|We Mortals Be
Author: Debbie L PM
Angry fairies cast Sam and Dean into a deadly forest where they come face to face with what it really means to be brothers.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Drama/Hurt/Comfort - Sam W. & Dean W. - Chapters: 5 - Words: 12,725 - Reviews: 38 - Favs: 66 - Follows: 19 - Updated: 08-01-10 - Published: 02-14-10 - id: 5746298
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
It's night, and everyone else is sleeping. Dean plans to stay awake—someone has to keep watch. But he figures it won't hurt to lie down. The other two are lying near the fire on either side of Sam. That's good—they'll know right away if something goes wrong. Last he checked, Sam's fever was still down, but Dean knows that could change very quickly.
Besides the wind through the trees and the crackle of the fire, the forest is disturbingly quiet. Dean hasn't noticed any animals or even any bugs, but the plants and trees are in constant motion, even in the dark. Dean keeps his gun out just to warn them off.
Dean sees something out of the corner of his eye and sits up, gun in hand, but it's only Sammy waking up, tousle-headed and yawning. He spots Dean right away and scrambles to his feet, making his way around the fire.
"Bad dreams?" Dean asks the boy.
Sammy just nods, and without asking if it's okay, collapses in a boneless heap and tucks his head against Dean's shoulder. Sammy is already asleep before Dean has a chance to put his head down. He only hesitates for a moment before he puts his arm around his little brother and gathers him in.
Sammy sighs in his sleep—like he expects it—and his breathing evens out. Dean can already tell that he's dreaming again. Sammy always had terrible dreams.
Sam knows Dean is next to him before he fully wakes up. He is only a little bit surprised that it's not his Dean who has stayed with him. And maybe a little bit disappointed.
He tries to roll over, but the pain in his side catches him by surprise. He bites his lip hard to keep himself from crying out, but young Dean wakes up anyway and hunkers over him, hand already checking for his gun.
"It's okay…go back to sleep," Sam whispers, not wanting to wake everyone else up.
The kid tucks the gun back in his waistband, but he checks Sam's forehead, muttering under his breath before unbuttoning Sam's shirt, checking the bandage again, even though Sam doubts he can see much in the dark.
Knee-jerk instinct apparently satisfied, the kid buttons Sam back up. He rolls over, his body a fortress between Sam and the shape-shifting dark. He's asleep before his head hits the ground, breathing sure and even. Through the whole exchange, young Dean didn't even say a word.
Sam can't sleep. His head actually feels a little clearer even though he doubts it will last. This isn't an ordinary infection. His fever ebbs and flows, but every time it comes over him, it's a little bit worse.
He watches his fifteen-year-old brother sleep, his face half-lit by the flickering campfire. This Dean sleeps so much more deeply than the one who came back from hell. Sam hadn't realized there was a difference until now. But he remembers this Dean. Sam remembers being this Dean's little brother and living in the shadow of his relentless—sometimes unbearable—unconditional love.
Sam lifts his head to check on the others. They're safe—Sammy has his head on Dean's chest and is tucked under his arm. God, they're practically snuggling…. Sam remembers what it was like to take Dean for granted.
It's too tempting. Sam can't help himself from scooting a little closer to this fifteen-year-old kid who loves him for who he was and doesn't know yet to hate him for who he's going to become.
It's morning, and Dean wakes up warm and safe, with Sammy still tucked in by his side. This never happened in the real world…when they were both kids. They're lying close enough that Dean can hear Sammy's stomach growling. It triggers old instincts Dean hasn't thought about in a while—gotta roll out of bed and take care of Sam.
That's when Dean remembers the real Sam—his Sam. He looks across to where Sam is sleeping and young Dean is waking up.
There has to be something he's not thinking of—it's true he never took Dad's advice on fairies seriously, but he's been around enough to know some of it on his own. Fairies get stuck on something, and they won't let go until they get it. They whine and curse. They cast mean little spells. They stomp their little fairy feet and have tantrums. Most of all, they leave behind clues of what they want.
Dean quietly tells the kid, "We need to look again. We're missing something."
They wake Sammy up first and tell him what they're planning.
"Look for fairy altars," Sammy says blearily, his hair sticking up in all directions. Dean asks him what a fairy altar looks like, and Sammy yawns and says, "It depends."
"Depends on what?"
"On the fairy."
They circle the clearing with salt and leave Sammy in the center of it with a loaded gun and an insensible Sam. Dean tries to shake his brother awake, to tell where they're going and how long they'll be gone—he knows Sam still worries—but the fever is spiking again, and he just can't rouse him.
Dean doesn't want to leave his brother like this, but he's not sure what choice he has. Sam isn't getting better. If the fairies have any intention of letting them leave, it's clear that they aren't going to make it easy.
Dean and the kid hike into the woods. Roots and vines nip at their heels but shrink back whenever they fire off a round in warning. After a while, the plants don't bother them much—Dean figures that word gets around.
And just when he believes that they're never going to find anything, it's like the fairy world decides to have mercy on them.
The clearing opens in front of them like an open door. In the center of the clearing is a large slab of granite and on the granite is a round gray stone with a perfect hole through the center. It's the altar Sammy was talking about—Dean is sure of it.
Dean is studying the round stone, turning it over and looking for signals or charms, when the kid suddenly asks, "Did he…did Sam do something stupid?"
Dean looks up and frowns. "Do you think there's a chance that Sam didn't do something stupid? C'mon…"
"That's not what I'm asking. I want to know if Sam did something to piss you off."
Dean is getting so sick of this. "It's just like I told Sammy. It doesn't have anything to do with you, and I'm not giving you details, so forget about it."
"Why don't you just beat the crap out of him or something?"
It's all Dean can do not to tear the kid apart. "I hope you're not saying that you'd beat up Sammy… that better not be what you're telling me—"
"Hey, man—chill. I'm you. You know I'd never hurt Sammy."
"I mean it—you mess with him, and you're dead."
"I wouldn't hurt him. I'd never hurt Sammy."
"Yeah, well—just don't."
Dean clears his throat, feeling a little stupid. Here he is… ready to kick this kid's butt for hurting his little brother when that's all he and Sam have been doing to each other for the past year.
"It just seems like it'd be better to get it over with. Start over again. Better than walking around mad at him all the time."
Dean tells him honestly, "I'm not mad."
"Does Sam know that?"
Dean really doesn't know the answer to that, but it's something to think about. They face off with each other, both glaring. Finally, the kid shrugs and stands down.
"What's with the stone?" he asks.
Dean looks down at, traces the perfect center. "I'm don't know, but it might be important. Maybe Sam knows what it is."
"Sammy's good at things like that."
Dean smiles sadly and says, "I remember."
"They're still the same person, you know. Sam's just bigger." The kid waits a beat before heading back into the forest.
Sam has been coughing up blood and bile, since the poison began swamping his lungs. He calls for Dean when he wakes out of another fever dream, but his brother is gone. Sam really wishes Dean had woken him up to say goodbye.
But Sammy pats his shoulder, brings him water, and tells him goofy stories about Dean—seriously funny things that Sam had forgotten. It's a little like getting to know Dean again—seeing his big brother as viewed through his own eleven-year-old eyes.
Sammy has been telling him how he just learned how to jump-start the Impala at the top of a big hill. He describes Dean running alongside before jumping in the driver's seat at the last minute, but Sam can't remember anything like that. He is wondering where the hell Dad was and why was Dean even driving…and then he realizes that Sammy isn't talking any more.
Sammy is staring at him with his canny little eyes. "What did you do? What did you guys fight about?"
Sam could deflect and pretend not to understand what the boy's asking, but there's no point in lying to himself. They don't have that kind of time.
So Sam keeps it simple. "I hurt him… I lied to him. I chose other…things…over him. I didn't trust him. I wanted to believe I knew what was right."
"Were you right?"
"No." Sam closes his eyes to keep out the light. "No, I really wasn't."
"Was Dean right?"
Sam is pretty sure he knows what Sammy is asking.
How much do I have to listen to him? Why can't I just do what I want?
Sam remembers being Sammy, back when he still thought his life could be what he wanted. Once he figured out that he was a smart kid, Sammy started making plans. He wanted to be a boy scout, play soccer, join the Mathletes, and learn to play guitar. He wanted to get good grades so he could go to college and be an astrophysicist. Sammy wanted a two-story house and a fish and a dog.
There was a time when Sam thought that Dean knew everything. Later on, Sam hoped he didn't. Sam isn't sure how things would have turned out differently if he had listened to Dean's advice instead of making his own choices. He would have tried to get along with Dad, wouldn't have gone to Stanford, couldn't have fallen for Jess… she would be safe because he never would have known her. Sam would never have trusted a demon to fulfill his destiny…
Yeah, Sam wishes he'd listened to Dean. But if they get out of this, Sammy is going to have to make his own choices. Telling Sammy not to do something is the best way to push him into doing it. Sam knows himself that well.
Sam starts coughing again, and chokes and sputters on the water the boy just handed him. But he needs to say something. He needs to give Sammy at least a little warning.
"Dean's not always right...but lots of times, he is. He loves you more than anyone else is ever going to—you gotta remember that. No matter what else happens, don't take that for granted."
Sam can feel blood seeping through his shirt. All that coughing must have gotten the wound bleeding again. He lies back down, completely exhausted.
Sammy says, "I'll always listen to Dean. He's really smart, maybe as smart as Dad."
Sam remembers being this boy—when the world was so simple. He just wants this to be over—even if his body holds out, his resolve just can't take it.
Sammy holds the stone in his hand, traces the perfect center, and says, "Hey cool, it's a wishing stone. Dad drew a picture of one in his journal. We can use it to make an offering."
"What kind of an offering?" Dean asks.
Dean is sitting next to Sam looking as spent as Sam has ever seen him. Sam wishes there was a way he could help, but he can hardly keep his eyes open.
Sammy says very seriously, "We've got to make amends."
Young Dean scoffs, "Making amends? Where do you get this stuff anyways?"
"Dad says it's what you do if you screw with fairies. Puck says so too."
"Who the hell is Puck?"
Sam tries to sit up. "At the end of the play, it's how the fairies put things back…take it as a dream if you don't like the way it turns out…Shakespeare used lore…primary source…maybe it was inspiration."
They all look at him, startled that he's actually been talking. For a while there, he'd only been coughing every time he tried to speak.
Dean's voice is forced…too gentle. "What are you talking about, Sam…what play?"
"Midsummer Night's Dream." Dean has his hand on the top of Sam's head…the pressure hurts, but he doesn't want to push Dean away. "We played Puck…he's a fairy."
"I don't remember that," Dean says. Sam knows he's bad off when Dean doesn't jump on the opportunity Sam just left wide open.
Young Dean, on the other hand, grins widely and turns to Sammy. "Dude—you played a fairy?"
Sammy rolls his eyes at Sam. "Now, do you remember why we didn't tell him?"
"That's never gonna get old," young Dean says, gleefully.
But Sam is trying to make his brain work the way he wants it to. He's feeling a little more coherent now, but it won't be long before his fever spikes and he's lost again. Sam is determined that he helps everyone else get back before that happens.
Dean asks, "So how do we make amends?"
Sammy says, "Maybe they'll let us go home, if we say we're sorry and don't do it any more. They left us a wishing stone—that's gotta be what it's there for."
"I don't know…it seems too easy," Dean says, frowning.
"Some things are." Young Dean shrugs. "You know what Dad says—rare jobs are rare. Common jobs are common. Fairies aren't exactly a rare job. So…easy job...easy solution."
Dean sighs. "So we just say we're sorry? You think that will work?"
Sammy says solemnly, "I think we should say something we learned too. Fairies like to teach mortals lessons."
Young Dean rolls his eyes, but it's not like they have a lot of other options. Sam can't come up with anything better.
They try to make a circle. Sam leans heavily against both Deans, his head against his Dean's shoulders. Sammy sits across from the three of them with his legs in a vee so each of his feet is touching one of his big brothers.
Fairies love circles. That's the one thing they all remember from Dad. Their circle is more of a mutated triangle, but it's the best they have to offer. Sam hopes it's good enough.
"Okay, hold hands," Sammy says, holding the stone. "Let's get started. Do you think I should invite the fairies to join us?"
Young Dean groans. "God, you are such a geek—"
But a sudden percussive clanging interrupts him. Sam can feel the vibrations under his skin. One by one, bluebells sprout from the ground until they are surrounded in a perfect fairy circle.
Both Deans are reaching for their guns, when Sammy shouts, "No—don't!"
"Why the hell not?" Dean snarls over the ringing.
Sam knows what Sammy is thinking. "They're bluebells," Sam says.
"I don't care if they're Tinkerbell," Dean retorts. "If a fern could take you out, I'm not taking a chance on a bunch of flowers."
But Sammy pleads, "They're the fairies—that's how they're show themselves. Okay—everyone needs to listen to me. Say what you're sorry for and something you learned. It has to be something that matters. Youngest to oldest—I go first."
Dean must have had the patience of a saint—Sam had no idea he was so damn bossy at this age. No wonder he drove Dad crazy…
Sam must be spacing out again because Dean shakes him a little, and he tries to figure out what's going on.
"Hey, Sam! Come on, man—stay with me. You need to be part of this too."
Sam's trying to stay with them for this, but he doesn't know how much longer he can hold on. At least, the bluebells' ringing dies down once Sammy starts to speak. It appears the fairies are listening.
Sammy says, "I'm sorry that I took my campfire badge more seriously than your circle. I promise I'll be more careful next time."
"There's not going to be a next time," young Dean grumbles.
"And I learned that I'm going to be tall." Sammy aims a pointed look in his big brother's direction. "Really, really tall."
"Sammy, you're supposed to say something that matters. That's not exactly deep, dude."
"It does matter," Sammy insists. "I'm…he's different than I thought I'd be. I don't know how to explain it—that's why it matters." Sammy hands over the stone to young Dean.
The teenager is quiet at first. Then he says, "I don't know what I learned. I can't make sense of it."
Sammy says, "You've got to say you're sorry, Dean. Sam needs you to…he's getting worse again."
Sam can feel all their eyes on him, and he doesn't like it. The last thing he wants is their concern…or their pity. He just wants them to get out of here. All three of them deserve a chance to live their lives in peace…and that can only happen away from him.
"I'm sorry that I wasn't paying attention. It was my fault—not Sammy's—that he built the fire in the friggin' circle."
"Say something you learned," Sammy commands.
Young Dean lets go of Sammy's hand, leans across the circle, and cuffs his brother on the back of his head.
"Stop being a pain in the ass, Sammy. I'm getting sick of it."
He waits until Sammy mutters a grumpy, "Sorry."
Young Dean continues, "I learned that me and Sammy stay alive a lot longer than I thought we would." He glances over at Dean and then at Sam and adds, "Thanks."
"You thought we were gonna die?" Sammy is staring at him with betrayal. "Dean, you always say we're going to be okay."
"We will be fine," the teenager snaps, "as long as I never, ever let you be a Boy Scout."
Sammy is starting to tear up. "That's not fair, Dean. I'm the one who knew what to do with the wishing stone."
"You're the one who got us here in the first place. Life's not fair," the kid retorts, and Sam shakes his throbbing head. He already knows how this one goes.
Dean takes on more of Sam's weight, so he can sit up enough to take his turn. It should be simple—finding something that he's sorry for. What isn't he sorry for?
Sam turns to Sammy first. "I screwed up. Everything … what you worked for… I'm sorry—I really am. I know you wanted to be normal—I'm just sorry."
"You're talking like it's over, Sam—" Dean says, a familiar warning in his voice.
"I deserve what's coming to me…they don't. Neither do you."
"That's a load of crap," young Dean says. "You messed something up, we'll fix it. It's gonna be all right."
But Sam doesn't want to hear that. "Sorry—it's all I got." And Sam hands Dean the stone.
"What the hell, Sam?"
Sam can tell Dean is pissed with him by the tone of his voice.
But Dean goes ahead with his turn. "I'm sorry we broke your tree. I'm sorry we didn't listen to Dad about pissing you guys off before we took the job." Then he practically hands Sam to the other Dean, which is kind of humiliating. But Sam realizes that Dean is trying to look him in the eyes before he says the rest. "You're my brother. It's different now…but maybe that's okay. We're still brothers, Sam."
Sam doesn't know what to say—it's more than he deserves. But the fairies seem to like it just fine.
One by one, the bluebells chime and disappear, and immediately, the fog begins to do something strange. It moves with intent. The fog spreads and flattens into a wall with a perfect circle lying dead center. If Sam stares into it without blinking, he can almost perceive the eye of the world looking back at him.
Dean is holding on to him so hard it hurts, and Sam can't pull away. Letting Dean go scares Sam more than dying in this fairy-cursed forest ever could.
Dean wants to believe that the effects of the poison will magically disappear as soon as Sam gets back to their own world. Sam might have a big fern bite taken out of his side, but it's the poison that's killing him. But Sam refuses to go through until the kids are gone, and Dean supposes he's right. It's hard though to let them go, especially the little boy that Dean practically raised.
Dean takes his time helping Sammy put on his jacket. Dean messes up his hair, and his little brother hugs him until Dean is pretty sure he has a couple broken ribs. But he is the last to let go. Meanwhile, the over-protective idiot is keeping an eye on them, like Dean might just grab Sammy and make a run for it.
Dean feels respect for the kid he once was and what he managed to accomplish despite all the odds. Dean raised Sammy when he was just a kid himself. He's never let himself take the credit for that before now, but it's easier to see it objectively when it's balanced on someone else's skinny shoulders.
He's got some things that need to be said before he lets them go.
Dean tells the kid, "You need to get in more target practice with the Colt—your aim is off. And don't jerk the trigger. You need to squeeze it, not pull it—otherwise you'll always hit your target low. Also dude, you need to wax the Impala twice a month, and I'm friggin' serious. You screw up, I'm gonna hunt you down and kick your sorry ass myself."
"Like to see you try that, old man," the teenager scoffs, and for a second, they just stand there grinning at each other like a couple of idiots.
Then young Dean crouches beside Sam, who is lying on the ground with Dean's jacket under his head.
The kid says, "Don't you give up. That's not how me and Dad raised you—understand?"
Sam could be younger than Sammy, the way he stares and then nods. The kid squeezes the back of Sam's neck and gets up. They're heading for the opening in the fog, when Sammy suddenly stops and turns.
He runs back to Sam and kneels beside him in the dirt. "It didn't turn out the way we planned," he says.
Sam's voice breaks. "I'm sorry."
"It's okay. I'll keep trying anyway."
The little boy kisses Sam on the cheek and runs back to his brother. They take each other's hand and turn their backs. They step into the mist, and then they're gone.
Dean feels the void they leave behind like a knife in his gut.
But there's Sam. Still alive and breathing and flawed… Dean can't forget Sam. He's got to get him back. Has to save him.
Dean crouches next to his brother. "C'mon, Sam, let's get you up."
"I'm staying," Sam says calmly. "You go."
Dean stares at him and shakes his head. The asshole has been planning this all along.
"No fucking way. I'm making the call. Clover juice packs a punch, but I'm thinking an IV drip is the way we're gonna be doing this."
"Don't you get it? This is how you save me."
"By leaving you behind? No fucking way."
"Lucifer is waiting for me—I can feel him looking for me now that the door's open." Sam gestures wearily at the opening in the fog.
"Let him look. He can't have you."
"He won't let me die."
"Neither will I. Guess me and the devil have something in common."
Sammy looks at him, clearly panicked. "Dean—I don't trust myself to say no to him."
"Then trust me." Dean pushes back his brother's filthy, sweat-soaked hair off his forehead. "I trust you, Sammy. I do. And I need you to trust me."
When Sam almost smiles at that, it's not so hard—seeing the little brother in the grown man.
"Dean—are you sure?"
"Yeah, I'm sure, Sammy. Now, will you get your lazy ass up so we can get the hell out of here?"
Dean almost buckles under Sam's weight—his lying, demon-blood addict of a brother, covered in sweat and blood. This is the Sam who Dean went to hell for, the one who tried to save him, the same one he is going to save. This time, maybe they'll save each other.
This fairy crap is a little like rowing a boat—heading backwards into their future while keeping an eye on where they've come from. Dean doesn't know how history changes destiny, but he's pretty sure they'll figure it out.
Dean feels his brother's arm tighten around his shoulders, he's got his arm around Sam's waist, and they're hanging on to each other. This is how they save the world. They take a step. And another one. And then one more.