Oh, The Places You'll Go

Carved Until I Set Him Free

Notes: There's something special about Sam. Maybe it's because Dan obviously loved him so much and the grief is still killing him down the line. And yet we know very little about him. I just know I love finding out about him. I thought it would be interesting to see the Dan we know from Sam's point of view. So here it is. Some spoilers but they're pretty obscure. I think. WARNING: Self-harm.


If he had to describe himself, he supposed he was Danny's guardian angel. It wasn't the job he would have chosen, but sometimes you just have to suck it up and take what you're given. He would have preferred something along the lines of cosmologist, but it turned out they wanted more experience. So had he, he had retorted and found himself at the end of a most disapproving glare. Turned out backchat went down as well with the heavenly host as the time Joseph considered a sliding scale of charges for his dream interpretation business. No wonder he'd ended up a slave in Egypt.

So it wasn't the job he would have chosen — after all, guardian angel was pretty much a nominal position these days anyway. Apparently, it had meant a lot more back in the day when angels and demons fought it out for real for the souls of humans. Could be a real slug-fest he had heard; intangible fist meeting incorporeal jaw with heavenly force or satanic might. But these days the demons had found a way to exist within the humans themselves and guardian angels' powers had attenuated until they barely stretched further than the power of suggestion.

When he saw the turmoil Danny was in, however, how could he refuse the charge? Danny was broken. All messy, human emotions. Blind, deaf and dumb — anger, guilt and sadness leaking from him like kapok oozing from an overstuffed bear. Leaking, leaking, all the time — tears and snot and sweat and blood. The blood was the scary part. Sharp scissor blades dragged over willing skin, red blood dripping like rain. He himself could feel no anguish — part of the pleasure/pain of being not-human — but Danny's anguish resonated within him, the high-pitched harmonic a memory of reality.

He would do what he could, blow on the wound with angel breath to staunch the flow. Reach into Danny's mind with his own, smoothing the jagged corners, lulling him to sleep, to obliteration. But he could not explain away the hurt, could not put his arms around Danny to comfort him. Could not hide the scissors and the knives and the razors. Could not tell. Could not care.

Sometimes it bothered Sam that he could not get more worked up over his own death. That the suffering only continued for the living — his emotional connections to the world had been severed as irreversibly as his physical ones. The shock cessation of myriad potential futures. He supposed this made sense. What would be the point of heaven if it was attended by the same woes that manifested themselves in the humdrum daily lives of humans? But all the same, when he saw where Danny's grief took him, it hurt, just a little, that it did not hurt more.

In time, Danny began to heal. The silver threads of scar tissue a permanent reminder of loss. Sam's job grew easier as Danny blossomed and found friends to love and a job that excited and enthralled him. He had time to explore the world a little, Danny's experiences becoming his. There were so many times he wished he still had senses and occasionally he would slide into Danny's body as he ate, incorporeal tongue sliding over its warm, fleshy partner, trying to catch some hint of a taste. Sometimes when he did this, Danny would pause with the fork half-way to his mouth, give his head a slight, sharp jerk as if warding off a fly, and then continue eating. He wondered then if it was possible that Danny felt his presence. No, it was impossible. Danny did not believe. And without the eyes of faith, how could he see?

Danny pretended to believe, like he pretended a lot of things. Like he pretended he was straight. That had been an interesting experience — walking (well, floating) in on Danny with his mouth wrapped around the dick of some random guy. He'd been mildly disconcerted at first, but more because this was Danny engaging in, in ... Sexual Practices ... than because of whom he was with. Angels, being asensual in human terms, were unsurprisingly asexual. What was the point really if you could not smell and taste and feel? But it seemed to make Danny feel better, so he was all for it.

So there were men, but there were women too; picked up in bars on nights out with Danny's friends. Proof, Sam supposed, that he was a real man. Whatever that meant. As far as Sam was concerned, if your heart beat you were real enough. Not that he minded when Danny brought these women home: their breasts pale in the lamplight reminding him of the first time he had crept into his brother's room to check out his porn stash. If angels were allowed to regret then Sam regretted he'd never had a chance to get his hands on a real pair. The crash had come too soon. They'd been headed to the woods to park and he felt for sure he'd been in with a chance. Ashley had been casting him sidelong glances all night, flicking her hair and laughing too loudly at his jokes. He'd never been the coolest guy in school, but he was smart and he recognised a go signal when he saw one. Pity he hadn't been smart enough and sober enough to recognise a stop signal when he saw one. Danny's women were all that were left to him now. They would have to do.

Sometimes one of the women lasted a little longer than the others. Then Danny would pretend that he was in love. He would moon and sigh and wax poetical — it made a guardian angel sick. But it wasn't real. Not that Sam had experience in these matters but he was an angel now. Angels knew things. And all the noise Danny made wasn't love. Sam was pretty sure he'd seen that somewhere else. And it was quiet and dogged and loyal and unswerving and as obvious to Sam as being hit over the head with a brick. He attempted to tell Danny about it, but he couldn't get him to listen. He tried and tried and all Danny ever did was look puzzled, stick his little finger in his ear and wiggle it. So annoying. Or it would have been, were Sam still capable of being annoyed.

Danny pretended to be happy too. Had himself fooled a lot of the time. But sometimes he would forget to pretend and Sam's job was hardest then, as Danny hurtled downwards at terminal velocity. At these times, Sam would find himself standing shoulder to shoulder with Danny's best friend, united in their efforts to save him from himself. Sam would whisper and whisper and whisper in Casey's ear until the breath of a thought would cross his brain and he would look at Danny with worried eyes, taking him home, methodically hiding each blade, each bottle of pills. They never spoke of it. Casey would retreat to the couch, wakeful, guarding from a safe distance as if staying close to the darkness inside Danny for too long would suck him down as well. Sam would watch all night, recounting happy tales of kitchen table forts or long, hot summer days, or yomping through the snow to search for the Yeti.

They would do this, the two of them, angel and fallible mortal, until Danny began his long crawl back into the light.

Only one time, one terrible time, Casey did not hear Sam's whispers. Or refused to hear. Same thing from Sam's perspective. So he struggled on with Danny alone. Did the best he could with his limited powers. He'd sent up a request for temporary telekinesis, thinking if Casey wasn't there to hide the blades, then maybe he could. The request had been denied. Something about ineffability and free will, he thought, but it was difficult to tell as the heavenly host insisted on singing everything with added Glorias and Hallelujahs. He tried distracting Danny by putting attractive men in his path. At least, he hoped they were attractive; he wasn't much of a judge. Danny didn't notice anyway. He sang lullabies to Danny through the night, trying to stop the horrors that visited him in his dreams. He tried to smooth the way for Danny at work, spreading feelings of warmth and forgiveness. But it wasn't enough.

Sam thought Danny would enjoy the impromptu Seder that the select Jewish enclave at Sports Night had organised. One person missing? Why would it matter? There was food and friends and a fantastic age-old story of God's promise to His people. Danny used to love Passover. Not this year. This year he sat, nails digging into flesh, letting the black cloud of doubt swallow him inch by crucifying inch. Sam knew that the past week had driven him further into himself than before. Forced him to confront truths about himself. Truths that hurt and would keep on hurting. He could feel it coming, the dark pouring in on Danny, drowning him. He hurried round the table, prodding and poking, but there was only one person who could make a difference and he wasn't there.

Try as he might, Sam could not stop Danny pushing back his chair and standing up. He could not stop him excusing himself, voice light and impersonal. Could not stop him lingering by a desk in the bullpen, palming blue-handled scissors. Could not stop him checking out the corridor with furtive glances before stepping into the men's room. If Sam had been able to panic, now would have been the time. There was nothing he could do. He was failing in his job. This wasn't fair. He was only sixteen, was always going to be only sixteen. How was he supposed to know what to do, be any use?

The door closed behind Danny with a dull thud. Sam dithered, unsure. He heard the harsh sound of Danny's zipper and made up his mind. He shot out into the corridor, knowing too well what was happening in the room behind him. And there was salvation, striding down the corridor, face set in concentration. Sam did what he was not supposed to do. He slid into Casey's mind and, with all the electrical energy at his disposal, shouted "Danny! Help!"

Casey stopped dead in his tracks. Sam used what meagre powers he had left to point Casey in the right direction. Then he was done. He did not even have the strength to disentangle himself and found that he was being sped down the corridor, still part of Casey. He felt the jolt as Casey straight-armed the door; saw his wild-eyed reflection in the mirror. Felt the powerful thud of Casey's heart shaking him, making him feel almost alive.

"Danny!"

Casey's voice sounded strange; deeper, resonating through bone and air. No response. Sam could hardly hear, deafened by the noises in Casey's body. But Casey must have caught something because he was crossing to the stalls, pushing the doors in turn until one refused to give. Casey rapped on it, hard. Sam could sense the pain receptors in Casey's hand firing weakly. No response.

"Open the door or I'll kick it down!"

Woohoo! thought Sam. That's more like it. No response. Casey took one, two, three steps back, then launched himself at the door. It gave easily, the jarring barely causing a blip on Sam's radar. And there was Danny, looking like nothing more than a frightened child, scissors in hand, a violent, weeping, red welt across one thigh. Casey dropped to his knees in front of him, grabbing fistfuls of toilet paper and pressing it to the cut. Sam found it hard to cling on as tumultuous thoughts rushed through Casey's brain like an electrical storm. He could not catch them all, just sensed the feelings — regret, remorse, love, self-recrimination, fear, anger, love, horror, love.

Neither had managed to say anything. Casey knelt, head bowed, hands covering the wad of tissue, compressing Danny's thigh. Danny's hands hung limp from his sides, his head too was bowed, and a warm tear dropped from the tip of his nose to splash on Casey's wrist. Casey looked up and Sam saw his brother's eyes, so sad, so alone, that he was glad he no longer had a heart to break. But he could feel the very moment Casey's shattered and heard the words as they formed in his brain, scant seconds before they escaped from his mouth.

"Because of me?"

And so here was the painful truth at last. With a teenage boy's natural diffidence around high emotion, Sam wished he had eyes to close.

"Yes."

So much contained in that one, powerful word. So much that was raw and broken and despairing. Sam knew that this was a chance that could not be blown. He drew up his remaining strength and prodded Casey's brain. It's up to you now, doofus, he told him. You have to take care of him. He felt Casey's expression change and it must have been good because Danny's face softened and the scissors clattered to the floor, skittering unnoticed under the partition.

Casey bent his head to mouth the silver scars that laced across Danny's unhurt thigh and Danny's hand came up to lie warm and heavy on Casey's head. There was a strange sensation of movement, of being pulled backwards out of Casey by some unknown force. Sam shook himself, glad to be free, half-satisfied, half-embarrassed by the silent tableau of the two men before him. The force continued its inexorable pull and the room began to recede. He was moving farther away, faster and faster, the world blurring around him.

What did this mean? Was his job done? Would Danny be OK without him? Sam shrugged and stopped worrying. It wasn't in his nature. Not anymore. Anyway, he'd heard on the heavenly grapevine that there was an opening for a cosmologist. Something about an angel having a Fall. Old people! Well, angels, corrected Sam.


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