"You don't have to do this."
Sam watched his brother sigh and lean his head against the window. He looked tired. Beyond tired. He looked like a guy who'd gotten out of the hospital about a week too soon. One side of his face still black and purple and blue, while the other still far too pale. One arm was in a sling while the other rested on the door handle. Dean looked like shit, but Sam thought he looked amazing for a guy who had been skewered, shot, flung against the wall, and had his heart restarted three times in the course of two days. Dean spent a week in the hospital and would have spent one more, but he'd been adamant about doing this. Dean needed to do this. There were scars here beyond what Sam could see.
Scars for both of them. Sam hadn't told Dean about the anguish he'd felt when he'd seen that fourth body bag. He hadn't told him about how he couldn't feel guilty for being relieved that the fourth body had been Piotr Locklyn's decaying remains, uneaten by the son of a bitch demon. About how he'd wanted to kiss the bartender who'd called the cops after Sam had come in and kiss all the cops who had spent hours at the Marx farm and found meat hooks from the slaughterhouse and had been smart enough to put two and two together. About how he'd dreamt about Dean dying over and over again, about how even when Sam had been cleared to leave, he'd never left the hospital, but had stayed by Dean's comatose side until they could both go.
"Yeah I do," Dean whispered, his voice unusually quiet. "I promised him."
And that was that. Sam watched his brother struggle with the door handle for a moment, his body still weak, but finally it swung open. Dean sat for a moment, eyes going to the small crowd that had gathered. All wearing black. Tissues crumpled in their hands. Even the flowers looked dark. Then he swung his legs out and waited.
Sam opened his own door, grabbing the cane from the backseat before he rounded the car and came to stand next to his brother. Dean reached out and took the cane while Sam grabbed him beneath his good shoulder and helped him to stand up. Dean didn't even complain. It was a testament to how terrified he was to be here. Sam even felt his brother lean into him a little and he wasn't sure if it was because his body was still so battered or because Dean needed the comfort. Sam let him alone for a minute, just standing there, supporting him for as long as he needed. Dean's eyes wandered over the faces, some of which were turned his way, appraising him, sizing him up, scowling even.
But Sam wouldn't ask again whether he wanted to do this. Dean's watery gaze was also a determined one. He stared back at each of the faces who scowled, each of the faces who told him he shouldn't be here. He stood strong, even when he was leaning against Sam, unable to stand on his own.
Finally managing to stand on his own, Dean placed the cane down and tested his leg. It was still tender. Sam noticed his wince.
"We can get the wheelchair," he offered quietly.
"No," Dean shook his head. Sam nodded, understanding. He closed the car door and stood behind Dean's shoulder as they made their way to the small gathering. The uphill climb on the muddy grass was almost too much for Dean. They had to stop several times so Dean could get his bearings and take a breather, but they finally made it. Someone relinquished their chair and Sam gave him a nod of thanks as he helped lower Dean into it. Once Dean was situated, he looked up and found people staring. They quickly looked away when Sam met their eyes. He challenged every one of them, every fucking one who dare look at his brother, to say that Dean didn't belong.
Sam looked at the coffin sitting in the center of the group. He saw the blown up picture of Alex, smiling, happy, a teenager. There weren't heavy bags under his eyes, no pale skin, no odd angle to his neck. He looked bright. Light. Alive. Dean shifted next to him and Sam turned towards him, making sure he was all right. But Dean was shifting more out of nervousness than pain.
The funeral went quickly. A priest spoke, talking about Heaven and sin and how God forgives all his children in death and how Alex was at peace. Alex's uncle got up to speak, as did a couple of his classmates. A trumpet player from the high school marching band played Amazing Grace. They lowered the coffin. Dean sat still, eyes cast at the ground the entire time. No smirk at the mention of God and heaven. No impatient tap of the foot. Just a statue.
Once the coffin was lowered, Alex's mother stood up and went to the podium. Dean's eyes finally rose.
"My son would have been so honored you all came today," she started. "He uh...he was always good at making friends. And I know we're all going to miss him, but not as much as he'll miss us. Alex was a kid who lived off his friends. He was always doing things for others, making sure everyone else was happy before he could be. Things won't be the same without him. But...he wouldn't want us to live any differently. He'd want us to be happy, to just go on without him. Whenever I was having a bad day, he used to say to me, it's okay, Mom, God only grants us so many tears." She fought back a sob, wiping away her streaking mascara. Then she looked up, almost directly at Dean. "My son was taken from us, but he's not gone. He'll never be truly gone. They couldn't take all of him."
The rest of the funeral went quickly. When it was over, people rose and walked to their cars. Alex's mother stayed to talk with the priest and her brother and Alex's closest friends. Sam stood and looked down at Dean, who was watching them, holding his breath.
"You ready?" Sam asked softly, watching as Dean startled a bit, his eyes shooting to Sam's face. For a moment he looked panicked, terrified, but then he calmed and the mask was back. He nodded and Sam helped him to stand up, grunting along with him as wound were jarred. "Can you make it over there on your own?"
Dean's eyes stayed on Alex's mother for a moment. Sam thought he wouldn't answer. He saw a million different emotions on his brother, saw wounds that ran too deep, that would never fully heal. He didn't think Dean would ever really get over this and he wondered if this was what his brother thought of him after Jessica had died. That look in Dean's eyes, Sam knew it well. But he'd never thought it would hurt so bad to see it on Dean. Did his brother hurt this bad when he turned and saw it in Sam's eyes?
But when Dean's eyes turned back to look at him, there was something else there. A flicker of something so familiar Sam felt relief and love rush through him. There you are.
"Think she'll let me have his stereo?" Inappropriate but so utterly Dean that Sam couldn't help but smile. Dean smiled back, just about the only thing he could give Sam to tell him that he was okay, that he'd be okay. Sam took what he could get. "Give me five minutes, dude."
"I'll be here, Dean," Sam said as his brother limped towards Alex's mother. He watched Dean approach, head down, but shoulders set. It was one of the hardest things Dean would ever have to do. But Sam would stand here and wait for him. Because Dean would have done the same thing. No matter what happened, Sam knew his brother would always be standing behind him, ready to come if he called, ready to help if he fell. He would return the favor.