No Such Thing

Disclaimer: I don't own the boys.

Summary: Maybe this time Dean's finally learned his lesson about hoping for impossible things like happy endings. oneshot, tag for 2x17 Heart, Dean-centric

Author's Note: I don't think I'll ever be able to watch Heart and not burst into tears. That has got to be one of the most emotionally draining eps yet, and I'm still reeling from it. I wrote this immediately after I finished it, then went back and had to watch the very end again to get the few lines of dialogue I used in here. This contains spoilers for Heart (obviously), and also a very, very slight reference to House of the Holy. Be warned: much Dean-angst ahead.

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Look up pessimist in the dictionary.

It will probably say:

pes·si·mist (noun): very negative person; somebody who always expects the worst to happen in every situation—

or there will simply be a picture of Dean Winchester.

Dean doesn't look on the bright side of things, ever. For him, the glass is half-empty, no cloud has a silver lining, and the sun sure as hell is not gonna come out tomorrow, no matter how annoyingly that damn orphan kid chooses to sing. Dean always prepares himself for the worst because then when everything gets fucked up, he's ready. He doesn't have to be so disappointed.

Sam is the opposite, and the poor kid is always getting his heart broken over one thing or another, always hoping for the best—or at least somewhere deep down inside he is.

Take that little incident with Father Gregory. There Sam was, all convinced an angel was redeeming him, and in the end, it was just the ghost of some do-gooder priest wreaking havoc.

Then, of course, Sam thought he could escape hunting. Even ran off to college and everything, as if that would make him normal. As if it were that easy. Dean might've been pissed Sam was gone, but he always knew he would be back. If there's one thing Dean's learned in his twenty-seven years, it's that Winchesters do not get cut breaks.

Period.

Sam forgets so easily though. Dean'll never admit it, but he kinda likes that about his brother—his childlike belief of the good in all people and fairytale happy endings. It's not that Sam wears rose-colored glasses (how could he, with the shit they see each day?) and he certainly isn't especially optimistic about his own future, but when push comes to shove, Sam will hope.

Sam will always hope.

Dean wishes he remembers how to do that.

That's why, you see, when Sam pounds on the motel room door, Dean isn't surprised that their miracle cure for Madison didn't work. Lycanthropy is permanent, and Dean knew it all along. He was willing to try it Sam's way, to hope that Dad's theory had been right, but in the end, he knew it was, at best, a long shot. The fact that Sam wasn't dead or a werewolf himself was a blessing, and as far as Dean was concerned that was good enough.

But it wasn't good enough for Sam, because this was a girl he had possibly let himself get a little too attached to, a girl—and Dean couldn't help but suppress a triumphant cackle—who had probably given Sammy a very enjoyable evening.

He still wanted a different answer, one Dean couldn't supply. He wanted hope. He wanted, Dean thought bitterly, a happy ending.

It wasn't going to happen.

Dean knew it, and maybe even Maddy knew it. Sam probably knew it too, because he's not stupid, not in the least. By all rights, with the kind of upbringing he had, Sam should be as bitter and suspicious as Dean is, but he's not. When Dean looks at his little brother as Sam begs him to look for a different way, any way—something that will save her, Dean sees the dreamy little kid who held out bruised fingers for kisses and asked questions about heaven and always wanted a story read to him before bed, no matter how worn the book was, no matter how many times he'd heard the same thing read over and over.

Dean hates to break his brother's heart, but there's only one way.

Everybody knows it.

The girl doesn't realize what she's doing to him, Dean thinks almost angrily as Madison pushes the gun at Sam, whispering that she wants him to save her, whispering that she needs his help, that she doesn't want to live like this.

Dammit, this isn't fair, Dean repeats to himself for the millionth time, fists clenched. Hasn't the poor guy suffered enough?

First Jessica burning on the ceiling.

Now Madison begging for Sam to shoot her.

Is Dean's brother ever going to care about a girl who doesn't die a death he feels guilty for?

What did Sam ever do to deserve this? Dean wants to scream. What did he do to deserve a demon choosing him and girls he's let himself care about die? What?

When Dean takes the gun from Sam, when Sam stomps into the next room, Dean realizes with a start that maybe, okay, he'd kind of wanted a storybook ending for this, too.

Dean remembers watching Sam at Stanford with Jess, seeing the light in his eyes and his face relaxed and happy, as though years of worry had been wiped clean. He remembers thinking that if this was what college was doing to the little egghead, then it was better to leave him be than to drag Sam away from it, back to a life he hated.

Maybe Dean had wanted to see his brother like that again.

Maybe, just this once, Dean had crossed his fingers and tried to—God for-freaking-bid—hope for the best.

And maybe that's why his head's killing him and his throat's tight with a weird emotion he can't identify and he feels like doing anything to make the pain in Sam's voice go away, because when it comes to Sam, Dean will break any rule. When it comes to Sam, Dean will let his guard down and let emotion kick in. He'll do whatever it takes to keep Sam safe, and that includes both his physical state and his emotional one.

"Sammy," Dean says desperately, staring at his brother, who's trying (and failing abysmally) to hold back tears, "I got this one; I'll do it."

"She asked me to." Sam's voice breaks, and Dean wants to bury his face in his hands.

"You don't have to."

"Yes I do," Sam manages. He bites his lip, sniffs once, looks up. "Please," he says, and holds out his hand for the gun. Dean would give anything in the world not to hand it to him, but he does, because Sam's right, Dean's right.

She can't help it, but Madison will keep killing if she doesn't die now, and as much as Dean wishes she didn't have to, this can't be helped.

He just doesn't want Sam to have to live with being the one to pull that trigger.

Sam tells him to wait and then turns, tears streaming down his cheeks, and leaves Dean standing there alone.

Dean doesn't understand the lump in his throat, the pounding in his head, the wet heat in his eyes.

He should have known to expect this. He did know, he was ready! He was frigging prepared.

That look in Sam's eyes is like a knife through Dean's chest and God, it's just not fair. With everything Dean has in him, he wants his brother happy.

He wants Sam to get the fairytale ending. Maybe Dean even thought it was possible, as unbelievable as the thought is.

Dean can't stop the tear that trails a lonely path down his cheek as the gun fires. He can't stop his fists from clenching and his breath from hitching, can't stop himself from flinching.

So, Dean thinks in a steely sort of way, he's not as cynical as he originally thought.

He hears Sam's racked sobs from the next room over, and it occurs to him faintly that he should go and be there for his brother because that's the only thing he can do now. There's nothing else, there never will be.

This isn't some made-up story. This is life.

Dean is realizing once and for all that there is no such thing as a happy ending—not for the Winchesters, at any rate—and, he thinks as he stiffly turns to go to his brother, running the back of one hand roughly across his cheek, it's about Goddamn time.