What We Have, We'll Hold
'There is nothing I wouldn't do for you.' Just how far will Sam go to save his brother? Two souls. One fate. No option. Post AHBL 1 and 2. Part 3 of 3.
I'm a good girl and was always taught to share with my friends. You're my friend, right Kripke? Unfortunately still not mine, but a girl can hope, and dream, and wish...
I cannot thank enough everyone who has read and hopefully enjoyed this fic. Special appreciation to those who have taken the time to review, you don't realise how much you brighten my day!
Heartfelt thanks to Geminigrl for her being such a wonderful and supportive beta, I would be lost without her! And a huge thank you to Faye Dartmouth for her excellent suggestions and insight. Any fic of mine is dramatically improved by both of you. HUGS! (Also hand wringing, boy this finishing a fic can be terrifying in case it falls down...)
Post All Hell Breaks Loose fic – if you haven't sent the Season 2 Finale and do not wish to be spoiled, go no further!
Rated T to be safe for the occasional naughty word, a wee bit pain and anguish. Hopefully I don't disappoint you guys! Oh there is a POV shift a couple of times but I tried to separate them as much as possible, hopefully it worked.
The hell-hounds raced towards the spot where Dean and the demon stood. Both the elder brother and the demon stepped back at the fury bearing down on them. Dean's eyes flicked to Sam, knowing that if his brother went through with this and ever came back to himself, Sam would never forgive his own actions. Dean swallowed, his mouth suddenly dry, as the fate he had almost resigned himself to closed in. He could feel the demon's nails digging in to his arms as she tugged him another useless step back.
Then, as they neared, the hound at the front suddenly spun and tore a chunk out of its companion. There was a sharp yelp, and abruptly all three hounds were tearing into each other. Blood spattered the ground and whimpers and snarls erupted from the mass of writhing, tormented fur and flesh.
Both hunter and demon looked on in confusion at the sight of the hounds turning on each other.
"Impossible," the demon whispered, and Dean felt his blood turn to ice at her shocked expression.
Within moments, it was over, and the only movement in the hounds on the ground in front of them was that of the maggots that suddenly had a banquet beneath them.
Both the demon and Dean looked in disbelief at the mass of unmoving fur.
"Wow." The crossroads demon spoke with more than a little awe – she would never have believed it possible, but then again, her kind always did have a tendency to underestimate this family. "The kid did it." She said softly. The demon suddenly smiled broadly at the two brothers… "Well, you kept your part of the bargain, Sammy. Dean, our contract is void." She backed away hurriedly, knowing that any hold the youngest hunter had could be temporary and fleeting.
She paused and bit her lip indecisively. She looked at the two brothers, from Sam rigid and in obvious pain to Dean who was twisted towards his brother, hope and fear warring for supremacy and prematurely aging his handsome face. One little push, one more attack on Dean and she could tip Sam over the edge. There was no doubt that Dean would follow. He was not one to allow his brother to make a journey like that alone. These two were linked, the fate of one would decide both, their bond was a weakness, a curse in their profession, but it was also their salvation.
What shocked her, though, was that she didn't want to destroy them, not yet and not like this, not as long as they were pawns in her late-cousin's game. A small seed of rebellion was taking hold - she liked these two. Not in a sentimental fashion, but mostly because they were entertaining and the world was a far more interesting place with them in it. More dangerous maybe, but whoever said that the only adrenalin junkies were human? They were a challenge, not to mention delectable. Fuck it. She would do it her way, when she wanted to.
Turning her crimson gaze on Sam's tortured features, she could feel the burn of her cousin's blood as it coursed through his tall frame. It was slowly succeeding in its bid to scorch his humanity from the inside out, like demonic septicaemia. Sulphurcemia, she thought dryly - wonder if that'll ever make the Lancet? The hunter was putting up a tremendous battle, but he was fighting a whole tide of hell alone and in his pain and confusion had lost his grip on that which grounded him.
Looking back over her shoulder, she called back to the elder Winchester. "Dean? Hurry. You're brother needs you – he's losing ground."
That was as much help as she was willing to give him, and if even that was discovered, there would be all hell to pay. The demon grinned and vanished.
Dean hurried to where Sam stood, unmoving, his gaze still that sickening shade of gold. His shock at the sudden and violent demise of the hounds was turning to a deep-seated fear for his brother, an almost soul-chilling terror at what it may have cost Sam, what it may mean for his brother's soul that he could do this. Had done this. Dean's chest constricted with the knowledge that they may have gone full circle -- and that he could still lose Sam.
There was no answer.
"C'mon kiddo, answer me." Tremors wracked his younger brother's body. The sweat beading his brow began to trickle down the side of his face, which had taken on an unhealthy grey pallor, except for his cheeks that were pinched and flushed dark with fever. Dark locks of hair now clung and curled against his cheeks and neck. Even from where he stood, Dean could feel the heat emanating from Sam.
"Sam, you have to turn it off. Whatever fucking switch you threw, you have to turn it back off! Are you listening to me? You are not giving in to that yellow-eyed bastard now!"
Dean's heart broke as he watched Sam turn his face slightly, almost blindly, towards his voice, the tremors increasing in intensity. The effort of simply keeping his own body under his control was obvious to the older hunter. The golden eyes closed briefly and re-opened, the light dimming to a yellow flicker. Sam held out a trembling hand to Dean, fingers stretching out to grasp and tangle into Dean's shirt, tugging him towards him.
"Dean? Dean, it hurts." The words of a five year old needing his brother and Dean responded as he had when he was nine, gently circling his arm around his brother.
"I'm here. It'll be better soon." He hoped he wasn't lying. "You have to fight this, Sammy."
"I don't know how." His young brother sounded bewildered and afraid, as if he couldn't understand why this was happening. His face took on a lost and fearful look; one Dean would have given anything to ease.
"You said that Ava said it was like flicking a switch, right? Well, every switch has an 'off'. You just have to find it."
Sam nodded lethargically, his movements uncoordinated and pained. He leaned into Dean, and the elder hunter nearly flinched from how hot Sam's skin now was. Instead, he pulled Sam into him - his shoulder hooking under his brother's, the violence of Sam's pained shudders notching his terror for his sibling up another level.
Sam unexpectedly sagged and his knees buckled abruptly, sending them both into a crumpled heap of tangled arms and legs.
Dean quickly disentangled himself and, kneeling beside his brother, pulled him to an upright position.
A moan of pain escaped Sam's lips and he tightly gripped Dean's arm. "God, Dean…make it stop, please…I'm on fire!" His brother's anguished pleading cut into Dean like shards of glass.
"You can fight this, Sam, don't give in. You can beat this" You have to beat this, Sammy.
"She said no one had ever beaten this."
"Yeah, well you're a Winchester. What the hell does she know? Besides, you are not fighting this alone, remember?"
Dean felt his brother curl over his supporting arm and start to list over to one side, his knees drawing up to his chest, small whimpers of pain escaping lips tightly pressed together.
Instinctively, Dean wrapped his arms around his shaking brother's torso and lifting him up, he tilted him gently until Sam was resting against his chest. The elder brother wrapped his arms in a firm circle around his brother, protecting him from the outside world, knowing he was helpless to protect him in his internal battle.
Sam gasped, his back arching in agony and he cried out again. Blood seeped from his nose in steadily swelling rivulets and his breathing became shallow and laboured. His skin was now almost fiery to the touch and Dean feared his brother's body would soon succumb.
"Sam, you have to stop this, now!"
"I can't!" Sam screamed.
Dean drew his brother closer and cradled Sam's head beneath his chin, holding him securely. He could feel Sam's heart pounding against his and could feel his own heart beat battling to match the tempo. He was losing, they were losing, and he didn't know what to do.
Panic was threatening to overwhelm the elder brother, and he broke out into a cold sweat as glacial tendrils of fear seeped in to his very core; he could feel Sam slipping away and tightened his hold. He was not letting his brother go. Not after buying him back. Not after watching him waste away for a year. Not when they both finally had their lives, and souls, back. He tasted salt on his lips and realised he was crying, hot tears falling onto the brother he clutched so tightly to him. He watched in horror as they sizzled against his brother's skin. Sam was on fire, god, his baby brother was burning from the inside out. And there was nothing he could do but hold on.
Dean forced himself to calm. Losing control was not going to help his brother. He deliberately slowed his breathing and, resting his cheek against the soft mop that was Sam's hair, he began to rock him gently, shushing and soothing, murmuring quietly.
"I'm here, you're not alone, Sammy, I'm here, don't go." Over and over, he rocked and shushed, his tears continuing to bathe his tortured sibling.
Slowly, he and Sam both calmed. "You can do this, kiddo. I'm here, I'm not leaving. Just stay with me and we'll be fine."
"C'mon kiddo, answer me."
Deep inside Sam's mind, he could hear his brother, but there seemed to be a deafening roar flowing around him. He could hear his heart hammering and feel the blood pounding through his veins. Every cell felt as though it were on fire. But his brother was calling to him and he sounded so scared and Sam fought through the inferno in his mind to turn towards his brother. He reached out a hand, wanting to be near his brother for what he feared would be the last time.
"Dean?" God, he was burning and he was fast losing ground, every barrier he was throwing up in his mind was being torn down by the howling blaze that was tearing through him.
"Dean? It hurts." Every word a gasping torment.
"I'm here. It'll be better soon." And somewhere deep inside of Sam, a small core of beleaguered hope intensified. Dean was here, and as long as his brother was with him he would find the strength to keep going. "You have to fight this, Sammy."
"I don't know how." Sam scrabbled desperately in his own mind for answers, for a way out, but he was confused and frightened and hurting.
"You said that Ava said it was like flicking a switch, right? Well, every switch has an 'off'. You just have to find it." Dean's words made so much sense, made the problem less complicated; he could always count on his brother to help him focus, to cut through to the heart of things where Sam sometimes over-thought.
It had always been the way of their family. John lost in the past, Sam looking out for their future, Dean their foundation in the present. It sometimes meant that Sam could get so tangled in the what ifs of the future that he became lost and tangled in his own thoughts. Dean had always been the only one who could find his way through them and clear the way for his brother to figure out what needed to be done.
And Dean had been explaining things to him all his life. Why is the sky blue, why is Daddy mad at me, why do bad things happen to good people, where's Mom… Dean had a knack for getting through to Sam, even when Sam was sick and too tired to think for himself.
Sam concentrated on finding the switch that had so easily been flipped on but now seemed so elusive. The blaze within intensified at the perceived threat and seemed to remove all oxygen from the air around him, his lungs sucking uselessly at the air, his lips parting in distressed wheezing. There was nothing now, no cooling blockade to separate him from the flames licking determinedly at his soul.
He felt his body betray him and fall.
Detachedly, he could feel his brother pull him to an upright position, but every movement was a jarring agony that threatened to overwhelm him.
"God, Dean…make it stop, please…I'm on fire!" He knew he was begging but couldn't help himself; he didn't know how much more of this he could take.
"You can fight this, Sam, don't give in."
"She said no one had ever beaten this." Sam murmured fearfully. What had he been thinking? He wasn't strong enough, was never strong enough. Everywhere his failing mind turned was fire and pain. He was dwarfed by it, terrorized within his own soul. It was as if a sun was imploding within him, every cell tortured, divided as the heat of the demonic taint fought against the cool, beckoning oblivion. He felt his blood boiling and something intangible yet precious, tearing, searing, breaking apart. Every molecule seemed to be battling to maintain the balance of twisting irretrievably out of control and surrendering.
Dean's words continued, helping his focus, underpinning his flagging strength.
"Yeah, well you're a Winchester. What the hell does she know? Besides, you are not fighting this alone remember?"
Sam remembered and continued his elusive search. He twisted as more pain—somehow impossibly worse than before—began to lance through his body, causing his arms and legs to cramp and twitch. He tried to draw himself up into a foetal position and felt Dean's arms move protectively around him, a safe harbour in his storm of fire.
"Sam, you have to do it now!"
"I can't!" Sam screamed. The blaze now pummelling at him, forcing the storm deeper within his soul, and he could feel something start to shatter within. His heart, already racing, sped faster as the last of his defences began to buckle and crumble. His barriers were falling in too many places and there was no where left to turn. Despite everything he and Dean had survived, he was losing.
He felt his body be cradled firmly but ever-so-gently and felt the prickle of Dean's stubble rub against the top of his head. He could feel the frantic thrum of Dean's heart, which seemed to try to rival the speed of his own
Tears bathed his cheeks in hot, salty droplets, the water spitting and sizzling where they fell. These were not his tears, he knew, the temperature of his body making it impossible. Worse—they were Dean's.
Copper joined salt on his lips, and Sam could feel the steady flow of blood flooding down across his lips and chin. Strong arms tightened around him, and he felt himself be shushed and rocked, his brother's warm breath ruffling his hair, a touch of cloth and skin as the blood was gently wiped away.
And Sam found that if he focused on that, on the here and now, it gave him something solid to hold to. He felt unexpectedly protected, sheltered. He could feel Dean's breath steadying, his own body instinctually trying to find a matching rhythm.
"I'm here, you're not alone, Sammy, I'm here, don't go." And the tears now falling seemed to cool Sam a little, cleansing in their touch.
"You can do this, kiddo. I'm here, I'm not leaving. Just stay with me and we'll be fine."
Sam felt himself finally calm under Dean's rocking, the quiet words soothing his panic. A strange lethargy fell across him. He could feel his heartbeat slowing in time with Dean's and as he did, the fire in his soul seemed to wane slightly. It gave him the moment of clarity he desperately needed. "Poison." He murmured.
He opened eyes that had been closed tightly against the pain and tilted his head so that he was looking up at his brother.
"Dean…" He whispered.
"I know what to do."
"That's my boy."
"Don't leave." Sam grasped his brother and burrowed his head against Dean's chest, needing his strength, wanting him close.
"Not going anywhere, kiddo."
"Wait for me here."
Sam stiffened in his brother's arms as he focused on the taint within.
Dean's heart began to hammer as the muscles in Sam's body became taut and unyielding and began to convulse. The spasms became more violent and seemed to go on and on. His heart threatened to stop entirely when suddenly Sam went limp his breathing shallowing until it stopped completely.
"Sam? Sammy? No…Don't you do this, kiddo, not now. The demon's dead, the deal is over. Please, Sammy, please. Stay with me. You told me to wait, and you know I'm not a patient man."
Sam stubbornly refused to start breathing and the elder brother's eyes began to burn, his breath hitched painfully. This moment in time seemed to freeze along with his soul as his slowly mending heart shattered once again.
An infinity seemed to pass in a heartbeat and time seemed to mock the Winchesters once more.
A year had passed since Sam had first been lost to him. Taken by a coward and a traitor, who had stabbed his brother in his back and simultaneously destroyed Dean's world. A year since he had arrived mere moments too late.
Twelve months had slipped by since he made a selfless choice for selfish reasons and committed his soul to a deal with a demon.
365 days of watching his brother slowly self-destruct in his determination to save him.
8760 hours he had wasted in not realising that Sam was still keeping something to himself and in ignorance, or maybe just denial of what Sam's final choice would be.
525,600 minutes spent both relishing the time he had left, the stolen time to spend one more year with his brother, and dreading the end, knowing exactly when it was coming and finally realising the cost of his bargain.
31,536,000 seconds between that death and this one. Nothing had changed, yet everything was different. Last time, he had been unable to prevent Sam's death. This time, he was the cause of it. Then, his brother feared the evil within in case he hurt his brother. This time, Sam willingly embraced it to save him.
A lonely eternity without the other half of his soul lay before Dean, a figureless number of heartbeats, and an immeasurable number of breaths.
He clutched his brother tighter. No. Sam had said wait for him, and that meant he was coming back. And Sam Winchester always kept his promises.
Dean laid his forehead against Sam's and prayed, not to a specific god or higher being, or to whatever God Sam had believed in. Just to whoever was listening, to help his brother come home, to give him the strength to fight the battle that Dean somehow knew was still waging within. To lend whatever courage he had to aid his fallen brother, to share the warmth of his soul until Sam could find his way back to his own.
It was time to believe in his brother.
"Please, Sammy. Come back. I'm here."
"Get out." Sam growled at the alien presence, the poisonous essence left by the Demon, hidden within his soul. "There is nothing for you here." He filled his mind with thoughts of his brother, bursting to the brim with memories of youth and happier days. Image after image flowed, carrying with it a tide of emotion. He remembered their times together, the good and the bad.
Unrestricted and unrestrained, he focused on his brother, instinctually knowing that their bond was a threat, something pure that had not been contaminated by the demon blood. Dean had somehow kept a part of his soul unsullied and protected. Sam relinquished his fate to the love and faith he had in Dean, the belief in his brother giving him shelter and warmth, as he had all his life.
Quicksilver flashes danced around him, within him. Memories of car journeys and motel rooms, bars and roads travelled, of pranks and drunken conversations. He recalled all the times they had spent together, their arguments and bickering, the apologies and banter, the sparring, the laughter and the tears. He drew to him the warmth that was his brother's soul, the strength, the quiet fortitude and selfless sorrow. He let the balm that was his brother's presence infuse his soul and the antidote of their bond swept through him.
There was a hiss like a cornered cat and Sam moved relentlessly forward, driving the evil seed out an agonising bit at a time. Every pain it inflicted he met with memory, every flame strike at his soul, every tortured breath it stole from him, he countered with emotion. The demonic germ fought and tore at his mind and heart, until, shrieking, it lashed out with its last, battering Sam's spirit; tearing, scorching, trying to inflict as much damage as it could before it was finally, inexorably driven out by the power of two brothers' love.
Sam relaxed as the sensation of the taint dispelled. It was gone, it was finally over and he felt a deep weariness tug at him. He sank into it for a moment.
"Please, Sammy. Come back. I'm here."
His brother's stricken voice reached the youngest Winchester where he drifted. He had never been able to refuse his brother, and especially not when he sounded so scared and alone.
Sam slowly opened his eyes to see the overwhelming relief in his brother's moss green eyes.
"I thought I'd lost you again, Sammy." Dean whispered.
"I was tired; I just needed to rest a moment."
"Well, next time don't be so freakin' lazy and come straight home! You ok?" Dean asked gruffly, trying to mask his vulnerability.
"I'm fine." A smile as warm as the midday sun spread wide across the younger brother's face. "Thank you."
"For what?" Dean was genuinely puzzled.
"For waiting. For saving me."
"What did I do? You beat this on your own - I didn't do anything!"
"Don't you know, Dean?"
"You save me every single day." Sam saw understanding dawn in his brother's eyes and a smile to match his own lit his brother's face, making him look years younger. And Sam felt happy and at peace for the first time in what seemed like years. It felt like they were kids again with the whole of their lives still before them.
"You too, bitch." Dean ruffled his brother's hair and pulled him into a tight, fierce hug.
Laughter bubbled deep in his chest as Sam muttered, "You are turning into such a girl, you jerk." That didn't stop him hugging his brother just as tightly.
"Yeah, well…I've obviously been around you too much." The brothers pulled apart and Dean dragged his brother to his feet, "So, where now, Sam?
"Anywhere away from here is fine with me."
"Sounds good to me. Do you think you can stand?"
Despite what Sam had been through, he suddenly felt lighter, more himself than he had felt in years. Winded and incredibly thirsty, he looked impishly at his older brother.
"Race you to the car?"
"Dude, you'll fall flat on your face. The only race you would win would be falling face first in the dirt." He pulled Sam to his feet, noting how surprisingly smoothly Sam rose to his feet and that, although pale, was able to stand unaided and steady.
"Hey, no fair, you cheated." Sam gasped out as, grinning, Dean suddenly pushed him back and hurtled off at top speed.
Chuckling, Sam hurried in pursuit of his brother.
The two young men's exhilarated, joy-filled laughter filled the brightening dawn air as they raced towards the waiting, black Impala, Dean tugging his brother back in true big brother style as Sam's long legs threatened to overtake him.
Two brothers, side by side - leaving the night behind them.
Hope this was ok, please let me know!
Thanks again to all who have read this, and I hope that you have enjoyed reading this fic half as much as I have enjoyed writing it!