All actions have consequences, some immediate, some delayed. The brothers find out the hard way that just because the demon is defeated, it does not mean that they have escaped unscathed.
Unfortunately I still do not own anything to do with Supernatural – life just isn't fair really!
This is my SFTCOL(AR)S Secret Santa Summer Fic for Angie4 – who by now must have given up waiting on me! I just didn't want to rush your gift , sorry sweetie. Hope you can forgive me! This chapter I found particularly difficult to do, so I hope it turned out all right! To make up to everyone who has stuck with me (huge thanks for that by the way!), this chapter is extra long as an apology for the length of time between updates!
As always, thanks to Gem for her super fast beta-ing and her patience. Any fic of mine is infinitely improved by her generous and talented involvement! Also a massive thanks to Faye whose excellent advice helped me immensely.
Bad language and our boys fighting. It upset me enough to write but rest assured, it hurts the brothers as much as it pains us! There is a reason for everything I swear, I did not go into this lightly! Please, no flaming!
Sam pulled himself together enough to be able to leave the bathroom and reluctantly walked back to the kitchen where Dean and Bobby were waiting, only to find himself pinned by almost identical inquisitorial glares from the two elder hunters.
"What, is my fly down or something?" he stalled, joking awkwardly. He knew he looked like shit -- the bathroom had a mirror after all -- but he wasn't ready for concern. He felt unaccountably fragile, as if one kind word would crumble his resolve. He did not relish what he was about to do, but could see no other way.
"Spill, Sam." Dean's voice brooked no argument.
"I'd rather not; these are my only clean jeans." Sam's lips quirked up at one corner, but his pallor gave the expression an appearance more like a grimace.
Dean wasn't easily sidetracked. "Why didn't you tell me you weren't well?"
"I did. I told you that I was coming down with a cold." Sam answered patiently. A truth standing guard over a terrifying lie.
"Don't Dean me. There's something wrong and you need to tell me. I can't fix it if I don't know what's wrong."
"Not everything's your responsibility, dude." Sam needed his brother to accept this fact, perhaps now more than ever. He hardened his resolve and mentally began to catalogue a list of barbs, each a weapon in an arsenal he was going to have to use to drive his brother away. His heart twisted knowing he was setting out to being deliberately brutal, but for his brother's sake, he had to finish what he started. Even if it killed him.
"Everything that affects you is my responsibility, Sam. Nothing you say is ever gonna change that," the elder brother continued patiently.
"I can look after myself!" Sam bristled, easily falling into the old pattern of rebellion. Dean was giving him the opening he needed and Sam hated himself for what he was about to do.
"Yeah, I can see that! Especially when every time I do leave you by yourself something happens." Dean's look was disbelieving and Sam winced at the truth of the statement.
"Is that what you honestly think? That I am some defenceless babe-in-arms?" Sam's frustration earlier now was morphing to anger
"I never said you were defenceless, just…" Dean seemed to hesitate.
"Unlucky?" Sam whispered resignedly. Yeah, you couldn't argue with that conclusion. If you looked up 'cursed' in a dictionary, there would probably be a Winchester family photograph next to the definition.
"Popular," Dean countered. "Dammit, Sam, every time I let you out of my sight, something bad happens to you."
"I managed four years on my own, dude, and I did it without either you or Dad watching over me!" Right, Sam and look how well that ended. Jess dead, your father missing, Dean left feeling abandoned. If he had stayed with his family, Jess would still be alive. Maybe he would have even been able to help his brother and father defeat the Yellow-Eyed Demon before his family were destroyed. Maybe, had he stayed, Dean would not have been quite as broken, so lost, so desperate to keep Sam alive that he sold his soul.
Dean would not be going to hell for his no-hope, waste of a soul, demon-tainted little brother. It was all too late now, and deep down, Sam himself knew he was too little to make a difference anymore.
The only thing he could try to do now was protect his brother one last time…and hope that Bobby could save Dean from Sam's mistakes.
"I managed four years on my own, dude, and I did it without either you or Dad watching over me!"
Dean, stung and still a little insecure about that time, instinctively struck back. "Yeah, and look how well that ended."
At the suddenly stricken expression on his brother's face, Dean wished that he was back in the alternate reality of the djinn so that his words would remain unsaid to the real Sam. "Shit, Sam, I didn't mean…"
"You're right, I'm a curse on this family and you know it." The young hunter backed away hurriedly before swaying and reaching out one hand to steady himself.
"Sam, wait." Dean grabbed his brother's other arm. He wanted to shake him and apologise at the same time. He wanted to tell his brother that he was proud, so very proud of him and that he understood why his brother went to Stanford. How he knew that their father's at the time inexplicable distancing from his youngest, the pressure he placed on Sam, the constant criticism and expectation of failure, was what had driven Sam away. How he knew that Sam, although a truly accomplished hunter, would never have been happy, that his soul was just too gentle, too compassionate, and that his empathy would be a torture to him in their line of work.
All of that and more, but the words remained lodged in his throat. The selfish side of him that could not let Sam go, not in Cold Oak, or in Stanford, stilled his voice once more. He needed Sam to be safe; he did not trust anyone to watch out for the kid like he could. And a dark, unspoken part of Dean wanted to know that his soul had been sold for something, dammit.
It was strange how a selfless wish could lead to a selfish act. The cold, hard fact was that at the end of the day, Dean didn't want to lose his brother.
"Let go of me. Don't touch me!" Sam grated out in a tone that masqueraded as anger, but sounded suspiciously like pain.
Dean's eyes widened as Sam glared at him with eyes that glittered dangerously. Or was that fever? He reached out automatically to check, only to have Sam flinch away.
He almost growled in frustration. "Dammit, Sammy, I'm not trying to hurt you. You're sick."
"Do you ever listen to a word I say? I told you I was fine." Sam's features took on an expression of weary irritation.
"Well, maybe if you told the truth from time to time, I might know what it sounds like and believe you." Oh, like Sam wouldn't pounce on that one.
Sure enough. "You're a fine one to preach about honesty..." Sam spat out, bitterness lacing his words.
"We both have had our reasons why we have kept our secrets. And for the record, both of us were wrong." The elder brother was trying to get himself back to something resembling an even temper, but dammit, Sam always could get under his skin like no one else. Not that it didn't go both ways, of course.
"Mighty magnanimous of you, bro." Sam's lips curved sardonically.
"Stop being an ass, Sam." Dean's patience was wearing thin. His fiery temper, never too far from the surface these days, was rising fast.
"Why don't you stop being a control freak? Jesus, Dean, I thought at least now Dad's gone I might have some freedom. Obviously, that's just another character trait you picked up from the old man."
Dean slammed his brother up against the wall of Bobby's kitchen and Sam pushed belligerently back.
"What's the matter, Dean? So, I'm criticising Dad? Newsflash, bro. He wasn't perfect."
"Neither are you!" Dean's mind whirled in a sickening maelstrom of hurt, anger and confusion. What the Hell was going on here? This wasn't Sam. Sure, his brother could be stubborn and pigheaded and passionate in sharing his views, but he was never deliberately cruel. This was more like…
Meg. Oh god, was that it? Was Sam possessed by that bitch again? His mind frantically scrabbled for clues.
Dean glanced at Bobby; the question in his eyes…Bobby mouthed Holy Water and gestured at the kettle. So, not possessed then. Thank god for Bobby's standard precautions.
Sam's voice, now harder, continued. "I don't pretend to be perfect, and I don't force my views or way of life on anyone else, either."
"No, you just run off and do as you please! Real grown up, dude." Even with a growing sense of worry for his brother, Dean couldn't help but push back. Dammit, Sam was hitting all the sore spots tonight. Was this how Sam really felt?
"Is that what you think, that I run off to spite you, or out of petulance or selfishness? Shit, Dean, why the Hell did you come for me if you hold my actions in such low esteem?" Sam's face had taken on a world of hurt.
"You're my family." Dean was genuinely bewildered; he honestly couldn't think of why Sam couldn't see that. Couldn't Sam see that Dean not only needed his brother, but that he wanted him there as well? Dean had missed his kid brother, not just in the hunts but in his every day life. Sam had made the itinerant lifestyle bearable. The Impala was just a car, a cool chick-magnet of a car obviously, but it was a home when they were together in it.
"No, Dean, I'm your job. Isn't that you say, that it's your job to look out for me? I'm a duty, and an unfair one at that. You don't need me – I'm just the chore Dad gave you while he hunted the Demon."
Sam was going too far. After everything, how could he say that? "What the Hell would you know about family, Sam, or responsibility? We've never been good enough for you! You've been running away from us all your life!" Dean fumed.
"I never ran away from you. It was Dad who pushed me away. And you who just stood there and let him." Sam's voice was laced with bitterness.
"You allowed him to push you away. Jesus, you fought him most of your life, you never obeyed an order you didn't agree with without arguing. And you expect me to believe that this time you caved? That he wasn't giving you the out you were looking for? I may not have your college education, but I'm not stupid, Sam." Resentments and pain long-buried had resurfaced with Sam's words and Dean couldn't bite his tongue any longer, increasing the force of his hold, pushing Sam back against the wall.
Sam's back pressed against Bobby's discoloured wallpaper. The pattern faded, as had Sam's will to fight. He had to end this soon. "I never said you were. And yes, I wanted to go to college but I didn't want to give up my family either. That was his ultimatum, not mine." Sam was dancing a fine line between keeping Dean angry and distracted, and hurting his all-too-fragile self-esteem. He didn't want to hurt his brother, just piss him off.
"He was our Dad and he did his best."
Maybe he did, Dean, but his best hurt us both. "He could have given me his blessing. Would that have been too hard? For Dad to have been proud of both his sons? I was never good enough." Not for him and definitely not for you.
Dean released his hold on Sam and began to push himself shakily away. The feeling of anger in the room now muted and worn, defeated by the same old arguments that Sam was using to goad Dean's temper. Let him hate me, please. It will be easier for him in the end.
"C'mon dude, that was just Dad's way. He was trying to toughen you up, make you…" Dean was clearly struggling for a way to put thoughts into words that wouldn't add even more fuel to this already spiralling argument. And Sam's heart broke for him.
"More like you?" And maybe his heart broke a little for himself. For the knowledge that as Sam, he would not be able to save his brother, that he would have to become something he was not. And for the certainty that he would never be able to be the man Dean was. I'm not even as human as Dean is, never mind anything else…
As if from a distance, Dean's voice completed his unfinished sentence. "No, try harder. You never put your heart into it!"
"How could I when I could see that the hunting was only ever going to end was when it got you and Dad killed!" Sam's biggest fear, out in the open for all to see.
Although it seemed Dean didn't really get it, old insecurites obscuring the depth of feeling in Sam's admission. "Thanks for the vote of confidence, man."
Sam brought that part of the conversation to a close, the feelings too close, too painful. "Look, all I'm trying to say was that college was never going to be forever. There would still have been weekends and holidays and then after I graduated, you'd literally have had a family lawyer to bail you guys out. To be a family doesn't mean we have to live in each other's pockets, or be forced to life another's life. I just wanted to have a choice."
"Oh, if I'm cramping you style Sammy-boy, just say." The elder brother's face hardened.
"Don't be so fucking oversensitive!" Sam ground out, beyond frustrated. It was all going wrong. He'd wanted to piss Dean off, not tear him down.
"Right, so caring about my family is being oversensitive. Here I thought it was called loyalty."
Sam closed his eyes tiredly. This was taking its toll and if he were honest, he hated fighting. He'd hated fighting with his Dad, and more than anything, he hated fighting with his brother. It was just at times, with everything pulling him in so many directions, the only way forward was to push back.
And the thought of pushing his brother away made Sam feel physically nauseous, "I just want you to look after yourself, too, for a change." The youngest Winchester spoke quietly.
"I'm not the one seconds from falling on my ass!"
And they were right back where they'd started.
"I'm fine, it's just a cold, that's all." Sam remained determinedly elusive.
"A cold doesn't make you shake like that, or stagger about like a drunk three sheets to the wind." Dean gestured towards his unsteady brother.
Bobby stood, watching them like a tennis umpire, his eyes going back and forth, lips tightly closed. No way in hell was he gonna be caught up in the crossfire of these two. Even the almighty John Winchester knew better than to come between the two brothers.
"You're a doctor, too, huh?" Sam's lips curved slightly, mocking.
The younger brother swayed, the colour draining from his already pale face and his brow become pinched with pain, making his lie that more obvious.
Dean felt his anger drain away with Sam's colour and he stepped closer to his ailing brother. He buried the anger as he had buried many of his emotions during his life. He had learned at a young age to assess and prioritise, to put aside his feelings when something of greater importance arose. And there was nothing more important to him than his brother's welfare.
"Sam, tell me the truth, please. Let me help."
"Help, how? You going to invent the cure to the common cold? It's nothing."
"If it's nothing, it's easily fixed." Argue that logic, Sam.
"Have you listened to yourself, Dean? You can't fix everything!"
"Says you." Great, we're nine.
"You're not God, bro."
"Pretty damned close though." Dean smirked.
"You certainly act like you think you are. What you going to do, sell your soul for me? Oh, I forgot, you already did. Great bargain by the way, bro."
To Dean, it was the worst thing Sam could have possibly said. "You selfish son of a bitch." All humour was wiped from the elder Winchester's face.
"I'm selfish? When you're the one who sold his soul to bring me back, even after Dad, when you knew how it feels?"
"At least you're alive to feel." This was the most important part in Dean's mind.
"At least you're alive to feel"
The words pushed Sam to the brink.
"Did you ever stop to think that I was better off dead - that I might not have wanted to have been brought back? That everyone else might be better off if I wasn't?" Sam bit his lip. Damn, he'd never meant to say that.
"What??" Dean yelled out in shock.
Too late now to hold them back, Sam levelled the final blow. "You were only thinking of yourself, Dean, when you made that bargain and you know it!" Sam turned on his heel and stalked from the room.
Sam hesitated at the top of the stairs, fighting the urge to go back down and apologise to his brother, to explain that he didn't mean the words he had said. His eyes burned and he swallowed convulsively, choking down the urge to call to Dean. No, he had to do this. Sam knew he wouldn't be able to hide his ailment for long, and if what he suspected was happening was true, he had to keep Dean away. Far away. Already, he was losing control.
The burn in his eyes had spread to his chest, and his lungs heaved at the pressure building. He unsteadily made his way to their room, unshed tears hanging from his eyelashes as he furiously blinked to clear his vision. He grabbed at his bag on the floor.
I shouldn't be here… He choked back a sob. He clapped one hand across his mouth to muffle the traitorous noise and sank heavily down. Sprawled across his bed, he grabbed a pillow, burying his face into it as he fought a losing battle with the emotions threatening to drown him.
Dean's jaw clenched and his fingers tightened around the edge of the table, quickly turning white with the pressure. His chair rocked back as he stood suddenly and began to move stiffly towards the back door.
"I'm impressed." Bobby spoke softly.
"What?" Dean snapped at the older hunter.
"That boy sure knows what buttons to press."
"What the Hell are you going on about?"
"You think he meant any of that?" Bobby's eyebrows rose in surprise and then lowered in dismay at Dean's expression. Dean had believed, that was obvious. Now, Bobby had to point out what Dean was to close to it to see. "You notice he never answered your question and then got you so fired up you were just about to leave to blow off some steam?"
It took a moment to sink in, but it was obvious when it did; Dean's face was a picture as he suddenly realised that he had been royally manipulated by his little brother. If Bobby hadn't spoken, he probably would have gone out for a few hours until he cooled down. And what had Sam been planning to do then?
"That sneaky son of a bitch." Dean turned one hundred and eighty degrees and headed for the stairs. "I'll beat the truth out of that sly, oversized geek if I have to."
As the elder brother reached the top of the stairs, though, his anger faded. He could hear what could only be muffled sobs coming from his and Sam's room, and moved closer; needing to know what had pushed Sam into a truly rare display of emotion.
"Sam?" He could hear the hitch to Sam's breathing, sure sign that his brother had been crying for a while.
"Sam!" He called out again, louder, hoping to not startle his brother, to give him a moment to compose himself and maintain some dignity. That, and Dean did not wish to see his brother's tears; they had seared his soul too much already.
Dean could see from where he stood uncertainly in the hall that Sam was lying with his back to the door, shoulders shaking, face buried deep into the pillow that was held tightly in his arms. Fists were bunched and cradled over his head, and Sam's long and normally sprawled form was curling into a tight ball, his knees near his chest, his whole body trembling.
Uncertainty fled as Dean responded reflexively to the sight of his brother in obvious distress. He moved towards the doorway, and as he did, the door suddenly slammed shut, barely missing his face and smacking painfully against his right foot.
"SAM!" He rattled ineffectively at the door, which refused to budge.
Heedless of the fact that this was Bobby's house and that it may have just been a stray gust of wind from an open window, like that is ever all it is, Dean slammed his shoulder against the door. An instinctive fear was shrieking like a silent alarm deep inside; something was wrong, something was trying to keep him from his brother. That and the residual anger and adrenaline from the argument had left him wanting to physically lash out at something.
Better the door than his brother.
He bounced back as if the door was made of a far more resilient wood. Or maybe steel. Shit, that hurt.
He tried again, and it didn't even give a little. It was only when he paused to catch his breath, that Dean felt the chill, the sweat from his exertions cooling rapidly as goose bumps rose up on his arms.
"Sammy! Bobby, get your ass up here!" He hollered.
"Dean, what's going on?" Dean whirled at the voice behind him. Bobby could sure as Hell be quiet when he wanted to be.
"Something's in there with Sam! It shut the door in my face and now I can't get the damned thing open."
"Impossible. This place is better protected than Fort Knox."
"I don't care how well it's protected, I know what I saw." What I felt. "The temperature plummeted. Look, you can even see your breath."
Bobby dipped his hands in his pockets and rapidly began to pull out various items - a small book of Latin charms, a flask of holy water, and several packets containing a white substance…
"You always carry this stuff?"
"Do bears shit in the woods? Both me and your Daddy drilled you boys about always being prepared, didn't we?"
"Yeah, though I find it hard picturing either of you as boy scouts." Dean muttered as he snatched at the items.
The two hunters quickly tried several incantations with varying involvement of salt and holy water. Banishment rituals and memorised chants and charms, invocations and cleansing rites were tried – and all failed miserably. If anything, with each attempt, the temperature continued to fall. Now, they couldn't even approach the door without some unseen force pushing them back.
Dean was becoming frantic. Some unknown and obviously powerful entity was in the room with his brother, who was particularly emotional and likely, physically vulnerable, and would perhaps not see any danger coming until too late. Sam still hadn't answered, even though Dean kept calling to him, Bobby's voice occasionally joining in. Who knew what was happening to him behind the closed door?
This is my fault; I should have followed him up straight away.
"I'll go get more supplies." Bobby muttered and moved away. Dean reluctantly followed him, his eyes staying firmly on the door as if by will power alone, he could breach the barrier that separated him from his brother.
Just then, as he turned to leave, there was a soft click and the door slowly opened behind them.
Sam's sobbing had long since quieted and now the room was eerily silent. Bobby not- so-discreetly pulled a gun from the back of his waist band. They could see Sam's chest rising and falling in slow, deep breaths. Despite all of the ruckus, the youngest Winchester was sound asleep.
Dean quickly scoured the room for any intruder, any sign that anything was amiss. He heard a beeping whirr come from next to him.
Where on earth had Bobby pulled that EMF meter from?
Bobby quickly scanned the room and signalled an all clear to the elder hunter. The air had returned to a normal temperature and Dean quickly walked the room. No cold spots, either. The window was firmly closed and there was no trace of sulphur.
Reluctantly, Dean came to the conclusion that the threat, whatever it was, seemed to have vanished.
He turned back to his brother. "Sam?"
The younger hunter automatically turned his head towards his brother's voice. Dean could still see the remnants of Sam's earlier distress, his brother's face still flushed and puffy, dried tear tracks like scars on his face. Sam frowned slightly, but his eyes remained closed, rapid movements behind the lids the only other movement in the room.
"Sorry, Dean." The words sighed past swollen lips where he had obviously been biting to stifle his tears.
"It's ok, kiddo. You weren't exactly wrong, either." Dean admitted in an unexpectedly gentle voice, the bed dipping as he sat beside his sibling. One hand tentatively reached out and then fell back to his side, allowing the warmth from his proximity to provide the comfort his brother needed, without the admission of weakness.
"Don't leave me, Dean. There's something wrong. I'm wrong." Again, Sam's eyes remained firmly closed and Dean fought the urge to brush his brother's mop of hair to one side.
"Sssh, don't say that. Whatever's wrong, we'll beat it." The words of the demon haunting them both, that he had brought his brother back wrong, tainted, that maybe something had come back in his place or with him.
He felt Bobby's eyes on him and turned to the elder hunter. "What?"
"You're talking to yourself, Dean."
Was the old man losing his mind? Or maybe just his hearing. "No, I'm talking to Sam."
"Sam hasn't said a word, son." Bobby's voice was uncharacteristically soft.
Something had been bothering Dean, and now, looking back at Sam, he realised what it was. Sam had been speaking, albeit whisper-soft and low, but clearly.
And his lips hadn't moved at all.
Hope you are enjoying this, apologies for the huge delay, this was not an easy chapter for me to write, and I'm still fretting!
The argument, especially, upset me greatly. But, both boys have their reasons for what is being said, and all is not quite as it seems!
Please let me know what you think!