The Truth Hurts
Rating: PG-13 for language
Genre: equal portions angst and brotherly love
Disclaimer: I don't own Sam, Dean, or anything related to Supernatural (if only) – Kripke and others do.
Spoilers: up to "All Hell Breaks Loose, part 2"
Summary: It's been three weeks since the all-important event of AHBL2, and three weeks since the brothers have been on a hunt. Dean is ready to get back to work, but Sam has something to say to him, and Dean is not going to like what he realizes about himself and what he did for Sam. The truth hurts: especially when it's told to us by someone we love. Ficlet, 3500 words; coda to AHBL2.
The Truth Hurts
It had been three weeks since they had killed the yellow-eyed demon. Three weeks since an army of hellspawn had been unleashed on Earth. Three weeks since Dean had sold his soul to save his brother's life.
Three weeks since they'd been on a hunt.
Dean was climbing the walls.
For three weeks, Sam hadn't stopped researching ways to get Dean out of his deal. He researched on his laptop, read through books that Bobby had given him, and called contacts in Dad's journal. He had even taking to calling Bobby and Ellen every day asking if they had found out anything yet from any of the hunters that they knew.
So far, Sam hadn't found anything, and Dean was more than ready for a hunt. But every time he mentioned it to Sam, his brother shot him down, insisting that they didn't have time, giving him books to pour over instead.
Usually, Dean tried to argue with him, but Sam would just give him this look that said you really don't want to piss me off, and Dean would back off. The only thing that Dean had absolutely insisted on was that they keep moving around. Not just because of the fact that the law was now officially and constantly on the lookout for them, but because Dean couldn't bear to be in one place too long. He was antsy by nature, but growing up the way they had had instilled in him a desire, almost a need, for constant movement. It was one of many ways in which he differed from his brother.
His brother who, after three weeks and ten motels, was still refusing to go on a hunt.
Dean sighed loudly from his perch against the headboard of his bed and slammed the book he was reading shut. Sam didn't even flinch from where he sat on his own bed, eyes scanning yet another website.
"Sam, I really think we should take that job that Ellen told us about," he said for the fifteenth time that day.
"No," Sam replied tersely, as if that one word was the final say in the matter.
"Come on, Sammy-"
"I said no, Dean," Sam replied angrily, not glancing up from his work.
"Sam, that poltergeist has killed five people already. Ellen said it should be a quick and easy salt and burn. If we leave now we can get there by tomorrow night and be done with it before breakfast."
"Forget it, Dean. I already called Ellen and told her to find someone else to do it."
"You did what?" Dean asked, sitting up. He turned to face Sam, throwing his legs over the side of the bed and planting his feet on the floor.
"I asked her to get someone else to do it."
"Sam…we could have done it easily, no problem. We haven't been on a hunt in three weeks-"
"I know that, Dean-"
"And there are a lot more things out there to hunt ever since-"
"I know that, Dean," Sam repeated, and Dean could feel Sam's anger mounting. It looked like they were in for another fight.
Dean was more than ready.
"Sam, this hunt will take a day or two at most. I don't see why we can't just take two days to do something productive."
"I am doing something productive, Dean," Sam said loudly, finally turning to face him. "In case you've forgotten, I'm trying to find a way to keep you from going to Hell in 344 days."
Dean opened his mouth to retort, then quickly closed it. Sam was keeping track of the days?
"Go back to reading, Dean," Sam said quietly, turning back to his laptop.
Dean sat in silence, watching his brother lose himself once again in research.
Finally, Dean couldn't stand it anymore. It had been far too long since he'd been able to let off some pent up energy. Maybe Sam could just sit around and do nothing for three weeks, but Dean needed exercise and stimulation and sunlight.
He got up and headed toward his bag, which he had deposited at the foot of the bed. He picked it up and slammed it down hard on the dresser next to the TV. Sam looked up at the noise.
"What are you doing, Dean?"
"I'm going to the bus station."
"Why?" Sam asked quietly, and Dean could hear the silent but deadly rage that he tried to hide in his tone.
"I'm going to go to Jacksonville and take care of this poltergeist, that's why."
"By yourself?" Sam asked.
"Well, since you've made it abundantly clear that you don't want to go, then yes, I'm going by myself," Dean retorted, voice dripping with bitterness.
Dean headed toward the bathroom to collect his things from there. When he came back out, he found that Sam had gotten up from the bed and was standing next to Dean's bag, his arms crossed over his chest.
"You can't go by yourself," Sam stated, and Dean could tell that he meant it to be an order.
Dean scoffed. "Oh really, Sammy? 'Cause the last time I checked I'm 28 years old and I can do whatever I damn well want to do." He threw his things into the bag and moved to gather his clothes up off the floor and the other various places they had landed.
"Yeah, well, the last time I checked, when the two of us split up things don't usually go too well."
Dean stopped dead in his tracks, a shirt clenched tightly in his hand. Images of Sam getting stabbed, of Sam dying in his arms, flashed through his mind.
"Going after that djinn by yourself wasn't exactly your best idea ever."
Dean pulled himself out of his thoughts. So Sam hadn't been talking about that time.
"I don't think we should split up anymore, Dean. Especially not now that-"
Dean didn't let him finish his sentence. "Yeah, well, I'm going. So if you don't want us to split up then I suggest you come with me." Dean gathered up the rest of his clothes and headed back toward Sam and his bag.
"I'm not going, and neither are you," Sam said, standing up straight when Dean reached him.
Dean didn't reply. He simply threw his clothes in the bag, zipped it, and picked it up, glaring at Sam, daring him to try and stop him.
Sam didn't say anything, but he continued to stare him down. Dean turned away angrily and stomped over to his bed, throwing down his bag and bending down to put on his shoes.
"I'm not going to let you go, Dean. I told you. We shouldn't split up anymore."
"And I told you," Dean answered between clenched teeth, standing up and putting on his jacket, "that I'm going. With or without you."
He threw his bag over his shoulder and headed toward the door. He was tired of this game they were playing. He was tired of sitting around not doing anything when there were things out there that needed hunting and a shortage of people to kill them. He was tired of sitting around watching Sam refuse to eat or sleep, refuse to do anything but research until he fell asleep with his nose buried in a book and Dean had to pry it out from under him and pull the covers up over him. He was tired of having nightmares where Sam was dying, dying, dead, and there was nothing he could do about it.
Before he reached the door, Sam stepped in front of him. "Forget it, Dean. I'm not letting you leave."
"You can't tell me what to do, Sam. I'm older than you, remember?" Dean asked sarcastically, taking a step toward Sam, ready for a fight, aching for one.
"I don't care!" Sam yelled, and Dean nearly flinched at the sudden anger in his voice. "Dammit, Dean, I don't care! We can't split up, nothing good ever comes out of it, and you know that!"
"Sam…" Dean threatened.
"I'm not letting you leave, Dean!" Sam yelled, standing up straight, using every inch of his 6 foot 4 frame to tower over his brother threateningly.
"Yeah, well, I'd like to see you try and stop me!" Dean spat, and he took a step closer to Sam, intending to push him out of the way if he had to.
Without warning, Dean felt a fist connect with his face. Hard. So hard that he crashed to the floor in a heap. He clutched at his face. Sam hardly ever hit him. He looked up, surprised, and saw Sam standing over him, panting heavily, his right hand clenched into a tight fist. But what surprised Dean most were the tears rising in Sam's eyes.
"I'm not going to let you leave me, Dean! I'm not!"
"Sammy, it's not like I won't ever be coming back."
"Yes it is," Sam said quietly, and he unclenched his fist. Dean saw his shoulders slump and felt the energy drain out of him. "Yes it is."
Dean slowly pulled himself up from the floor as he finally realized what was going on here, why Sam didn't want him to leave. It was because of the deal he had made. Everything Sam had been doing for the past three weeks was because of that deal. It was why Sam didn't sleep anymore, why he didn't eat, why he had nightmares every night. Sam didn't want Dean to leave because he was afraid he would never come back. That he would die before Sam had a chance to find a way to get him out of the deal.
"Dammit, Dean, why did you do it? Why did you make that deal?" Sam asked desperately.
Dean dropped his bag off his shoulder, his desire to leave forgotten. "You know why I did it, Sam," he answered quietly, trying to soothe his brother, trying to get Sam to stop looking at him like he was afraid he would blink and Dean would disappear. "I have to look out for you."
Dean really didn't want to get into this with Sam. Not now, not ever. But Sam had made it clear that he wasn't going to back down this time. He had been insisting for the past three weeks that they needed to talk about it. Not like they had talked about it that night next to the car. To really talk about it. Dean didn't think that there was anything left to talk about. Sam, apparently, did.
"It's my job to look out for you, Sam," Dean continued. "It's my-"
"No Dean, it's not your job, and I'm so tired of the same dumb excuse. Because it is, you know? It's dumb! Don't talk to me about it being your job to protect me. I don't care what Dad told you or didn't tell you or whatever. Dammit, Dean, we're brothers. We're supposed to look out for each other!" Sam said loudly. Dean could hear the anger creeping back into Sam's voice, and he fed on it.
"Dammit, Sam, you died! What did you expect me to do?! Let you rot in the ground for eternity?"
"Yeah, Dean, actually that's what most people do when someone dies," Sam practically hissed, his tone bitterly sarcastic.
"Don't make this into a joke, Sam," Dean said, voice low and soft, his words a clear warning. He was slowly losing control over his anger. "I was trying to do the right thing. I was trying to be the big brother!
"No, Dean, what you were being is a hypocrite!"
That stopped Dean cold. "What the hell are you talking about?" he spluttered.
"You know damn well what I'm talking about, Dean. Do you remember anything you've said this past year since Dad died? You obviously don't, considering what you did, so why don't I remind you? Remember zombie girl, Angela? Remember what you said to her father? 'There are people that I would give anything to see again, but what gives you the right?' Or how about, 'What's dead should stay dead'? Oh, and it gets even better. Remember Evan Hudson, the guy who sold his soul to the crossroads demon to save his wife? Remember what you said to him?"
Dean didn't need to hear the rest of what Sam said. He remembered that conversation vividly. Remembered the pain that he'd felt; the anger and resentment he'd had toward his father. He could see it all in his head. Asking Evan if he had thought about his wife in all this. Evan insisting that he had done it for her. Telling Evan that he had really done it for himself, so that he wouldn't have to live without her. Telling Evan that now she would have to live without him. Asking Evan how she would feel if she knew that her living had cost him his soul.
"You do remember, don't you? You knew it then, too, but it didn't matter. This time it was happening to you, and of course that made it different," Sam said, voice dripping with sarcasm.
The anger drained quickly out of Dean to be replaced by doubt and confusion. Dean didn't want to hear this. Didn't want to admit that maybe Sam was right. "Stop it, Sam," Dean said quietly, turning away from him. It wasn't an order; it was a plea.
Dean heard Sam sigh loud and long, and he could tell that Sam's anger was deflating as quickly as his own had.
"Dean, look at me."
Dean refused to face him, crossing his arms over his chest in an act of defiance.
Sam moved a step closer and put a hand on Dean's shoulder, but Dean shrugged it off and took a few steps away from him, stopping next to his bed.
Sam sighed again, clearly frustrated. He turned away from Dean, crossing his arms over his own chest.
They stood there in silence for what felt like hours.
Finally, Dean couldn't stand the silence anymore. He turned to face Sam's back.
"Do you have any idea what it was like to see you there, Sam, lying on that bed? To see you…not moving…to hold you when you…you died, Sammy. You freaking died, man. You we're dead and I was still here. Alone. Mom, Dad…you…all gone. Do you have any idea what it's like to be alone like that?"
He had no idea what had made him say any of that. He hadn't meant to. It had just slipped out.
Sam turned to him slowly, and the look on Sam's face made his heart stop in his chest. Dean couldn't recall ever seeing Sam look so utterly heartbroken, like he'd just been stabbed in the chest and had the knife twisted. Sadness radiated off of Sam until Dean could practically feel his brother's pain himself. Finally, Sam spoke.
"No…but I will. If I can't…if I can' t save you from this deal, Dean, then that's exactly what I'll be going through. Don't you get it? You'll be putting me through the same thing Dad put you through when he sold his soul to the yellow-eyed demon. Only this time…it'll just be me. This time I won't…I won't have you. I won't have anyone. And all I'll be able to think about is you being in…of you suffering…forever…all because I couldn't save you. Why didn't you think about that before you made that deal, huh? Why didn't you think about me?
Sam wasn't yelling. In fact, he was completely calm, his tone one of quiet, heartwrenching dejection. Dean could deal with anger. But this? This was too hard.
"I was thinking about you Sammy," Dean said, knowing as the words left his mouth just how untrue they were.
"No, you weren't." Sam paused, and Dean felt his heart twist as he saw tears begin to fall, slowly and quietly, from his brother's eyes
"You were just thinking about yourself."
Dean opened his mouth to reply, but closed it immediately. What could he possibly say to that?
"It's not your job to save me, Dean. That's just an excuse. I understand it, believe me I do. Feelings are hard to admit to, and I get that. But you don't protect me just because Dad told you to. You do it because you…."
The words hung there unspoken, but understood loud and clear. It was something they never had to tell each other; something that they showed each other every single day.
"And that's why I can't let this happen to you. I won't. I'm not just gonna sit back and watch you die. I'm gonna do whatever it takes to get you out of this, because I…."
I love you. I need you. I'd be lost without you.
"Because I can't do this alone," Sam finished.
Dean let a small, bitter smile pass over his face. He understood that. Of course he did. It was the reason he had made that deal in the first place. Not because it was his job. Not even because he loved his brother more that he had ever loved or ever would love another person. He had done it because he, Dean Winchester, was afraid of being alone. Because he did not want to face living in a world that didn't have Sam in it. Sam gave him a reason, a purpose. Sam was his anchor. He was the only one who had ever loved him unconditionally, or at least the only one who had ever made that clear to him. So really, Sam was right.
He had done it, not for Sam, but for himself.
Dean lost the feeling in his legs, lost the ability to stand, and he fell hard onto the bed, his mouth agape, unable to believe what he had done to Sam. How selfish he had been. He looked up at his brother, and suddenly he couldn't bear to see the pain and despair that were so strong in Sam's eyes. He put his elbows on his knees and buried his face in his hands.
"I don't blame you, Dean. I don't. I know how hard it is to lose someone. You died on me once, remember? Before Dad…before Dad died. I know what it feels like to be willing to do anything to get someone back."
Dean couldn't hear what Sam was telling him. All he could hear was a little voice in his head –Sam's voice – telling him that he was a selfish hypocrite and that he deserved whatever came for him in a year because how dare he put Sam through the same shit that he himself had gone through after Dad? The blame, the self-hatred, the gaping hole in his chest that couldn't be filled no matter what he did…that darkness that he fed upon, that he used to help him in the hunt, that had for awhile made him ruthless, bitter, and angry. All of what he had gone through, he had now doomed Sam to. He had been too screwed up after Sam died to really think about what he was doing. To realize what he would put Sam through. To realize how saving Sam wasn't the most selfless thing he had ever done for his brother, but really the most selfish thing he had ever done for himself.
Dean heard his brother calling his name tentatively, but he couldn't bring himself to look at him. He was ashamed of himself, of what he had done. He couldn't bear to see the pain in Sam's eyes anymore, to know that he had put it there. He kept his head buried in his hands, fought the tears that he felt rising in his eyes.
He hadn't saved Sam by bringing him back. He had failed him. He had killed him just as surely as if he had let him stay dead to begin with.
As he fought hard to keep his emotions at bay, to keep from screaming out in anger and sobbing in despair all at the same time, he felt the bed dip next to him.
And when Sam slowly but surely put his arm around Dean's shoulders, Dean felt the tears leave his eyes. It was a great contrast to the punch Sam had given him earlier, full of rage and hate, a motion that had asked, How could you do this to me? and, How do you ever expect me to forgive you for this? Sam didn't pull him close, didn't try and force him to submit to the moment. He just let his arm sit there, gentle yet firm at the same time. It was a gesture that said I love you and I'm here for you…maybe even I forgive you.
"It's okay, Dean. I understand."
Dean felt himself begin to tremble, fought his emotions as the tears ran down his face, but he didn't look up at Sam. He kept his face buried. He couldn't bear to face what Sam was offering him. Forgiveness. Love. Acceptance. After what he had done, how could he possibly deserve that?
"I'm not trying to blame you, Dean. I don't want you to feel bad. I just…I want you to understand what I'm going through here. I want you to understand why I'm working so hard on this. Why I don't want to waste precious time on hunts. Why I'm willing to do whatever it takes to get you out of this deal. It's always been our job to save other people, and I just figured it was about time we took some time to try and save ourselves."
"Sam…." Dean had so much he wanted to say, but he couldn't get the words out.
"I don't hate you, Dean, and I don't want you to hate yourself. Yeah, okay, I'm angry, and I'm hurt. But I forgive you, Dean. I always will. That's what brothers do for each other, right?"
Dean's breath hitched and a quiet moan escaped him despite his best efforts. He felt Sam grip him tighter, felt Sam move closer until they were side by side and Dean could feel Sam's heartbeat pulsing through his own body. It had an immediately calming effect, and Dean suddenly found the courage to speak.
"I'm sorry, Sammy. I'm so sorry."
Sam squeezed his shoulder tightly. "I know, Dean. I know."
Dean let his brother hold him, and as they sat there in silence, Dean realized that, sometimes, the truth really does hurt.
AN: This was just something that I've been thinking about since the finale and was finally able to put into words. I realized just how much of a similarity there was between things that Dean said in "Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things" and "Crossroad Blues," and what Dean did for Sam in "All Hell Breaks Loose 2". It makes me wonder if the writers knew what would happen in the finale when they wrote the dialogue for those episodes. website