Disclaimer: As always, I don't own them. I just like to take them out to play every now and then.
A/N: I know there are some people who are disappointed with the lack of brother moments this season, but I think it's by design and completely in character. Dean is doing what he did in Faith, only on a much larger scale. Once enough time has passed, Dean will be able to talk to Sam again.
This story takes place after that amount of time.
Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding - Kahlil Gibran
Sometimes thing weren't as they appeared. Sometimes an empty room really was just an empty room. There weren't always ghosts or demons or any other supernatural creature. Sure, that happened sometimes, but not so much in the Winchesters world. Such was the life of a hunter. Even when not actively on a hunt, it was important to remain vigilant because there was no way to know when some monster might pop up.
So, every time the brothers walked into a motel room, they needed to perform an inspection. It started just inside the door when they would look around to see what tacky furnishings the room contained. They both took in every inch, checking for possible places to hide and for areas that might be open to some kind of supernatural activity.
Then they dropped their duffels and one of them, usually Dean, would check out the bathroom. Sam made sure the blinds were drawn and then he'd set about protecting the room. Then, if they weren't on a case, like now, Dean would flop onto the bed and make his way through the television channels while Sam set up the laptop.
He pretended he wasn't looking for a way to get Dean out of the crossroads deal and Dean pretended he didn't know that's exactly what Sam was doing. It was a thin line they had both, without a word, agreed to walk. Dean understood that's what Sam needed to do. Even though he'd told his little brother about the clause to the deal, Sam was intent to find a way out of it. Sam didn't care if it meant his own life; he wanted to save his big brother. Dean understood that. He understood it because that's exactly how he felt about Sam and why he'd made the deal to begin with.
But now Sam was hooked up with some demon, a demon, because she said she could help get Dean out of the deal. Sam knew that demons lie, but he thought it was worth the risk. Dean didn't, but he hadn't been able to change Sam's mind. Besides, Ruby hadn't shown her face in a while.
"You gonna be at that geek box all night?" Dean asked after half an hour.
Sam looked at him. "What did you have in mind?"
"Dinner, for one thing."
"What's another thing? Hooking up with some random chick?"
Dean supposed he deserved that. He'd played the dying wish card a lot lately, mostly to get Sam off his back so he could get himself laid. Sam's tone had been light, as if he really didn't care, but Dean knew he did. His brother wanted him to take things more seriously, but when hadn't he? Dean understood it this time, though. He understood exactly what his brother was going through because he himself had experienced the same thing.
When Sam died, the only thing Dean could think of was getting him back. He came up with the crossroads deal as soon as Sam's heart stopped beating. Dean had been holding him and he knew when it happened. One second Sammy's heart had been beating and the next it wasn't. His brother, the brother he had sworn to protect, was dead and Dean had wanted to die with him.
Maybe he should have gone in that direction instead. He knew Sam would be angry if he found out and, of course, he found out. He understood Sam's pain because it's the same pain that Dean felt when he realized their father had given himself to save him.
Dean was sorry his brother was hurting, but he was okay with it because it meant that he was alive. Sam needed to live a full life….And of course Dean had known that Sam wouldn't have wanted him to make the deal because he didn't want to live without Dean any more than Dean wanted to live without him, The difference was, Sam was Dean's little brother and Dean knew what was best for him.
"All I'm thinking about is dinner," Dean said, truthfully.
"Okay," Sam agreed.
Dean drove toward the small business district of the town where they were staying. They often ate in greasy diners, but on their way into town, they'd passed a family steak house and decided that's where they wanted to have dinner.
After being seated at a table and placing drink orders, they fell into a silence that wasn't exactly comfortable. There were a lot of those lately. A gulf had formed between them after Sam realized that he was alive only because Dean had made a deal to bring him back. It would have been okay if Dean hadn't been so cavalier about it. He didn't seem to care about the pain Sam was in. Even after Sam pointed out that Dean had been broken when he realized the same thing about their father, Dean didn't seem to care.
The thing was, that didn't cause the separation between them. Not really. Sam knew that Dean cared. His casual attitude was a cover for the extreme pain he was feeling. Dean never knew what to do with pain so he buried it. Sometimes, like when their father died, he got angry and dangerous. Other times, he regressed and turned into a teenager. That's where he was now.
Sam knew if the gap between them was going to be bridged, he would have to lead the charge. So, he didn't fight when Dean wanted to drive hundreds of miles out of their way to meet up with a girl he'd had a weekend fling with. He didn't argue when Dean asked him to wait in the car while he banged a couple of twins. Sam gave into ever impulse and whim that his brother had and in return, Dean pretended that he didn't know Sam was still researching for ways to get him out of the deal.
He wanted to talk to his brother; really talk to him. Sam missed the closeness they'd managed to get back in the two years since their reunion. He didn't like the uncomfortable silences, but he didn't know how to fix them yet.
"What's looking good to you?" Dean asked as he perused the menu.
"Sirloin," Sam said. "Baked potato and a salad."
"Salad." Dean grimaced. "Eww."
Sam looked at him. "Eww? What are you, five?"
Dean grinned as he put his own menu down. Sam liked to see his brother's smile because a real one happened to infrequently. At least until he'd made that dumbass deal. Now that Dean felt his days were numbered, he was unusually happy and that was one thing about the deal that Sam was okay with.
Sam was surprised when they were done with dinner and Dean didn't suggest they go to a bar. Dean liked to drink, he liked to play pool and darts, and most of all, he liked to flirt. His favorite bars were the most redneck as long as they played classic rock and not country music.
Sam was further surprised when Dean suggested they stop at a video store to pick up a movie. Even the smallest towns tended to have chain video stores, so in their downtime they were always able to find something to watch.
They walked into the motel room with a movie and junk food, even though neither one was really hungry. Sam went into the bathroom while Dean hooked the DVD player they carried with them to the television. While they could almost always rent a movie, they didn't always have DVD players in the cheap motels where they stayed.
When Sam joined him a moment later, he'd discarded his coat and the long sleeved shirt he'd been wearing over a t-shirt. Dean was similarly comfortable and leaning back against the headboard of the bed closest to the door.
"You ready for some action, Sammy?"
"You get the machine hooked up right this time?"
"Hey, I screwed up once. And that was when I had a concussion. Give a guy a break."
Sam smiled and shook his head. He sat on his own bed and got comfortable as Dean started the movie. Two hours later it was over and despite not being hungry, they'd eaten most of the junk food.
Sam looked at his brother when he turned off the television. Dean's expression was content and that was not something that Sam often saw. He hated to ruin the good mood, but he'd made up his mind that tonight would be the night he'd make Dean talk to him. He'd somehow start bridging the gaping hole that had developed between them.
Dean recognized the tone of his brother's voice and wondered what had taken him so long. He wasn't sure he was completely disappointed that Sam was finally going to make him talk. He'd wanted to be open with Sam from the time he admitted the deal, but being open, even with Sammy, wasn't something that came easy for Dean.
"Yeah?" he tried to keep his tone neutral.
Please, Sammy, please don't give up.
"I can't keep doing this, Dean. I can't keep pretending that things are okay when they aren't."
"Of course things are okay."
"You're going to die in less than a year."
"I told you that I'm okay with that."
"Well, I'm not!" Sam stood up and paced in front of the television. "I'm not okay with you dying and I want you to say that you understand that. Damnit, Dean! You're not just going to die! You're going to Hell. That crossroads demon is going to come for you and you won't…."
Dean looked at him. "I won't what?"
Sam looked at him, his hand on his hips. His expression was sad; it reminded Dean of how he looked for so long after Jessica died. Then it hit him. He thought he understood everything. He thought he had it figured out. He'd give up his soul for Sam's life. His little brother would be back with him and they'd have one more year together. The demon would come for him and Sam would go on….he'd recover and then lead a normal life.
"You won't be with me," Sam whispered, then turned away.
Dean threw his legs over the side of the bed and watched as Sam hung his head and his hands went limp by his side.
"What am I supposed to do without you, Dean?" he asked, not turning around. "You've always been there for me. I never had to look too far because you were there. Even when I went to Stanford….I knew if I called you…."
Sam turned around a moment later and looked at his brother, tears in his eyes. "I swear I'm going to find a way to get you out of this deal because I can't live without you."
"Sam," Dean stood up and put his hands on his brother's arms. "Listen to me. I did this so you would live –"
"Just tell me that you understand how I feel. You understand because it's what you felt after Dad died."
Sam jerked away from him and turned back toward the wall.
"I'm sorry, Sam. I….I thought….I thought I had everything figured out. I couldn't live if you were dead. That yellow eyed sonofabitch took Mom from me, took Dad….I'll be damned if it was going to get you, too."
"He took Mom and Dad from me, too, Dean," Sam whispered.
"Sammy, I've given everything I have to you and to the hunt. I don't have any more to give. Please try to understand. You've got so much potential and –"
Sam's head hung again.
"You're smart, Sammy. You can get out of this life. You can get out from under the law and –"
"I don't want to do any of that without you, Dean." Sam turned around again. "Please, Dean, just admit that you understand how I feel."
Dean knew his brother was fast, but he didn't even see it coming. He didn't see Sam rush toward him; all of a sudden his brother had him pinned to the wall.
"Say it!" Sam shouted as tears streamed down his face.
"I understand," Dean whispered, his lips trembling and his own tears threatening to fall. "I understand, but I can't be sorry for what I did. I know it will be hard, Sammy, but I know you can do it."
Sam pulled back a fist and held it steady as Dean looked at him. Just when Dean thought he was about to take a punch, Sam's hand moved gently on his cheek and a moment later, he pulled his brother into a hug.
Dean put his arms around Sam and they stood that way for what seemed like a very long time.
"I'm not going to stop looking for a way to get you out of this deal," Sam said when he pulled away.
"I know," Dean sighed.
"You don't have to have anything left, Dean. I'm going to do this. You've taken care of me all these years and….I'm going to take care of you for a change."
Thank you, Sammy. Thank you for not giving up on me.