The Road Beyond

Warnings and otherwise: Spoilers for Born Under a Bad Sign. Mild language.

Author's Note: I swore after a certain anonymous how convenient for them review I got that was very conflicting- I wasn't going to let it deter me from writing tags (no disrespect to their opinion, they're entitled to view my tags as unoriginal and virtually pointless, but I do enjoy writing them). However, on a more subconscious level, it did affect me. The most I could get out were a few drabbles, but nothing of much substance because I continued to question myself and whether or not I should be writing what I was. Fanfiction can be and is usually taken seriously, but it is fanfiction and therefore can not be truly original. It should be fun. As for my stories being a pointless waste, well, I have no defense to that, lol. But I will say this! I write these stories fully aware that in most cases, the events and conversations I portray wouldn't happen, because not every episode can end with perfect closure and resolution. I write these just for instant-gratification and share them for the same possible purpose. I'm just a fan writing for something she loves but just wishes there was more of. With that said (sorry for the ramble) I offer this tag as something just a little bit more, a stronger sense of closure. So if you don't like a fictional, personal conclusion or added scene to a show then tag scenes like this one will not be to your liking. I do not mind criticism. In fact, I encourage it, but I prefer it be constructive rather than destructive. Thank you.

I do apologize if that came off as demeaning or impolite. I know most people out there who come to this site understand what fanfiction is. I just wanted to clarify myself and hopefully prevent future misunderstandings.

Disclaimer: I'm just writing a fictional addition to an episode, sharing my personal instant-gratification, while borrowing characters that obviously do not belong to me.


The hour neared midnight. Sam wasn't certain how long it had been since he took the wheel and let Dean rest. He knew it took a good forty-five minutes of arguing he should drive considering Dean's shoulder wound. Dean only gave in because he was tired of Sam staring him down relentlessly with that concerned puppy look for who knew how much time. But since Sam started driving, as soon as his brother passed out nuzzled against the passenger side door, the miles stretched further than he was used to and his mind was left to wander as far as the night was dark.

Bits and pieces of memory were coming back to him in no chronological method. A sudden thought would run him over and soon enough he'd get a whole day he thought he missed back into a warped perspective. He could see through his eyes but only as a prisoner to his body. He'd see stranger's faces, hear scrambled conversations, and not understand a thing. He knew some things he'd never remember, and there would be hours of days he'd never get back. He figured that would be all right, because so far all he was remembering were things he wished he could forget but knew he never would.

The highway trailed uphill and curved around a steep riverbed. Something flashed behind his eyes and a small explosion expelled and crackled in his mind. For an instant all he sees is Dean standing at the edge of a dock. He hears an echo of a gunshot so vividly it rams into his skull and slithers down his spine.

The car swerved a bit, skidding to the side of the road, over the shoulder, and barely missed a rather imposing tree. Sam had slammed on the brakes and stared out into the wild darkness before him, panting and trying to regain proper focus. He swallowed thickly, calming down a little only when he saw Dean still sleeping, seemingly peaceful. He shut the engine off and quietly exited the car, leaning against the closed door and taking in a deep breath of cool, damp air. He figured he better collect himself before driving again. He'd hate for Dean to wake up and have his refurbished car totaled because he couldn't get his head on straight.

The road beyond and behind them was empty and undisturbed. They seemed to be the lone travelers this night which was fine with Sam because that meant fewer distractions. He walked over to the other side of the car, glancing inside at his slumbering brother. He smiled at the sight, overwhelmed with contentment that his brother survived all this.

But then, when Dean huddled closer to the door, maybe subconsciously towards the presence of Sam, he coddled his injured shoulder and shivered. It was at that point Sam's smile became broken and a painful ache rose in his heart. He knew he was the reason Dean was hurt. He didn't care if he was possessed. He felt like he should have fought it harder. He couldn't look at Dean like that at this moment, couldn't be reminded how he took advantage of his brother's vulnerability, possessed or not.

The sound of rushing water caught his attention, was an easy diversion to take his eyes off his damaged brother—so damaged because of him. He followed the sound through a brush of trees, over stones and twigs and slippery splotches of grass from an earlier drizzle.

He walked carefully but steadily to the source of the noise, but lost his footing somewhere between the shadows cascaded. Were it not for a strong enough tree trunk to grab hold of, he would have blundered over the quickly ended edge of the ground as it suddenly cut off from being level into a long fall over a sharp and rolling hill, the base of which was a river. The river itself flowed gently but who knew how shallow the depths were to an unsuspecting victim of a fall. He shuddered out a breath and forced himself backwards so he stood firmly on the ground, peering over the ledge.

He didn't understand why but he couldn't stop looking at the river. The wind blew past him and a memory stung his thoughts. A chill claimed his body while he stared down below, searching, waiting. The water was black and glossy, rippling against the evening breeze in taunting waves that cried like something from a nightmare. A flood of moving pictures came to him slowly, washing over him in a terrible motion as he relived a memory. It started coming back to him like sparks waiting to ignite in a flame that would rupture his entire being.

He remembered seeing Dean topple over the dock in the back of his mind; he remembered screaming for him so loudly it was nothing but silence from his unmoving lips.

Flashes pieced together in front of him and in the murky depths he saw his brother appear, floating lifelessly. His eyes were still probing and sorrowful, alight until they fell upon Sam who could only gaze below in an immobilizing terror. Then, the light in his eyes went out. Darkness filled his features and the black water was incarnadine with blood. Before Sam could blink, Dean was swallowed up into the watery oblivion.

Sam stared, frozen, and the wind around him howled a song of murder—singing and shrieking you could have killed him.

Sam's body wretched, hesitantly leaned and swayed as realization swiped over him once more. The image of bloodied water and a dead brother disappeared but the feeling of truth remained and it was like concrete filling his chest and hardened with every breath. He couldn't stand anymore and just before he fell to his knees strong arms caught him from behind and lowered him gently to the ground.

He swiveled, nauseated by the mere movement, and turned to face a distraught looking Dean who, after setting Sam in place, clenched his shoulder and kneeled beside him.

Dean didn't say anything, just looked at his brother indefinitely lost. Sam rasped out a breath.

"Thought you were asleep. I just…I needed some air."

"You all right?"

Sam shook his head.

"Parts of it are coming back to me. The week, I mean. I almost wish I wouldn't remember at all…"

"Yeah, so do I."

"I'm sorry," Sam said meekly, not a coward to the notion, just sad he had the obligation of apology once more.

Sam didn't even have to look at his brother to see Dean roll his eyes.

"Stop saying that."

"Sorry…" Sam said again.

"I mean it, Sam. What part of 'you were possessed, you couldn't help it', don't you understand?" Dean asked, seriously curious as to why the idea was unfathomable to Sam.

The younger Winchester collected his thoughts before answering. He felt his face go pale and his stomach twist inside him.

"I shot you. Being possessed or not, it doesn't matter. If it were you, you would have been able to fight it better."

"Hey man," Dean raised his voice as though he were giving a lecture. "You as yourself are a good aim. If you were going for a kill, you would have done so. The fact you as a demon puppet only managed to put a bullet in my shoulder? That right there alone tells me you fought it. You did good."

"Please don't patronize me for going trigger happy on you and missing a vital organ."

Dean couldn't help but laugh a little.

"Dude, I'm over it. I hold none of this against you. So why are you still holding it against yourself?"

"You're my brother, damn it! And I almost killed you--again! Excuse me if I can't just get over that."

"Well, I'm not dead," Dean retorted sternly.

"You're not invincible, either. I wish you'd stop acting like it."

"I wish you'd stop acting like this is over already! The demon hasn't won. You haven't changed, but still you insist I put a bullet in your head. You want to die, is that it?"

"No," Sam bit out. "I don't want YOU to die. Why am I so important that you'd let me kill someone innocent? You didn't even flinch when I threatened to kill Jo! You were going to let me get away with murder and you wouldn't stop me."

"I'm glad Jo's all right, I am. But you come first, that means before everyone else. Got it?"

"Actually, no, I don't. You'd risk someone else's life, including your own, for mine?"

"Put me in your shoes, what would you do? And be honest," Dean demanded. Sam bit his lip.

"You know I'd do the same, but this isn't a hypothetical situation. I'm the one destined to be evil here, not you. What happens when I don't miss? What happens when it's not a demon in me that's killing people?" Sam lowered his voice dangerously, something acerbic and self-mutilating dripping from the words.

Dean gritted his teeth and took a deep breath to calm himself down.

"I thought we've been through this already. I told you it won't go that far because I—"

"All you're gonna do is die trying to protect me from this, Dean," Sam cut him off sharply and suddenly Dean's tongue didn't maneuver well enough for him to speak. Sam dropped his head down. "Look, no amount of words is going to change what's happening and what's gonna happen. You can make jokes and talk like you think you know you can save me when really I see through all that…I don't understand why you won't end this now, before it's too late."

"Sam," Dean warned lightly. "It's not too late."

"I didn't want to give up. I thought maybe there was hope…but…I tried to kill you, Dean. As long as I'm alive, you're in danger. I can live without hope. I can't live without you. I see how scared you are. And when I think that I'm the reason for that fear…I…"

"I'm terrified. I'll admit, after I thought you killed that guy, I didn't know what I was going to do. But I knew exactly what I wasn't going to do. I wasn't going to kill you. That'll never be an option for me. When I found out you were possessed I…I almost lost it. Whenever something happens to you that I couldn't protect you from, I unravel, man. I act tough and I am strong but you're the only reason I can ever be vulnerable. That keeps me human, keeps me sane…in an odd, question your own sanity, kind of way. Point is I'm not scared of you. I'm scared of losing you. There's a difference," Dean told him, nudging his shoulder with his elbow.

There was a comfort there but it didn't last.

"Well I'm scared of me," Sam confessed. "Not so much of what I'll become but…what I might do to you. Destiny and plans…fine, whatever. I could handle just those. But if you're the one caught in the crossfire? I can't handle that. I won't.

"If this is you asking me to waste you again, I swear I'll…"

"No, Dean. I never should have forced you to make me that promise. That was unfair to you and I'm sorry. I take it back…I just don't want to hurt you. If you promise me anything ever again, then promise me you won't let me hurt you."

Dean let out a troubled sigh and shook his head.

"If you really mean what you say, that you don't want to hurt me, then best you can do is let me save you. Believe that we can get through this like everything else, like anything else! Let me fight for you, Sammy," Dean said with pleading conviction and Sam shivered from the genuine desperation shining in his brother's eyes. He was so earnest, so frightened, so determined that it shook Sam at the very core.

"And who's going to save you, Dean?"

Dean thought about the question, and with the answer came a sad awareness defiant of admittance. Without Sam, no one would be there watching out for him, not to the same degree anyways. It was a lonely world when they weren't together. Much like the week Sam was missing passed by like a lifetime that was anything but worth living.

"You will," Dean remarked quietly but with fierceness. "Because you'll still be here, and you'll still be you."

"But, it's already started. I'm becoming what the demon wants me to be, who I'm meant to be," Sam added in defeat.

"The only thing you're meant to be is my brother. I've said before that I've tried so hard to keep you safe…what makes you think that's ever going to change?"

"I know you will. I trust you, but trusting myself? I don't know if I can do this…"

"Do it for Jess and Mom. Do it for Dad. Do it for me. Just don't give up on yourself, because I haven't given up on you and I never will."

Sam rested in the serene reassurance provided by his brother, savoring the moment and letting every word sink in.

He exhaled slowly, a faint gleam of tears shined in his eyes that Dean couldn't dismiss.

"Hey Sam," Dean started again. "The hunter that was killed…try not to think about him. I know that's going to be on your mind for a while because that's what you do…you dwell. But…if you're going to dwell on anything…keep your focus on everyone you've helped. Think of the little girl you saved from the pool, and the long life she's going to have because of you. Think of Andy, who you helped open his eyes to see what he was doing and how it was wrong, that he could change. Think of unicorns and angels, lollipops and candy canes, I don't care. Just…don't think of that."

Sam raised his head, startled by his brother's invasive intuition, both annoyed and grateful for it.

"…He had a daughter…"

"Sam, it wasn't you who killed him, it was a demon. That action does not define who you are. You're a decent person. You're a good kid who hasn't had the best life, but you manage to put your life on the line for others every day. You're a hero, Sammy. The world's, and mine. So don't think of that guy. Don't."

Sam smiled and tears he didn't realize were there trickled down his cheek which he brushed away in surprise.

"…Thanks, Dean," Sam said softly.

Dean started to grin and then his expression turned solemn, forcibly.

"Also, sorry I hit you before," Dean commented without much attachment. Sam glared at him with scrutiny.

"Yeah, um, why did you hit me, anyways?"

"Well, I thought if I did, then maybe you wouldn't feel so bad when you realized you shot me."

"How thoughtful of you," Sam mentioned dryly, gathering himself up to stand on his feet. He extended his hand to help his brother up.

"Yeah, well, you know."

Sam couldn't help but think how much he missed his brother, sometimes the most when he was right in front of him. He feared so strongly one day Dean wouldn't be there, that he would have pushed his brother far enough away where Dean wouldn't come back. But he knew some fears were irrational, because it was Dean, after all. He wasn't going anywhere. Sam was beginning to realize that it wasn't just something he said or promised- it was who Dean was.

He was someone who stayed, no matter what. He was always going to be there for Sam, always going to fight for him, and Sam would do just as much to save his brother from an ill fate.

All the fires of Hell could not burn away their bond, and the sentiment was only fortified by the commitment Dean had to Sam, unremitting and ruthless. Sam took console in their bond and held tightly to it. The more Dean spoke of Sam's salvation, the more Sam believed in it. And all the angels of Heaven could do their part in watching over him, yet it was avidly revealed that even if it turned out to be just one person watching out for him…Dean could be the one, and he was enough. Sam would make sure he let Dean know that, somehow in someway.

"Sam, quit staring at me like you want to hug me or something," Dean cautioned. "It's kind of freaking me out."

Sam scoffed.

"I don't want to hug," he lied, shrugging his shoulders.

"Uh huh, sure," Dean chuckled, turning Sam forward and pushing him lightly back in the direction of the car.

Sam walked but turned his head to the side as he spoke back to Dean.

"I don't!"

"Right, I totally believe you," Dean said indifferently.

Sam grumbled all the way to the car. He watched carefully as Dean got in, insistent he could open a door on his own and griping something about not being a cripple. When he was secure inside, Sam got in and started the car up.

He felt his brother's eyes on him, studying through concern. Dean's eye twitched and his face contorted in disgruntlement.

"By the way," he began nervously. "I meant to ask…you're not seriously a Bon Jovi fan, right? Tell me that was the demon talking."

Sam hung his head down and sighed with exasperation. It was going to be a long night and a longer drive, but at least—he reckoned—the company was well worth the length of the trip and worth more to Sam than he could ever understand.

They set forth on the road beyond them, a road that undoubtedly would take them through hell, but where they might find redemption at the end of it. No matter came at them around the corners they'd take it head on, side by side, fighting for what they believed in most, fighting for each other.

Thanks for reading, and I very much hope you liked it and didn't just waste your time only to be disappointed. Should you feel inclined to share, feedback is especially appreciated and helpful. Random tidbit, I almost continued with this where one of them fell off the ledge and into the river. See? I do have some self-control.

Also, for anyone who is interested, I do have other more "original" stories in mind that aren't a tag to an episode. Yes, that's right...I can write more than just tags! Stop laughing... :-)

Silver Kitten