Author's Notes: Okay, well, last chapter is up. Hope everyone likes and, again, thanks for the awesome reviews. It really helps with motivation. And the ego. We all need an ego boost now and then.
Sam's dreaming but for once it has nothing to do with the Demon. Or fire, for that matter, or blood, or Jessica on the ceiling. Instead, he's dreaming oddly of . . . ducks. They aren't demonic ducks or possessed ducks or even mean little ducks eating more palm than bread. They're just a bunch of totally normal, boring ducks floating around this lake that he and Dean are sitting by.
Sam thinks, idly, it must be nice to be a duck, and he and Dean get into a conversation about what animal they'll be in their next life. Dean thinks it's lame that Sam wants to be a duck, but can provide absolutely no sound reasoning for his ambition to become a squirrel.
It's an odd dream . . . okay, it's a very odd dream, somewhere between peculiar and just downright weird . . . but it's so blissfully not horrible that Sam's almost disappointed when a sound begins to pull him into a less than fulfilling consciousness. But the sound continues and Sam (unfortunately) can't seem to ignore it, so he gives up his little ducks for a cold motel room.
He's blinking in the darkness for three whole minutes before he realizes that he's been listening to Dean throwing up in the bathroom.
Sam's up on his feet and across the room before another conscious thought enters his brain. "Dean," he says quietly, knocking on the door. "Dean, you okay in there?"
Dean makes a grunting sound that Sam supposes means, "I'm fine, Sam, I'm fine. Get the hell away from me." Sam ignores it and carefully opens the door. "Dean?" he says.
Dean is slouched halfway over the toilet, his skin pale and visibly clammy. "I'm fine, Sam, I'm fine," he says. "Get the hell away from me." Sam continues to ignore him and sits down on the floor, next to his brother who has started to puke again.
Dean finishes, flushes the toilet, and scoots himself backward, letting his head fall backwards against the dirty shower door. "Man," he says, "that's the last time I eat Thai." And it's a joke because they ate Thai (Sam's gag because Dean didn't know that he hated Thai food), but also because Dean had met a girl named Ty and had exacted his revenge by incanting every detail. I may not remember everything I've learned over the years, but let me tell you, man, some things you just KNOW, you know? Like when she took off her skirt, and that glittery pink thong, man, that was awesome, and I took THAT off and she—shut up, Dean! SHUT! UP! Dean had, for about ten seconds.
Dean's waiting for a snicker or a roll of the eyes. Sam just looks at him.
"Oh come on, man; that was funny. I might still be Amnesia Guy, but I know that was funny."
"Hysterical, Dean. Now what happened?"
"To your sense of humor? Don't know. Can't remember, really, but I'm beginning to doubt that you ever actually had one."
"It's too bad, though. The whole angsty-emo thing you've got going might work for you now, but when you get old and crusty, you're just going to look pathetic, and let me tell you, man, not many chicks dig pathetic."
"What?" Dean snaps, and Sam can see that Dean's control is fragile, tenuous at best. Dean looks away, glaring at the bathroom wall, but he looks more scared than Sam can ever remember seeing him. Sam's irritation melts away.
"Just . . . just tell me what happened, okay?" Sam tries to keep his voice gentle because Dean's shaking and Sam's afraid of making him shatter. "Please, man? Just . . . just tell me what happened."
Dean shrugs, like, no big deal, Sambo, but it is a big deal, and they both know it. "I guess, I guess I kind of had this dream," he says, and the shaking becomes rocking, very gently, back and forth. "It just . . . it freaked me out a little, I guess. But it's not . . . it's not that big of a deal."
The lie's so obvious that Sam just ignores it. "What was it about?" he asks but there's no reply. "Dean," Sam says, more firmly. "What did you dream about?"
"The . . . the past, I guess." Dean shrugs again, and he looks at the walls, at the floor, at anything that's not Sam. "I mean, I think it was the past. It's not . . . it's not all there anymore, and I don't . . . I can't be sure that it's . . ."
Sam keeps his voice calm, keeps it even and measured. Dean's freaking out and Sam wants to freak out too, but he can't this time; Dean needs him, dammit. "Tell me what you dreamt," Sam says, "and I'll tell you if it happened."
Dean looks up then, eyes finally lifting to rest on Sam's face. "You shot me," Dean says, and his voice cracks like he's 13. "You shot me." No anger, just shock, disbelief, and fear.
And the worst thing is that Sam can't even ask, Which time?
"Dean, I . . ." He falters, trailing off. "That wasn't . . . that wasn't exactly me, okay? I mean it was me, but I was, I was like possessed" (or maybe just infected with rage by a psychotic ghost) "and I didn't, I wouldn't . . .you know I wouldn't ever willingly hurt you . . .Dean? Right?"
Dean doesn't answer. His gaze has dropped again, and he's holding his knees close like he's trying to make himself as small as possible. Sam doesn't want to push him but he can't just sit there. "Dean," Sam says and it's enough to make Dean crack.
"I don't know, Sam!" Dean yells. "I mean, yeah, I thought, I thought you wouldn't ever, but—I don't know you, okay? I don't know you!"
"I'm your brother—"
"I don't know that! You told me but I don't know it! I don't remember! I've just been taking your word for it! I don't have any way of knowing!"
"But you've remembered; I know you have! Just the other day you remembered sneaking us into this clubhouse. I was 10 and you made fun of all the rich kids and you kissed Sarah Myers and—"
"Dude, that's just something that sort of, you know, came at the corner of my mind, or something. It's not a real memory; it's like trying to remember a dream where nothing makes sense. All I remembered was some ugly building and some blonde chick—you're the one who filled in all the details. I don't remember any of them. And how the hell do I even know that you're the little kid that I vaguely saw? You've grown a few inches since you were ten, Sammy. That kid could have been anyone."
"Dean, you know me. We've been driving around for almost two months now. I thought—I thought we were doing okay. I thought you trusted me."
"I did," Dean says, "but that might have been a mistake."
Sam's resolve to not freak out, to stay calm and in control of the situation, snaps in half like the proverbial straw sitting on the camel's back. "You're my brother," Sam says, his brain too numb to think of anything else.
And Dean just sits there, looking at him.
"I don't know if I want to be," he says.
Sam doesn't move for the rest of the night.
Dean does. Dean sits silently for a few minutes, staring at the ground like it has answers, and then he stands up, awkwardly easing around Sam so that he can rinse his mouth out. He stands there for a minute and Sam thinks Dean might be looking down at him, but Sam's not sure because he doesn't want to look up. Now Sam's the one in shock, the one holding his knees close to his chest, and Dean shuts the bathroom door behind him as he leaves Sam just sitting there.
Sam doesn't move and doesn't think. He just lets himself drift away.
He's not exactly sure when conscious thought comes back to him, but he knows it's been several hours from the early morning light filtering through the bathroom window. There's no sound on the other side of the door, no television or footsteps or even breath, so Dean might be gone, is likely gone (and he doesn't want to be your brother anymore) and Sam isn't sure what to do about that. Maybe there's nothing to do about that.
Sam has a destiny, and it ain't looking too pretty these days. They've put it on hold for now, paused the future in favor of the past, but Sam can't put it on hold forever. Someday, he's going to turn evil; he'll be just like all the other children the Demon's touched. He could hurt Dean, he could kill Dean, and at best, Dean could kill him. But that would shatter his brother, at least, the brother he used to have.
Dean deserves more than this, more than hunting without a home, more than killing without redemption, more than nearly dying at every turn. Dean deserves a family. Dean deserves a life. How can Sam stand in his way when Dean didn't stand in his? When Sam ran away to Stanford and Dean never once came to drag him back . . . how can Sam force Dean into a life no one should have to live?
Maybe this amnesia is a blessing and not a curse after all.
Maybe it's time for Sam to give up and just let Dean go.
Sam sits on the bathroom floor and considers all of this for one, long minute.
He's my brother and "Fuck that" and Sam's off to search for Dean.
Sam's search for Dean lasts all of 37 seconds.
Sam takes a moment to pull on fresh jeans and find his shoes halfway shoved under the bed. Then he's running across the room with only one thought (find Dean), and there's no details, no plan, just find Dean, find Dean. He swings open the door, ready to run over the state if it's required.
Sam opens the door and runs smack into his brother.
"Ow!" Sam yells and "Ow!" Dean yells and "Jesus!" and "Fucking Christ!" they yell.
Dean and Sam look at each other and start laughing and laughing.
The laughter is dark but at least it's dark together.
"So, I'm . . . I'm sorry I kind of wigged on you back there," Dean says. "I don't know, I guess I was . .. channeling some chick on the rag or something."
The comment is so Dean. Sam smiles and rolls his eyes. "It's okay, Dean," Sam says.
Dean shakes his head. "It's not."
They're sitting on their respective beds, Sam's eyes on Dean, Dean's eyes on his hands. Dean's no longer shaking, no longer fragile and terrified and broken, but he still can't seem to look up and directly into Sam's eyes. Dean fidgets for a minute, a habit that Sam still can't quite get over, and begins to talk quietly, addressing his fingertips.
"I don't . . . I don't remember most stuff, Sam, and it's not always easy just . . . just having to sit there and trust somebody. Putting your life in someone's else's hands, it's . . . it's a hard thing to do, and I know you're used to it, used to trusting me because you've known me all your life, but I've barely known you for two months, Sammy, and it's not an easy spot to be in." Dean laughs uneasily, still watching his hands. "I guess I don't really like being vulnerable, you know?"
Sam sighs. "I know, man," he says.
Dean nods, keeps his gaze down. "Listen, that dream, that—memory, or whatever—it freaked me out a little, and I didn't know how to handle it. Cause, man, you gotta understand, you put your life in some stranger's hands; you really don't want to find out that that same asshole shot you."
Sam smirks but keeps quiet and lets Dean continue. "I remember, I remember you saying some things, and I remember the gun in your hands, and I, I remember having a much larger appreciation for the destructiveness of rock salt."
Sam winces but he figures that at least he knows which shooting they're talking about now. The familiar guilt wells up again and he tries to shrug it back. He fails, of course, but that's what Winchesters do, try.
Dean notices but, to his credit, doesn't bother to comment. "But what I remember most," Dean continues, "is how it felt. Not the rock salt but just . . . how it felt to know that my brother hated me."
There goes Sam's resolve to be silent. "Dean—"
"No, Sam, I'm not—just let me finish, okay?" Dean looks at Sam, and there's more than just a little desperation in his eyes. "I—I don't want to have to this chick flick moment all day, all right?"
It's not all right, it's just not all right, but what can he do? Dean's actually talking for once; it sucks, but Sam has to just sit there and listen. Doesn't mean he can't grit his teeth, though. "Fine," Sam says tightly.
"Thanks," Dean says, and Sam can tell he's honestly grateful. "Look, I'm not—I'm not bringing all this up to hurt you, and I don't, I don't think you hate me, not really, because hello? Hospital, amnesia? You could have left my ass behind a long time ago. But then, when you shot me, I thought—I thought you had to have hated me, and I remember feeling betrayed and wondering what I could have done to you to make you want to kill me so badly."
"And," Dean says before Sam can once again break his promise, "I realized that as fucked up as that felt . . . it only hurt so much because you're my brother."
Sam's shaking his head, trying to explain, trying to find the words that will tell Dean that he loves him, and Dean nearly growls when he says, "Sam. You're not listening to me. You're my brother, okay? I get that now. I mean, I was scared before because I didn't know you and I had to trust you, but now—now I remember you." Dean laughs a little. "Remembering you kind of sucked, and it wasn't the best of memories for me, but I remember you, okay? You're my brother. I remember that."
And Dean's not looking at the floor or his hands; he's looking Sam steadily, eye to eye. "I know you," Dean says clearly. "I know you and I trust you."
Sam just stares at him for a minute
"Sam? Sam, come on, dude, you gotta talk to me here . . . Sammy, please, man, don't make me repeat that whole thing. You know I hate this kind of crap . . . I think . . . Sam? Sammy?"
Sam just shakes his head slowly. "Oh, man," he says. "I think I need a hug."
Dean is absolutely still for a minute. Then he glares hard enough to shatter stone. "Oh, fuck you," Dean says.
"Seriously, man, that was beautiful," Sam replies, grinning. And it was beautiful, it was, and Sam wouldn't be ashamed to cry, but Dean wouldn't go for tears. This was better. This was good.
And amusingly, just as satisfying. For once, it was sort of nice to have the upper hand.
Sam gets off the bed with outstretched arms. "Come here, you big softie."
Dean laughs as he shoves Sam away. "Get away from me, you psycho."
Sam grins so hard that Dean asks if he's possessed again, and decides to ward him off with a cross and holy water.
"Hey, hey! Pull over!"
"Pull over! I—I remember something . . ."
"Dean? Dean, what do you remember?"
"I remember . . ."
"Yeah . . ."
" . . .remember . . ."
Dean grins at him. "Dude. You totally wanted to be Cinderella when you were three."
Sam curses and pushes his foot harder on the gas. Of course this is what Dean chooses to remember.
"I did not!"
"You did too!"
"Did too! Just because you don't happen to remember—"
"Dude. I never liked The Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers."
Sam smiles innocently at him. "Are you sure? Are you really, totally, 100 percent sure about that?"
Dean glares at him and stomps away, muttering something about being an only child.
In the end, it's a little anticlimactic, but Sam supposes that's how most things are. When they face the Demon, it'll probably be a letdown. It's dead, we're alive, and . . . what do we do now, exactly?
Sam figures that'll be what it's like . . .if it ever actually ends.
It's been three months, two weeks, and six days since Dean's fall. Since then, he's remembered little things but not a lot to hold on to. They've managed to get acclimated, though, managed to be brothers again, and Sam catches himself thinking they can live like this. If it never comes back.
They can live like this. They'll still be together.
Dean stops talking in the middle of eating a French fry.
Sam worries at first because he figures Dean's choking. It wouldn't be the first time, the way Dean shovels food into his mouth as though he hasn't eaten in days. But he appears to be breathing and his lips aren't blue and he's not flopping the way a choking person thrashes around, so Sam figures it's something else, maybe a memory, maybe a bad one. Since the memory of the asylum, Dean's had a few more flashes to their less than blissful times, and he's handled every one better than that first, horrible one, but there were so many times to choose from. Dean could be in a million different nightmares.
Dean looks up at Sam, looks back down, and absently drops his half-eaten French fry. He drums his right fingers on to the table top and cocks his head a little to the left. He looks like he's listening to someone or something. Or maybe he's just waiting.
Sam isn't sure what Dean's waiting for, but he's not going to wait to find out.
"Dean? Dean, talk to me here."
Dean cocks his head a little more. His fingers still on the table.
Sam takes a breath. He figured as much. "Okay. What do you—"
Dean looks up, grinning from ear to ear. "I remember everything," he says. "I remember everything."
They're both silent for one, long minute.
Then they start hollering and cheering and dancing around so loud that they get themselves get kicked out of the shitty diner.
It's later, at the motel, when they're both in bed pretending to be asleep, that Dean scares the shit out of Sam by saying, "I don't remember anymore."
Sam panics, breath catching harshly in throat, because his mind immediately fills the empty part of the equation. Not just I don't remember anymore but I don't remember ANYTHING anymore, and what kind of a sick, practical joke is that? Giving Dean his memory only to snatch it away again? "Dean—"Sam says.
"Dude, stop freaking out. That's not what I meant. You're such a girl sometimes. I still . . . I still know. I still remember everything.
Sam lets himself take a very long breath of relief. "Then what the hell—"
Dean's voice is hesitant, cracking again and painfully quiet. "I don't remember what Mom looked like," he says. "Not really. I never really remembered."
Sam turns on his side to make out his brother in the darkness. He doesn't understand this. Of course, Dean remembers what . . .
"I don't," Dean says, and Sam realizes he must have spoken his thought out loud. "I realized it earlier, a little after we got back. I thought, I guess I thought it was some sort of delayed reaction or something, that the memory would come back but . . . I never really remembered. When I was a kid, yeah, but she . . . she just kind of faded from me. It was her voice at first; I could remember her words but not her voice, and then the edges of her face, and then . . . and then everything else. I had the pictures so I could pretend, could fill in the gaps if I wanted to, but . . . it's not the same, not really. I can't really see her anymore."
Sam listens to Dean take a long, steadying breath. "I guess . . . I guess some things you can never get back, after you lose them."
Sam thinks about Jessica, about his life and Stanford and normal. "Yeah," he agrees softly. "Some things that get lost are lost forever."
Then he turns a little more on his side, finding his brother's face in the shadows. Dean, who finally looks at him instead of searching the world for something safer. "But some things," Sam says quietly. "Some things you never really lose."
"Damn straight," Dean says, watching him, and they both think, I'll always be your brother.
Sam's dreaming of those weird ducks again when Dean's cursing wakes him up. "You little bitch!" Dean yells at him. "I never liked the Power Rangers!"
Sam smiles and goes back to sleep.
Author's Notes: Well, that's it. Please, please, pleeeeease review and tell me if you liked it. Also, I've been playing with the notion of doing a flipside sequel where you get Dean's perspective through this whole ordeal. No promises or anything but I've been kind of into the idea, so I'd love to know if anyone's interested, or if they'd just think it'd be redundant.