Spoilers for Crossroad Blues and AHBL2.
Famous Last Lines
The first few days were the worst. He could barely look at his brother…. yet he couldn't tear his eyes off him. His anger only got worse when he realized he was memorizing every curve on his face, every angle to his walk, every cadence of his voice, every essence that was purely and uniquely Dean. Damn it! He'd feared Dean was tempted to make a deal with that Crossroad Demon for their dad. He'd actually asked if he'd considered it, and been met by a screaming silence before Dean reached over and turned up the volume on the radio.
He wished turning up the radio now would drown out the voices in his head; the screaming he feared wouldn't end for another 361 days. He dreaded the day it stopped…. that would be the day the world ended…. his world.
Bobby had been silent too, pondering the enormity of Dean's deal. His own grief weighing heavy on his heart. He'd seen too many friends fall: John, Pastor Jim and Caleb, Ash and countless other hunters still yet to be identified from the smoldering ruins of the roadhouse.
Sam caught Bobby staring at him every so often and wondered if he was thinking the same thing. Sam's not worth dying over, Dean. Sam was dead, and you said it yourself, the dead should stay dead. He knew Bobby would never say it, especially to his face, but Bobby was thinking it. He had to be, because Bobby was nothing if not brutally honest. And that was the God's Honest Truth. You got a crappy deal there, Dean.
The most aggravating aspect of this whole deal was Dean. The bastard was smiling for Christ's sake! And eating Bobby out of every stockpile of food he thought he'd stored up for any possible impending holocaust. His brother was a freakin' garbage disposal. You'd think the man hadn't eaten in weeks the way he laid claim to every delicacy Bobby had stashed away. Hell, just like Dean to make his last year count. Why wait for the last meal? No time like the present to gorge at the banquet of life.
Sam sat and studied his brother. He just couldn't help himself. It was like he'd never seen him before and maybe he hadn't…. at least not this Dean. Dean's face was open and so full of life, his eyes vibrant, almost dancing with glee. Glee? What the hell is up with that? His shoulders strong and pulled back, no longer hunched over with the weight of the world bearing down on him. No, that weight had shifted to Sam's shoulders. The responsibility now resting in Sam's hands…. the burden to save a brother.
And the laughter? Man, Dean hadn't laughed so much since…. Huh, I can't even remember when. Silly things, too. Really, really stupid things.It would have felt great to hear him laugh, if only…. If only I could laugh with him, instead of cringing as the pit in my stomach rattled around the dark empty cavern of my gut. If only I could see the humor in this situation.
Dean was scarfing down a Philly Cheesesteak Sandwich, the grease and onions dripping off his bottom lip, his mouth full as he talked, "Bobby, remember that time you and Dad were chasing that spirit down at the old cemetery in Tucson? That old west outlaw that had been haunting tourists for a century?"
Bobby chuckled, joining in the frivolity. What's up with that? "Yeah, Dean. That one sure got the best of your dad."
Dean swallowed down his mouthful of food and took a long gulp from his bottle of beer.
"Yeah. Wanted to know who kicked him off the front page of the Tucson Chronicle. Was only trying to be relevant again. Tired of being yesterday's news."
"Damn ghost, sure kicked your daddy's butt, that's for sure."
Dean was laughing and smiling at the memory, acting like this wasn't the first day of the last year of his life. He tilted his chair back precariously until his shoulders were resting on the wall, the front legs of the chair hanging in mid-air. Just casually relaxing with a cold beer and the familiar stories. Reliving the best moments in a life already too short and filled with too few best moments.
Dean stole a glance at his solemn kid brother leaning against the wall by the doorway, and abruptly shifted his chair so the front legs came crashing down again onto Bobby's linoleum kitchen floor. He leaped to his feet and strode over to him.
His brother's downer attitude was beginning to grate on his nerves so Dean hit the problem smack dab on the head as he playfully smacked the back of his little brother's head, "Sam, lighten up. Would you quit dwelling on the negative?"
"What?" Sam startled back to the conversation, leaving his own painful thoughts behind, temporarily.
"You heard me." Dean shot back, the smug look on his face making Sam cringe.
Or maybe I haven't shelved my painful thoughts…. Sam's anger again reared its ugly, obstinate head as the reality of his brother's deal made his head swim. He just wanted to forget….everything….dying….living like this….because of this….watching his brother surrender his life and soul for him as if he were giving him the last of the Lucky Charms.
"And what else am I supposed to focus on? Huh, Dean? In case you forgot, you made a deal. A rather bad deal, I might add. A deal that only gives you one year. So just what is so positive about that? Huh, Dean?"
Dean actually smiled, the bastard…. a joyful open smile, a fucking I've-got-nothing-in-the-world-to-be-worried-about grin. He took a deep breath before he spoke, slow and sure like he was explaining the fundamental truths of life to a school kid.
"The Yellow-eyed Demon is dead, Sammy. We did that!" Dean was standing next to his brother, slapping his hand against his upper arm for emphasis and gripping tight, his voice full of pride, a sense of accomplishment at succeeding at a job that was deemed impossible, but somehow had been completed. He continued with awe in his voice, "Dad crawled out of Hell. He saved us, Sammy. Did you see the smile on Dad's face? Did you? Didn't you feel his love?" Dean's emotions were starting to get the best of him; his eyes misting up as he again embraced the poignant moment. A peaceful, surreal, but happy moment shared by the Winchester men. A sliver of time filled with pride and love and everything good that had ever passed between them. "Sammy, you're alive…. I saved you. You're not evil, and you're not going to turn evil. We won. Sammy, we won!"
Yeah, Dean, we won, but you lost.
Dean moved closer and wrapped his arms around his brother in a hug, just like the hug he first laid on his brother when he rose from the dead, only this time Sam was not in pain, at least not in any physical pain. Sam gasped from the rare display of emotion and leaned into the embrace; this time returning the hug with fervor, never wanting to lose those arms around his chest, imprinting the memory in his mind for the future. Tears welled in his eyes as his mind again went to that place he dreaded, a place where strong arms wouldn't be there to hold him and keep out the world. He shuddered and started to cry, desperately trying to hold back the onslaught of tears, trying to be strong for his brother, but the lack of practice ultimately causing his downfall.
"Easy, Sammy." Dean soothed, rubbing small circles on his brother's back, whispering sweet words of encouragement that took Sam back to the simple pain of skinned knees and sprained wrists that always eased under big brother's caress and gentle words. But words and tender touches were not going to ease this pain, not this time….
"Dean, I can't stop thinking…."
"Sammy, I know. That's always been your problem. Just shut it down. All right? Let it go, or it's gonna eat you up. You know as well as I do, the future's not set. One day at a time, bro. One day at a time."
Sam heard a crack, actually heard his heart break as his voice betrayed him, "Oh, God, Dean. Why'd you do it? Why couldn't you just let me go?"
"'Cause you're my baby brother and it's my job." Dean stepped back then and looked into Sam's eyes, a devil's spark in his eyes as he spoke, gentle teasing in his voice, "I thought we covered this before? We've talked this to death, you know why. You going senile on me here, little brother? A little memory loss?" And then his voice got firm, a determined edge to it, "I just couldn't let you go…., Sammy…." Dean stammered, all the words and explanations a jumble again in the back of his mind, shoved back into the depths of denial. "Sammy, I'm never going to regret that decision. Never. You understand me? I'm sorry if this goes south and I'm sorry you're gonna have to live with the consequences, but I'm never gonna be sorry for making that deal."
Then Dean got a wicked smirk on his face, and he started chuckling again, almost embarrassed as subtle color changed his cheeks to a rosy, flushed appearance. His maudlin emotions turning on a dime, back to the happy-go-lucky attitude he'd strived to put forth all these years. A determined effort to be breezy and upbeat, unwilling and unable to dwell on any negativity. Not now. He didn't have time for that. He couldn't really feel that, not when he was gazing into the living, breathing eyes of his brother. Dude, it was such a good deal!
Sam knew something was up, some strange thought had captured Dean's attention, some perverse, unsettling notion had taken hold and Dean was trying to suppress it.
"Dean, what is it?"
"Oh, Sammy, you don't want to know."
Which of course, only made Sam want to know more. "Dean, what is it? Please…. Dean, tell me."
Dean stepped back from his brother, his face contorting as he tried to hold back his laughter. The joke obviously huge, grabbing hold of his senses and twisting his mind until it was all he could think of. Dean Winchester was possessed and it was not going to leave him alone. He chortled one more time before shuddering and letting the wicked thought fly.
"Sammy, remember that hokey movie Titanic?"
"Dean, that's a true story. Lots of people died when that ship sank."
"Sammy, that's my point. People die all the time. Hell, in our line of work, we know that, right?"
"Yeah? So what's funny about people dying?"
"It's not the dying, Sammy. It's the dialogue they spout before they bite the dust." A pensive, half-serious gaze took over Dean's earnest face, battling back and forth with his cocky smirk for dominance. "I gotta start working on some lines. I mean, I don't want to get caught dead with no lines."
"Yeah, the quip master doesn't want to go out without one last wisecrack."
Sam shuddered and took a deep breath, resigned to following Dean's lead on this perverted conversation. "So what's it gonna be? You brought up Titanic? You gonna use one of Leo's lines?"
"Well, now that you mention it." Dean was grinning again, the joke too good to pass up.
What is it they say about a fine line between comedy and tragedy?
Sam was considering whether he was going to have to put up with this graveyard humor for the next year, or if Dean would settle down. I mean, I love seeing him laugh and so relaxed, but this really isn't funny, Dean. It really isn't.
Dean was reading the look on his brother's face. A look he knew all too well, having been observing that face for most of his life.
"Sammy, trust me. It's a good one. Just loosen up, Tiger. We can either angst out all year or we can enjoy ourselves, and personally, I vote for the latter."
Sam smiled at the familiar term of endearment. Aside from that time Dean came to get him back at Palo Alto, he hadn't heard that particular nickname since he was twelve and Dean used it for the last time, right before he turned thirteen and became a touchy teenager. It felt good. "All right, coach. Let 'er rip."
Dean mustered up all his emo acting ability and quoted the line from Titanic that he had mocked on more than one occasion, "Winning that ticket, Rose, was the best thing that ever happened to me... Promise me you'll survive. That you won't give up, no matter what happens, no matter how hopeless. Promise me now, Sammy, and never let go of that promise." Dean barely got the words out before his grin swallowed up his face.
Sam stood shocked. Speechless. Uh-huh! That's it? You've lost it, dude. Seriously!
And then he saw the tears barely forming in Dean's eyes, tears that might have sprung up from the laughter rolling through his chest, but Sam had other thoughts. Then it hit him, like a steamer plowing across the Atlantic precariously skirting the deadly icebergs threatening to sink the largest ship in the world. Like Leo in Titanic, Dean was glad to die if it meant Sam could live, and maybe Dean would actually live this last year. Maybe with the Yellow-eyed Demon dead and Dad at peace, maybe Dean could actually enjoy his life for once, however short it might be. That is, if I don't ruin it for him with my whole gloom and doom attitude.
As hard as it was going to be to look on the positive, maybe that is what Dean needed. They always say the morning star shines brightest just before the dawn. Maybe this was Dean's year to shine bright. Maybe Dean could finally open up and live like a free man, a man relieved of his duty, a man open to the joys of life. Released from his burdens, free at last.
Sam smiled. There are no guarantees in life. Any day now, either one of them could get pummeled into the next life by one of the demons released through the Hell's Gate or any number of other evil creatures walking this earth. No guarantees, except the Winchesters would fight tooth and nail to survive and save each other.
After everything Dean had sacrificed for him, he could do this for his brother. He could let Dean enjoy his final days; that is, if they were to be his final days. His determination grew stronger in that moment, 'cause damn it! This was not going to be his brother's final year of life, not if Samuel Winchester had any say in the matter.
Dean had done his job, now it was Sam's turn. And the Winchesters always get the job done. But Sam had 361 days to reverse this deal. Right now, he needed to focus on what Dean wanted now, this minute. And apparently, Dean wanted to laugh. All righty, then.
"Dean, that is so lame, dude. You better work on that last line, 'cause I ain't carving that on your headstone."
"What, Sammy? You don't like the line or the delivery? How about, 'I'll be back'?"
"Keep working on it, Arnie. You've got time, I'm sure you'll come up with something."
Dean quirked his eyebrows in an amused, quizzical look before softly uttering, "Rosebud?"
Sam stared at him, his mouth opening slightly like he was going to speak before clamping shut, his own eyes squinting into a bemused smirk. You've actually seen Citizen Kane?
Dean looked at him with a pleading, needy look on his face, willing his brother to respond. What? Like I don't know the classics?
Silently the brothers communicated; no words necessary for them to know each other's thoughts. Two years back on the road together and they were finally brothers again.
Dean waited for a response, his eyebrows arched, anticipating.
"No." Sam adamantly replied.
Dean slumped back on his heels before he was off again, ready to start bouncing off the walls, his enthusiasm bringing out the joyful child long buried as he dug deeper in his backlog of movies. "Ohhhh, how about, 'Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship?'"
"Dean, they weren't dying."
"Huh? Yeah, right." Dean shook his head, a puzzled look on his face, like where the hell did that come from? before he recovered his senses, quickly defending his wayward comment, "Well, not yet, but if they were going off to join the resistance, then you never know, right? I mean, war is hell."
"Keep working on it, Dean. You have at least fifty years to figure it out."
Dean stopped bouncing and stood quiet for all of five seconds studying his brother. "Fifty years, huh? You sure about that, Sammy?" Dean smirked, a glimmer of hope in his eyes.
"Definitely." Sam's expression firm and sure, before he relaxed, for the moment, implanting this picture of Dean into his memories. A happy, carefree, giddy Dean living in the moment. This moment, far removed from that future moment, 361 days away. "And I'm sure even you can come up with something suitable by then."
Bobby quietly sat observing the scene before him, his eyes silently shifting from one brother to the other: watching the brothers connect on a deeper level, seeing Sam finally realize the depth of Dean's love and devotion, and perhaps finally understanding how his brother dealt with life and all those pesky little inconveniences that tended to spring up to thwart his pleasure. He pulled the brim of his dirty baseball cap down lower over his eyes, folded his arms across his chest and smiled. Damn, the next year is going to be interesting.
The brothers simultaneously reached down and picked up their bottles of beer off the worn kitchen table. Dean raised his in a salute and Sam clinked the bottles together as they shared a smile. One of many to come in the next year.
Dean was determined to enjoy the moment, and Sam was determined there would be many more years of moments. And that was a promise, and the Winchesters never break a promise.
bjxmas June, 2007
All standard disclaimers apply.