Author: Oldach's Dream
Summary: Sandwiched between Sam's four years at school was an event - a decision - so desperate, that it changed the Winchester brothers forever. Prepilot. Partially AU, lots of brotherly angst.
Disclaimer: If they were mine, angst would rule and dictate everything, instead of being that marginal little thing they throw in to up the ratings.
IMPORTANT AUTHOR'S NOTE: Okay, you read the summary...Partially AU, in my mind, just means that it obviously never happened. I'm not really changing the plot of the show, (not yet anyway).
It's rated T for some language, and talk of suicide. If this topic disturbs or offends you in any way, I'm cautioning you now not to read this. But let me assure you, suicide is not something I take lightly and I know how serious the topic is, and that I did my best to portray it accurately, while keeping the brothers in character. Takes place two years after Sam started Stanford (if the summary didn't make that clear.)
Well, there, you've been warned, and assured, I guess that all that's left is for you to read the story and review and tell me what you thought. (Like how I made that a two-step process: )
Turn the Page
Dean was propped up in a hospital bed, leaning against the pillow-cushioned head board. Sam was seated in the flimsy plastic chair at is side.
"You didn't have to do this." Sam's whisper was harsh, holding choked back tears and unleashed fear. "I would've come..."
"I didn't do anything Sam." Dean bit harshly, refusing to meet his brother's searching eyes. "It just happened. You shouldn't even really be here."
The words were meant to hurt and Dean hoped they did. Hoped they did, but prayed they wouldn't drive Sam away again. He felt sick to stomach at the thought of Sam leaving again.
"The doctor said..."
Of course, Sam would find a logical side to argue. This was Sammy - boy genius - after all. Dean interrupted before the sentence could be completed. "The doctor's don't really know about hunting spirits for a living, now do they Sammy boy?"
Sam just bit his lip. No comment on the nickname. Maybe this was worse than Dean initially believed. "The doctors said," he began again. "That the wounds looked self inflicted."
Dean found the crack on the ceiling monumentally interesting; it curled around itself, forming an odd shape. Where would a crack like that come from? Pressure from the floor above? Or did someone get angry and actually throw something at the ceiling?
"Dean..." Sam's voice had that pleading quality it got sometimes. The little brother voice, as Dean referred to it.
Sam had many tones that were unique in his role as Dean's little brother. And the elder of the two could identify and read every single one perfectly.
This was patented pleading; make everything okay. Tell me it's going to be okay. Lie to me, please.
"It was a spirit, Sammy. Strange M.O. Don't worry about it." Dean grinned, because it was his belief that a grin could fix anything. Well, maybe not anything, but it was damn close. What the grin couldn't cure; sex, booze or heavy metal could.
"Are you lying?" And the grin was gone.
Dean sighed. "How's Stanford?"
"Seriously man, that college thing, how's it going?" Dean didn't like serious conversations. He didn't like conflict either. Two birds. One stone.
"It'd be going a lot better if I didn't have to worry about my brother trying to kill himself!" Sam snapped, and looked taken aback with himself once it was out.
Dean was hurt; anger was the first emotion he managed to find to portray that. "Sorry to be such an inconvenience, Sam!" He yelled. "But I wasn't trying to fucking kill myself. What part of weird haunting don't you understand?"
"The part where you're lying out your ass!" Sam shouted, and Dean realized suddenly that Sam had inherited something from their father after all. The tendency to display concern in forms of intense anger.
Dean took a deep breath to calm his nerves, and hopefully make himself stop shaking. This wasn't something he needed to deal with right now. Yet since the alternative was having Sam not here at all...well, he'd take what he could get.
"It was just a spirit Sammy," Dean half grinned - he couldn't muster the strength for a full one. "I'll be back and kickin' in no time flat. You really don't have to stick around to see my miracle recovery."
Sam would leave again. It was only a matter of time. Dean would rather he leave now - before he got attached again.
"I'm not leaving." His voice was firm. Little brother code for 'make me.' He just needed to stick his tongue out and make an obnoxious sound for the message to be complete.
"You are." Dean insisted, all hints of humor gone. I'll make you - don't worry. "Or you will, as soon as I get outta here, right?"
His mouth opened to argue, but words didn't form. Dean was right. He always would be.
"Exactly." He nodded. Not a victory he had wanted to claim. "Just get out now, Sammy."
"You're hurt." Was his feeble excuse. Score one for your powers of observation, little bro.
"And I appreciate you comin' up here, man." He chuckled, because dramatics made him nervous. "But I'm fine."
Sam nodded, and for a brief moment, Dean was terrified. He thought he'd won.
Instead, Sam just stayed where he was, biting his lip and looking like a lost puppy. He didn't want to leave yet, but he was trying to decide if it was the best choice to make. God his brother was easy to read. His face was a road map. To and from all his emotions were clearly sketched and simple to follow.
Dean wanted to insist that he leave. "So how you'd find me here, anyway?" Were the actual words that made it out of his mouth. He blamed the meds - he wasn't thinking as clearly as he could be.
"You used your real name." Was Sam's simple answer. Cop out.
"I'm still a few thousand miles away from where you live now, buddy." Dean pointed out logically. Oh, how he loved using Sam's best weapon against him. "I don't think my hospitalization made national news."
Sam sighed again and looked away. "Is it really important? I'm here, right?"
Dean didn't want to think about that. Didn't want to dissect his relationship with his brother. Not tonight. "I'm curious." He pushed. "Humor me."
"My roommate's girlfriend internships here for a semester every year as part of her pre-med training." Sam spoke honestly and Dean just raised an eyebrow. "She's met me, saw your name on the chart a couple days ago, recognized it..." He trailed off. It didn't take an idiot to put the rest together. "Where's dad?"
Those words had been unexpected and threw Dean for a moment. "Huh?"
"Dad." Sam repeated. "If it was a spirit, then where's dad?"
"Out by Lake Michigan," he informed. "He's on his own hunt."
"Dad let you go on a hunt by yourself?" Sam asked ludicrously.
Dean couldn't help but be somewhat insulted. "Dude, I'm twenty-four."
"Does he know?" Sam's mind had affectively moved passed the information of his brother hunting by himself. "That you're in here? That you..."
"Got hurt on a hunt?" Dean filled in; not wanting to hear Sam's other belief again. "Nah, it's not that big of a deal."
Sam's eyes bugged in a way that Dean had always found amusing. "You're in the hospital." He cried.
"God..." Sam chuckled slightly. Dean could tell he wasn't amused in a good way. "You should call him; tell him you need help..."
"I didn't try and...I didn't hurt myself Sam!" Dean was fed up. His brother shouldn't get to care. He was just going to leave again.
"I was gonna say, need help with the hunt."
"Oh," well regrets were fun too. "I don't need his help."
"'Cause you're Superman, right?" Sarcasm fused with something like hope.
"No," Dean smirked. "'Cause I already killed it. Never let a little old injury stop me from killing the bad guy."
"Are you lying?"
"You asked me that earlier." He reminded.
"You didn't answer."
"Have I ever lied to you?" Dean was nothing if not an awesome big brother.
"You told me everything would be fine." Sam's serious words caught Dean off guard. "When I left for college that night, you said everything would be fine."
"It is." Dean hated how pleading his voice sounded. "It will be."
Sam shook his head, hair going in all directions. Even partially tamed it was everywhere. "It's not." He affirmed. "Not if this kind of thing is happening."
"You're under reacting."
There were a few moments of silence where the two brothers tried to out glare each other.
"Well..." Dean finally let out a deep breath. "I guess we balance each other out pretty good then, huh?"
"Dean." Sam's voice was steady and solid, firm in a way that he had stolen from his big brother - his father too. This was defiantly his 'don't give me any bullshit' face. "Did you hurt yourself?"
"Sam..." he was obviously not beyond pleading. Not with Sam. Not with this.
"Answer." Not a request.
"I..." how could he turn this into a half-truth? How could he stop his brother from hating him?
"You what?" Sammy's new; 'no bullshit' attitude came equipped with an incredibly short patience span.
"I...let it happen." You asked, little brother. You asked.
"You let a spirit attack you?" Sam repeated. His words reflected the utter hopelessness of the situation. Sam was always more articulate than he realized.
"I was pretty out of it..." words were coming before thoughts could be evaluated.
"Wh-what do you mean...out of it?" Sam was so desperate, so lost. Dean had taken his water supply and thrown him in the dessert, unattended. He had tied him to a cactus and ensured his immediate demise. He had destroyed the one thing he had ever truly cared for. "What's, out of it...?"
"I'd been at a bar that night...I thought I was fine."
"A bar?" Sam's eyes weren't doing the bugged out thing. Dean would have killed to see the bugged out face right now. That was something he could deal with.
"A bar," Dean repeated. "You know, an establishment - usually smoke filled - that allows one to drink and play gambling type games. I'm sure you've heard of it before."
"Not funny." No, defiantly not.
"A little funny," Dean said, but it was pleading. Let me make this funny. Let me joke it away.
"You went on a hunt...while drunk off your ass." Factual tone. It was what came before the real emotion - eye of the storm - before the shit hits the fan - a million useless platitudes, one outcome.
"Yeah," he deadpanned. "So what?"
"You could have died." Back to stricken. Dean had been praying for anger.
"No Sammy, I couldn't of."
Good question. "Because I say so."
"And if we were still little kids, that would be a great reason." Sam had a point, but Dean would not acknowledge it. Not today.
"I'll always be a superhero to you." Dean reminded, and hoped to God that Sam was not past remembering that.
The younger man just shook his head, and Dean felt the hope drain away. "Heroes don't let themselves get hurt."
If only it were that simple. "I was fine." Simple, right?
"You landed yourself in the hospital."
"I've been here before." He said harshly. Sam had taken away his pride, his hope and his will to keep up this whole damn charade. Couldn't it be over now?
"You need help."
No little brother, "I need you."
Sam's eyes did the bugging thing, and Dean was glad. That he could work with.
"You have me, Dean." No dumbfounded requests to repeat himself. Sam knew him too well - knew he wouldn't say it again.
"No, see, that's where you're wrong."
"Have things been this fucked up for the past two years?" Sam's eyes were lost and Dean longed to bring him back.
"Have I been that selfish?"
"Hey, little brother..."
"I thought this was about me." That brought Sam's attention back around. Too bad Dean had no idea how to follow it up.
"It is." Sam's responses were automatic. It was easy to lie, but hard to let the truth shine through. That was Dean's experience, anyway. But Sam had always been the opposite of everything Dean knew. "It is."
Dean barely heard the repeated words. His head was filled to the brink with things he wanted to say, and didn't want to say, and thought he needed to admit. His head was just so full of regrets and wants.
"Hey," Sam's tone was gentle, yet demanded immediate attention. It was a little brother thing. Need.
"You have me, Dean." Maybe not Sam's need. "You're my brother, man. I'll always be around."
"That's my line."
"All rights reserved until you get outta here." A ghost of a smile. A brief flash of a dimple.
"But you'll be gone by then." Like the wisp of happy, hopefulness. "Promises like that don't mean much when you're not around to hear it, Sammy."
"You think I don't need you?"
Dean's thought a lot of things over the past few years. "Maybe."
"That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard." Two perfectly harmonized, watery chuckles.
"Well..." Dean picked at the threads of his pathetic little blanket thing, sniffling inconspicuously. "I don't know if I believe that."
"Believe it." He stated, and there was no room for argument. "I need you Dean. I need you in my life. I need you...to not hate me."
Sometimes that's hard. "I could never hate you."
"I wish." The snort that followed that piece of truth was Dean's feeble attempt at taking back the words.
"I don't blame you." Sam's voice was pathetic again. The lost puppy. Dean wondered if he did that on purpose, if he knew what it did to other people.
"You just went to college, Sammy." Dean needed him to be Sammy tonight. He had to be in control of something. "It's not the end of the world."
"If you would've died tonight..." as his words trailed off his eyes focused on something just right of Dean's line of vision.
"Seriously Sammy, how many times do I have to say it?" A forced smirk. "I'm not gonna die. Not at the hand of some, piss poor spirit. No, when I go out, it'll be in a blaze of glory." And probably saving you - but now's not the time for that sort of prediction.
"I don't want you to die, Dean."
"Well, yeah." He said dryly, but with attempted humor. "I kinda figured that much was a given. I don't go around wishing for your death either."
He was so close to making this okay. So close to being 'Dean the superhero' again. So close...then Sam asked.
"Do you want to die?" A pause, their eyes met again. "That night. Did you want to die?"
Everything went blank. There was no easy answer, no humor that could fix this. Nothing, in his twenty years of being an older brother, of protecting Sammy, of taking care of him, told him how to respond in this situation. There was nothing, it was blank, empty. Dean didn't know what to do.
Sam provided the simple answer. "Just be honest." And the older man could have sworn he heard a silent, 'I won't be mad', hidden somewhere in the subtext of that request.
Dean swallowed thickly. Cottonmouth, just like he'd had earlier. "I..." his breathing became suddenly harsh, deep pants ate up the silence of the room. His eyes darted frantically back and forth, pleading with his little brother. Begging.
But Sam was begging too. "Please, just answer the question."
"I...I...I..." time to hone up, dude. Tell the truth, or lie to Sam. Tell the truth, or lie to Sam. "I don't know."
Did that count? Dean couldn't tell if it was the truth - but knew it wasn't a lie. His confusion was bubbling and begging to reach the surface.
And finally he cracked.
"Everything was all screwed up, okay?" No, it obviously wasn't. "The hunt was going bad, I was basically out of money, me and dad had a fight last week...we've been fighting all damn month, actually. Even in freakin' different states we managed to fight, and I...and I was lonely, alright?"
Sam just stared and Dean kept going. Couldn't stop.
"I didn't go to that run down, piece of shit bar trying to get wasted, or planning to go hunting like that, okay? I was more planning on taking the night off and hooking up with some chick, ya know?" The question was rhetorical, but Sam nodded anyway. Sure, random sex with strangers he could understand. It was written in his features, that he was more than willing to forgive.
Dean went on. "But I had one too many, and the only two hot girls there were flirting with each other, and...and I was gonna go back to the motel. I really was, I just...well, then these two guys came in. They were talking about how they were driving past some old abandoned building a few minutes ago and saw some flickering lights...and I thought, 'Hey! I've been waiting for that dead dude to show up'..."
"Dead dude? You actually thought that?" At Dean's nod, Sam chuckled dryly. "And that didn't give you some clue as to how messed up you were?"
"I ignored it." There was no going back now. "I ignored the dizzy feelings. I ignored the bartender asking me if I wanted him to call a taxi, I ignored the lesbians when I accidentally walked into them...I ignored it all."
"You could've driven into a tree or something." In that instant Dean decided to never share with Sam exactly how close he'd come to doing just that. Or how many times he'd almost done just that.
"And wreck my car?" He made a disbelieving sound. "Never."
"Don't make this a joke."
But I need to, Sammy. He tried to express with pleading eyes. I have to. "I'm fine Sam, there's no reason not to make this a joke."
"You wanted to get yourself killed." That's not reason enough? Dean read.
"I was drunk." Now there's a piss poor excuse if he'd ever heard one.
"That doesn't make suicidal thoughts any less...bad."
"Bad?" Dean quipped. "You've been ay an Ivy League school for two years now and the only word you can think of is 'bad'?"
Sam didn't take the bait, he just kept his eyes firmly locked with his brother's. It was his turn, and Dean wondered what Sammy would throw at him now.
"What if it'd been me?"
Dean's air supply was at once, monumentally smaller than it had been before the words had been spoken evenly, and he had a sudden admiration of Sam's calm exterior. The weight of his little brother's question dropped, and consumed him in an instant.
Tears sprung to Dean's eyes, ones he couldn't even pretend to blink away. It kept repeating itself, a mantra that just wouldn't shut up. Sammy wanting to kill himself. Sammy committing suicide. Sammy dying...at his own hands.
"You'd never do that." He finally managed to choke out, he sounded exactly as pathetic as he knew he was going to. But he didn't care, it wasn't important.
Sam didn't respond.
Dean sat up straighter. "You'd never do that." The words were harsher, more of an order than a statement of fact.
Sam still refused to respond.
Dean gritted his teeth. One more second of Sam's staring, one more unblinking moment...
Dean's reaction to the panic and anxiousness building within him was immediate and fluid. In one movement, he had his legs over the side of the hospital bed, bare feet hitting cold linoleum. He ignored the jabbing pain in his side, took it in stride, because all he could focus on right then was fisting the collar of Sam's T-shirt in his hand.
Sam's eyes did the bugged out thing, but even that didn't register as he effectively lifted Sam from his seated position and pinned him harshly against the thin wall a few feet away. There was only one thing that he wanted to hear right now. Only one thing that would make all this better.
"You'd never do that...right?"
But Sam would not be bullied tonight. He wore a straight face - even the bugged out eyes had vanished after the initial shock of being attacked by his, previously hospital bed confined, brother had passed; and he demanded a bargain.
"Did you want to die that night?" Dean saw suddenly that this was a ploy. A scheme created in Sam's overactive brain to get his brother to tell him the truth.
He saw it...but it was overshadowed by the million mental images that had formed mere moments ago. Of Sam taking his own life. Of Dean powerless to save him.
He needed those images to stop now. He'd do anything to make those images stop.
"Yes!" He shouted. His grip on Sam's shirt tightened. "Yes! I wanted to die that night, okay? But it was only for a second, it was just..." his vision blurred and he lost sight of Sam. Was instead back in that abandoned building, watching an angry spirit whip sharp implements in his general direction. "I just thought it would be easier, ya know? I thought...I wasn't thinking..." his voice cracked and lowered notably. "I was just so tired."
"Dean..." Sam croaked, the noise reminded the elder that he was still here. His aching fist reminded him that he was still holding onto his brother.
But none of it really registered, "And I was drunk and...and I stopped trying. I just quit. And when it hit me...when I felt the dagger go through... my dagger...I knew I'd been wrong. And I wanted it back. I wanted to take everything back. All the fights, and the loneliness...the resentment...I just wanted to take it all back. But I couldn't."
"You thought you were dying." Sam helped him, and Dean just nodded, still not really seeing his brother, or anything else around him. He was so lost.
"So I killed it." Dean laughed at himself. "It's the only thing I could think of to do, to try and make up for it. To prove to you and dad that I went down fighting. I thought it was all over, Sammy. I thought I'd fucked up in the one way that I could never take back." Deep breath, swallow. "But those guys from the bar came back. Found me and called an ambulance. I owe my life to strangers, Sam. I'm not dead right now because two drunk idiots wanted to mess around in a haunted building."
"I should have been there." Sam's words were tear choked and everything was slowly coming back into focus for the elder. "Dad should have been there, something. Man, you shouldn't have been on your own. You hate being alone."
"I know." Was his spaced out response. What had just happened? What had Sam gotten him to do? "Sammy..." he remembered suddenly. "Tell me you would never do that." But it was pointless, he knew, it had never been about Sam.
"I wouldn't." He said evenly anyway, and Dean couldn't help but feel relived. He'd already known that Sam wasn't like that - wasn't like him - but it didn't hurt to hear the words. "I would never do that, Dean. I don't want to die."
"Neither do I." He said immediately,
Sam looked down at him, because they were still standing directly in front of each other, with the saddest, most desperate look that Dean had ever seen on anyone.
His half-sobbed, "Anymore," was barely uttered before Dean unclenched his fist and pulled Sam against his chest.
He let his brother cling to him like a little kid, and tried not to think about how he was doing exactly the same thing - but he was, and that couldn't be ignored. There were some things that a smirk couldn't make better. A handful of problems that heavy metal couldn't chase away, and few that he could not out drive.
Some issues that couldn't be solved with anything except time, luck and people. And every once in a while - to aid the healing, to jump start the hope - Dean would let a chick flick moment slide on by.
He'd hug his brother, while clad in only a hospital gown, and jacked up on pain meds, in the middle of a white, sterile room. He'd cry into his shoulder and promise over and over again that he was sorry. That it would never happen again, and to please not hate him. Please don't leave again.
That last bit was an uttered breath, one he hoped that Sam didn't make out, because he didn't want Sam to feel trapped with him. He just needed him to forgive him.
"It's okay, Dean." He whispered soothingly. "It'll be okay." Sam had somehow readjusted their positions and Dean was now clinging to him. Sammy's hand was on the back of his neck, fisting his hair lightly trying to soothe him like a distressed child.
If he hadn't needed it so badly, Dean would have scoffed at the comfort. But since he did need it- thought even that he might die without it - he just rested his head on Sam's shoulder and held on to the back of his jacket, trying his best not to think about the tears soaking their way through the material of Sam's thin cotton shirt, and how weak he felt at the knowledge of them.
Dean could count, on one hand, the number of times in the past, where Sam had gotten to act like the big brother. He'd never know Sam's thoughts when their roles switched, if he enjoyed the reversal, if it scared him, or if he was just disappointed in his brother's weakness. Whatever the truth of the matter may be, he'd always stepped up to the plate without faltering.
And this time was no exception. When Dean broke, Sam was there to pick up the pieces. And the elder brother knew that he would work like hell to put them back together. He trusted him, without question, to do that much.
And for now, that was all he could ask for.
Written as a one-shot, but I'm not totally set on that, and maybe, with enough encouragement, if you wanted more...
Well, let me know!