Scylla and Charybdis
Disclaimer: Everything related to Supernatural is owned completly by Eric Kripke and The CW.
A/N: Spoilers for Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things and previous episodes.
"I'm gonna go get a drink. Alone." Dean forced himself to not slam the door shut behind him. He'd come so close to hitting Sam again. He needed to lash out at something. Why had Sam offered? He'd looked so resigned standing there; his voice as empty as Dean's heart. Dean knew his brother was hurting too but Sam didn't have this guilt…this hole.
Dean drove aimlessly until he spotted a likely bar. It didn't look like a hot spot, just a dark place that served alcohol. A table was found in the back where Dean could put his back to the wall. The waitress returned quickly with a beer and a tequila shot. He didn't even try to flirt with her. He wasn't planning on getting drunk, not with something out there wreaking havoc. He was still unsettled by Sam's decision to visit their mom's headstone. Why now? The gaping hole caused by Dad's death still burned inside him. Why was Dean alive? Why had Dad made that deal? In Dean's mind, there was no other possible explanation. Sam had said Dean was dying. A reaper had come for him and there was no stopping it this time. This time it was for him naturally. One minute dying, the next minute awake, choking on the tube, and healed miraculously. Coherent. Recovered. He slammed the tequila back and signaled for another. The alcohol burned in his throat washing down the sob threatening escape. Sam would hate him; he wanted to talk. But would he want to hear what Dean had to say? A rock and a hard place. So many secrets Dean now carried. He snorted. Out of the three of them, he'd been the one who was most straightforward, who had the fewest secrets. "We do what we do and we shut up about it." Telling Cassie about him had been a big mistake, one he'd not repeated since. His other secret Mary Worthington had known, but she was destroyed with her mirror. Few secrets. Ha ! John Winchester had changed all that. Now Dean had secrets that were tearing him apart. Would Sam forgive him? Would those secrets destroy their family? He slammed the shot back. He didn't want to go back to the motel right now. He didn't want to see Sam, see the compassion in his eyes. It would break him. He needed to keep his secrets a bit longer. He'd stay away until he got it under control. He'd check out Angela's place early in the morning. Maybe he could figure out what was going on before going back to the motel. Leaving the bar, he sat in the Impala. Lost in his thoughts, he waited for the dawn.
Sam kept rubbing at his right wrist. They'd changed clothes, packed, and headed out of town immediately after reburying Angela. Dean wasn't sure if her father had called the cops on them or not. He didn't want to hang around and find out. Sam had said he could wait until the next town to get it checked. The sun was setting as they drove westward. The car's silence was not broken by talk or music. Sam was afraid he'd set Dean off again, make him angry. Dean was thinking about their mother's headstone. She had a marker even though there had been nothing left after the fire. They'd stolen their father's body to burn it; he had no such marker. They were their father's only legacy, only symbol on earth that he had lived. Dean's thoughts kept circling in his head. He heard Sam's words again, "We've already lost Dad. We've lost Mom. I've lost Jessica. And now I'm going to lose you too." Sam was terrified of losing the last person he had left. Dean was afraid he'd lose Sam once the truth was told. He couldn't stand it, he had to tell Sam. He needed to know if Sam hated him, if Sam would leave him.
Sam had been watching Dean all day. He had been afraid to break the silence between them. He'd watched his brother's face get bleaker, his lips pressed into a thin line, his hands clutching the steering wheel until his knuckles were white. He was startled when Dean pulled the Impala over and got out. Dean leaned against the car's hood and Sam joined him, not quite touching but close enough for support.
Dean had decided to tell Sam what he was thinking. He hoped his words didn't destroy them. "I'm sorry."
"You? For what?"
"The way I've been acting. And for Dad. He was your dad, too. It's my fault he's gone."
"What are you talking about?"
"I know you've been thinking it. So have I. Doesn't take a genius to figure it out. Back at the hospital, I had a full recovery. It was a miracle. And five minutes later, Dad's dead and the Colt's gone. You can't tell me there's not a connection there. I don't know how the demon was involved, I don't know how the whole thing went down exactly, but Dad's dead because of me. And that much I do know."
"We don't know that, not for sure."
"Sam. You and Dad – you're the most important people in my life. And now – I never should have come back, Sam. It wasn't natural, and now look what's come of it. I was dead. And I should have stayed dead. You wanted to know how I was feeling. Well, that's it. So tell me. What could you possibly say to make that all right?" Dean was broken. A tear coursed down his face. They looked away, afraid of what each would see in other's eyes.
The silence stretched between them. Both used it to gain some semblance of composure. As the sun sank below the tree line, a hawk soared above them, tilting its wings in the wind current. They both tracked it. After it dove into the valley, they looked up. Dean glanced at Sam who was watching him. He saw no condemnation in his eyes but he had to know. "Do you hate me, Sam?"
"No! How could you think that? You blame yourself for Dad's death. You believe that he made a trade with the demon for your life with the Colt and his life." At Dean's nod, he continued. "I was so angry at Dad at the hospital. He was doing nothing to help you. I thought he only had killing the demon in mind. He once told us that he didn't expect to survive the fight with the demon. He ordered me to kill him in the cabin so the demon would be destroyed. Dean. He made a choice. He chose your life over everything else that had been driving him these past twenty-two years. He chose you. And he chose me. I think . . . You know how he and I fought all the time." Sam snorted. "We would not have been able to work together to go after that thing. He would have left me and done it on his own, died, and left me alone. But you and I. We are a team. Dad saved both of us when he saved your life. You have kept me sane these past few months. You always have. No. Let me finish. You were the one who always kept us going, kept us as a family."
Dean swallowed thickly. John had said as much to him that last morning. He'd said a lot. Silence filled the air around them again. He'd asked, "What could you possibly say to make that all right?" He'd never expected what Sam said next. "Why did you ask if I hated you? I would think it would be the other way around. Dad chose to give his life for you. Mom didn't have a choice when she died in my nursery. If you believe that I can hate you for Dad's death, then I have to believe that you hate me for causing Mom's." Sam looked directly into his brother's tear stricken face. "Dad chose freely and willingly. Mom didn't. So, do you hate me?"
Dean was in a quandary. Sam's words pierced his heart. How could his baby brother believe Dean, his protector, hated him? Sam's logic was convoluted. If he could not hate Sam, then Sam could not hate him. The constriction around his chest eased. Sam, the most important person in his life, was offering forgiveness. Both brothers bore a burden of guilt that they could not, would not put down. But it was eased by the knowledge that the other understood the guilt and how it had changed him. Dean could not forgive himself, but Sam could forgive him.
The tension between the two eased. Dean had been terrified that Sam would repudiate him. That Sam would go into a shell pushing Dean away like he had after Jess's death or that he would just leave. If Sam had chosen to leave, Dean wasn't sure what he would have done. Sam might yet push him away. But now was not the time to share John's final secret. He knew it wasn't right to keep it from Sam still, but he was selfish. He needed his brother right now. Dean knew he couldn't maintain the silence much longer though. Too much was at stake in their battle with the demon. And when Sam found out the truth, Dean would have to pay the price of his promise to their father. He'd escaped the rock but he still had the whirlpool before him. His path would be tricky. Dean could only hope that Sam would be as understanding then as he was now. The sun set on the Winchesters, each lost in his own thoughts of the past and the long road before him.
A/N: This story bugged me until it was written down. Please let me know what you thought about this story. A writer can learn from her readers' comments and improve. Thanks for reading this and for your comments in advance.