Doubts Unbecoming
K Hanna Korossy

"Open the damn door."

Dean's face had gone emotionless, and he didn't even look at Sam as he turned away.

"Dean!" Dean kept walking. Sam slammed his fist against the door. "Don't do it, Dean!" His brother pulled the handgun out of his waistband. "No!" Sam yelled, but Dean never slowed, checking the magazine, loading the gun, then opening the door to the office where Duane Tanner sat bound. Where Dean was going to shoot a man for what he might become.

Sam's jaw clenched as he slipped a hand into his jacket for his lockpick set. If Dean had thought a locked door was going to stop Sam, his brother was clearly not thinking too straight. Sam bent down to jimmy the lock, ignoring the distant sounds of Duane's tearful pleading. As well as Sam's own vision-memory of Dean's hard face as he lifted the gun and pulled the trigger.

The lock clicked open, and Sam yanked the door open.

"I got no choice," Dean said quietly from down the hall, echoing Sam's vision.

Sam rushed the few steps to the other room. He stopped in the doorway to the eerie déjà vu of Duane cowering in the chair, the others standing around watching with horror while Dean aimed his gun at the young man. This was where Dean fired. Sam opened his mouth to stop him.

But…Dean wasn't shooting.

Not that it would have taken more than a light pull on the trigger for it to be too late, but Sam knew his brother. Had seen the pragmatic resolution in his eyes before he killed whatever he needed to, including a helpless-looking Beverly Tanner earlier that day. Dean hadn't even flinched, although Sam knew it had left a scar.

Now, his brother was shifting minutely, arm shaking the slightest bit, head twitching. He should've fired already; he had in Sam's vision. Sam saw him readjust his aim, which Dean never did. His finger stayed firm against the trigger, but the rest of him… Dean was fighting his instincts. Fighting for Sam, and for his own soul.

Sam closed his mouth, sorrow pricking his eyes, and kept watching, silently rooting his brother on.

The atmosphere in the small clinic room was electric, the tension almost a living thing. But no one said a word. Duane Tanner could become a monster, and they were leaving the decision to Dean.

Dean's whole body was struggling now, ripples of agitation where there was usually deadly stillness and certainty. The gun alone wasn't budging.

And then Dean muttered a "dammit!" and raised the weapon.

Sam wasn't the only one who let his breath out, but he was certainly the most grateful.

Dean turned around, away from Tanner, his gaze instantly landing on Sam. The dark eyes grew even darker, and his mouth set. Sam didn't say a word, just looked at him steadily. Dean's glare didn't ease as he shouldered past Sam and disappeared down the hall.

Duane was shuddering with sobs of relief. The others in the room still stood frozen. Sam met the doctor's eyes. "We need to keep him tied up until you're sure he's not infected," he said softly.

She nodded, the movement jerky.

Sam's attention slid over to Sarge, and he sent the older man a silent order to keep watch. After a second, Sarge tipped his head.

Sam glanced one more time at Duane Tanner, a very alive Duane Tanner, then turned and left.

He went far enough down the hallway to see where Dean had disappeared to. His brother's shadow caught his eyes first, prowling Dr. Lee's office from one end to the other and then back again. Still wrestling with himself, with the situation, maybe with the two people he'd already had to kill that day.

Sam watched him silently for a minute before slipping away unremarked. Sometimes there was nothing they could do except give each other space.

He let Dean have two hours.

He was still in the office when Sam got back, sitting this time, sprawled in the doctor's chair as if he were relaxing. Sam knew better. The gun resting lightly on Dean's thigh and the sharp look he gave his brother when Sam appeared said otherwise. He could see Dean bracing himself for questions.

"I hope you paid more attention in chemistry than you did in history," Sam said casually, leaning against the doorjamb.

Dean's eyebrows went up.

Sam cocked his head with a grin. "Ready to make some bombs?"

Apparently, Dean had been listening in school. As Sam led the way back to the examination room and started taking down containers of alcohol, Dean reached for the other materials they'd need. "We can put them in, use some gauze as fuses," he spoke for the first time, voice low and rough.

Sam nodded. "Yeah, that's what I was thinking. Kind of like a medicinal Molotov." He smiled.

Dean gave him a look, one part humor, one part despair, and a whole lot of I know what you're doing and I appreciate it, I'm just not ready. Sam could work with that. His hand settled briefly on the small of Dean's back as he crossed behind his brother to get more bottles, and he felt Dean momentarily still at the contact. A minute later, they were both piling armfuls of stuff on the counter and not looking at each other. They didn't need to.

They worked together in comfortable silence for a while, measuring and pouring. Dean functioned better when he could do something. Sam watched him work surreptitiously, assessing his brother's reserved body language and hooded gaze.

He finally spoke.

"I never thought you'd shoot an innocent man."

Dean's eyes flicked up to him, dispassionate and opaque, then returned to his work.

"I just wanted you to know that."

Dean didn't even look up this time, didn't react at all to the words. But Sam had to believe they mattered.

There was nobody else left who knew Dean or believed in him, sometimes not even Dean himself. Sam had to be the one.

When he finally did ask why, it was curiosity, not disbelief. And he wasn't too surprised when Dean didn't answer him.

00000

The whole town was gone. Disappeared into thin air.

It didn't really change anything.

They trudged back to the examination room Dr. Lee had fetched them from. Sam dropped into a chair this time, Dean wearily, warily easing onto the edge of the desk where Sam had sat before.

"Where do you think they went?" Sam asked quietly the question they were both thinking. At least it gave them something to talk about that wasn't charged with loss and love.

Dean shrugged. "I don't know. Same place the Roanoke colony went, I guess."

"Do you think…it means it's over?" Sam asked tinily.

Dean did meet his eyes at that, knowing what Sam was asking. Am I going to be all right?"I hope so," Dean said with quiet honesty. There just wasn't time or space now for anything else.

Sam knew he should probably take advantage of it, press Dean to finish what he'd started to reveal before. But he was exhausted, mentally and physically at the end of his strength, and the words wouldn't come.

Dean always knew when he hit bottom. "Lie down and get some sleep, Sammy," his brother said gently. Giving up possibly their last few hours together to give Sam some peace.

"Dean…"

"We can do this in the morning, all right?"

It was pure bravado and they both knew it, but Sam didn't have it in him to believe anything else anymore. He nodded heavily, let Dean tug him over to the examination table and help him ease down on his side. He drew up his legs so they wouldn't hang off the end and closed his eyes. He could feel Dean check the cut on his chest, pull a blanket over him, rest a hand on Sam's hair before he moved away. Not far, though; Sam cracked his eyes open one more time to find Dean rolling up a chair to the table's side and straddling it, keeping watch. Being there, close enough to touch.

Perhaps it was all the time they had left, but they were together, and Sam felt safe. He let himself doze.

It only seemed like minutes before Dean was shaking him awake. Sam blinked up at him in confusion.

"Sun just came up, dude. Five hours since Nurse Hyde infected you. Looks like you dodged the bullet."

Even through his blurring vision, he could see Dean's smile and eyes were a little too bright, feel his hard and lingering clasp as he helped Sam sit up.

They'd made it. Sam smiled to himself, watching Dean hover. Unbelievable. Or maybe not so much.

Dr. Lee checked his blood and pronounced him clean, and Sam had rarely been so glad to leave a place. The relief almost made him giddy as they put River Grove in their rear view mirror. He glimpsed Dean smiling once or twice out of the corner of his eye, too.

Sam couldn't help but finally say it. "You do know you've got a serious double-standard when it comes to me, right?"

Dean glanced at him sideways. "What's your point?"

And…he didn't have one, Sam realized. They'd always had a different set of rules for each other. It was the same reason his brother alone was allowed to call him by his childhood nickname, why Sam was allowed to drive Dean's precious car, how they'd made it this far. Dean would always put him first.

He shouldn't have worried about Dean shooting Duane in the first place, vision or no. They made their own future, and Sam knew his brother.

"Wanna grab some beers, sit out in the sun a little?" he asked, letting go of the last shreds of the nightmare that had been River Grove.

Dean cast him a thoughtful look, but he seemed to get it. "All right."

In the days, the ordeals that followed, Sam doubted himself, worried about his brother's priorities, separated them when they should have stayed together, and wondered if he shouldn't have died in River Grove.

But through all of it, the one thing he never doubted was Dean.

The End