Gifts from Above
By: Cheryl W.
Disclaimer: I do not own Supernatural, Dean or Sam, nor am I making any profit from this story.
Summary: Struggling to be strong for his dying brother, Sam falters under the pressure until he latches unto a kernel of faith. Angsty behind the scenes "faith" fic.
Author's Note: Supernatural just slipped under my defenses and I just had to express some of those angsty emotions this episode drudged up. Love to hear what you think. No slash.
Watching Dean sleep. I did it routinely as a child when we shared a bed while on some hunt. Seeing his chest rise and fall, hearing his breath softly whoosh from his lungs, it was the best sense of security I had, knowing that my big brother was with me and he wasn't going anywhere. Dad never gave me any such security, he could be gone the next day and not return for more than a week…and sometimes I faced the fact that he may not return at all. But not Dean, Dean would never leave me, would never force me to fend for myself in this world.
I sink my teeth into my bottom lip to hold back a crushing sob even as tears fill my eyes, blurring my vision of my brother lying in the other motel bed. Quickly I swipe at the tears, I don't want anything to mar my view of my brother, I can't afford to take these looks for granted. 'Last looks,' comes the traitorous words from a part of my mind I'm trying to crush with every breath I take, with every harsh breath Dean takes. I rage against that truth…even as it threatens to rip out my heart.
'Make him comfortable,' that's the best modern medicine can offer Dean. After all Dean's done, all the people he's saved, comfort isn't what he deserves, life is. I'm the selfish son of a bitch, not him. But he accepts his fate. I can see in his eyes that he's relieved it's him instead of me. And those two kids, he figures his life's worth theirs twenty times over. Stupid bastard! Doesn't know his own worth! Part of me knows why that is, because no one ever proved it to him. Dad only told him he was a good hunter and me, I told him he was a pain in the ass, proved that I didn't need or want him in my life when I cut the ties two years ago, when I tried to cut them four years ago.
Agony tears through my soul at the realization of how horribly I have treated Dean, Dean the person I love most in this damn world, more than Dad, more than Jessica, more than myself. He gave me everything he had, his love, his protection, his childhood and now he was giving up his life.
It's too much, my internal flood gates are no match for the emotions tearing me apart. Surging from the bed, I dash for the bathroom, shut the door with my back and then promptly slide down to the floor, the long held back sob burst from my chest. Dean can't die! Not because he's all I have left but because he's the best thing I've ever had in this life. I let him down but he never let me down. If I needed him, he was there, and it never mattered to him what his own needs were.
'Apparently his needs never matter to me either,' I bitterly challenge, knowing in my heart of hearts that Dean needed me these four years, needed me to watch his back, to make a joke out of our father's sometimes harsh words, brutal orders, to stitch up his wounds, to simply be there for him when he needed someone around that gave a damn that he was hurting inside, not necessarily to talk to but just to show him some human contact, to let him know he wasn't alone, that someone loved him, to be the rock he sometimes needed that dad never thought he needed to be for his tough elder son.
And now I can't get that time back, won't even get much time here in the present, and won't have any time in the future. Drawing my knees up to my chest and wrapping my arms around my knees, I sob harder. Didn't God understand that I need my brother! That I can't go on without him! That I lived those four years in college terrified that I would get that call, even as I reassured myself that I would 'know' if something happened to Dean, I just would know.
The way I knew when I brought those kids out of that abandoned house that something had gone wrong. Leaving two terrified, traumatized children standing in the dark night, I ran back into the house, rashly unarmed, bound down the stairs and then my whole world came unhinged as I stumbled to a stop on the stairs, the light of my flashlight illuminating my brother, slumped against the wall, unmoving. And whatever comfort I thought I would obtain by gathering Dean into my arms, wasn't there. Instead all consuming terror engulfed me as my strong, invincible brother didn't wake up, didn't grumble, 'I'm alright,' but instead fell boneless in my arms as I desperately pulled him from the wall, his head falling against my chest.
And he didn't wake up as I dragged him from the water, pulling him against my chest as I sank to the floor of the basement, my arm wrapping around his waist as his head rested back against my chest. My hands had been shaking so badly it took two tries to dial 911, my voice quivering as I told the operator my brother was hurt, how I choked on the word electrocuted. Then my world resorted back to just consisting of Dean and I. Placing my other hand under Dean's jaw, I pulled him more tightly to me, my chin nearly resting on his spiked hair. "Just hang on Dean. Help's on the way. You're gonna be fine," my voice cracked on the word fine. Nothing was fine! And something in me was screaming it never was going to be fine again. A small sob escaped me, "Don't leave me Dean," I pleaded. "I need you, Dean. I've always needed you."
It seemed like hours until I heard the siren, until the ambulance crew came down the stairs. And then when they took my brother from my arms, practically prying my hands loose to do it, I knew they hadn't taken long enough to get there. I wasn't ready to let my brother go, to put his life into someone else's hands.
Only when I climbed into the ambulance and the doors shut did I remember the Impala, my brother's prized possession. Dean would hate the idea that I had left it abandoned, vulnerable to theft and vandalism. It never crossed my mind to take the car, to leave the ambulance pull away with my brother inside without me. The Impala was Dean's prized possession, but Dean was my life.
As they hooked up equipment, started an IV and slipped an oxygen mask on Dean, my trembling hand reached for his hand. I almost started at the coldness of his skin, at the limpness of his hand as I slid it into my own. His hand was callused, more callused than it had been when he was a teenager, when his hand had slipped into mine when he needed to keep me close or let me know he was close. For the first time, my hand was offering that comfort to him, to let him know I needed to keep him close, to prove to him that I was close and I wasn't going anywhere.
The two kids sat beside me in the ambulance but I didn't look at them, didn't offer them any comfort. I couldn't. They were the reason Dean was lying so still, why the medics performed their tasks with such urgency, why my world was nearly imploding. Their lives for his. I knew Dean would say that was what it was all about, saving people. But for me it was about saving the people I loved first and foremost, selfish bastards like me had our priorities straight.
At the hospital, I had to let his hand go, had to watch while they took him into a room where I couldn't follow. And the brutal part of my mind taunted, 'What are you complaining about! This is what you wanted. To break the ties, to be normal, to pretend your past didn't exist, that your brother didn't exist.' I stumbled then, my knees threatening to dump me on the ground, the wall that I fell against was the one thing keeping me upright. It was true, somewhere deep inside, I had wanted a clean slate, to get another chance, to live another life. 'But never without Dean, never a life without him!' I wanted to scream but the response came back sharp and brutally, 'For two years you haven't seen him, spoken to him. By your choice. Not his. And if you had it your way it would have been four years, you would have made the clean break the second you got on the bus bound for Stanford, except he wouldn't let you slip away from him. Until you made it clear he wasn't welcome in your new life. Even when he showed up asking for help, for your help to find Dad, you hid behind Jess, like she could ward off the need you had to take your brother into your arms and never let him go. And it was only Dean's break in his tough façade that made you agree to help him, but you were certain to put limitations on how far this would go, how close you would let him get.'
I started as a hand came to rest on my shoulder, my eyes shooting behind me, expecting Dean to be there, to be wearing his concerned look. But it wasn't Dean. It was a nurse asking me if I was alright, if I had been injured as well. I swallowed hard and shook my head. I wasn't wounded. No, I was dying in remorse and regret and gut wrenching fear. And still I wasn't prepared for the doctor's words, at first they didn't register..'he has a couple of weeks' to do what? Get back on his feet? Take some therapy? And then it struck me, right through my soul, 'to live', my brother had a few weeks maybe a month to live.
Seeing Jess on the ceiling, that was like a brutal knife stabbing into my heart. Learning Dean was dying, that was like the woman in white reaching into my chest to rip out my heart, as slowly and as painfully as she could manage, relishing my agony, savoring my despair, satisfied by my helplessness. Leaving the doctor behind, the word miracle ricocheting in my head, I nearly jogged down the hallway to the room Dean was in. Before I stepped into the doorway, I leaned against the wall, eyes closed, willing my breath to even out, for my heart to slow down. Dean needed me to be his rock for a change, to be the strong one, to be the one who soothed his fears, made his hurts better. 'But I can't! I can't make him better!' screamed through me and I clenched my fists, frustration and rage and despair running rampant through me.
But one thought broke through everything else. 'Dean is in pain and he needs me, me because I'm all he has, me because I'm the only one whose seen into the depths of his heart, me because, though I'm undeserving as hell, he loves me.' It was that knowledge that allowed me to school my features, to smother my own raging emotions, to push off that wall and walk into that room and not burst into tears at the vulnerability that poured off my brother as he laid in the hospital bed, horrible bruises under his eyes, his complexion grey and his unusual boundless energy painfully absent.
He didn't look at me as I entered the room but I knew he knew I was there. Our connection was still there, flowing between us. He spoke as I came to stand at the foot of his bed, his eyes on the tv, his voice, the rough quality, the frailty, the pain, it's nearly my undoing even as he resorts to a nonsense topic of daytime tv.
I bow my head at my brother's tactic to downplay even this and I sigh heavily. As it is, I'm surprised that I can talk around the lump in my throat, "I've talked to your doctor," and somehow it was easier to say since Dean's eyes had yet to touch me, their focus on the flickering tv channels.
True to form, Dean refusing to let a chick flick moment occur, threatened to take out the snuggles bear.
But I couldn't let the avoidance continue, I couldn't pretend that I was not shattering that he was not dy…….His name was a plea off my lips, "Dean." And then the tv was off and his eyes met mine. In that instant, I wished to God that I would wake up, that I was having yet another nightmare, that the flat dark eyes didn't belong to my bigger than life brother.
"Yeah. Alright. Well it looks like you're going to leave town without me," his words even, casual, final. He's being the damn unshakeable hero to the last.
"What are you talking about! I'm not leaving you here," my words striving to be strong, to be firm, to be irrefutable, like Dean's always were when he was fighting the good fight.
"Hey, you better take care of that car or I swear I'll haunt your ass," he threatened, trying to instill levity where there was none.
His effort twisted the knife in my chest and I barely keep my words from being a sob as I retort, "I don't think that's funny."
"Ah, come on. It's a little funny," he pressed, making light of this for my sake, pretending that this was Ok with him and therefore was going to be OK with me.
I looked away, my jaw clenched, trying so hard not to break down, to not let him feel like he failed me
And then Dean did what he always did, he tried to lift the guilt from my shoulders, tried to shoulder all the blame himself, strove to make sense out of the tragedy…for his little brother's sake. "Look Sammy, what can I say man, it's a dangerous gig. I drew the short straw. That's it. End of story," As if that explained it, justified why he was dying…and why I wasn't. Why those kids would live full lives and his was being cut short, too damn short.
I couldn't let him think that I agreed with this twisted curse of fate, "Don't talk like that. We still have options," I said as firmly as I knew how, when I'm lying.
"What options? Burial or cremation?" Dean retorted, his voice betraying his ragged emotions only by the slightest crack. Leave it to Dean to cut through the lies with a machete.
I could hardly draw a breath. Dean was giving up, surrendering to fate, quitting? My brother didn't quit, ever. And he never stopped fighting, no matter the odds! If I could have moved I would have rushed to his side, pulled him into my arms and sobbed like my very world was ending, begging him to fight, to beat the odds like he had so many times before.
As if he sensed my emotions, my denial of the outcome of our joint adventure, he made his next words unmistakably plain and they sliced into my grief like a axe, "I know it's not easy but I'm going to die and you can't stop it."
Internally I hurled curses at him. 'Damn him for thinking he has all the answers, for believing he gets to slip away from me without a fight, for his protective instincts that have him shutting down any hope I'm desperately trying to find to cling to.' Aloud I growl, "Watch me," a determination fueled in me by the defeat in his eyes.
"Sam, this isn't your fault," Dean gently reassured and that made everything worse.
"You think this is about guilt? Damn it, Dean! You're my brother!" I exclaimed, my nerves nearly at the end of their tolerance.
"You'll find Dad," he guaranteed with conviction, and I knew what was going through his head. He thought I was clinging to him because I thought he was all I have left. Because I had said that it was just him and me now since Mom and Jess were gone and Dad was missing.
"We'll find Dad, together," my voice rose, angered by his surrender to a battle yet unwaged.
"Dad will tell you where he's at…." 'once I'm gone,' he left unspoken.
Tears slipped down my face and I shook my head sadly, "You think you're interchangeable, you and Dad. While I can't have Dad, I get you and when I can't have you…" my voice broke apart and it took me a moment to get it together to continue, "you think my being with Dad is a fair exchange for not being with you. It's not Dean. It never was."
"Hey the three of us hung together tighter than most families," par for the course, Dean tried for the positive spin on the horror that was our childhood.
Again I felt like he was leaving off the rest of the sentence, 'until you ran away, left me and Dad for some selfish grab for the perfect normal life.' But regardless of that unspoken accusation, he was missing my point. "At college, I missed you, Dean. Not dad. You."
But he was still trying to push my words aside, to purposely be oblivious to my meaning. "I know you and Dad haven't always seen eye to eye, Sammy. But he loves you, man. You won't be alone."
My words edged toward a shout as the last of my control began slipping through my fingers. "You're not listening to me! I love you, Dean! I need you! You, not Dad! You!"
Finally I got through to him, slipped past his walls, and I had never seen him look more heartbroken. "Sam, don't ask me for something I can't give you," his words were barely kept together by his resolve, my heart pierced by the pleading in his eyes.
Failing me is the one thing my brother couldn't bare and I had made him think that's exactly what he would be doing, failing me, letting me down, making me vulnerable. Didn't he see that I was the one failing him! That I was the one letting him slip away, helplessly watching him endure pain that should never have been allowed to harm him!
"It's my turn," I stammered out.
Confusion crossed Dean's grey, bruised features, "Your turn for what?"
"To save you," and there was conviction in my voice and even some in my heart. "Now stop watching that lousy tv and get some rest. I'll be back in later tonight to see you," I said with as much ease as I could manage, patting his leg and striding for the door.
"Sam!" he called after me but I only spared a moment to swing around and point a finger at him. "Sleep, now." Then I walked out of his room and nearly crumbled to my knees when I had cleared the doorway. The weight of my task was too heavy, too damn important, too much of a long shot and the only thing I had to live for. Gathering my strength, I continued down the hallway. It was my turn to save Dean and failure wasn't something I can live with.
Now as I sob on the floor of the bathroom in the middle of the night, that dreaded failure looms in front of me. A faith healer. That's all I can come up with to stand between my brother and death. Faith! Faith has failed me before, failed Dean and failed our father. Why would it change its game now, why would it offer mercy to me, to Dean now! The answer is brutally honest. Because it's all I have left, when everything else is gone, when hope is flickering out, when options have blown away in the wind, all I have to cling to is the faith that there is good in the world, that a higher power is in control, that God exists. And that He is merciful, that he sees the love I have for Dean, that he feels the pain Dean is in, that he realizes the good that is in Dean, the compassion my brother has for others, the sacrifices he's made so lives would not be lost, lives like those two children. 'Please God, save Dean. I know I said that I would save him but I can't! You can!'
I start as Dean's voice comes through the door, "Sammy, you alright?"
Love for my brother surges through me. Fool's worried about me! "Ah…yeah. Give me a sec.." I call through the door, trying to mask the tears in my voice as I swipe at my face, quickly cross to the sink and wash my face. My reflection in the mirror clearly reveals that my naked sorrow isn't hidden. With one last pat of the towel, I cross to the bathroom door, thinking of Dean standing outside the door ready to collapse is enough to make me not care how vulnerable I look.
When I open the door, I find Dean leaning heavily against the wall, his grey, bruised face inches from mine and his eyes telling me that he's not oblivious to my breakdown in the bathroom. He doesn't say a word and I'm about to scold him for being out of bed when his knees buckle. Instantly my arms are around him, supporting him, hugging him. "I've got you, Dean."
His breath is harsh by my ear as he managing to get out, "I'm not feeling great." The admission was vague, an understatement of the greatest level and my brother's pigheaded way of saying he was going to toss his cookies. With gentle urgency, I slip to his side, help him into the bathroom, and take us both to our knees by the toilet. He's sick before I have time to switch my hold on him. Desperately I brace his chest with my other arm as his own weakened arms seem unable to keep him positioned above the porcelain rim.
As he heaves again, I want to burst into tears all over again. Wasn't it enough he was dying? Why torture him with sickness, with more pain! He's taking deep gulping breaths and I'm praying that the sickness has passed.
He makes the motion to sit back on his hunches and my hold guides him to that position. He reaches for the toilet paper with a trembling hand but my hand darts out and rips some sheets loose and places them into his hand. "Well, that sucked," Dean breathes harshly, wiping his mouth with the toilet paper before tossing it into the toilet. I flush the toilet and turn back to see Dean studying me.
"It's not your responsibility to save me, Sam. I made the decisions that led me here, not you," his voice tired and yet earnest.
"Dad.." I begin in accusation but he gives me his trade mark smirk and shakes his head.
"It's not his fault, Sam. He didn't invent the evil," Dean says so calmly, so full of acceptance.
"He threw you into its path, forced you to be a soldier in his fight," I know my voice is bitter, even hateful but I know who is at fault for Dean's injuries. The man that didn't even have the decency to call me back, even after I told him Dean was sick, that the doctors could do nothing for him.
But Dean sighs. "I wish Mom hadn't die, but she did. And I wish there wasn't any evil to defeat but there is. Do I regret the need for me to be a part of that fight? Everyday of my life. Do I regret being part of that fight? Hell no. I saved lives. I kept families from being torn apart like ours was. And I always knew this day would come. No one lives forever, Sam. Least I helped some people before I'm checking out."
Suddenly I can't stand the distance between us and I engulf Dean in a hug. "You big dumb super hero!" but there's love overflowing in my every word. "Don't be honorable about this!"
"Sam," Dean says gently, his arms holding me as tightly as mine are holding him.
But I can't let him talk, can't hear his further words of reassurance. "I'm not giving up on you, you hear me. Your damn story ends when I tell you it ends."
"And when will that be," Dean says a smirk in his voice.
"I think about eighty years from now," I breathe, relishing in the banter that has been the staple of our brotherhood.
"Eighty years! Dude, I'll be like one hundred and six years old!"
"What? Not long enough? Fine I'll spot you another ten years," I sally back pulling away to meet Dean's eyes. "Now let's get you back to bed," I maneuver us both off the bathroom floor and begin the slow trek back to Dean's bed.
"Yeah, I have a busy day tomorrow," Dean says and shoots me a watered down version of the smirk that I love to hate, "My pushy brother says I have to go see some specialist."
I smile, "Your brother sounds like a real prick."
"A bossy, overbearing, no appreciation for great music prick," Dean shots back as I help him into bed. Tucking the covers around him and under his chin earns me a glare that I can't help smirk at.
"Night John boy," I say, unable to resist the need to give his hair a ruffle before I climb into my own bed.
"That brother of mine," Dean's voice comes to me across the short distance between our beds and I look over to meet his eyes.
"The prick?" I reply, a cocky smile on my face.
"Yeah, him. I love him, you know, even when he's moody and turns off my music."
"He knows that, dumbbehind."
And to my surprise, a laugh bubbles from me. Leave it to Dean to make me laugh minutes after I was sobbing my guts out. They say you can't choose your family but God loved me enough to make Dean my brother. As far as gifts from above go, I'd say I got a billion dollar winning lottery ticket on that drawing. Faith. I didn't have any when I was born and I found myself blessed with Dean. Who knew what miracles I could get if I stashed a little faith in my heart?