Because Love Hurts
Disclaimer: I don't own the show or the boys. If I did, they'd hug in just about every episode…heehee.
Summary: Post Shadow. Letting go is hard to do when all you've known is how to hang on.
Warning: No slash, just angst-saturated brotherly love. Rated for mild language. Spoilers for Shadow.
Author's note: Literally started writing it and couldn't stop, straight through. I'm actually proud of this, which is rare of me to say…but maybe it's just the delirium from it being almost 2 in the morning and I'm supposed to get up in four hours for work. Either way, I hope the time spent was worth the effort. I really enjoyed writing this and hopefully you'll enjoy reading it. Reviews are very encouraging. Flames, of course, I'll accept- though only if I'm given something constructive to work on in improving my writing. Also, for those who may be reading Proximity, I haven't quit that. I'll work on that tomorrow. On with the tale...
"We're not going to talk about this, are we?" Sam flinched as Dean tended to the claw marks on his face. Dean held Sam's chin firmer, forced his head to a slight angle to better clean the gash. He glanced his eyes upward to Sam's briefly before returning to the injury.
"Nope," he said plainly, and when Sam made a squirm to move away Dean held him tighter.
"Can we talk about this?"
"Nope, nothing to talk about,"
"Some things are better left unsaid, Sam," Dean finished, releasing his brother a bit roughly and tossing a bloodied cotton ball into the trash. He promptly stood up from the edge of the bed he shared a seat on with Sam and walked towards the bathroom.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Sam implored, standing up as well, none the more intimidating than a gerbil with puffy scratch marks on his face. Dean shook his head.
"It means I'm not gonna talk about it,"
And the silence was back again, like it relatively had been since they checked into the new motel a half hour prior.
"Dad—us—we almost died tonight, don't you want to…"
"No!" Dean said sharply, unknowingly forming fists. "I don't."
"Well, if you'd just listen to me,"
"Listen to you?" Dean started, taking a pause to scoff. "I didn't know luggage could talk," he finished, and with so the anger faded and a new emotion was beginning to surface- that familiar sadness.
Sam was obviously pained by the comment, but he didn't let it affect him. "See, you're mad at me. I knew it,"
"So write a book about it. I'll be first in line for a signed copy of Geek Boy the Psychic Wonder," Dean mentioned, before stepping completely into the bathroom and flipping the light on. Sam hazarded a step forward.
"Don't do this,"
"Don't pretend like none of this matters, that you can sweep all of your emotions under the rug and let them be forgotten like everything else," Sam said earnestly, feeling his face burn again. Dean looked away from him for a moment, seemed to be lost in a fleeting thought before returning his eyes to Sam.
"Go to bed, Sam," Dean finally spoke, his voice breaking a little. "You'll need to be rested so tomorrow I can continue to drag your ass all over the country,"
And it was the quiet closing of the door that shot through the new silence that startled Sam. Dean didn't slam it closed, didn't shatter the walls, and just let it lightly click into place, and what a small sound it was that sent Sam's world into total chaos.
Dean didn't want to slam the door and shut Sam out. He wasn't mad at Sam, but mad at himself. He just wanted to lock himself away, and so he closed the door and locked it.
Damn you, Sammy…
He was forced to face his bloodied and bruised reflection.
Sooner or later, everyone's gonna leave me…
Maybe sooner than I thought…Too soon…
He cringed and turned away, facing the door while pressing his hands against it to feel the security that it would stay closed. He wasn't all that surprised to feel the door rattle from Sam's knocking.
"Dean? I really need to talk to you," Sam said behind the door and Dean rolled his eyes though he knew Sam couldn't see. He remained silent, scooted away from the door and plopped down on the closed lid of the toilet. "Dean? Come on, man,"
"Just…let it go, Sam," Dean said, biting the inside of his lip for saying those words. Sam didn't respond right away and Dean relished in the silence. Just forget I even mentioned that…
"I'm sorry, Dean—I'm…I'm sorry," Sam remarked meekly, albeit convincingly, Dean didn't budge. "Look, what Meg said…it wasn't…it's not true, okay?"
At that statement, Dean stood up angrily; ready to bolt out of the door.
"Aw, don't tell me," Dean shot out miserably. "She played doctor with your brain and made you say those things, right?"
Sam knew instantly Dean was referring to the asylum incident. Talk about not letting go…
"Stop being difficult! How can you expect to make us all one, big, happy family when you push us all away? When you send Dad—our missing dad of over six months—away, after we finally find him. Six months spent looking for him, and for what? So you can say, 'We found you, now go run off again'?" There was no hiding the pure anger in Sam's voice, and it was too much for Dean to handle. He immediately reached over to the shower and turned the water on full blast, the sound of rushing water drowning out his yelling brother.
Dean thought he heard Sam shout something—a few things, but nothing he could distinctly make out. He slunk back against the tub, falling to the cold, tiled floor.
He listened to the falling water, trying to focus on its rhythmic quality and escape the disheveled thoughts mangling in his head. One thought, the only thought that mattered, had its reigns tightly wound around his heart.
"I'm not gonna live this life forever. Dean, when all this is over...you're gonna have to let me go my own way,"
How could he let Sam go? How could he let the only thing he's ever had to cling on to just leave? It was like asking the world to stop orbiting the sun, to ask the world to stop breathing.
Again, the tears swelled in his eyes that darted around the room to find somewhere, anywhere, that wouldn't have his vision to blur. It was a sure sign he might cry, and Dean couldn't cry.
But there was Sam again, consuming his thoughts, and the man might as well have been sitting right there next to Dean as far as he was concerned.
Dean felt himself trapped by the yellowed walls around him. On this side of the door, in this room, was Dean…and John was buried there somewhere in the mirror's reflection. On the other side of the door was Sam. Sam always seemed to be on the outside while growing up. Sometimes he'd knock and ask to come in, and sometimes he'd run away and never look back.
It was a luxury Dean would give anything to have…to never look back. It's why he hated—absolutely hated—rearview mirrors, because all they did was force him to see who he was forced to leave behind. Sam never looked back, never had that weakness, that instinct. And so Sam never felt the same pain Dean did.
And Dean knew Sam was out there still, somewhere between breaking the door down and barricading it shut. At the moment, Dean would prefer the latter. He let out a heavy breath, trying to calm the quivering in his lips that willed the tears to ignite in his burning eyes. He couldn't cry.
He extended a rather sore arm over to the running water and proceeded to splash some of it over his face. He grabbed for a towel hanging above him and pressed into it, not thinking too much of the way it was tainted with blood when he removed it.
For a moment, he let a wave of concern roll over him when he'd realized it'd been a few minutes that he didn't hear his brother. Not a sound. Not a word.
Maybe he packed his bags and left…maybe he's gone for good…maybe I deserve to be alone and never have my family back…
Fears obscured Dean's logic, like fear could often do to a person, but rarely were those fears so rational, so probable that the mere idea drove you insane.
He squeezed the towel in his hands, and he remembered twenty some years ago when a bundle was handed to him. A baby. Sammy. His Sammy.
And he was told to take him on that burning night. And he obeyed. And he never gave Sammy back to his father, not really. He held on. He held onto Sammy, if only a blankets length away, and he was complete. He was Dean. He was Dean Winchester.
Dean Winchester the first born.
Dean Winchester the big brother.
Dean Winchester the warrior.
Dean Winchester the hunter.
Dean Winchester…who was never going to let his little brother go.
And Dean pulled the towel in towards his chest, subconsciously cradling it. He didn't realize as he did so that his tears were melding into the fabric. He didn't realize he let his tears fall, let his guard down. And he stared at the towel smothered with tears and blood. Such like the world he lived in- filled with unshed tears and too much blood. All the tears he never cried for Sammy, because of Sammy. All the blood he'd ever shed for Sammy, because of Sammy.
He let the towel fall into his lap, and he stared at it accusingly for a moment. He wasn't—couldn't be—any of those things he once was. Not anymore. Not ever again.
Now, he was Dean Winchester the failure.
Dean Winchester the disappointment.
Dean Winchester the quitter.
Dean Winchester the orphan.
Dean Winchester…who knew he had to, but not how to, let his little brother go.
He sniffled and cleared his throat, closed his eyes and tilted his head back. Pain, so much pain, was passing over him. Some of it physical, most of it just the bruises no one could see, the bruises hidden on the inside. With a solid flow of tears that Dean couldn't fight against, Dean opened his mouth and shouted. He screamed in anguish at everything he'd gone through this night, last night, last week, last month, the past six months—the past twenty-fucking-years. He howled out as if the maddening scream was being pulled from him, ripped out of his chest.
The hunter in him wanted all this to be over.
The brother in him…never wanted it to end.
And as Dean finished his yell, a cry out more from anger than from pain, and more from the pain of anger than from anger itself—he felt a cool draft of air fill the room.
He opened his eyes to see the door swinging wildly. He swore he locked it, but something must have unlocked it. He panted out heavy breaths with his throat now hoarse and sore, as he tried to stand up. Sam had run to the doorway, grasping the wall as he stared wide-eyed at Dean. And Dean somehow knew how the door was opened, judging by the look of astonishment mixed with guilt playing over his brother's features like an open book. Sam opened it with his mind. Curse his new found power of telekinesis.
"You little shit," Dean muttered breathlessly, eyes staring in shock at his brother. He quickly shut the shower off.
"I heard you—and it just—I couldn't control it, and I wanted…" Sam stopped, a bit embarrassed.
"What do you want from me?" Dean said demandingly, his voice crying out like the tears in his eyes. "What the HELL do you want!"
Sam felt as though he'd been shoved by the words and the tone Dean used, but he didn't give in. He held his ground.
"I want to talk to you! I want to say I'm sorry, I want us to be okay," Sam found the words spilling out. And as he finished speaking, in shock at the high tone he was using himself, he watched as Dean marched out of the bathroom, brushing by him. Sam was quick to follow.
"You want us to be okay? Well that's not going to happen, Sammy."
"Why- because I want to go back to college?"
"Because you want to leave me!"
"Jesus, Dean, it's not about getting away from you…you should know that,"
"Whatever, Sam. It doesn't matter. I'm the one who should be apologizing, dragging your book-loving ass away from being a person," Dean hissed, pacing around the end of the motel bed closest to the door. Sam forced out a sigh.
"That's not what this is about—" Sam began, but was cut off shortly by Dean.
"Isn't it? You're tired of me. You're sick of being around me—I get it!"
"Just shut up. You can hate me but I don't need to hear about it. And I don't need you to lie to me about it either," Dean barked, and shot Sam a commanding glare to keep quiet and let him finish. "Screw the 'we're in this together' crap. Fuck waiting till we find what killed our mother. Let's just rip the damn band-aid off now, huh?"
Sam was a bit frightened by the hysterics in his brother's voice, and the menacing sincerity behind them.
"What are you doing?" Sam asked, as he watched Dean fiddle around with his duffle bag.
"I guess you could say I'm taking off," Dean's voice dripped with bitterness. "I don't want to get in the way of your life, Sam. I don't want to stop you from living."
Even though you're the only one who helps keep me living.
"Dean, just sit down,"
"Sit on it yourself, Potsie. I'm done being the screw up in this family. I'm tired of letting everyone down…and maybe you'll be better off on your own, without me…at least, you'll be happier…" and Dean stuffed some clothes into his duffle as Sam furrowed his eyebrows.
"That's crap and you know it."
"Maybe. You can call and let me know in another two years,"
"Oh, son of a…" Sam trailed off and added a humorless chuckle. "Look, Dean, I'm sorry. I don't know how else I can tell you that…"
"Like I said before. Something's are better left unsaid. 'Cuz it only makes you look like an ass if you speak up about it,"
"How does apologizing—Damn it, Dean, what's wrong? Is it because of Dad? I'm sorry for what I said. I know why you did what you did, I get it. You did the right thing,"
"It's not about that," Dean said plainly, pausing before he zipped up his duffle bag.
"Did those shadow freaks mess you up worse than I can tell? Are you injured somewhere,"—
And Dean put a hand up, blocking Sam from his next move towards him to inspect him for injury again.
"Sam. Drop it. I'm leaving, all right?"
"No, it's not all right," Sam was on the verge of shouting.
"So, it's okay for you to leave when you want, but not for me? You really are a selfish bastard,"
"Quit twisting everything I say as if I'm against you! You…jerk!"
"Aren't you, though? Isn't the whole damn world against me—against us, but you're happy-go-lucky when it comes to heading back to the so called 'real world' to play house, as if you can ignore everything that's still out there. As if it doesn't matter. As if…I don't matter," Dean swallowed the lump forming in his throat at the sight of his brother's eyes watering.
"You matter most to me,"
"Well, you have a funny way of showing it," Dean commented, reaching for his jacket that was thrown atop the bed sheets. The action sent a pang of fear rippling through Sam.
"Stay," Sam struggled with the word, though he meant it more than the night was dark.
"I can't, Sammy…"
"Why? Why can't you stay? Why leave now?" Sam felt himself ranting but couldn't help it. Dean was taking this way too far. He must have hit his head a bit too hard and it was messing with this clear thinking pattern. He couldn't seriously leave…could he?
"Because," Dean threw his jacket around him and hefted up the duffle bag over his shoulder. "I'm sick of this pain," he said, and Sam got the feeling he wasn't referring to the shadow attack. There was something faraway in Dean's voice, and Sam felt cold from having to hear it.
"What…what pain, Dean?" Sam encouraged, taking a few more steps closer. The two stared at each other a moment, the nerves and tension flustered between their heated gazes.
"We fight monsters and kill demons every day. I've been bruised and stabbed, shot at and cut. I've been electrocuted, had a heart attack, I've almost drowned, almost got eaten alive. I've been thrown into walls, down stairs, and across rooms. I've suffered broken bones, torn muscles, black eyes and a breaking heart. Death himself made a personal attack on me…I've been through it all and I'll go through more. Yet, you Sam…you're the only one who can ever hurt me," Dean finished, feeling ashamed for the tears that slid out from his control. "I'm tired of getting hurt, Sam. And I can't stand hurting you. And that's all we're doing, pretending we're in this together. That's why…I have to leave,"
Because love hurts like a bitch…and I love you too much to stay.
And Sam watched for only a second as Dean turned away. Dean took a step towards the door. And as soon as Sam realized that, for once, Dean wasn't going to look back…Sam lunged forward.
He grabbed onto Dean's shoulder and forced him to turn around, pulling him straight into a hug. And Sam squeezed his arms around Dean. Dean struggled a little, at first, hesitantly resisting the embrace before finally accepting it, and he turned into his taller, little brother's chest and for once felt like he could cry. He only let one more tear fall unbidden before dropping the duffle to the floor and clasping onto Sam just as tightly.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry," Sam was whispering through weakening sobs. "Don't go, don't leave, I'm sorry…I need us to be okay, please," he was begging. And Dean's body shook as he felt the trembling of his brother. "I don't want to hurt you, anymore,"
"I know," Dean replied. "I know," and Dean was scared now. Scared because he'd grabbed a hold of his brother, and now he had to let go. "Sam,"
Sam sniffled into Dean's shoulder. "Yeah?"
"What you said before, about letting you go," the words stopped momentarily in his throat and he choked them out. "I, uh…I've found out that letting go is hard to do, when all you've known is how to hang on. You've been my responsibility forever, and...I don't know if I can just click that off in one night, you know? But I promise, little brother, that I'll try for you,"
"Dean, I know you will. And, anyway, who knows how long this war with hell we'll be in before we find Mom and Jessica's killer. You could be stuck with me for a very long time," Sam explained, a smile present in his voice. Dean began to release him, pulling away to look at his tear-filled eyes. Dean returned the smile, lightly punching his brother in the shoulder.
"Dude, I'm not staying anywhere with you so long as you cry like a chick over there," he chuckled, gently squeezing Sam's arm.
"I cry like a chick?" Sam pointed at himself in amusement. "You just supplied Hallmark with enough heartfelt drama that they'll be writing greeting cards during the Apocalypse," he retorted playfully.
"Are you implying that I'm sentimental?"
"Did you just use the word 'implying'?"
Sam laughed. Even though Dean stepped to the side of Sam to start unpacking his duffle, Sam somehow felt as though he'd never let go and was still hugging him. And Dean wiped the remnants of tears out of his eyes, feeling silly and yet strangely relieved of a lot of the tension and a lot of the words that screamed to be set free. "Hey, Dean?" Sam spoke up, sniffling again and wiping his eye with his sleeves.
"I just wanted to say that I lov—"
Dean snorted and shook his head, making Sam stop in his words. A grin widened on his face. "Yeah, I like you a lot, too, Sammy," he said. Behind the mischievous never-say-love façade, Sam knew was his big brother, who loved him, a bit too literally for his liking, to death. And so the quip was accepted with a genuine smile, a courteous nod. And Dean sat on the bed, humming AC/DC as he started to take out some weapons to clean. And Sam sat on the other bed, laying back against his pillow and pulling out his laptop to begin researching for a whole new day.
The two exchanged a glance at the other, nothing of scrutiny but only concern within it. From the irony of looking at each other at the same time, they each smiled quickly before putting their attention on their respective jobs.
And things were back to their kind of normal, at least for a little while, until some monster or demon or worse attacked. Still, they'd be ready, because they understood the fight would never be over.
And somehow, they silently understood that they'd always manage a way to be brothers first…and then hunters and college boys.
I feel so much better after getting this out. Dean absolutely broke my heart in this episode, and I love him even more. And Sammy…gah…wow. Brilliant episode…only lacked a hug between the brothers, hehe. Thanks so much for taking the time to read. If you'd like to share any thoughts, feel free.