Title: Fell So Far
Author: kaly
Category: Gen, angst, tag
Rating: PG
Word Count: 1,100
Spoilers: What Is and What Should Never Be
Summary: There was more that needed to be said before they could move on.

Note: My thanks, as always, to geminigrl11 - my debt to you, as always, for the typo spotting and suggestions. :)

Disclaimer: Not mine. The pretty, snarky, angsty brothers belong to Kripke & the CW.

Fell So Far

"It hurts like hell. But it's worth it."

Sam waited, watching Dean as he clenched his jaw, eyes shattered in a way that had become far too familiar over the past year. He hoped that he was reaching him, getting through to him somehow. It was spooky, how much it felt like their positions were suddenly reversed from their early days on the road together.

Most of all, he hated seeing Dean suffer, especially if was in part or in whole because of him. He wasn't foolish enough to think that the relationship - or lack there of - Dean and the other Sam had hadn't bothered him. Nor was he dense enough to know that he had played some part, though Sam knew he wasn't the entire reason, Dean had left the idyllic dream.

"Dean?" he asked, finally unable to bear the heavy stare Dean had leveled on him.

A second passed, ten, and Sam was about to give up on Dean responding at all when he whispered, "Maybe you're right, but there... Real or not it felt real, Sam." Dean took a ragged breath, and ran a hand over his face. "But it wasn't just the people we'd saved that made it wrong. As much as I wanted to stay, with Mom, with you and Jess and happily ever after..."

Sam stood, taking a step forward and then backing away when Dean tensed. The last thing he wanted was Dean bolting. Instead he held up a hand in a placating gesture. "What do you mean?" he asked, keeping his voice low and even.

It was so rare they spoke like this; Sam didn't want to break the spell, not just yet. It would be better for both of them in the long run if Dean talked about it. Even if caring and sharing, as he called it, wasn't something Dean normally did, it was better than repressing it, if it could be avoided.

"You were there, but you weren't you, Sammy. You had Jess and you were happy and you have no idea what it felt like to see you that way. But it wasn't you. You were here, in the real world. Alone."

Sam rocked back at the unexpected confirmation, dropping back to the bed. "Dean..."

"And yeah, all those people we saved that were dead there?" Dean asked, continuing as if Sam hadn't spoken or moved. "That hurt like hell, man."

Sam stared at Dean, willing him to look up and meet his eyes when Dean paused waiting until his patience was rewarded.

"But it was nothing compared to looking in your eyes - the other you who I didn't even know - and knowing I was leaving you alone."

Dean took an unsteady breath and Sam was about to speak when Dean added, "God, when I think about the reverse, if it were you in there and me trying to find you... That woulda killed me." Dean cleared his throat, and Sam could tell he was having to force the words out. "I couldn't do that to you, Sammy."

The rough whisper and the sheen in Dean's eyes caused Sam's own voice to catch in his throat. He opened his mouth once, twice, but nothing would come. What could he say, really? Sam's eyes burned, tears stuffing up his head as the weight of Dean's words fell onto him. If he weren't so painfully sure he was awake, he'd think he was imagining it.

He'd spent his childhood seeing his classmates with their normal homes and wishing he knew what it was like. Wishing Dean knew what it was like. Although he knew Dean would deny ever wanting it. It hurt, knowing that Dean had finally received a taste of the life Sam had so briefly known at Stanford. It hurt knowing that he had relished it, only to have it ripped away.

Yeah, Sam understood at least a little how Dean was feeling.

"I'm sorry," Sam said, when he finally found his voice. He knew how painfully inadequate the words were, but they were all he could offer. That and his refusal to leave Dean's side.

Dean startled, his gaze, which had once again drifted off into empty space, coming back to Sam's face. "You're sorry? What part of this is your fault?" Dean sounded less shattered then, which Sam figured might be some sort of victory, if a hollow one. Especially as he was once again wanting to shoulder the entire burden alone.

Sam just shook his head, feeling a bit hopeless. The conversation felt a little too much like navigating a minefield for Sam's liking; one wrong word and it would blow up in his face. He didn't want to risk saying the wrong thing, and hurting Dean worse.

"You must have been happy there," he finally said, changing tactics.

Dean shrugged and Sam winced, he could see the shields coming back up, the cock-sure attitude moving in to place. This was the Dean that nothing appeared to fluster, although Sam knew better.

"Was kinda weird, actually. Picket fence, nine-to-five, bills on the table. Not my speed, really." When Dean's voice cracked on the last word, Sam could see the effort it was taking him to put on the brave face.

Rubbing a hand over his face, Sam let out a shaky breath. "I wish it didn't hurt you so much, Dean, losing that. Losing them. You had Mom..." he said, looking back up at his brother. "But I'm glad you're here, man."

Sam shuddered, trying not to think about the endless searching before he found Dean, hanging half-dead from the ceiling. The devastating fear that he would be too little, too late, once again - let Dean down, lose Dean - nearly struck him blind and deaf. It was almost overwhelming, now that it was over, and Sam had no doubt his dreams would be dark for days with the memory.

Dean sniffled quietly and ducked his head down, hiding his face. His brother really didn't do emotional scenes well at all. But it was just part of who Dean was, and Sam loved him all the more for it, even when it frustrated him. And even if they might never speak those words aloud, Sam knew without a doubt it went both ways.

Giving a shaky laugh, Dean looked up again, the faintest glint of humor in his eyes. "Try not to wish too much, okay? Especially on my account. Bad shit, dude. Seriously bad shit. Unless it's Barbara Eden back when she was in harem pants, then maybe we could talk."

Sam smiled, just barely. Maybe Dean would be okay after all. Maybe they both would.