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Grounded

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Before Sam’s thoughts can catch up to him, move beyond the glory of Dean in all his rage, the Gordian knot of emotions from seeing his tormentor lying on the floor, the ecstasy and then the horror of Dean and his stupid fucking decisions – before any of that, he hears Jack groan, turns, and sees him bending over, hand on his stomach.

Shit.

“Let me see,” he says, even as he’s peeling off his shirt because that blade, that went in pretty deep. Of all the Winchester traits that could have rubbed off on him, why did it have to be the stupid compulsion towards self-sacrificing?

Jack moves his hand and yeah, that’s not good.

“Not bad,” he says, pressing the shirt into Jack’s hands. “Keep this on it. Pressure. For the bleeding. Can you walk? I gotta see where we are.”

With his left hand he guides Jack towards the door, not sure if Jack ever even actually replied; with his right, he’s reaching into his pocket and pulling out his cellphone to bring up Google Maps.

Turns out he shouldn’t have bothered. As soon as they step outside he recognizes it. Maybe he should’ve earlier, but he’d never been inside the church.

He guides Jack through Stull Cemetery, the wet and bloody cough that Jack lets out tearing at him. He can’t lose Jack too, not now that he’s just—

(Dean’s not lost, he’s just – away. They’ll get him back, him and Cas, just like they did when he went demonic. It’ll be fine.)

The brown graveyard grass crunches underfoot as they walk over it as quickly as Sam possibly can, even though it means he’s more holding Jack up than guiding him. Keep walking. Jack’s turning pale. Shivering despite the unseasonable heat that’s covered all of Kansas the past week.

A car rumbles, coming this way, and Sam sprints to the gates, dragging Jack behind him, Jack who’s looking worse by the second, whose hands are red from the blood soaking through the shirt. Sam waves his arm in desperation. He’s six feet and some tall, the bruises from Lucifer’s beating starting to swell his face, splattered in blood that’s not his; hell, he probably wouldn’t stop for himself either—

But the person in the station wagon does, slowing and rolling down their window with huge, gawking eyes.

“Please help,” Sam says. “We need – we need help.”

The stranger stares at them for a moment longer, and then the car doors click unlocked.

 

It’s almost two hours before he can step outside, find a secluded area, and call Cas. Jack’s in surgery, ruptured colon. They can repair that. It’s the potential infection that could kill him, the bacteria released into his body in the half hour or so between when Jack stabbed himself and when Alejandro dropped them off at the emergency room, Sam barely remembering to call out a “Thanks” as he rushed in.

And then he had to talk to the police, make up a story about a mugging, suspect’s description matching one Nick from Delaware who’s been missing for almost a decade. Fill out insurance information that he doesn’t yet have the paperwork to back up, which means they’ll probably have to leave long before Jack is ready, which means there’s an even greater chance that his suddenly human body will rot from the inside.

But – Cas can heal, that, maybe. Which isn’t the only reason he calls Cas first, even though maybe Mom should know about her son before anything. Deep down, he knows it’s gotta be Cas that hears it first.

He sinks down as he pulls up his contacts, sitting underneath one of the street lamps in the empty corner far from the hospital doors. It’s just past 7:30 and the sky is a beautiful deep periwinkle heavy with clouds, nothing like what it should look like.

“What’s happened?” Cas picks up before the first ring has finished. He isn’t even trying to hide his panic. Not that he should have to.

“Dean’s alive,” is the first thing Sam says, which, from the small, pained gasp that he hears on the other end, was exactly the right thing to say.

No right way to say the rest of it, though, so he just grits it out. “Michael killed Lucifer. Like, really killed him. Uh. I’m at the hospital in Lawrence. Lucifer took us to Stull—”

“Why are you in the hospital? Is it Dean? Jack?”

“Jack. Uh. He’s in surgery, but he’s gonna be okay.” He gives an abbreviated version of the story, leaving out the part where he asked Jack to kill him. Cas doesn’t need to worry about Sam’s bullshit right now.

“Mary and I are heading out now. We’ll be there in three and a half hours, at the latest. Jack is… he’s strong. He’ll fight it. And Dean?”

Sam closes his eyes. The metal of the streetlight is cold against his neck, though the air is heavy, hints at a coming thunderstorm.

“Sam?”

Sam knows he knows what the answer is, and he isn’t asking out of the cruel desire to make Sam say it and relive it – he wants to be told he’s wrong, will take every possible avenue before accepting that which he’s well aware has happened.

“Michael didn’t leave him. He flew off. I, uh. Don’t know where he is.”

“He left his cellphone here,” Castiel says, like such a mundane detail matters, like it would make a difference if he hadn’t. And maybe it’s easier for him to look at the details than the whole picture. Sam gets that. “We have no way to track him.”

“We found him once when he ran off. We can do it again.”

“That – that was Dean. This isn’t. Even then Dean could control himself and know—”

The hitch in Cas’s voice nearly breaks Sam. He drops his head against his knees. The pressure isn’t so comforting against the swelling in his face, but at least it blocks out the world for a moment. He hears Mary’s voice, though he can’t make out what she’s saying.

“My battery is low,” Cas says then, though it sounds like they’re in Mom’s car and he knows for a fact that there’s a charger in there. “We’ll – we’ll be there soon. I’ll call when we’re close.”

“Yeah,” Sam says. “Okay. Bye. Cas—” but he’s already hung up, which is fine, because Sam’s not even sure what he was going to say and it wouldn’t have meant anything to Cas anyway.

He pockets his phone and stares up at the sky. The blue has darkened and deepened, turned plum around its edges, and he can no longer see the sun. He should get up, see if there’s any news on Jack – but somewhere Dean is trapped in his own body; somewhere his family is speeding to get here even though they can’t do anything.

He closes his eyes for just a moment. There’s an answer somewhere. There’s got to be.

“We’ll make it to the beach someday soon,” he says, opening up his eyes just in time to see heat lightning flash far off in the direction from which Mom and Cas are coming. He hopes his brother can hear his prayer.