Out with a blaze

Sam knew it was over. He knew that his life was about to end. He stared into the yellow eyes of the enemy that had shadowed his family from the moment he had turned 6 months old, and watched them glow and turn almost amber. It startled him for a second, but he then allowed his body to reflect the resignation he felt.

Dean was nowhere to be found and Sam knew that if he were alive, even just barely, he would be there beside him. Sam's body went cold with the idea of Dean lying somewhere, dead or dying alone. That was Sam's ultimate failure. Dean may have thought that it was his mission to save him, but Sam had harbored his own mission to see that Dean survived as well, but both of them would be defeated today. They had fought hard, battled everything, saved lives, and had kept each other from falling completely to pieces. There was nothing to be ashamed of. It just hadn't been enough.

"So, Sammy –"

"Only my brother gets to call me that," Sam said defiantly. He smiled grimly to himself at the thought that Dean would be proud of him for that. Defiance was all he had now.

"Yeh, well, your brother's dead."

"Yeh, well, I don't believe you."

"You don't have to. You know it already. You feel it."

Sam wasn't sure what he felt other than tired, but he wasn't going to give the demon the opportunity to see any weaknesses.

"So, now what?" Sam asked as nonchalantly as he could.

"Now? Now, you become the most powerful weapon in my army," the demon taunted. "Of all of the children like you, you were the real prize. The others, they were reinforcements to keep us safe from the hunters. You, though, you're my WMD. You are what will tip the scale in my favor."

Sam felt a chill run through him. The idea that he would be used to hurt thousands, millions, maybe the whole of the human race, gave him a feeling of disgust and pain he didn't have words to describe.

"And what if I don't let you make me into that weapon?" Sam asked, afraid of the answer.

"You? Don't let me? Are you serious? You still don't get it, do you? You never had a choice. This day was coming no matter what you did. No matter how many people you saved, nothing was going to stop me from getting you…well, maybe one thing," the demon taunted.

"Yeh? What's that?" Sam asked, half-intrigued, but also half-resigned to the lies it would tell him.

"Your brother," it said, its voice dripping with triumph, and piercing Sam's heart to its core.

"What?" Sam gasped softly in shock.

"You heard me. Your brother, Dean, he could have stopped me."

Sam's face filled with understanding.

"You mean if he had killed me."

"Well, there's that, sure, but no, that's not the real reason," the demon said, "Come on, do I really have to spell it out for you? Why do you think he was born? John and Mary Winchester were only supposed to have one child. You."

"What? How is that possible? Dean was born first," Sam said, wondering if he was being dense on purpose, not wanting to hear the real reason.

"Yeh, well, even us demons screw up. The human factor can be hard to control, if you know what I mean," it smirked.

"No, I don't," Sam had admitted, not caring what the demon thought, he was having a hard time understanding what it was telling him.

"Despite what you humans like to think, not everything you do is because of free will. For some, it's preordained. It's all about the stars aligning just right to create the ideal condition to create the perfect weapon. You. Sometimes, though, other forces intervene. As much as I hate to admit it, the world is supposed to be balanced. Good versus evil, the eternal struggle, yadda, yadda, yadda, you get the drift, but you should know from your history classes, College boy, that sometimes, evil tips things in its favor. There can be no good without evil, make no mistake, and you are that tipping point."

The demon watched Sam's stunned expression at his revelations and smiled with gratification at his shock.

"Your brother was created to keep that balance. Some meddling do-gooder gave your mommy and daddy Dean to protect you. Gotta say, he's been a real royal pain in my ass, but you, you should have been more grateful to him. He saved you so many times. Most times without you even knowing it. Your daddy trained you both, but he knew all along that, if there were something worth saving, it would be Dean who'd do it. Why do you think he sacrificed himself to bring Dean back? You can't be that stupid."

Sam swallowed hard to keep control of his emotions. He was feeling the loss of his father all over again and now he was feeling the dawning realization that Dean was gone as well.

"Looks like your brother failed though," the demon taunted with a smile. "Can't save you now, can he?"

Sam's face contorted into anger. The demon could attack him, but he wouldn't let it speak ill of Dean and his sacrifice.

"Shut up!"

"Atta boy, Sam. What was it the Emperor in Star Wars said? 'I can feel your anger'? Well, guess what? We do and it feels damn good. Oh, and by the way, do you want to know why you couldn't kill me that night in that little girl's room?"

Sam remained silent, trying to look like he didn't care anymore, but admitting to himself that he wanted to know.

"Sure, you do, I can see it in your eyes. I felt the rage and anger then, too, Sam. You had vengeance in your heart so pure I could almost taste it, but you and your brother made one mistake that night and that was sending you in with the Colt to kill me. You see, you can't kill me. You're a part of the same thread that ties you and the other children like you to me. You're a part of me. Only your brother can kill me because he was born to kill me, but now he's dead and there's nothing stopping me from claiming you."

The demon's eyes glowed again from the anticipation of finally getting what it had wanted for years.

"You don't have your brother to hide behind anymore so just give in, why bother to fight what you really are?"

"Because Dean would," Sam said, continuing to be defiant. "He'd go down fighting and I won't insult his memory by doing anything less."

"Aww…that's sweet, really, but useless. You can't fight your destiny. Wow, just realized you are a walking Star Wars cliché."

"Well, then, I guess that…makes me…Han Solo…I've always wanted to be Han Solo."

Both the demon and Sam turned to where the voice was coming from and Sam had never been so happy to see anyone in his entire life.

Dean was leaning on a nearby tree. He felt exhausted, weak, his body was aflame with pain, but his stance was firm and unwavering as he pointed the Colt at the demon. Sam was depending on him and he summoned every ounce of strength he had left to make sure that he wouldn't fail him. He knew that he didn't have much left. He'd lost a lot of blood getting there and he felt his life draining out of him. He licked his lips and took in a difficult breath.

"Dean," Sam said.

"In the flesh," Dean said.

Dean knew that he had to quickly take the shot. He couldn't risk hesitating and giving the demon time to get away or possess someone else, maybe Sam. He squeezed the trigger and shot the last remaining bullet from the Colt into the demon.

Unable to escape the destructive force of the bullet and being unable to disintegrate into a mist as it had back in Salvation, it solidified instead, and fell into a black heap to the ground.

At first, Sam stared at what was left of the demon in disbelief. It was over. After everything they had gone through, everything it had cost them, it was finally over.

Sam then watched with a proudly satisfied expression that Dean had definitely destroyed it this time, but then he heard the sound of a thud behind him and brought his attention back to Dean. He turned to watch the gun slide from Dean's weakened grip and hit the ground. It was only then that Sam had registered how torn up Dean looked. He saw Dean's eyes close, his body crumbling to the ground, and ran to catch him.

He grabbed him and laid him down gently, though every move, every touch, caused Dean to hiss, jerk, and grunt with pain. Dean felt wet to the touch and when Sam pulled his hand away, it was covered in blood, Dean's blood. He uttered a barely audible, "Oh God…"

Dean's breathing became ragged and every intake of air was shallow and labored. He looked into Sam's eyes, blood trickling from his mouth and managed his signature grin.

"That's two…you owe me, Junior…" Dean rasped while he held up two fingers just like Han Solo had done. "I've always…wanted to say…that…"

Dean arched in pain as a wracking cough assaulted him.

"Dean, I've gotta get you some help –"

Sam felt a tug on this shirt. When he looked down, he found Dean fisting it and shaking his head.

"Don't…Running on fumes…Sam…too late for help…"

"No, no, Dean…there must be something we can do…there must be something I can do!" Sam panicked. They couldn't have come this far only to have Dean die. He couldn't believe any higher power could be that cruel to Dean, to the both of them.

"Sammy…it's…it's okay…"

"No, it's not, it's a million miles from okay," Sam cracked emotionally. "We can't have come this far and –"

"Sammy, I've been ready for this. Been on borrowed time for awhile…I was born…to protect you…to save you…no…regrets."

Dean seized in pain and his breathing quickened. It was becoming more difficult to draw in each breath.

"Only want you to do…one last thing for me…" Dean closed his eyes to fight off more pain, "promise…me…you'll live, Sammy…"

"Dean, I don't know if I can without you –"

"That's not…gonna cut it…dude…I need…to know…that you'll go on…" Dean said as he fisted Sam's shirt again in pain, "please…Sam…promise me…"

Hearing Dean beg tore his heart out. He couldn't refuse him this one last thing. He had asked so much of him.

"I promise," Sam said sadly.

"Gotta mean it, Sammy…you have to be…happy too…wife…kids the whole package, you…hear…me?" Dean said, desperately trying to smile through this pain.

"Yeh, I hear you, Dean…" was all Sam could say as he tried to smile back, his lips trembling under the strain.

Dean let go of the shirt and let his arm drop to his side.

"I know I'm not much into…chick flick moments…but you have to know…I love you little brother…never…doubt that…okay?"

"I never have, Dean. I love you too," Sam said. "Thanks for always watching my back…"

"You…you pulled me…out of…hell, Sammy…I'm only here…because of you. I survived…because of you…"

Dean then lifted his arm with difficulty and extended his hand. His eyes welling with tears, his lungs giving up the struggle to take in any more breaths to utter another word, he took Sam's hand and squeezed it. He closed his eyes. He slowly exhaled a last breath and his arm and hand went limp in Sam's. All Sam could do was grab Dean so tight he felt his own breath being pushed out of him. Finally, Sam gave into wrenching sobs.

"Dean? DEAN!"

oooo

Sam gasped and bolted upright in the bed. He couldn't catch his breath for a few moments and he was sweating. He felt disoriented, his heart was racing, and his head throbbed to the same beat. He tried to calm himself when he felt a soft hand touch this arm. He looked over to find a lovely face greeting him. Sarah. His mind panicked for a second because he couldn't remember why she was there.

"Sam? Are you okay?" She asked, concern written all over her face.

Sam nodded, his breathing beginning to ease.

"Nightmare. About Dean dying," Sam said, his mind was still a fog.

"Oh, I'm sorry, sweetie. I know it must be hard. You loved him so much."

"What?" Sam said looking confused. "It's just a nightmare, Sarah."

Sarah's lineless face crinkled with worry.

"Sam? Are you sure you're okay?"

"Yeh, why?"

"Sam, I…I…" She stumbled. "Dean died five years ago. Exactly five years ago, in fact, to the day."

Sam had looked at her, mouth agape and suddenly memories began rushing back to him.

"Oh my God," Sam gasped.

oooo

It wasn't just a dream.

Dean had died.

He had been dead for five years and every year Sam would relive it in a nightmare.

Dean had died saving him from the yellow-eyed demon. He had remembered being so grief-stricken that he was completely at a loss as to what to do. He had frozen in place with shock and denial despite the evidence in his arms. Dean was gone. His family was gone. He was all alone.

Bobby had found him hours later and when he had seen what had happened, his own heart shattered. He gently tried to shake Sam back to reality, but he wasn't sure that Sam had wanted to come back and he wouldn't have blamed him.

"Sam, we have to go, son."

"Dean's dead," Sam said absently.

"I know, Sam," Bobby said softly. "He was the best. You can be real proud of him."

"He was the best, wasn't he? He never let me down, you know," Sam said, his voice sounding far away and hollow.

"He needed you, too, don't forget that. You helped each other. No brothers were as close as you boys were."

"It wasn't enough to keep us safe."

"Nothin' in this world is completely safe, but you and Dean, you made it safer for others and you kept each other safe, more importantly, you kept each other strong. It's all you can do in this life."

"I guess…I just don't know anymore…the demon told me Dean was born so he could protect me…so he could save me…it seems unfair…"

"I wouldn't put too much stock in what it said, Sam, but I will tell you that no matter what, Dean was destined to be your big brother and big brothers protect little brothers. It's that simple and I know Dean thought of it that way."

Sam looked at his brother's lifeless body.

"You're right, Bobby. Dean would never see it as anything else but free will. I was the luckiest little brother ever," Sam choked.

Bobby felt helpless to say another word. He knew better than anyone that grief was personal. Nothing and no one could decide when and how a person grieved and he knew these brothers. He understood their strong bond, had seen it in action first hand. There was nothing they wouldn't do or face for the other. For one to lose the other was like being ripped in half. He only hoped that Sam would survive it. He knew that Dean would want him to go on without him and Bobby was going to do all he could to make sure that Sam did. He'd do it for Dean.

The two of them had put Dean's body into the back seat of the Impala. A cold sensation of déjà vu had hit Sam as he remembered doing the same thing over a year ago after their other confrontation with the demon. At least then, Dean had been alive…maybe just barely, but he'd been holding on.

Sam hadn't been able to leave him behind or burn him…not yet…But when Sam had finally realized that he couldn't hold on to Dean any longer, they had created a funeral pyre in an empty field, just like he and Dean had for their father. Another sensation of loss hit him. Sam had kept Dean's necklace and ring. He hoped that someday he would pass them on, maybe to his own kids. Though it was hard to imagine, he was determined to have Dean's memory live on.

After the blaze was done, Sam had taken a container and scooped some of the ashes that had been left behind. He was glad that Bobby had been with him because he knew he'd understood and wouldn't think he was being macabre. Sam had needed to know that when he finally settled somewhere, he could bury Dean close by. Even though Sam knew that the body was just a vessel for the soul, the spirit, he'd needed to know he'd have a place to come to, if only ceremonially, where Dean would have a resting place, where he could talk to him.

A few months later, Sam had found himself thinking about Sarah back in upstate New York and decided to drive there to see if she was still around. He had been happy to find that she had stayed to run the auction house after her father had passed away. She had been someone who knew them both, knew what they did "for a living", hadn't judged them harshly for it, and who would understand his loss. She had been both happy and sad to see him. They had parted with a kiss and she admitted that she hadn't stopped thinking about him despite several attempts at dating again. She was sorry they had to meet again under such sorrowful circumstances, but she was glad that he had decided to drive through.

After another few months passed by, Sarah and Sam had reconnected and realized that they were good for each other, and that their feelings for each had grown with time spent together. He had decided to stay and tried to build a life there with her. She had taught him about the business and he found that he had enjoyed it. He had finally buried Dean's ashes under a tree in the local cemetery, far from the Merchant mausoleum and he had slowly let the normalcy of life take hold.

Five years later, they had gotten married. Sam smiled at the thought that Dean had recognized the chemistry between them and Sarah's merits from the start, jokingly telling Sam to marry her then. Now, they were expecting their first child, a son. They had both agreed that they would name him Dean.

The visions had ended the moment the demon had been destroyed and the only dreams he had for a while were of Dean, missing him fiercely for months afterwards. Sam still thought about his big brother, but on the anniversary of losing him, he would always have a nightmare, a re-enactment of how he had died in his arms. At first the nightmares had scared him. He had began to believe that maybe they meant something sinister, that he hadn't been completely freed from the demon's influence, but he could never find any evidence to suggest they were anymore than just dreams. The days would pass and they would fade from his memory until the next year. Sarah had said that maybe it was just a way to remind Sam to never to take his life for granted, that it had no other meaning than Sam's conscious telling him to keep his promise to Dean, to live and to live happily. Sam had smiled and agreed with her. It was painful to relive every year, but he had come to accept it finally, and every year, the two of them, soon to be three, would visit Dean at his grave to remember him.

Every time they'd arrive at Dean's grave, Sam would swear he could feel Dean's presence with him.

"Dean," Sam started. "I miss you, man. It still hurts, won't lie to you about that…couldn't lie to you anyway. You always knew…"

Sam chuckled lightly.

"Sarah and I are going to have a son. Can you believe it? Me? A father?"

Sam wiped the tears from his face.

"We're going to name him Dean. I hope that's okay," Sam choked. "I hope he's like you."

Sam looked over at Sarah and squeezed her hand.

"I'm happy, Dean…I really am…I just get sad sometimes when I think about all I've lost, mostly about losing you…still wish you were here, but I promise you it's not a pity party. The visions have stopped. I just have the one dream…where you…you know…I'm okay with that…I don't want to ever forget that day…"

Sam then bent down to stroke the headstone and the soil beneath it.

"It doesn't seem enough, but thanks, dude. You were the best and you went out on your own terms…out with a blaze…the way you used to tell me you always wanted…" Sam smiled and sniffled.

Sam stood up and took Sarah's hand again then stroked her burgeoning belly with the other. He felt the life within her kick him and laughed.

"Yeh, he's like you already. He's kicking my ass."

Sam looked back at the headstone, his face awash in tears.

"I love you, dude."

Sam then turned and walked away, hand in hand with Sarah and their son. Happy. A spectral figure materialized, leaning against the tree and he smiled as he watched them leave.

"I love you too," Dean said. "Bitch."

Sam turned back, thinking he heard something then smiled.

"Jerk," Sam whispered back.