This I Promise

Author's Note: Surprise! I wrote a tag, lol. Hahaha. Yes, well, I briefly re-read this after writing it, and I'll be honest…I must have been in a trance because I seriously don't recall where it came from or how it got here. But, here it is. I'm strangely fearful to confess this might be, in my opinion, one of my best written stories—or at least that I have improved from older works. Of course, I might just think that because it's 2 AM and I'm so sleep deprived…

Warnings and such: Spoilers for Playthings. That's…pretty much it.

Disclaimer: They're not mine, I just stole them a while. I promise to pay for their therapy bills.

-:-S-U-P-E-R-N-A-T-U-R-A-L-:-

"You promised."

Dean shifted unnoticeably in his seat, Sam's words spinning around his head and they left a chill that shivered across his body relentlessly.

"You promised."

He was drowning silently in a sea of despair. His chest was tightening with every inhale and his exhales were becoming shorter as he tried to get a grip with reality. But he couldn't see straight, couldn't focus because you promised and I want you to watch out for Sammy, and those stupid freakin' eyes that looked up at him and begged him to obey.

"Dad told you to, you have to—You promised."

The memory of the words were like waves that crashed into him and pulled him further down into his secret abyss where pieces of himself were escaping, becoming farther and farther away, and his soul could only stretch so far to keep together with his loudest thought—I can't do this anymore. Each time he glanced over to Sam with that distraught look of melted steel, trying to seem so hardened and accepting when really he was falling apart—it only reminded him that the farther Sam fell, the more broken and severed Dean became. And it wasn't so much the falling part that scared him- it was where he'd land, and ultimately what would become of them after.

It wasn't long before Dean couldn't take the floating, attacking words pinning him down in his own car anymore, and he needed to come up for air.

"I crossed my fingers, Sam," He said in a breath, loud enough to be heard but soft enough so it would require his brother to really tune in on the words.

"What?"

"I, uh, had my fingers crossed when I made you that promise," Dean elaborated, licking his lips. He made a pitiful attempt at a smile and flashed it towards Sam, then quickly returned his gaze to the road before them. "So, it doesn't count."

He waited for the verbal explosion, the curses and angered fits, the ridicule about how immature it was for him to do such a juvenile thing. But Sam just sat there with his eyes glued ahead, a faint glistening of tears still remarkably close to falling.

"Pull over," Sam told him, nodding to the side of the road. Dean bit his lip, thinking if he did then Sam would just run away somewhere…or maybe shank him. He didn't have much of a choice but to obey, though, because there they were again…those stupid, freakin eyes. Sam didn't even have to look at Dean directly to get the full effect. Slowly, reluctantly, Dean obeyed and pulled over to the side of the road.

Dean was quick to notice that the road was empty a long ways ahead and a long ways back and there was no visible clearing in the trees that lined the highway.

Sam was out the door and had it slammed before the engine even shut off. Dean watched from inside the car a moment as his brother paced alongside the road, hands over his face. He debated on whether or not he should exit the car. Maybe Sam just needed a moment to recollect himself, to calm down. Surely he understood enough, after everything that's happened, to know Dean had the best intentions. But then Sam stopped pacing, his back to Dean, and he just stared motionlessly into the vast beyond. That was Dean's cue to go make sure he was okay.

He eased his way out of the vehicle and shut the door, standing beside it and taking in the view.

"You picked a good spot, Sammy," Dean chuckled dryly to himself. "I don't think the cops will find my body for a while, having to search through these woods and all."

Sam said nothing, didn't even move and Dean couldn't see his eyes, if he looked angry or upset or if he had any emotion showing at all. Curiosity and concern were all that provoked him to move forward and stand nearer to Sam. He forced out a cough to clear his throat and sighed. Humor wasn't going to get him out of this one, and really he wasn't sure why he tried the comedy outlet at all being as it didn't work so well on his brother anyways.

"Look, I know you're pissed, but—"

Dean didn't have time to finish or time to react as a strong force struck his face, knocking him on his stomach over the hood of the impala. He let out a strained groan and lifted himself up, almost stumbling backwards completely over if it weren't for the hand on his shoulder that gripped his jacket and balanced him again. He met eyes with Sam.

"That was my rain check," Sam told him with raised eyebrows. He let go for Dean's jacket and gritted his teeth.

"Guess I deserved it," Dean bit out shyly, touching his jaw. He was about to say something else when Sam pushed him out into the middle of the road. Dean scrambled to keep standing and stared wide eyed with his mouth agape.

"And that's just because I felt like it," the younger Winchester added while rolling his shoulders back. He then raised his arms in a fighting stance. Dean almost laughed as he brushed his jacket off.

"I'm not going to fight you," he said, emphasizing his sincerity by putting his hands up in a surrendering stance.

"Then you better promise me and mean it, or I'm going to fight you until you do," Sam raised his voice and Dean looked away.

"Forget it."

The next thing Dean knew he landed hard on his back against the asphalt, Sam straddling him with his fist in the air ready to strike.

"Promise you'll do it…you'll kill me if you have to," He ordered. Dean shook his head lightly.

"Nope."

Sam swung his fist against Dean's jaw again with just a little more strength than the first time. Dean took a moment to regain his senses and looked back up into pleading, angry eyes.

"Promise me," Sam said eagerly, his hand was raised again.

"Hit me all you like. I don't—"

This time the punch had more exertion and Dean couldn't stop the painful moan that left him after the blow.

"I said promise me!"

"And I said no!" Dean yelled back. Sam grabbed a hold of Dean's jacket and lifted him just enough to slam him back into the cold road.

"You're a jackass!"

"And you're—" Dean started, and Sam was about to hit again but stopped mid-air when Dean flinched. He let out a tense breath. "You're mad at me right now. You have every right to kick the ever-livin' shit outta me, I deserve it, and I can take it. But don't…don't make me say something I don't mean. Don't make me lie to you anymore than I have in the past, because I really freaking hate it when there's secrets between us. I hate it, man."

Sam began blinking quickly, tightening his grip on his brother's jacket collar.

"Then don't lie. Mean it when you'll tell me you'll kill me if I…if I turn," Sam said exhaustedly. "Swear to me you'll do what you have to do, because I don't know what to do if you don't promise me that much. I just…I don't know, so you have to, you have to promise. Just…promise me!"

Sam cried out, then brought his hands up towards his chest and cringed inwardly. He shut his eyes but the tears still escaped. Dean felt a sinking sensation take him over. Like his world just tipped and everything was jacked up and couldn't ever be the same. There were awkward shadows lingering where something like faith and courage used to stand solidly, but no longer. Dean needed Sam back, needed Sam to know he mattered, that he wasn't hopeless.

Dean started to lift himself up with Sam still on him. He grabbed Sam's shoulders gently but firmly and flipped him down to the ground where he took on the hovering position. His jaw was trembling and he hoped it was just due to the initial blows to the head and not that tears were threatening to fall.

"I promise," Dean whispered, trying to ignore the shudder in his breath. Sam looked up at him, eyes luminous with anguish and fear, until Dean spoke again. "I promise to save you, Sammy. This, I can promise you."

Then Sam just looked plain miserable, at least right before he broke out into laughter. Dean patted him on the chest and stood himself up, pulling Sam up with him who still had tears in his eyes and laughter in his voice as he tried to talk. The two stood inches apart.

"You just won't give up, will you?" Sam asked, his small bout of hysterics vanishing. Dean wiped the blood trickling from his lips and smirked.

"Not on you."

Sam let out a sharp exhale and looked ashamed as he dried his eyes from tears.

"I must be losing it."

Dean clapped Sam on the shoulder before leading him back towards the car.

"I don't think you ever really had it."

"I'm serious, Dean. I get what you're doing…you're trying to protect me. But you can't be so delusional as to believe you can, because if you get reckless on me, then I will be losing something. I'll be losing you. That's not something I can handle."

"Don't do anything stupid and maybe I'll be able to stay out of harm's way."

"Haha," Sam mocked laughter. It was quiet between them. Sam was almost fretful to look his brother in the eyes, to see the damage he'd done. His emotions just took him over in the most negative way possible, and he regretted his actions, but an apology was hard to word considering their circumstances.

Unsaid words fumbled over his tongue as Sam thought hard about how he could say he was sorry. But then he felt Dean's eyes watching him struggle and search, so he looked at him, looked through him and saw a bitter earnestness gleaming in the hazel orbs.

"Don't apologize, either," Dean advised in his best adaptation of the 'I'm the big brother and I say so' tone. Sam quirked an eyebrow and tilted his head. Dean stepped closer ever so swiftly and wrapped his arms around his shoulders, pulling Sam into a hug. "And don't you dare change on me," he added determinedly. "It doesn't matter how many people you save or don't save, you don't need to change. You're a good person- a better person than most for a lot of different reasons. So just…believe that. Believe that for me."

It was a quiet but sincere confession that stunned Sam, who probably would have fallen back in the initial shock of it had it not been for the strong arms clinging onto him as if he was air to a drowning victim.

If only he knew.

"Yeah, okay…" Sam said quietly.

He wasn't hesitant to return the hug, just alarmed that Dean instigated it. He didn't care though, and so they stood there hugging for a few long, deep breaths. Dean then sighed and shoved Sam away, gently but with force.

"That's enough of that," Dean said in a way that almost came off as too masculine, looking around warily. "If anyone saw us hugging, they'd really think we were gay or something."

Sam laughed, pushing Dean forward towards the impala and making his way around to the passenger side.

"You know, it is physically possible for two men to hug and for it to be something platonic."

"What did you call me?" Dean asked dismissively.

"Shut up," Sam said, opening his door. "I'm just saying. Maybe if you were a little more in touch with your sensitive side, people wouldn't always assume you're over-compensating."

"I don't need to compensate—period! That's how good I am."

"Uh huh," Sam grinned. "I'm sure that's what all the guys tell you, huh?"

"Dude, don't even."

Sam just laughed as he got back in the car and closed the door, waiting for Dean to do the same.

The engine started back up and Dean peered into the rearview mirror, assessing the new bruises he'd have later on.

"That was one hell of a rain check, Sammy. You nearly broke my face!"

Sam sunk in his seat.

"Yeah, I'm sorry about that…I just…"

"Hey, I said no apologizing," Dean reprimanded with a point of his finger. He then smiled cunningly and muttered, "Besides, you still hit like a girl."

"I do not!" Sam protested defiantly, his voice snapping.

Dean ignored the objection. "But you're my girl," He teased.

"I shouldn't have held back."

"I doubt there was much to hold back, anyways, Samantha."

"Oh, bite me."

"Don't tempt me."

"Fine."

"Fine!"

"Jerk."

"Drunk."

"I hate you sometimes, Dean," Sam feigned seriousness, though he was genuinely annoyed.

Silence, then the engine revved.

"Come on, sweetheart. I'm going to take you shopping for a shiny new doll you can play dress-up with."

Sam folded his arms across his chest, a bitter look of resentment expressed in his features, but he couldn't stop the eruption of laughter soon after trying to hold it in. The on-off chuckling was contagious for the next couple of miles, and as Dean listened to Sam laugh, he felt pieces of himself coming back together.

The words that floated around him, what once swirled into a treacherous sea that confined him, were reaffirmed as a promise made from whispers and tears, of love and maybe even of destiny. It was a promise he could keep with no room for recklessness or question. So the loudest thought in Dean's head became—To save you, little brother—this, I promise—this, I can do. And I will.

-:-S-U-P-E-R-N-A-T-U-R-A-L-:-

Thank you so much for reading. Feedback would be great, but I certainly won't beg for it. I could, however, threaten to never write a tag scene again…HA! Just kidding. I couldn't stop myself even if I tried, lol. And, trust me, I've tried…

Till next time, please take care.

Silver Kitten