he marches out of the room, trying not to think of how he's leaving his brother all alone and defenseless in a hospital bed, of how the doctors say he'll never wake up.
He's going to fix this.