Author's note: Although this one is based after Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things, I should mention that I've not actually seen as far as that ep yet, so I'm basing it on the video clips I've seen which included the ending.. Which btw made me cry even without having seen the rest of it! So anyway, apologies if there are any inaccuracies.. And hope you enjoy it:)
Sam let out a long sigh and shifted his head, trying to work through some of the tension in his neck. Glancing through the window next to him he saw Dean was still sitting on the bed, appearing to listen intently to whatever the doctor was telling him. Only someone who knew him as well as Sam – which, as it happened, was a list of one – could tell that he was in fact just counting the seconds until the doctor stopped speaking and he could get the hell out of there.
As he looked at his brother, Sam took in the gash on his forehead held together with butterfly strips, the bruise starting to show on his cheek and the way he held his right arm against himself to brace bruised, but thankfully not broken, ribs. He was pale too and all in all it was far to familiar a scene for Sam's liking.
"I really, REALLY , hate hospitals" he thought to himself, feeling the tension in his neck blossoming into a full blown headache. He'd actually had nothing against them up until recently. Surprisingly, given the family business, he'd spent very little time in them growing up. Their Dad had taught them well so very few mistakes were made on the job, and most minor injuries were treated by John in whatever Motel room they happened to be staying in at the time. Lately however..
Sam's jaw clenched as he remembered the first time. Standing in the hall, listening to the doctor calmly telling him his brother had a matter of weeks to live. Trying to stop the tears from falling before he walked into Dean's room, and then not knowing how he even managed to stay standing seeing him lying there trying to make light of the whole thing with talk of hunting fabric softener teddy bears and threats to haunt Sam if he scratched the beloved Impala.
That time they'd been lucky and Dean had recovered, albeit with a truck load of guilt for the two lives they hadn't been able to save. Sam still wasn't sure if he would have gone to Roy le Grange even if he had known how he was healing people and he was grateful that he'd never had to make that choice.
The second time had been even worse. Again he'd had to stand and listen to a doctor telling him his brother may not survive, all the while unable to tear his gaze from Dean's too-pale face as he'd lain there hooked up to machine after machine. He'd been fiercely determined then too, that he'd find some way to save Dean even fighting with John about it. Of course John's lack of help made sense now, given what he'd had planned, but at the time Sam hadn't known and now that fight was just one more regret he had to live with.
Dean had survived that too of course, but at an even more terrible price. Sam would never forget finding John lying in in his room, totally lifeless. Would never forget helping Dean along the hall because he was damned if he was gonna just lie there while they tried to save their father. And he'd never forget them calling John's time of death, and the way Dean's knees had sagged until only Sam's grip on his arm was keeping him upright.
Things had been going downhill since then if he was honest. Dean was so full of anger and pain, but he kept pushing Sam away and Sam for the first time in his life didn't know how to help him. He couldn't help smiling to himself as he remembered when they were kids. Back then they'd always seemed to know what was bothering each other, and Sam had been able to make Dean feel better simply by drawing him a special picture or climbing onto his lap for a hug. Sadly those days were long gone, although Sam could just imagine it now if he tried to give Dean a hug to make him feel better. He'd either end up with a smack in the face or drenched in holy water knowing Dean.
He shook his head, and looked up again to see Dean shaking the doctor's hand and sliding to the edge of the bed. Sam quickly stepped into the room, sparing a small smile for the doctor as he left.
"Hey – so what's the damage?" he said, trying to help Dean on with the jacket he was struggling with.
"Dude, I got it!" said Dean, pulling away from Sam's help. Sam sighed with frustration, but stepped back not wanting to start a fight in the middle of the ER.
"So – the doctor?" he prompted again when Dean showed no sign of answering his previous question.
Dean rolled his eyes "It's fine Sam, ok? He said I got a few bruised ribs and a few cuts. That's it"
Sam raised his eyebrows "That's it? What about your head, you were out for at least a minute" Sam didn't add that it had been one of the longest minutes of his life.
"I said it was fine didn't I? I've had worse, it's no big deal. Now can we please go?"
Sam knew from Dean's tone of voice that he wasn't going o get anything else out of him, so conceding the battle for now he shrugged.
"Fine. But I'm driving"
Dean was already walking past him and heading for the exit. Walking behind him, Sam noticed the careful way Dean was holding himself and he wondered if the doctor had given him anything for the pain. Deciding not to ask until they were back at the Motel, Sam jogged to catch up with Dean and hovered unobtrusively as they made their way across the parking lot.
Dean didn't miss the quick glances Sam kept throwing in his direction, nor did he miss how close his brother was walking to him, ready to catch him if he stumbled. He knew he'd been a little short with Sam back in the ER and he felt bad for it, but no way was he going to apologise. He just couldn't remember a time he felt this tired.
It wasn't just the injuries – despite what Sam thought, he really had had worse, although his ribs were throbbing like crazy right now. It was the weight of everything pressing down on him, making him feel like he couldn't breathe.. Every time he closed his eyes, he could see John's face. Hear his voice, telling him all those things that he'd waited a lifetime to hear. But instead of making him feel good, all he'd felt was a knot in his stomach telling him something was wrong. And boy had he been right. He'd never forget the look on Sam's face when he came tearing into his room, babbling about Dad collapsing and CPR. Dean had barely been able to walk, but he'd somehow made it to John's room just in time to hear them call the time of death. It had felt like some nightmare he was going to wake from any moment, but of course it had been all too real.
Since then, it had felt like he was drowning under the guilt, and the pain, and the fear. Fear for Sam, after what John had told him. Fear that he was gonna fail, that the prophecy would come true, or worse still that he really would have to be the one to kill his brother. And Sam, he just wanted Dean to be ok and to make it better but Dean knew he couldn't.
He wished he'd kept his mouth shut, but Sam had kept on and on until finally a few days ago he'd snapped. Sat on the hood of the Impala, he'd finally told Sam exactly how he felt. And asked him "what could you possibly say to make all that ok?" And Sam hadn't had an answer, just like Dean had known he wouldn't. In fact all they'd achieved was that Sam now felt even more worried about him and Dean felt even more guilty than before. No doubt about it, as far as he was concerned talking was seriously overrated.
Having made it to the car without passing out, Dean slid into the passenger seat his face carefully schooled to mask the pain that flared in his ribs as he sat down. Sam tightened his jaw, but said nothing, and closing Dean's door he got into the driver's seat.
The journey to the Motel was silent. Dean couldn't even summon the energy to turn the radio on, and instead closed his eyes and pretended to sleep. Sam knew it was only a pretence, and kept glancing from the road to Dean, until Dean finally snapped at him to "Watch the damn road Sammy!".
By the time they pulled into the Motel parking lot, Dean's ribs were on fire and his head was throbbing. Sam quickly jumped out and opened Dean's door and he was forced to allow his little brother to help him out of the car as he'd stiffened up even in such a short space of time. Sam said nothing but Dean didn't miss the clench in Sam's jaw or the look in his eye that told him this was only a temporary reprieve.
Once inside their room, Dean lay gingerly on one of the beds and closed his eyes again. He felt Sam taking his shoes off, but didn't bother protesting. That would take far more energy than he had right now.
"Lets get your jacket off Dean, you'll be more comfortable"
Dean actually jumped at the quietly spoken words and immediately wished he hadn't as his ribs reminded him fast movement was not a good idea right now. Opening his eyes, he managed with Sam's help to sit up and while Sam took off his jacket for him he concentrated on not passing out or hurling all over Sam's shoulder. Free from the jacket, Sam eased him back down onto the bed and propped the pillows behind him so he was sitting up a little.
"Did the doctor give you any painkillers?" said Sam, his brow furrowed in concern at how pale Dean was and the beads of sweat on his forehead.
"Yeah, they're in my pocket"
Sam quickly found the pills and fetched a glass of water, which he then gave to Dean hovering over him until he'd taken them. Taking back the glass and putting it on the side, Sam sat down on the other bed with a sigh.
Dean sensed he was being studied again and turned his head to look at his brother "Seriously Sam, could you just take a picture? It'll last longer" he said, his tone more irritated than he'd intended it to be.
Sam ignored the comment. He knew it was a low blow, but right now Dean had no escape from him and, tired and in pain, he was more likely to actually tell Sam the truth than when all the usual walls were in place. Deciding to go for it before he changed his mind, Sam took a deep breath.
"I'd have died too"
Wow – ok, that wasn't quite how he'd intended to start the conversation but it was the first thing that had come into his head and now it was too late to take it back.
"What the hell Sam?" Dean's eyebrows were up near his hairline and he was staring at Sam like he was crazy.
Sam swallowed as he tried to get his thoughts together. "What you were saying before – about what Dad did. The truth is, yes I do miss him. I miss him every day and I'll never stop regretting all the things I never said to him. But do I regret him dying in your place? No Dean – I don't. And you know why? Because I can survive losing Dad. I survived losing Jess, and Mom, but the one person I can't survive losing is you. That's what I meant – if you'd died I'd have been right behind you"
"Don't say that Sam – you'd be fine" said Dean fiercely but Sam was already shaking his head.
"No I wouldn't Dean! God, why you can't you see this? You put everyone before yourself, you'll gladly get yourself killed for a stranger let alone your family, and yet if someone sacrifices themselves for you, you refuse to believe you were worth it! Well you are Dean – to me and to Dad. He chose this, not you, and you can't keep blaming yourself. You just can't! Because it's killing you, and it's killing me to watch it!"
Sam was breathing heavily now, and he blinked back tears as he struggled to keep it together. He had to make Dean see the truth in this, he just had to.
Dean swallowed, trying to come up with a response. He appreciated what Sam was trying to do, but he was wrong. Sam would be fine without him – he had to be. Before he got a chance to speak though, Sam was suddenly sitting in front of him.
"Dean stop it – I know you're trying to find all the ways to tell me I'm wrong, but I'm not. When Mom died, you were the one who raised me. You were the one who chased away the nightmares, who helped me with my school work, who taught me everything! And when Jess died, you kept me going. I wouldn't have made it this far without you. But now this, Dad's death – it's pushing you over the edge and I don't know how to help you! And you won't let me, which makes it worse Dean. How many more times do you have to end up in hospital huh? How many more lucky escapes before your luck runs out? If you really feel you don't deserve to live, then you may as well kill yourself right now. But if you do that, then know I am right behind you and I am not kidding"
Dean shook his head "Stop it Sam! Stop saying that – you'd be fine without me, you know you would! Hell, you'd probably be safer!"
"Are you kidding me?" said Sam in disbelief. "How could I be safer? You constantly put yourself in danger looking out for me, and don't say it's your job Dean because it's not! You just don't get that I don't need you to be my protector! I just need you to be my brother" Sam's voice was desperate now and he was barely controlling the tears in his eyes.
Dean shut his own eyes and turned his head away "You don't need me Sam. You said so yourself, when this is all over you want to go back to a 'normal' life. You did fine without me at Stanford and you'd do fine again" he said, his voice barely above a whisper.
Sam shook his head "You're wrong Dean – you're so wrong. At Stanford I missed you every single day, man! The reason I didn't call is cause I was so mad at Dad, but I never stopped wishing I could talk to you about what I was doing, introduce you to my friends, to Jess. And at least then I knew you were out there somewhere, that all I had to do was pick up the phone. To know that you were gone for good, that I'd never see you again" Sam's voice hitched at this point and he swallowed. "Dean, please – look at me"
Dean turned his head back and Sam almost lost it at the look in his eyes. He'd never seen his brother look so desolate, and he'd have given anything in the world right then to take that look away.
Suddenly Sam was struck by something. It was extreme, but it may well be the only way to get through to Dean. He got up off the bed and grabbed one of the bags from the floor. Reaching in he pulled out one of their hand guns and expertly checking it was loaded, he dropped it onto the bed next to Dean's hand.
"Sam what are you..."
"Go ahead Dean. You're so convinced you shouldn't be here, you go ahead. Check out – wave goodbye to this screwed up world. Say goodbye to me. But I swear to you, on Jess and Mom and Dad, I will take that gun and I will be right behind you."
"No, Dean. If you're determined then I can't stop you, but at least make it quick. Cos watching you die slowly every day, watching you take risk after risk until one day you're luck runs out – I can't do that anymore Dean! I just can't"
Sam had tears running down his face now, but he ignored them, keeping his gaze fixed on Dean.
Dean looked from Sam to the gun and back again. Part of him was tempted, he really was. To make the pain go away. But he couldn't do it. And the reason why was sat right in front of him. He raised his gaze back to Sam, his own eyes glittering with unshed tears.
"Sammy, please – I just want it to stop"
The broken tone of his brother's voice and the tears in his eyes were the last straw for Sam. Maybe Dean was right, maybe there was nothing he could say to make it better. And maybe sometimes actions spoke louder than words.
Reaching out, he gently pulled Dean towards him – mindful of his bruised ribs – and he put his arms round him. Dean tried to keep it together for a moment, but he had no strength left and Sam felt him put his arms around him in return, holding tightly onto Sam's shirt like a drowning man to a life-raft.
"It's ok Dean – I promise you, it will be ok"
The first stifled sob broke Sam's heart. His own face was wet with tears as he held Dean while he sobbed. He said nothing – there was nothing he could say. He just held his brother, letting him know that he wasn't alone.
He had no idea how long they sat like that. The light was slowly fading and soon the room was barely lit by the darkening sky outside. Dean was the first to move, leaning back against the pillows and rubbing his hands over his face. Sam sat back a little but kept one hand on Dean's shoulder, not wanting to break the contact yet.
"I just don't know what to do anymore Sam. Nothing makes sense"
"Do you want to die?" Sam said it gently, hating asking but having to know none the less.
Dean shook his head "No. I wouldn't do that to you Sammy" he said softly and Sam smiled, relieved.
"Well that's something. I wish I had all the answers Dean, but I don't. All I do know is we're in this together. And as long as that's true, I can handle anything. But you have to stop trying to deal with all this stuff by yourself – I'm not a kid, and I want to help you. You're my brother"
Dean managed a wan smile "Yeah, and you're a pain in my ass I seem to recall" he said and Sam chuckled.
"You got that right"
Dean sighed. He knew on some level Sam was right, and he was moved beyond words by what Sam had said to him. Not that he was ever going to admit that in this lifetime. He still felt the grief of John's death and the fear for the future, but he had to admit he did feel lighter somehow. Knowing that Sam was sticking by him, no matter what. Maybe he was right – maybe they could face anything if they did it together.
Sam could see Dean was thinking about what he'd said, and he hoped that he'd finally gotten through to him. He'd meant every word – he really didn't think he'd survive outliving Dean and he'd had more than enough near misses lately to give him an idea of what it would be like.
Eventually Dean seemed to come to a decision. Looking up he met Sam's gaze again.
"Alright. We'll try it your way Sam, since my way seems to pretty much suck so far"
"Well, I wasn't gonna say suck as such" said Sam with a grin and Dean rolled his eyes.
"Yeah, whatever. Just remember I'm not gonna suddenly spill my guts to you every 5 minutes or want a group hug before we hunt ok?"
"Damn, now you've spoilt it" said Sam dryly. "Look, I'm not asking you to change who you are Dean, I just want you to stop shutting me out. And stop thinking that you have to be the strong one all the time. We're in this together – equally, ok?"
"Ok. I'll do my best Sammy"
"That's all I ask. And it's Sam"
Dean just grinned at Sam's correction though and Sam rolled his eyes, but found himself grinning back. It felt so good to actually laugh about something again, to feel normal. Well, as normal as it got if you were a Winchester.
Dean shifted, trying to get comfortable against the pillows. "Well, if you're done with the whole monstrous chick-flick moment, any chance I can get some sleep now?" he said with a smirk.
Sam snorted and got up, pulling the blankets up over Dean and ignoring the glare he got for his trouble.
"Sure - just let me know if you need anything. I'm gonna take a shower"
Standing under the hot water, Sam felt lighter than he had in months. He knew things were far from fixed, that they had a long way to go, but he just knew deep down they would be ok.
When he came out of the bathroom it was completely dark, but there was enough light from outside that he didn't bother switching on any of the lights. He didn't want to disturb Dean. Chucking his clothes onto a chair, he got into bed. He hadn't realised how tired he was until he lay down, and he was already dozing when Dean spoke.
"I just wanted to say.. You know.. Thanks"
In the dark Sam smiled. "You're welcome. It's what I'm here for Dean"
There was silence again for a few moments before Dean spoke again.
"And Sammy? If you ever think about doing something as lame as killing yourself over me, you better realise I will spend eternity kicking your ass – you got it?"
Sam chuckled "Sure, whatever. You keep telling yourself that in the afterlife you'd actually be able to kick my ass"
Dean snorted "I can kick your ass in any dimension Sam – I'm the older brother remember"
"Yeah well, just make sure it's never necessary and we'll both be happy ok?" said Sam, his voice taking on a more serious tone.
"I'll do my best Sam" said Dean and he meant it.
As he drifted off to sleep Dean thought about John, and for the first time the ache in his chest felt a little better. There was still a huge hole in his life where his Dad should be, but it had been made smaller by Sam's words and actions that night. And maybe that was good enough for now – the rest they could deal with tomorrow. Together.