Just a small tag for Provenance. Came to me as the credits rolled.
I don't own anything.
Dean watched Sam and Sarah kiss in the rearview mirror.
Damn, Sammy's gonna devour Sarah at this rate...it's like something off of Animal Planet.
He didn't want to pry, but he couldn't help but watch. He was so damned happy that his Sammy was finally moving on. Dean hadn't known Jessica very long, but the effect her death had on Sam was proof enough of what she had meant to his little brother. Seeing Sam now, Dean felt hope that maybe, if the world wasn't too cruel, Sam might find a little happiness.
If the world isn't too cruel, he thought darkly.
He knew what Sam thought. Sam didn't know it, but Dean could read his little bro all too well. Sam blamed himself for Jessica's murder. Mom's too. And he knew that Sam's hesitation with this girl Sarah was stemming from the same fear. What if Sam was the reason they died? For Dean, that was beyond nonsense. He knew, with every molecule of his body, that Sam wasn't the cause, some godforsaken, doomed to be destroyed by the Winchester family demon was. He didn't believe it. He knew it. His guilt-ridden, traumatized brother wasn't convinced. That fact alone saddened Dean more than Sam would ever know.
He blinked himself out of his thoughts when he saw Sam (finally) pull away from Sarah and shared a quiet goodbye with her. He quickly moved to rummage through his cassette tape collection when Sam approached. He pretended to closely examine one of the older Metallica tapes as Sam plopped down into the passenger seat. He heard Sam sigh, and saw him turn to stare at Dean with a bemused frown.
"You can stop pretending that you weren't watching, Dean."
Dean cringed, but plastered his best "who me?" expression on before looking up at his smiling brother. His smiling brother…he wouldn't trade that sight in for anything.
"Dude, don't flatter yourself," he mustered.
Sam chuckled, but didn't rise to the bait, "We going or what?"
Dean eyed him, "You sure you don't wanna stick around a few days? Take in some of the 'sights?'" He waggled his eyebrows suggestively.
Sam gave him a patient look…a strained, patient look. Dean threw up his hands, still grinning, "Ok, don't say I didn't try."
Dean started the car, and pulled out onto the street. He glanced over to see Sam turned in the seat, looking back through the rear windshield at Sarah, who gave a small wave from the door of the museum. Sam waved back, his grin in place, but faltering a little. As the museum passed out of sight behind other buildings, Sam turned to face forward, most traces of his smile already fading. Some small, deeply buried part of Dean cringed, and he suddenly wondered if Sam might up and leave right now. Ask Dean to take him back, and stay with this girl, leaving his brother and their lives behind. Again. Another small, even more deeply buried part of him knew that if Sam asked, he would do it. As much as Dean needed his little brother, as much as he wanted to grab onto him and never let go, he knew that if Sam asked, he would let him go. Right now. Let Sam be happy. It would kill him, but he wouldn't deny his Sammy happiness. He couldn't. That's what big brothers do, they fall on their swords for their baby brothers, and they do it without regret. That's what Dean would do, too.
He watched Sam out of the corner of his eye, rubbing his face with his hands, and then looking over at Dean. The boy frowned, and looked back out the window before he whispered.
"Stop thinking it. I'm not going anywhere."
Dean glanced sharply over at Sam, trying to decide if Sam was guessing at what he'd been thinking, or this was another development on the 'Shining' front.
"Run that by me, again," he asked, a little more gruffly than he intended. If Sam noticed, he didn't react, and just turned to face Dean again.
"Sarah said to say 'thank you,' by the way."
"Thank you? Who me?" Dean asked, noting Sam's changing of the subject but not challenging it.
Sam's smile came back, but only a little, "Yeah, she told me to make sure you knew how grateful she was that you saved our lives last night."
Dean looked back at the road, "Ah, really? Funny, she seemed pretty absorbed back there staring at 'Super-Sammy: Ghostbuster Extraordinaire.' She didn't pay much attention to me."
"Well, behind every great man…."
Sam exploded into laughter at Dean's antagonized snort of derision, and spent the next fifty miles heckling his elder brother, not stopping until they paused for lunch and he began to fear for his life. Poking Dean with a stick for too long was about as smart as placing your head inside an alligator's mouth. Sam called off the attack and busied himself with lunch, never seeing the smile that tugged at Dean's mouth whenever he wasn't looking.
Dean snapped awake. It was sometime after 3:00AM according to the old clock hanging near the window. They had stopped for the night at a motel about three hundred miles out from New Paltz. Dean had claimed the bed nearest the door, as always. Sam had finally drifted off to sleep sometime after midnight.
Sam had been chatting away since lunch about Sarah. Somewhere about 9 PM, Dean had begun to wonder if there was anything else that he could possibly learn about the poor, already overanalyzed woman, and grumpily muttered that Sam should go ahead and marry her for God's sake. Three hours later, when Sam had dozed off mid-sentence, Dean decided that no, there was nothing else to learn.
But, if Dean was honest with himself, he was happy. Sam hadn't talked about a girl like this since his first date in high school, when 19-year old Dean had stayed up all night listening to Sammy gush about some girl named Miranda. Dean had been late to work the next day because of it. During quiet moments, Dean regretted not being there when Sam had met Jessica in college. He felt a stab of jealousy when he thought of some stranger indulging Sam's need to talk whenever that had happened. If only things had been different.
Now, Dean lay perfectly still, trying to determine what exactly had brought him out of sleep. His hand automatically slid silently to grasp the knife under his pillow. Seconds ticked by, when he heard a soft, melancholy moan from the other bed. Sam. Dean had hoped that falling asleep in such a good mood would spare Sam any nightmares. The kid deserved this one uninterrupted evening, didn't he?
He decided to wait, and make sure that Sam was actually having a nightmare, or God forbid, a vision. Maybe it would pass without waking his brother up. He heard another soft moan, and then another, then…silence. Then, the rustling of sheets. Sam must have rolled over. Satisfied that the danger had passed, Dean closed his eyes and started to drift off again.
The choked, muzzled sob caught him by surprise. He flipped over, scanning the darkened room and finding his brother's bed empty. He was on his feet before his brain finished processing what he saw. Moving around the other bed silently, he found Sam, face buried in his hands, leaning back against the far side of the bed, obviously trying to hide.
Dean moved over to Sam, and squatted down at the edge of the bed. "Sam? What's wrong? What happened?"
If it had been possible for his freakishly tall brother to shrink before his eyes, Dean would have sworn that he did it. Sam drew his knees up to his chest and tried, unsuccessfully, to wipe the tears from his face without Dean seeing the motion.
"I'm sorry…I didn't mean to wake you…."
Dean slid down next to Sam, leaning back against the bed, his shoulder touching Sam's. "Nightmare?"
Sam shrugged. Meaning 'yes, but it doesn't matter.' Dean sighed, ignored Sam's shrug and asked, "About what?" Or who? Please, God, if you're out there, don't let it be about Sarah, I'll do anything you want.
"I dreamed about Jess."
Dean stifled the urge to curse. Why couldn't THAT dream just leave Sam the hell alone?
"The fire?" he asked softly. To his surprise, Sam shook his head.
"No…it was weird…I dreamt that we were arguing. She said I cheated on her, she was…she wouldn't stop crying," Sam whispered, almost too quiet for Dean to hear. Sam suddenly laughed, but it was a hollow, bitter laugh this time, all traces of yesterday's glee gone. His face crumpled in the darkness, and he fought back another racking sob, "um, I'm sorry…I didn't mean to wake you up, Dean…."
Dean answered Sam the only way he could think of…he draped his arm over Sam's shoulders and pulled him over, resting his brother's head on his shoulder. He could feel Sam trembling beneath him. For a moment, he had to remind himself that this was not nine year old Sam, and he wasn't thirteen year old Dean, comforting little Sammy after a strange nightmare.
This was his adult brother, who had woken screaming or crying from so many nightmares that he was losing the ability to tell the difference between his dreams and real life. Part of Dean wanted to rail against the universe for abusing Sammy like this, while another part wanted to scoop Sam up and run away, the way he had two decades earlier when they fled that burning house.
He also kicked himself for not being ready for this. In his joy at seeing Sam finally start to move on, he had forgotten one of the constants in their lives.
Guilt: Sammy's default setting.
He sat there, holding Sammy silently. He didn't have to say anything. He knew that Sam knew that. So, he just held him, rubbing Sam's shoulder soothingly until the sobbing quieted and Sam started breathing normally again. Sam wiped his face and glanced up at him with a slight smirk.
"Sorry. You probably think this is stupid…."
Dean shook his head, "No. I don't."
Sam chuckled, "Sure. I think it's stupid…."
"Sammy, I don't."
Sam seemed to consider that for a moment, then settled back against Dean's shoulder with a tired sigh.
"I just…I thought I could move on….like you said, it was time. But it still feels like I'm betraying Jess somehow…I feel like I should miss her more than this…you know?"
Dean favored him with a sad smile, "But she wouldn't want you to punish yourself, and you know that. You've spent the last, what? Seven months? Hell-bent on revenge…so much that you vented it on dad, on me, on every spook you can find. You think I haven't noticed, but I have, bro. Your whole life, you were never into hunting as much as you have been since you left Stanford. And I don't think Jess would want you obsessing over her death like that either. I didn't know her very long, but I don't think she was like that."
It had taken a long time, but Dean had come to grips with his brother's need for revenge since this trip started. He didn't realize it at first. He didn't see the beast that demon had released in Sam. All the tension, all the visions, all the barely contained anger…all of it had been a symptom of the larger problem. Sam left California with ONE thought on his mind: find dad, find the demon, and make it pay. That wasn't Sammy…that was their Dad; and Sam was slowly turning into the person he had resented ever since he hit adolescence.
Even the shooting at the asylum was a symptom. Dean had been hurt, at first, thinking that Sam hated him enough to want him dead, and for a short time hated Sam right back. Then the incident with his heart and the faith healer threw a wrench in that line of thinking. How could Sam hate him enough to want him dead, but then so obviously be willing to sacrifice anyone or anything to keep Dean alive? It hadn't made sense, until Dean realized that the hatred Ellicott had twisted toward Dean was something different. It wasn't that Sam resented Dean for following Dad's orders. It was that Sam saw Dean's obedience as an obstacle to his all-encompassing need for revenge.
How old were you when Mom died? Four? Jess died six months ago, how the hell would you know how I feel?
How could they find the demon if Dad kept sending them on random hunts? How could Dean obey their Dad so blindly when the demon was still out there? It all stemmed from the same thing. Find Dad, find the demon, and make it pay. That realization had changed the way Dean looked at his younger brother, and he had begun to worry that the chase would permanently scar Sam the same way it had scarred their father. He had left for college determined to leave hunting evil behind. Then Jessica died and he left college on a warpath.
And it was only recently that Dean had managed to break through that hard shell of fury. After Chicago, Sam was beginning to return to normal…or what passed for normal to them. The trip through eastern Texas, and the prank Dean had decided to play out of boredom, had actually worried Dean at first. He half expected an explosion of fury from Sam. It hadn't been taking much. He had been incredibly relieved when Sam had pranked him back. It was almost like old times, when the hunts they father took them on were more like their own odd way of just hanging out together, as brothers, rather than life an death situations. They'd been able to have fun together once.
A sniffle drew Dean's attention back to Sam, who was shifting his weight, and sitting up.
"Maybe," he muttered, sniffling. He met Dean's eyes, "Maybe you're right."
Dean shifted back into big brother mode, "Of course I am, Sammy. What'd I tell you? Older brothers are always right."
That made Sam laugh, and boiled off some of the tension of the dream. "Right. I forgot. Jerk."
Dean rose and held out his hand. Sam took it and lifted himself back onto the bed. Sam pressed his hands to his eyes.
"I'm sorry to bother you with this…it's stupid."
Dean sat on the bed, returning to Sam's side, "It's no trouble, Sam. It never has been."
Sam glanced at him, then shook his head with a wry smile, "I always have to do things the hard way, don't I? I just…I thought…I hoped this would be easier."
"The right thing is never easy, little brother."
When this is over, you're gonna have to let me go my own way.
Sam's words in Chicago floated back to Dean. And here, now, Dean knew he would let Sam go someday. He could do it. Because Sam's happiness was what mattered.
Dean would deal.
Sam rubbed his eyes again, "I guess we should turn in…we gotta move out tomorrow."
"Yeah," Dean smiled and swatted the back of Sam's head, "that's enough 'Lifetime moment' for tonight. You gotta save some for the road."
Sam laughed and crawled back under the covers. Dean moved back to his own bed, but paused before relaxing back into his pillow.
"Call Sarah in the morning. Let her know you're still thinking about her."
"Dating advice from the master?"
"Brotherly advice…from the master…."
Sam suddenly moist eyes met his, "I will. Thank you."
"Shut the hell up, Samantha, I'm beat."
Sam rolled his eyes, "Goodnight, Dean."
Dean watched Sam grimace at the new nickname, but roll over into his pillow obediently, and he hoped Sam would have a dreamless sleep for once. He stayed awake for awhile longer; waiting for Sam's breathing to even out, and thought of excuses to get them back to New York in the future. He could play matchmaker when he wanted. He smiled as he fell asleep, amused that Sam and Sarah would never know what hit them.
A/N: the explanation of Sam's asylum actions and the sudden shift after Chicago are my own. Seemed to make sense to me. In reality, I'm sure it has more to do with the writers and Jared settling into the character, but I think this idea works in the show's universe.