Disclaimer: I do not own "Supernatural."
Author's Note: This is it! The end! Thank you all so much for following my story! I know I've been erratic at best! I can't thank you all enough though, for all your encouragement. I really hope you enjoy this... I really enjoyed writing it. These guys are so fun to torture! ;-) No tissues necessary, I swear!
They stood in silence for a long moment. Dean behind the desk, Sam at the doorway, neither one ready to say a word. Sam moved first; entering the room. He cleared his throat and shuffled his feet in a way that reminded Dean of one hundred other times when Sammy had feared his big brother was upset with him.
They spoke simultaneously and offered each other wary smiles in the ensuing silence. Sam swallowed hard, but couldn't find the words to begin.
Dean cleared his throat, suddenly uncomfortable.
The air between them was awkward, heavy with all the things they wanted to say and didn't.
Sam took a fortifying breath, "Listen Dean, about what I said--"
Dean shook his head, "Don't," he interrupted.
But Sam insisted, "Let me--"
"Let you what?" Dean interrupted again, "Apologize?" he asked, his tone almost sad.
"For what? For telling me how you feel about our life?" A wry smirk appeared on his face, but the eyes fastened on Sam were dim with sadness, "I'd heard it before, Sam."
Sam shook his head, but Dean continued, "For leaving?" he asked, "You won't mean it, Sam... you can't..." he finished softly, waving a hand around the room, "Leaving got you this..."
Sam took another step into the room, "What you said-- about you and Dad—"
Dean shook his head, "I shouldn't haven't said that... I shouldn't have snapped at you like that..." he stated.
Sam took anther step into the room, "God Dean... don't... god... I don't know... I don't know what to say... I didn't... I didn't mean to hurt you..."
Dean held up a hand, "Just stop, Sam... just stop..." he murmured, his words sounding so weary they made Sam's breath catch.
Dean stepped out from behind the desk, getting closer to his duffle bag.
"Dean..." Sam swallowed past the lump in his throat, he had so much he wanted to say and the words just wouldn't come-- and he was running out of time.
"Come on," Dean stated, bending down to pick up his duffle, "I'll drop you off at the bar..."
"No," Sam replied instantly, "I'm not going."
Their gazes met and for a moment they just studied each other, before Dean shrugged, "Okay have it your way... I gotta get--"
"I was angry." Sam interrupted, doing his best to talk past the lump in his throat, "I was angry and I didn't think..."
"Just let me say this!" the younger man hissed, "I need to say this!"
Dean stared at him hard for a few seconds, then dropped the duffle bag to the floor and gave Sam one nod. And the younger man remembered to breath.
"I was angry all the time back then... I thought it was all just so unfair... and you... you never minded any of it; you wouldn't take Dad's side but you wouldn't take mine either and that just... made it worse... and I didn't realize that... I didn't see what it looked like to you... I didn't-- I never thought for one minute that you thought... that you thought it had to do with you..."
Dean's gaze was still fastened on Sam and at this he narrowed his eyes slightly, "Like I said... we're a package deal."
Sam shook his head, his hesitancy fading suddenly, "No, not to me. To me it was never a package deal. You were always the only thing that wasn't unfair." He said firmly.
Dean blinked at that, his gaze leaving Sam as he shifted his feet a little, not really knowing how to reply to that.
"You were never on the list of things to leave behind... you were the only thing on the list of things to go back for," Sam finished, his voice suddenly thicker.
Dean's head shot up.
"And I am sorry," Sam whispered, "I am so sorry I didn't pick up when you called..."
Dean's eyes widened. He took an instinctive step back, his body clenching as if preparing for battle. He hadn't expected that. He couldn't talk about that. He couldn't think about that. As much as Sam's leaving had hurt, he could rationalize that pain down... but the unreturned phone calls, unanswered messages... there had been only one way to interpret those.
And that had hurt; that understanding that Sam really did want nothing to do with them-- with him.
It was something he couldn't play-off, something he couldn't minimize. Just like the flash of hurt that flittered across his face was something he couldn't stop.
Sam took another step forward, bringing them closer. "I shouldn't have done that. I should have picked up when you called," he whispered, "I was just... I was afraid that if I did I would-- I would get sucked back in, that I would end up going back; but I know now, I can see that, that... you wouldn't have-- you wouldn't have let that happen, would you?" Sam's voice was taking on that little boy quality again in his effort to control the tears that threatened.
When Dean didn't respond, Sam felt the stinging in behind his eyes intensify, he drew in a shuddering breath, "I'm sorry that--"
Dean made a sudden downward slashing motion with his hand. "Stop saying that," he hissed, frowning at Sam, "You... you don't have to be," he finished more softly, lifting his gaze to Sam's, "You have a life here and I don't... I don't want you to think that... that I don't want you to have it... I mean I'm happy that you..." he cut himself off, releasing a rushed breath, and running a hand through his short hair.
Sam nodded, "I know... I know that you want what's be... I know you want me to be hap-- god Dean, I should have known then too... I just... didn't..." Sam stuttered and finally trailed off.
A moment passed and then Dean released a frustrated sigh, "Look Sam, we can stand here and trade apologies all night, but it doesn't make a difference-- it was a fucked up time in you life, fine. I get it. You didn't want me to drag you back down into it, I get it. Right now you're wishing that you'd," he paused, it was hard to be glib about this, but only glibness would save them, "That you'd picked up the phone. I get it. You--"
Sam gaze flashed suddenly, his eyes narrowing, "No, you don't get it. With you at the other end of that phone line I didn't trust myself to... to be strong enough... to not just turn around and go home--"
Dean made a huffing sound, suddenly looking a whole lot less acceptant and whole lot more pissed. "-- what home, Sam? Wasn't that one of your pet peeves?"
"You! Jeez Dean, aren't you listening to me!"
"I am! You're the one who's not listening!" Dean hissed back, "I'm part of that world!"
Sam rolled his eyes. "Okay, I GET that! Now you GET THIS: you're the only part I would've taken with me if I could've!"
"Then you should have PICKED UP THE FUCKIN' PHONE!"
"I KNOW! That's what I just said!"
They both fell silent, both realizing the absurd turn their conversation had just taken.
"I made a mistake," Sam said into the silence, his voice low and his eyes pleading, "Help me fix it."
Dean started a little-- Sam had no fuckin' right to use those big, puppy-like eyes like that. He wasn't five for godssake!
This entire conversation was tearing him up-- this is exactly what he'd wanted to avoid. The yelling and the emotions and tearing off of every fuckin scab...
"Just let it go, Sam." He stated, reaching down and picking up his duffel bag again.
Sam started shaking his head immediately, so Dean shrugged and offered the closest thing to an olive branch he felt safe giving, something that would minimize the bloodshed. "I'll-- I'll call you sometime, okay? Promise. So just-- stop making such a big deal out of this; things change, nobody expects things to stay the safe forever."
"Calling me sometime isn't enough," Sam insisted, "That's not what I want. I don't want to hear from you twice a year. I want to know where you are, I want…" a look of realization washed over Sam's face, "I want your cell phone number." He finished. "Yeah, yeah, that's what I... here... just..." he moved to stand behind the desk, rifling through a few papers until he found a pen, "... give me your cell."
Dean stared at him, but didn't say anything. Studying his brother, who was poised to write down his phone number, had his gaze falling back down to the picture.
Sam looked up, "Dean..."
But Dean's gaze remained on the picture, after a moment he made a gesture towards it, "I'd forgotten about that day..." he said instead of a phone number.
Sam glanced over at it, pen still in hand, "Yeah, it came out good," he murmured, deciding to wait a beat before asking for the number again.
Dean nodded, staring at it a moment longer. What the hell... he thought suddenly, why not? He lifted his gaze to Sam's, "It's not with the others." He stated. The words not quite a question, but a little more than a statement.
Sam frowned a little.
"In the living room," Dean clarified, already feeling ridiculous about bringing it up. It wasn't a big deal... it didn't matter... except it did...
The younger man's face cleared, he shrugged, straightening away from the desk, "I like it in here," he stated, "I'm in here a lot... when we... when Jess and I moved in, I sort of claimed this room... the bookshelves are built in the walls, so I just, you know, fell in love with it... this is my room in the house... and... I spend a lot of time here," he repeated, his face flushing a little as he continued, "... out there it would kind of... get lost in the clutter... it would be just one more picture... but its not... its, you know... us... so I keep it here... I guess, I just like it where I can see it..." he finished lamely.
The study was quiet again. Both of them studying that picture... remembering that moment…
"That was a good day," Dean offered into the silence, Sam's words leaving behind a warm feeling that he didn't really know how to identify.
"Yeah, yeah it was," Sam murmured.
Dean took a deep breath, "Listen..." he began before he could talk himself out of it, "In all the yelling and soccer playing and..." a small smirk tilted his lips even though his eyes remained dark, "... nail painting..."
Sam returned the small smirk.
"... I kept meaning to tell you that... you-- you did good here, Sammy... and I... even if you don't see me... or we don't talk... it doesn't mean that I'm not-- because I am... I really am."
Sam dropped the pen, his eyes wide, "You are?"
Dean nodded, "Yeah I am."
They were silent again. Each of them considering how best to broach their topics. There had to be middle ground somewhere-- if only one of them could find it.
"Don't ask me to stay, Sam. I can't. I have a job. Dad's expecting me in Oregon in like five hours. I have... commitments..."
"Then come back... give me your cell... let me call you and... and complain about the paper I have to write or... or the party Jess is making me go to... or finals or the heat or... just anything..." Sam scowled suddenly, "Stop being a pain in the ass about this..."
"I've apologized, but you don't want me to apologize and I've tried to explain, but you won't listen. I don't know what else to do..."
Dean sighed, rolling his eyes, "How about letting it go..."
"No. Not again. I'm not letting you go again." The words didn't come out exactly how Sam had intended. He'd meant to say that he wasn't going to drop the subject, that he wasn't giving up... what came out was closer to the truth.
Dean shifted a little and stared at Sam. His brother had on his defiant and you can't make me look. Their Dad had never understood the you can't make me look. He'd always believed that you could just plow right through the look. Of course, that was because their father had a slightly more mature version of the look and therefore couldn't recognize it. He didn't see that the more you ignored it or tested it-- the stronger it got. Dean had always known that once the look appeared, in either its baby-Sammy-version or the more mature John-Winchester-version, you'd better be ready to either give in or apply some creative fancy-foot work to the situation.
He was feeling too tired to be doing fancy-foot work. His eyes strayed to the picture on the desk again. They hadn't known it then... but the days they would truly enjoy together had been dwindling. Sam was offering the possibility of more days.
"Help me fix this," Sam repeated softly, sensing the shift in Dean's attitude. He smiled a little when Dean took his gaze of the picture and fastened it on him, "It's what big brothers do..." he added.
Dean stared at him. This could end badly-- very badly. In so many ways. If their Dad found out-- and made him choose... if Sam wanted him to change-- and made him choose... if he led something supernatural to his baby brother's world-- and Sam never forgave him...
But the unfortunate life-forms had turned out to be okay and Sam had the picture in his room in the house and they'd had a good day and Sam was getting married and this... this might be the last chance...
"You can't pull the baby brother card for everything, dude..." he murmured, arching an eyebrow in Sam's direction.
A slow, hesitant smile started on the younger man's face, "But... it... it always works... doesn't it...? Right?" he asked slowly.
Dean drew in a deep breath, "Yeah, Sammy... it always works..."
Sam's smile bloomed.
"But I still have to leave." Dean stated, shifting the bag on his shoulder.
"Your cell number?"
Dean rolled his eyes, "Dude, you're just like a chick..."
"The number, Dean..."
Slowly he listed the ten numbers that would connect them and watched as Sam scrawled them onto a piece of paper-- then tore off the piece of paper and stuck it in his pocket.
He looked up and nodded, "Okay, good... I'd give you mine, but I don't think I need to..." he stated, smirking a little.
"Yeah," Dean chuckled, "God bless the Internet," he proclaimed, then sighed a little, "I really do have to go, Sam..."
"Are you gonna tell Dad?"
The question rippled around the room. If Sam's leaving had been a sore spot, if the unanswered phone calls had been a scab, than John Winchester was a gaping wound...
There was no middle ground when it came to their father. They both knew that. You'd think they'd been raised by different men the way they felt about him; and in a way Dean supposed they had been.
Dean could see everything Sam saw in their father-- he knew it was all true, it was all there, it's just that he could see something that Sam couldn't... he could see his father swinging him up into his arms, could see his father playing catch with him, could see his father building a fort in his room and teaching him the "finger shave" in the mornings. Dean remembered glimpses of "Daddy" but Sam had never met the man.
Sam hardly believed he'd ever existed.
And their Dad wouldn't forgive Sam's... insubordination-- is the word he used, betrayal is the word he implied.
Dean shook his head, "Naw," he said, "Later on... but not tonight... he's gonna wanna tear me a new as it is..." Dean smirked.
Sam nodded, understanding-- he knew John Winchester didn't compromise, he didn't make sacrifices for others, he didn't give. There was no middle ground with their father.
Sam didn't want to be like their father.
The room was quiet for a moment and then Sam took a deep breath, "What's in Oregon?" He asked quietly.
He wanted to be like Dean.
Dean's eyebrows rose, "You really want to know?" He asked warily.
Sam nodded, "Yeah, I do," he stated.
Dean studied him a moment as if he knew what Sam was doing... as if he could hear his brother's thoughts and knew that Sam was trying desperately find middle ground.
A moment later he shifted the bag on his shoulder and decided to meet his little brother half-way; he brought up his wrist so he could see his watch. "It's getting pretty late--"
"--Dean," Sam interrupted.
Dean continued without pausing, "--late is late... so I'm thinking... what's another hour?"
Sam's mouth snapped shut, his eyes widening as he stared at his brother.
"We can hang here for awhile..." Dean continued, his hazel eyes glimmering, "I'm feeling cheated... after all that soul bearing-- we never did paint our nails..."
Sam opened his mouth, but no words came out-- Dean was going to stay longer! Dean was going to stay here! Just here... with him! Just them! He suddenly felt five again... he went to speak, but the smile spreading across his face was too big.
A smile that started in Dean's eyes worked its way down to his mouth, "Maybe have a beer too..." he added.
"If I get you plastered will you stay?" Sam asked abruptly, grinning.
Dean shrugged, "Many have tried, little brother, many have tried..." he murmured as they headed back into the living.
"So I take it," he continued a moment later as he dropped his bag on the sofa, "That's a yes, you want to hang out here for awhile…"
Sam grinned, reaching out and laying one hand on each of Dean's shoulders, "Yes, that's a yes!" He proclaimed shaking his brother a little.
Dean grinned, a moment later his smile faded abruptly and suddenly he looked nervous' he tried to take a step back, but Sam held him fast.
"Sammy don't..." he warned, not liking the glint in his little brother's eyes, "Let's get a beer and talk about football and hookers..." he continued.
Sam chuckled and let his arms drop around Dean's shoulders-- pulling his brother into a hug.
"AW SAM! LET GO!" Dean hissed, trying to shrug out of the hug, even as his arms took a life of their own and wrapped around Sam.
Sam laughed softly and waited a moment, then smiled as he said, "Come to my wedding."
Dean's arms dropped to his sides, "WHAT!" he growled, "Let go!"
"Come to my wedding."
"This is low, Sam!" Dean hissed.
"Come to my wedding."
"This is BLACKMAIL! COME ON, MAN!"
"Come to my wedding... you don't have to wear a tie or give a speech or stay for the reception if you don't want to... just stand with me..."
"I WILL dropkick you, Sammy!"
Sam tightened the hug, lowering his head to his brother's shoulder, "Please." He stated simply.
"AGH! SAAAAMMMM! GET OFF!"
"Okay, FINE." Dean hissed through clenched teeth.
"Promise. Now get the fuck off me or I swear to god I'll inflict pain on you, you BRAT."
Sam chuckled and released his hold, stepping back, "Oh come on... you know you wanted to hug me too..."
Dean took three steps back and gave a shudder, "They do put estrogen in the water here, don't they...?"
Sam laughed, "Come on... I'll get you a beer so you can feel all manly again..."
"You think a beer can fix this! You HUGGED me!"
Sam laughed, turning and heading for the kitchen door, "A beer's all I got, brother..." he called out as he pushed the door open.
Dean stared after him, the mock disgust melting off his face and leaving behind an affectionate smile instead, "A beer will do, Sammy, a beer will do..." he murmured softly and then he followed Sam into the kitchen.