“I can’t do this anymore Dean.” Sam complains from his position on the half-assed training rack they’d set up at one end of the main library room. The instructions in the old volume of advice for heroes undergoing trials of all sorts had advised setting up a stretching rack where wrists and ankles are secured and then weights are placed on the mid-section as said hero tries to hold himself up for as long as possible. Sam’s really strong, but this is a bit much even for him. He’s starting to wonder if it’s worth trying to even prepare physically for The Trials. After the first one, it seems like they’re going to be specific tasks, not requiring superhuman strength or flexibility or even endurance.
Dean paces next to his stretched out brother looking at his watch, “Come on, hang in there, you’re almost up to a half hour.”
“It’s not working. I’m not feeling any different.”
“The book didn’t say you will right at first. Keep at it, you’re doing so good Sam.”
“Too hard to stay loose when I’m tired.”
“What’s that Bruce Lee saying? Oh yeah, Be Like Water. Why don’t you try that Sammy?” Dean lowers his voice into the one he uses when he’s trying to help Sam get to sleep or calm down, the low, even, soothing, steady, warm, tone that’s almost like instant hypnosis, “You are water, rushing over the rocks; be like water, moving on the shore, be like water; you’re flexible, be like water; you can go anywhere, be like water; nothing stops you, be like water; you move at your own pace, be like water.”
“Alright, I’ll try, but if it doesn’t help, I want you to let me down.” Sam concentrates hard on Dean’s voice, and the impromptu chant he’s created. The repeated phrase Be Like Water makes sense, it sticks around in his mind, and everything centers on that now. His brother’s voice the flow around him, he is the flow, he becomes the water. The shaking of his muscles, all the pain, fade away into the background noise of water moving. Him moving, carried on Dean’s rumbling tones, not making out the individual words anymore, not worried about it, just going forward, making a new path through it all. Time goes away, and all that’s left is the echo of Dean’s voice anchoring him to the world and his watery form.
“Okay, Sam. Snap out of it now, an hour’s good enough.” Dean shakes Sam’s shoulders, trying to get a response besides the wordless mumbling he’s been hearing for close to a half an hour now. But Sam doesn’t move or open his eyes or respond in anyway at all. It’s like he’s not really all there in his body. He starts to get worried when he removes the weights from Sam’s belly, and there’s no snarky “about time” coming from his brother. Just a steady stream of unintelligible words.
He lightly strokes the red marks left on Sam’s skin from the heavy iron weights and there’s not a single shiver. His body is so loose, he can feel there’s no tenseness at all through Sam’s belly. Dean moves his hands more firmly up Sam’s arms, the muscles aren’t locked up and solid anymore, just completely relaxed. He moves down to Sam’s legs and they’re the same, no response to being massaged, and no solid knots like he was working on for Sam earlier.
So he got Sam into this trance state, how the hell does he get him out? The worry starts to increase as yelling Sam’s name into his ear doesn’t work, neither does clapping, slapping his feet, or even tickling his unprotected armpits. Sam’s body is there, but Sam isn’t. It reminds him too much of Soulless Sam, for a moment he’s worried that they shouldn’t have even tried this, maybe Sam wasn’t hooked up to his body firmly enough for something this hard, after being ripped apart from his soul for all that time.
Dean grabs the book they’d gotten this training exercise from, of course it’s in Greek, and he has to find Sam’s notes on the translation. But even after re-reading it all, he doesn’t come up with anything that will help. Another half hour goes by, and nothing’s changed, except Sam’s hands and feet are starting to turn blue from the pressure of being tied all his weight suspended.
“Alright, that’s it, I’m calling it.” Dean says out loud, even though he knows nobody is there to hear him.
He moves to untie Sam from the furniture he’s suspended from, first putting a chair under his butt to catch him. He undoes both legs first, settling Sam in the chair. Sam’s only being held up by his arms which are spread wide behind him and still anchored to the bookcase railings. Dean looks at him closely, there’s a look of peace and maybe even bliss on his brother’s face. He kind of hates to snap him out of it because Sam hasn’t had much peace or bliss in a long time. But there’s a limit to how much non-Sam-ness Dean can take.
He unties first one and then the other wrist, catching and holding Sam up so he doesn’t flop out of the chair. Standing behind Sam, holding him around the chest his ear is closer to Sam’s mouth and he stops, transfixed by the mumbled, whispered words he hears, “AONT, HCOMA” A chill runs down his spine as he realizes that he’s pretty damn sure that’s Enochian.
“Crap, c’mon Sammy, where are you dude?” Dean pleads, rubbing his brother’s hands roughly to get the circulation going, starting to sound a little too desperate even to himself. The only thing he can think of is that Sam knows Enochian way too well from all his time spend in The Cage with Lucifer and Michael and maybe he’s stuck in a flashback loop. But it’s the only place he has to start, the words are Enochian, and he’s got to translate it somehow. Maybe it’ll be a clue to how to snap Sam out of this. But he can’t leave him in the chair, he’ll just flop out and hit the hard floor and really be knocked out. Dean muscles him out of the desk chair and gets his arms under Sam’s armpits and pulls him backwards, feet dragging uselessly behind until he gets to the comfy armchair reading area. He gets Sam arranged in one of the deep leather chairs, his head lolling back as if all his bones have gone to jelly.
When he’s sure Sam won’t roll out of this spot he heads back to the library table, and looks at the book they were using again. There is some Enochian mixed in with all the Greek of course, that was part of the whole training thing they were attempting, it was asking for assistance from angels to be able to complete the Duties of Heaven. The way Sam had explained it, humans were sometimes assigned impossible tasks that Heaven would require them to complete before something the human needed or wanted could occur. Kind of like they’re trying to do with The Trials and attempting to close the Gates of Hell for good.
He finds the Enochian phrases Sam had ritually spoken when he was first getting tied up, luckily they written out phonetically, and seem to have the two words Sam was repeating along with a few others. But there isn’t a translated meaning written out. Dean finds what he hopes will help him in a large book titled, On Conversing With the Heavenly Host, and he discovers that AONT and HCOMA are, according to the Tablet of Union, both “Water of Spirit”. So when Dean had unwittingly advised Be Like Water, and Sam had done just that, he’d somehow called upon these two angelic spirits of water a second time. They had apparently been helping him so that he could survive the stretching and the weight. But he needed them to stop now and bring his Sam back to him.
Dean stops himself for a second and thinks about that, why he’d said it that way to himself, “his Sam”. The easy rationalizations for how they treat each other come online quickly and he doesn’t fuss at himself too much more. He’s got to concentrate on getting Sam to come out of this trance. Another hour looking through several more volumes of Enochian rituals and phrases and Dean’s got something he thinks will maybe work. Contacting the overly helpful angelic spirits is the only way to do this.
He assembles the ritual bowl and ingredients quickly out of the storeroom. They’re lucky that the Men of Letters were so well supplied, it’s sure made things easier. Drawing out the circle and sigils around Sam’s chair in lamb’s blood reconstituted with holy oil, some of his blood and water from the ocean he wonders what Sam will say about the stains that will no doubt be left on the carpet. He finds himself swamped with a fierce hope and conviction that Sam will do just that in a minute here. Before he begins the ritual he checks on Sam one last time, brushing his lips against Sam’s slowly moving ones, “Come back to me Sammy” he whispers in a prayer to the only one he ever wants to hear him.
The ritual bowl is lit, the candles at the corners flare up as he says the words in Enochian as well as he can, reading off a paper he’s written the whole prayer out phonetically,
AONT HCOMA (Spirits of Water)
MPH ARSL GAIOL (He who is the 1st true creator, the horned one)
RAAGIOSL (He whose hands are toward the East)
OL ESIASCH (Release my brother)
OLANI DVGAR OL OD OL CNILA (I give my thanks and my blood)
The lights flicker as the angels depart and release their hold on Sam, who slumps further in the chair. “Sammy!” Dean shouts rushing forward, knocking over the ritual bowl and spilling the contents in a colorful mess to add to the blood on the rug. He runs his hands all over Sam’s shoulders and down his chest feeling for his heartbeat. He holds Sam’s head up gently and pulls up one eyelid. Empty, he’s not there, no one home, his body feels like a squishy left-over husk.
“No, come on, not like this. You gotta come back to me.” Dean hugs as much of his boneless brother to him as he can. Melding his body into Sam’s, feeling the coolness and limpness makes him want to cry and scream. He can’t lose Sam to something like this. Not now, not after everything. He turns his head and speaks against his skin, where Sam’s pulse is still faintly beating, “Please Sam, please come back, don’t Be Like Water, be like my brother again.” Finally, he can’t help but let a few tears fall, they hit the skin of Sam’s quickly cooling neck, soaking in immediately.
There’s a long beat where nothing happens, between his heart beating and Sam’s, all of a sudden in a big whoosh of energy that Dean can feel everyplace where he’s touching his brother, Sam retakes and refills his body. His mouth opens and water pours out, soaking both of them, but then he sputters and breathes in deeply, his chest expanding under Dean’s hands. Dean squeezes him tight in the sudden happiness and leans back to look at him, still holding him up by the shoulders. “You okay dude?”
“Yeah, what happened?” Sam asks, looking at Dean so bright-eyed and alert for having been so far gone.
“You were gone, the angel spirits we called on kind of took over. I said Be Like Water, and you were just ‘nobody home’ for a long time.” Dean runs his hands over Sam’s shoulders as he realizes he’s still holding his brother up when he doesn’t really need it.
“How’d I come back?” Sam asks, wide-eyed at the thought of angel spirits taking him over. He catches Dean’s hands in his own as they come off his shoulders so that he’ll stay close and answer.
Dean looks down at their joined hands and smiles “You were saying two of their names over and over again, so I looked up how to call them and say thanks and ask them to release you.”
“You did all that?” Sam looks around at the mess on the floor and the bandage wrapped around Dean’s hand where he’s no doubt given his blood yet again to save him.
Dean looks up at him and grins, so happy to see him looking back again, “Of course, couldn’t leave you floating with the spirits of water now could I Sammy?”
Smiling at his brother’s expression of relief and happiness, Sam asks, “Guess not, so uh, how long was I on the rack thing?”
“Altogether, about an hour and a half, pretty impressive, I’d say you’re as trained up on this one as you can get. How are your muscles feeling?” Dean asks, suddenly concerned about the aftereffects of this whole thing.
Sam rolls his shoulders experimentally, “Really good, like I’ve had the best massage, it’s kind of amazing.”
Dean rolls his eyes, wishing he felt that good, the post-adrenaline let-down response is hitting him hard now, “Lucky you.”
Sam realizes that this was probably a lot harder on Dean than he’s saying, so he lets Dean’s hands go and rubs at his shoulders, making Dean lean his head forward into Sam’s chest, groaning with a sigh of pleasure. “You’re so tight, you must have been really worried.”
“Not the right word for it, but yeah, pretty much.” Dean mumbles into Sam’s bare chest, so damn glad to feel the strong heart-beat and warm skin against his face.
Continuing to rub deeply at the knots in Dean’s upper back, Sam offers, “I’m sorry. Thanks for helping me come back.”
“Like I have a choice at this point?” Dean snorts and relaxes further into the welcome heat of Sam.
“I know you don’t, but, just, know that I appreciate it. All the worrying is hard on you, and I wish you didn’t even have to do it.”
Dean chuckles into the warmth and strength beneath his cheek, “Yeah, it was supposed to be your turn this time dude.”
“Just didn’t work out that way I guess. But the only way I’m going to get through this is you sticking with me like you are, and just, thanks.” Sam hugs him tightly.
Dean finally, reluctantly stands up, pulling Sam up with him, and pats him on the shoulder in thanks for the mini-massage, “You’re welcome, but you’re cooking dinner tonight.”
Sam laughs at his brother’s predictable response to use his thank you to get out of a chore, “No problem, I’m feeling like fish, sound good?”
“Why am I not surprised since you were just Being Water? Sure, as long as it’s batter-fried.” Dean is happy to be able to laugh too, so soon after the fear, sinking back into the warm comfort of the chair Sam’s just vacated.
“Coming right up, I’ll bring you out a beer in a second okay?” Sam scoops up his shirt from the table and puts it back on as he’s walking to the kitchen.
Dean doesn’t answer, he’s too busy relaxing, putting his feet up and savoring the calm happy feeling that’s filled him up. They’ve accomplished something here, now they both know Sam can take just about anything physical by calling on the angels for help. A lot of the worry he’s been holding onto about the Trials has disappeared and it feels good sitting here, knowing his brother is a step closer to maybe being sorta kinda hopefully okay.