Against His Will
Part Four (See part one for author's notes, disclaimers etc.)
Dean came out of the bathroom twenty minutes later and Sam was surprised but relieved that he made no protest when Sam insisted on changing the bandage on the shoulder wound. He was sure Dean was just pandering to his need to look after him, but he didn't really care, so long as he got to do what needed to be done.
Dean lay back against the headboard of the bed as Sam carefully peeled off the bandage to reveal the bullet wound beneath. Sam was relieved to see that there was no infection, and the hole was even beginning to close. But just the sight of it, knowing that he'd caused it, made him feel sick.
"How's the pain?" he asked.
"It's…" Dean cut off what he was about to say when he saw Sam's raised eyebrow and smiled ruefully. "It's bearable."
"You want some more painkillers?"
"Took a couple in the bathroom."
Sam removed the old dressing and began to cut a new one to size, working silently, trying to concentrate on the job at hand and clear his mind of disturbing thoughts.
Dean was looking at him with a mixture of irritation and concern.
"You need to stop beating yourself up about this."
Sam snorted. "Easy for you to say. You're not the one looking at the bullet hole you made in your brother's body."
"No, but I am the one with the bullet hole in my body, and I don't have a problem with it. Sam, you have to get past this. Just accept that you're innocent, that you had no choice."
Sam held his brother's eyes and voiced the fear that had been growing in his mind all morning. "What if I did have a choice? Maybe I could have broken the demon's control, if I'd tried hard enough."
"Don't be stupid, Sam," Dean said sharply. "No one's strong enough to do that."
There was a deathly silence. Back at the cabin, when the demon had been killing Dean inch by inch, their Dad had broken its control just long enough for Sam to reach the colt.
"That was different," Dean said finally.
Sam finished securing the new bandage and began to collect together the items he'd used from the first-aid kit, keeping his eyes fixed on his task. "Why, Dean? Why was it different? The demon was killing you then, just like I was at Bobby's."
"Sam, we don't even know that's what happened with Dad."
Sam looked up then, startled. "Yes, we do," he said with conviction. "Dad saved your life because he was strong enough. I… I'm supposed to be the one with the powers, Dean. Why couldn't I break free?"
"What if," Sam rushed on, "what if I couldn't break its power because something inside me really is evil and I wanted what was happening?"
"That's total crap, Sam," Dean said tightly. You're not evil and you're never gonna be evil. You gotta stop thinking like this. I don't know what happened in the cabin, but it doesn't matter. I know you. I know you'd have tried as hard as you could to break free, and it was too strong for you. That's it. End of discussion."
Sam put everything back in the first-aid kit and replaced it in his duffle bag, then sank back down on the bed and drank the last few mouthfuls of cold coffee. They sat in silence for a long while, until finally Dean said softly, "We'll work it out, Sam."
Sam shook his head. "How, Dean? If I'm that weak, how can I fight it? How can I stop myself turning evil?"
Dean looked at him strangely for a moment, jaw clenching and unclenching, and then swallowed hard. "Look, Sam, I get it, okay? You think you need to be strong because you don't trust me to save you."
"What?" Where had that come from? "Dean, of course I trust you. But this… it's too big, and you're just one man. You can't do the impossible."
"I shouldn't have let it happen. I let my guard down. Hell, Sam, I let that freakin' demon get its damned sulphurous claws into you."
Sam snorted. "Come on, Dean, how can you possibly blame yourself for that? It wasn't your fault. You didn't know about Meg. How could you?"
"I'm supposed to save you, Sam," Dean said, a harsh edge to his voice. "But I'm doing a pretty crap job of it."
The words were a trigger, and a memory surged through Sam's mind. He was back on the floor at Bobby's, seeing his fist pounding into Dean's face. This time, he could hear cruel words coming out of his own mouth, words designed to hurt and destroy. "You're worthless. You couldn't save your Dad. And deep down, you know that you can't save your brother. They'd have been better off without you."
Suddenly, Sam was back in the asylum, hearing similar, scathing words from his own mouth. "I'm not pathetic, like you." That image was replaced by the cabin, where Dean stood pinned to the wall, and Dad taunted, "You know, you fight and you fight for this family, but the truth is….they don't need you. Not like you need them."
Worthless. Pathetic. Unneeded. Dean had heard these words again and again. He had to be wondering if the words were simply the cruel taunts of an evil being or a semblance of truth dredged from the subconscious minds of his brother and father.
Dean already carried a heavy enough burden, and now, he'd been trusted with being Sam's only hope. For the first time, Sam really understood the strain Dean had been under ever since his father had told him the secret of Sam's possible future.
All his life, Dean had taken upon himself the responsibility for Sam's safety, and for much of his younger years, Sam had simply accepted that. Not so much as his right, but simply as the way things were. As an adult, he often railed against what he saw as Dean's annoying overprotectiveness, but deep down, he still relied on Dean to make things right. Subconsciously, he still believed Dean could fix everything.
That was why he'd made Dean promise to kill him if he couldn't save him – because he trusted Dean to do the right thing. It was simple to him. Dean is the person he trusts most in the world, and therefore the only one he can trust with the hardest task of all. But he was beginning to see that all this time, he'd only been thinking about himself. He'd been so fixated on the fear of turning evil and hurting people that all he'd cared about was getting Dean to promise to do the right thing. He hadn't thought too much about what this was doing to Dean.
Now he understood that it was killing Dean, that his brother would rather die than do what he promised to do.
As for not being needed – that was almost funny. Because Sam had never needed his brother more than he needed him now.
"Dean, you've been saving me all my life. You've always been there for me, and you've always come through. Always."
Dean swallowed hard. "Not always."
"Always," Sam repeated firmly. "And the times you couldn't help me, the times when I got hurt, those were times when there was nothing you could have done."
"You believe I can save you this time?" Dean asked gruffly.
"The truth? I don't know. We're in over our heads, man. But I do know that you'll fight 'til your dying breath to save me, and that's enough, Dean. I trust you – I always have and I always will. And I trust you to do the right thing, if it ever comes to that."
"Okay. But whatever happens, I need you. I can't get through this without you."
There was a long pause, then Dean said very quietly, "I can't lose you, Sam."
"I know. What you don't understand is that I can't lose you either. Okay?"
Sam waited for Dean's slight nod before continuing. "Look, we just need to keep going, you know? We work together, and we kick some badass demon butt. Right?"
As he spoke he realized that he wasn't just speaking for Dean's benefit. For the first time since this whole thing had started, he actually saw a glimmer of hope.
Dean let out his breath in a long sigh. "Yeah." He smiled faintly. "Nothing wrong with kicking demon ass, that's for damned sure."
Sam nodded emphatically. "Okay then."
There was a long pause, then Dean eyed the paper bag on the table between them.
"What's in there?"
Dean smiled. "What kind?"
"Couple of plain, couple of custard with chocolate icing."
Dean's smile broadened and he raised an interrogative eyebrow.
"The custard ones are yours."
"Oh, yeah." Dean gave a satisfied sigh. "Because I'm am awesome big brother, right?"
Sam snorted. "Because you'd just whine and whine if I said I wanted the custard ones."
"Sammy, I don't whine."
"You so do, Dean."
Sam picked up the bag and tossed it to Dean. He smiled as Dean caught the flying object in his right hand and began eagerly rooting through it.
The future still looked bleak, but at least they were facing it together. And that made all the difference.
A/N I hope the final couple of chapters lived up to expectations – this is how I picture the conversation going, but some of you may have very different views on the way it should have gone! If so, I'd be interested to hear them. Either way, I want to thank everyone who's encouraged me with reviews on earlier chapters – they certainly helped me in the writing of the final two.