There's a Way Through to the Other Side In The End

Disclaimer: Supernatural doesn't belong to me, nor do Dean, Sam, or the other characters you recognise. I am making no money so please don't come looking for me.

Warning: some violence as the story progresses

Spoilers - post-end of Series 1 Devil's Trap so some passing mention of events in Season episodes such as Faith, Home, Devil's Trap etc.

Author's Note: Depending which episode I have watched most recently, my feelings about John Winchester vary. If you are a fan of JW - don't read and flame - this story for reasons best known to itself was not kind to him - if that is going to upset you, please don't read on.

Author's Note (2): I would imagine this story to be AU - JW is, I hope for all of our sakes, OOC and from that the boys reactions should also be somewhat so. Having said that, I would hope that in the light of something bad, the boys would stick together and offer what support they can to each other.

Chapter 1 – Something Wicked This Way Comes

Sam jerks awake, sitting up abruptly. Nothing. The room is dark. He can hear Dean's even breathing; see dim lights from outside through the motel curtains, the occasional brighter light as a car sweeps past on the road outside. Nothing out of the ordinary. He works on calming his breathing. "Just a dream," he tells himself, "just a dream." His heart still hammers, he listens to Dean's breathing and tries to slow his to keep in time.

He adjusts the pillow behind him and settles back against the headboard. No point trying to go straight back to sleep at this point. He will either fall straight back into the dream or lie awake worrying for an age. The time is better spent considering the dream objectively or as much so as possible.

There had been two young children. The older of the two appeared to be about 7 and was clearly looking after the younger who from what Sam had seen in his dream was probably little more than a toddler. The older was holding the younger in his arms rocking back and forth soothing gently. There was a palpable air of concern and fear surrounding the older child although the younger appeared to be asleep peacefully in his arms.

It's not the first time Sam has had this dream and he still can't work out why he'd woken up. It's not painful like his usual visions, after the initial shock of waking, his head rapidly calms down. It wasn't like a nightmare as such, the only reason he questions it is the radiating fear from the older child. Nothing else is apparent. Maybe there is more to the dream, something to tell him who the children are and possibly more importantly where they are and what the danger is to them.

He feels calmer, figures maybe it's worth trying to get some more sleep. He fixes the pillow and lies back down, but even so it's a long time before he relaxes enough to fall asleep.

Sun's up and so is Dean (well, kind of anyway). Today is going to be better. He looks across at Sam sleeping and hopes he's been like that all night, he knows Sam hasn't been sleeping well lately, probably worrying about Dean. He reaches out for the one crutch he keeps beside the bed, the other is near the door where there's room for him to use both, and manoeuvres round in the small space between the beds to stand gingerly. He eyes up the chair, it's not far, he should be able to get there without waking Sam. Realistically, with enough time, Dean figures he can make it anywhere, he just can't do it all that quietly right now, andnot without stopping for a rest. The chair is at the end of Sam's bed so it's not far to go. He makes it and takes a quick look back to see if he has woken Sam before lowering himself gently down into the chair. The old and cheap chair creaks alarmingly under his weight.

It was all it took, Sam rolled over, blinked and yawned, "Hey bro, you're up. Leg bad? You need some painkillers.' The last Dean deciphers round yet another jaw-cracking yawn and sighs.

"Sorry Sam. Didn't mean to wake you, cheap chairs can't take my weight."

"'S okay. Cheap chair can barely hold the weight of a pixie, let alone you. Time I was getting up anyway. Don't know about you but I'm ready for something to eat. You want the bathroom first?"

"Nah. I'm good, you go first."

When Sam comes out of the bathroom, he realises that Dean is watching him. "You okay, Dean?"

"I couldn't be better."

"Now that I don't believe, given the …"

"Yeah, Sammy, given the circumstances, I couldn't be better. Sure different circumstances might see me feeling even better, but with the ones we've got I'm good. What about you?"

"I'm fine."

Dean looks critically at his younger brother before shaking his head and saying, "See, I don't believe that for some reason."

"Dean, I'm fine. We've been through this. I had no lasting injuries on me, cuts, bruises… they all healed fine long before you were ready to get out of that hospital…"

Dean's eyes move away from his brother, "ready came a lot sooner than able, Sam." He replies quietly.

"I know, Dean, I know" he sighs as he rests his hand soothingly on his brother's shoulder, "you're out now though."

Dean seems to pull himself together a bit, "Anyway, I wasn't talking about injuries, I was talking about you."

Sam's answer is slow and drawn out, almost patronising in its tone "The answer is still, I'm fine."

Dean's response holds a hint of irritation; he knows when Sam is playing him for a fool, "Then why aren't you sleeping?"

"What? Dean, I'm fine."

"Sam. I know you think I'm stupid or something and so drugged up I don't know my own ass from my elbow, but listen up, I am not stupid and I may be drugged half the time to the point I couldn't stay awake through a bomb blast, but I don't need to be awake to know you aren't sleeping."

"Dean! Dude!"

"Sam, go look at yourself in the mirror and trust me, you'll see a man who isn't sleeping."

"Okay." Sam's tone acknowledges both defeat and the truth in what Dean has said.

"So plain old nightmare? Or is it something more? A vision?"

Sam sits down on the end of the bed, his knees bare inches from Dean. He leans forward and pinches the bridge of his nose. "Vision, maybe" resigned, he continues, "it doesn't feel like the rest, the others before and I can't work out enough of the detail. I keep trying Dean, but it just doesn't fall into place. I can't quite figure it."

"How long?"

"Since Dad left."

Dean adjusts his position carefully, so his hand can reach Sam's knee. As Sam looks up, he says, "I'm sorry Sammy. Listen tonight I'll stay awake, I'll be here for you."

"And how are you going to do that exactly Dean?"

"I'll manage."

"Manage? No! No way, Dean. That is so not going to happen. I won't let you. It's the only time of the day, you're taking the dose of all your meds that the hospital actually prescribed."

"Sam, if I took what they suggested I'd never be awake, hell, I really wouldn't know my ass from my frigging elbow."

"Dean, I get it but I don't want you to mess this up," he gestured wildly at his brother indicating the injuries he still carried. "It's not worth it. I need you to get better, not to watch me sleep or not. Look we're not doing much at the minute. I promise I'll take it easy, but you, you've got to promise me, you'll stick to those meds. If you don't, you're not going to manage your rehab. Please Dean."

Relief swept over Sam, when Dean nodded his assent. In truth, he knew Sam was right and as much as he hated the effect the meds were having on him, the permanently groggy feeling, the heavy sleep from which he woke still tired, he knew he'd pared down the painkiller doses as much as he could. The pain was worse than he was letting on, and the night-time doses that finally took the pain and sent him to sleep were a welcome relief.

As night approaches, Dean offers once more to stay awake. Sam smiles before gently refusing. He can see the pain etched on his brother's face, the weariness in his eyes and the pallor of his normally healthy looking complexion. "It's okay, Dean, it's probably nothing; just some weird-ass dream."

"Sammy, I…"

"Dean, it's okay. If it happens again, we'll talk in the morning. If I need you, I'll wake you. Now here, take these and get some sleep." He hands over the combination of drugs from the hospital, smiling again at Dean's grimace. Moving to sit down again, he flicks on the TV to a low soothing hum and watches as the drugs gradually begin to kick in. It doesn't take all that long for Dean to relax into sleep.

Sam continues to watch as the tension gradually eases from his brother's body, as the frown that seems almost constant at the moment gradually lifts and the years seem to recede as Dean falls into a deeper slumber.

As the weeks go by, their life falls into a routine. Each weekday morning, Sam drives Dean to the hospital for his rehab, then parks up and goes to work. He's managed to pick up a part-time job in a second-hand bookstore, it's only a couple of hours but at this stage any money he can make is sorely needed. Sam is well aware of how much he has always relied on Dean to make sure they had enough money to keep going. Three or so hours later, he heads back to pick up Dean, from where he'll be in the Hospital grounds.

They discovered in the first week that the hospital appointments don't always run to schedule so Dean knows that some days he's in for a wait before being seen and others he waits for Sam to get back. "No point in us both sitting here" is what he said to Sam that first week, "get out and do something while you can." He remembers the conversation – he hadn't meant for Sam to get a job, not that he's objecting, he hasn't really got the right to complain at all. After all, they need every dollar they can lay their hands on and he's pretty useless on that score right now, instead he's lumbered Sam with the responsibility of coming up with cash.

They both know Sam doesn't like to hustle pool or cards on his own, feels better when he knows Dean's watching his back and that just isn't going to happen right now. Dean can't make it into the bar, it's too much effort and when he's there, he can't drink thanks to the painkillers, nor play pool thanks to his injuries and he certainly can't watch Sam's back for him right now. There would be no enjoyment to the visit, all it gives him is an overwhelming sense of everything he isn't anymore and just how useless he is right now.

Sam keeps telling him the situation is temporary and sometimes Dean believes him. He wants to believe him all the time, he doesn't want Sam to feel obliged to keep telling him but then in his darker moments, he wonders if Sam is only saying it out of obligation and because Dean really needs to hear it. They are having a lot of conversations like that right now.

"I'm not leaving you Dean," says Sam.

"Yet," adds the memory of the Demon's voice.

"You're going to get better, everything will be fine," says Sam.

"Sure and they really want to wait that long! They don't need a cripple like you, but boy, how are you going to manage to live any sort of life without them?" retorts the Demon's voice.

"You're strong, man. I have faith in you, Dean," says Sam.

"A loser like you, the only thing you can be trusted to do is screw up."

Dean doesn't really need the demon's voice to tell him the things he knows are true. He's exhausted, fucking useless and he knows it. He's pushing himself all the time but it just isn't getting any easier. The only respite he gets from the pain and the demon's voice is after he takes his evening meds and collapses into a dreamless sleep, thankful not to wake until morning. In odd moments of coherence and lucidity, he wonders if he should tell Sam about the voice, if he should admit just how much pain he's in and that he's not sure things are getting any better but he knows it's his job to protect Sam and so he doesn't say anything. Sam has got enough trouble right now, he's hardly sleeping, running round after Dean and he's worried enough about his brother and Dean figures he owes it to Sam not to add to that worry.

It's dark outside, only the distant street lights glimmer through the window, when Sam wakes up. He shivers at the feel of cooling sweat on his body, and tries to steady his breathing. He knows now, knows what the dream has been trying to tell him and he just wishes it made him feel better but it doesn't. A sudden urge to check Dean's alright has him reaching for the lamp beside his bed. His hand stops short as he tries to rationalise his way out of turning the light on, after all, he can hear Dean's gentle almost-snores, he's got used to that since Dean's come out of hospital, he's not normally one for snoring so Sam figures it's probably down to either the meds he's taking or the position he's sleeping in, trying to find a comfortable position with his leg and the still healing lacerations to his chest. He rationalises that he's salted the doors and windows and for good measure he's done round the beds as well. When rationalising doesn't work and holding his arm out just short of the lamp makes it ache, he flicks the switch and then blinks in the glow trying to settle his eyes.

He stands and moves the few steps to Dean's bed, looking down at his sleeping brother. He regards Dean's features with intensity, just looking; he's got to be sure, he thinks he's worked it out. There's no room for error if this is the conclusion he's going to draw. He reaches out and gently smoothes Dean's hair, he sits on the edge of the bed, "Fuck, Dean, what was it like huh?" Peaceful drug-induced sleep may make life a nightmare afterwards when Dean is left groggy and struggling to co-ordinate his body, but it takes years off Dean at the time.

"How often did he put you through that Dean?" It's not like Sam expects an answer from his sleeping brother, but somehow he just needs to ask and right now he's not sure Dean could cope with him asking when he was awake. He's not entirely sure what Dean is going through when he's awake but he's certain it's bad, it's worse than Dean is admitting to and it's more than just the physical pain of his injuries. "You still think you're protecting me, don't you Dean? But what from now?" He wonders if the dream is supposed to be a clue to what's going on inside his brother's head. He reconsiders what he's been seeing all these nights.

Dean sitting on a bed with a sleeping Sammy in his arms, rocking as if to soothe but Sammy is so deeply asleep the rocking isn't to soothe him nor the quiet litany of words that stream endlessly desolate from his lips, "It's okay…ssh…he's coming back…it's okay…ssshh…he promised Sammy, he promised he'd come back…sshh…he won't leave us Sammy…it's okay…" endless variation on a theme. With tears in his eyes, quiet fear and anguish in his voice, this Dean is fighting the belief he and his brother have been abandoned.

Sam looks at his brother, "Did you ever sleep when he was gone? I never realised, I always thought everything was fine, you did so well. I never knew I ought to be worried. You were so strong, Dean. Did you hide it from him as well as me?"

Dean tries to roll over searching for a new position. Sam watches quietly. He sees his brother gasp and his muscles clench as if even in his sleep the pain has not truly gone. Dean rolls back to almost the same position and continues to sleep. "Yeah and that's worrying me too. That demon made a real mess of your chest, but is it getting any better? I know they're checking it out at the hospital but you know what, I watch you and you don't seem any more comfortable than when it first happened, I'd prefer it if I was checking it at least then I'd know. You know what Dean, tomorrow I'll come with you. I'll call in to work and come with you."

With a gentle pat to his brother's shoulder, Sam stands, adjusts the covers and heads back to his own bed.

Author's Note: So did you like it? I always appreciate reviews. Good wishes to you all and More Soon.