Title: Atonement

Author: HalfshellVenus

Category: Sam and Dean (Gen)

Rating: T

Spoilers: Asylum

Disclaimer: Not mine, and they won't do my bidding.


The car ride back to the motel was far too quiet. No music, no talking. Just a periodic creak from the chassis as the car bounced through a pothole. Sam sneaked the occasional look over to the other side of the car, but Dean didn't seem to notice or care. His body slumped a little in the driver's seat, and he looked tired and withdrawn.

They stopped in front of their room, and Sam got out. When he looked back, Dean was still sitting in the car, staring vaguely at nothing. After a moment, he pulled himself out of the car with considerable effort and moved stiffly toward the door. Sam unlocked it, entrusted with the keys for a change, and Dean half-stumbled in and leaned slowly back onto the bed.

Sam shut the door, and edged over to the bed hesitantly. "How do you feel?" he asked.

Dean closed his eyes for a moment. "Could be worse," he said.

Sam got the first aid kit from the top of the battered dresser, and sat down next to Dean, trying not to jar him too much. He reached over and began unbuttoning Dean's shirt, and Dean's eyes half-opened. "I'll take care of it," he said. "I don't need to be babied, Sammy."

"This isn't babying, Dean," Sam said. He finished opening the shirt, and surveyed the damage. "This is… making reparations," he said.

"What?" Dean mumbled.

"Atonement," Sam said.

"I knew that," Dean said. Sam clamped down on the reflexive eyeroll, and gently probed at the bruised flesh around the wounds. "Sam," Dean said awkwardly, "You don't have anything to atone for. Really, man. It's okay. I'm not mad."

Sam sat back and looked at Dean. "It's not about being mad," he said.

"Do you remember when the Shapeshifter had me tied to that chair?" He definitely had Dean's attention now. "Do you remember what it said?"

Dean stilled. "Yes," he whispered.

"It said that you resented me and hated me," Sam said. Dean looked pained. "Was it true?"

"No!" Dean said.

"Well then… maybe you understand how I feel right now. After I shot you up with rock salt, said a bunch of assy things I didn't mean over and over, and then tried to kill you! Thank god that gun wasn't loaded!"

Dean bit his lip and looked away. After a moment, Sam got out the hydrogen peroxide and the gauze pads, and began cleaning Dean up as gently as he could. He applied some antibacterial cream, put the bandaging on, and pulled the comforter from the other half of the bed over him. He lifted Dean up for some aspirin and water, and then eased him back down. Dean seemed half asleep already, and Sam turned down the light and pulled up a chair, squeezing Dean's hand gently and then settling back to watch and wait.

As Dean's breathing slowed, Sam chewed the inside of his cheek and stared into the darkness. That toxic rage that had swept over him in the basement was like nothing he'd ever felt before. It had consumed him, driving his own thoughts back into a corner where they struggled to escape as he watched his hands grab the rifle and blast Dean with the rock salt bullets. He felt himself losing the battle with that force all over again, heard the clicks as he fired the pistol at Dean repeatedly. The crack of Dean's fist against his jaw had hurt like hell, but his fading thoughts had been ones of relief. He had been no help to Dean just then, and he sure as hell didn't want to be the one hurting him. He would not be the car driven by any passing demon if he could help it.

Never again, Sam thought. Their lives had been weird enough, and they had run into so many things that were out of their control. But finding himself out of his own control? Hell no. It was strange to think that after witnessing so many possessions, he would become the victim of one himself. Maybe Dean had a point, with those amulets and charms he was so fixated on. Dean had never been possessed, not yet. The Shapeshifter had mimicked him, stolen parts of his thoughts and twisted them, but at least the real Dean had remained unviolated.

Sam wanted to scrub those angry thoughts out of his head. Their echoes still remained—they weren't his thoughts, but they had left their traces behind. Their ugliness, their insinuations, had grown out of passing irritations and been amplified all out of proportion. He did not feel those things, he didn't want to remember feeling those things. Anymore than he wanted to be continually revisiting Jess' death, over and over, day and night, more times than not when he drifted off. That shock, that horror, was like new every time he dreamed it and he just needed some relief.

Damn, he was tired. Tired in his body and tired in his soulSam looked over at Dean, sleeping fitfully, and felt the guilt rising up inside him again. He pulled the comforter and pillow off the second bed, and dumped his shoes on the floor quietly before climbing up next to Dean. It was a little crowded… but far less lonely than sitting in that chair fighting off those whispers of anger, or lying in the other bed waiting for the inevitable nightmare. He lay next to Dean, head near his shoulder but careful not to lean into his chest. The scent of gunpowder in Dean's hair was oddly comforting, a memory so basic and familiar that it carried the whole pattern of his childhood. Dingy hotels, danger in the shadows, and the cleanup afterwards all culminating in the two of them returning safe and exhausted, curled up together at night, sometimes battered around the edges but still there to survive another day. It was the smell of constancy, of family.

Dean moved in his sleep, and started to roll toward Sam before awakening himself with a groan. "Sammy?" he said. "What are you doing?"

"Making the bed smaller," Sam whispered. "Oh. 'Kay," Dean mumbled. He shifted onto his back again, and drifted back into dreams of being trampled on by horses.

Sam hooked his arm up through Dean's and lay there, hand clasping Dean's shoulder and listening to him breath.

He hoped the injuries would heal well, wouldn't leave any evidence behind. Dean had a few scars—probably fewer than he should—but none of them were Sam's doing. He didn't think he could handle a constant visual reminder of how he had hurt Dean and how much worse things could have gone. The wounds inside Dean were bad enough. He'd avoided thinking about them much when he was away, but the ones called Abandonment and Selfishness were still there, and he could feel them in the awkward distance that still cropped up between them from time to time. That wasn't how it used to be, him and Dean, but that was all before he had left. He hoped those wounds could heal too, that they were not yet scars. After everything Dean had given him, everything he'd done for him, he'd done a pretty lousy job of repaying him.

Dean stirred a little next to him. "You're not… crying on my neck, are you?" he asked sleepily.

Sam swallowed noisily. "I'm trying really hard not to," he whispered back.

Dean patted his arm clumsily, and turned his head into Sam's.

"S'okay," he mumbled. "Go back to sleep."

And there it was. He hadn't earned it and didn't deserve it, but there it was all the same.


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