A/N I know there have been many excellent tags to this episode, and being in the UK I must admit I have only seen the one clip I allowed myself to watch (the end one, naturally), but this just popped into my head so I thought I would share. Hope you like it:)
"So exactly where did it say that guy fell from?"
As Dean spoke he turned round. Unfortunately what he wasn't expecting was for Sam to be about an inch behind him. As his left foot connected with Sam's right one he stumbled and not even his brother's reflexive grab could save him.
Sitting on the floor, his ears still ringing from where his teeth had slammed together, he glared up at Sam.
"Dude – what the hell?"
Sam flushed and looked slightly guilty as he held out a hand to help Dean up.
"Sorry," he said, not even attempting to make a joke out of Dean's klutzeness.
As he studied the tightness of Sam's jaw, the dark circles under his eyes and the part anxious, part guilty look he'd been sporting for the last week, Dean finally reached the end of his tether.
Ignoring the proferred hand in favour of pushing himself up off the floor, he firmly grabbed hold of Sam's arm and literally frog marched him out of the abandoned warehouse.
"Dean, what are you doing? What about the spirit?" said Sam frowning, trying to pull his arm away from Dean's grip without success.
"Forget the spirit, Sam. This has gone on long enough." said Dean grimly.
They were by now out of the building but Dean didn't stop until they reached the Impala. Swinging Sam round and planting him against the side of the car he stood in front of him, arms held out wide.
"Alright – now what the hell is going on, Sam? And don't even think about saying nothing or I swear you're gonna be the one on your ass in the dirt this time."
Sam shifted against the car, dropping his gaze and staring at anything other than Dean. When he did glance back at his brother Dean raised an eyebrow in a manner that clearly suggested he was prepared to wait all night for an answer if he had to.
"Look, I was just a little too close in there, that's all. It's no big deal – I don't know why you're making such a fuss." he said defensively.
"A little too close? Dude, you were practically in my pocket! And not for the first time this week either – do you think I haven't noticed you sticking to me like glue 24/7? Or are you gonna try and tell me that it's coincidence you now need to go the bathroom at the exact time I do every time we're out?"
Sam flinched and looked back down again, toeing the dirt with his boot. Were it not for the seriousness of the situation Dean would have found it amusing how Sam seemed to have regressed. He looked for all the world like a kid getting told off.
This time the tone of voice was softer, concern laced through it, and Sam closed his eyes. He'd almost prefer the yelling.
Opening his eyes again with supreme effort he managed to look up and meet Dean's gaze.
"Ok, so maybe I've been a little cautious lately. But you can't blame me, Dean – do you not remember the part where I had to watch you die over and over again?"
"Of course I remember, but this goes way beyond that and you know it. Do you realise you've not said one wrong word to me in seven days? Seriously – not about the mess, not about me borrowing your shirt when I didn't have a clean one. I even used up all the hot water yesterday, just to check, and nothing. Nada. It's like living with Stepford-Sam and you know what? It's freaking me out a little here, dude."
Sam shrugged. "Maybe I just don't find that stuff annoying anymore." he said quietly and Dean looked incredulous.
"Are you kidding me? You do realise how crazy that sounds, right? I'm supposed to get on your nerves, Sam, it's what brothers do! Most people don't spend half as much time as we do in each other's company, it'd be weird if we didn't tick each other off sometimes. Now you finding everything I say or do wonderful? That's just wrong."
Sam pushed himself off the car, forcing Dean to take a couple of steps back as he began to pace up and down, running a hand through his hair agitatedly.
"I never said I thought everything you do is wonderful, I just haven't been finding the little stuff irritating. That's all. Now can we please drop it? You'd think you'd be glad not to have me lecturing you for five minutes."
Dean's lips quirked. "Nice try, Sam, but no dice."
Sam clenched his jaw. "You don't know what it was like, Dean." he said and this time both eyebrows were raised.
"Are you serious? You wanna actually think about that statement for a second?"
For the third time in ten minutes Sam's face clouded with guilt but, even so, Dean was wrong about it being the same.
"This was different." he said quietly and Dean frowned at him.
More silence, this time with Sam looking like he wished he hadn't said anything at all.
Sam swallowed but still wouldn't look at him. Dean sighed.
"You never did tell me how many Tuesdays you had."
Another swallow, this time more pronounced.
Dean rubbed the back of his neck and decided to change tactics, since clearly being on the offensive wasn't doing the trick.
"Alright. I get that it must have sucked, watching me die over and over again. And I appreciate that you're glad I'm still here. But you need to get past this, Sam. Cos what you're doing right now? You can't keep it up. I mean look at you – you're not sleeping, you barely touch your food. You're watching me like a hawk and as much as I get the sentiment behind it, in all honesty it's starting to drive me crazy."
This time Sam did look at him and Dean was taken aback by the level of pain in Sam's eyes.
"It wasn't just Tuesday." he said softly.
"What do you mean?"
"I mean there was one day where it was Wednesday. I thought it was over, that you were safe and then.." Sam tailed off and Dean stepped a little closer, within arms reach but without actually crowding his brother.
"Then what?" he said gently and Sam forced himself to continue.
"Then you died again. For real."
It certainly explained the anxious looks, the permanent shadow act, but funnily enough it didn't make Dean feel any better.
"How long before he hit rewind that time?" he said and Sam glanced away.
It was the only answer he was gonna give and even that was more than he'd intended to. He'd thought he could control it, that now Dean was alive again it would all be ok, but it wasn't. He still kept expecting the day to start over, for Dean to die in some random act. And as much as his constant hovering may have been driving Dean crazy, it was no picnic on his side of the fence either.
Dean meanwhile would have preferred a more concrete answer but he could tell Sam wasn't about to divulge anything further. Stepping back he leant against the hood of the car, putting one boot on the fender.
"Ok, so that makes a little more sense. I wish you'd have told me that before." he said quietly.
Sam ducked his head.
"It wasn't exactly something I wanted to go into detail about, Dean. Living through it once was bad enough."
"Maybe. But I do understand you know."
"Do you?" Sam blurted out and it was Dean's turn to clench his jaw.
"You think I don't?"
Sam thought about it. Truth was after the whole thing was over with the Devil's Gate he'd barely had time to think. The only thing occupying his brain had been Dean's deal and what he could do about it, but in retrospect little things did spring to mind when he thought about it. The way Dean had watched him when he thought Sam wasn't looking. How he'd suddenly become the first one up and the last one to bed. The way he'd called when they were apart for more than ten minutes at a time.
Yeah. Maybe Dean did understand more than he'd allowed for.
Sighing he took the two paces necessary to reach the Impala and leant against it next to his brother.
"Well then you know why I can't just shake this off. I can't stop thinking about it, Dean. Every minute I'm just waiting for the other shoe to drop. And maybe that does mean I'm not acting like myself but what do you want me to do? You were gone, man. I can remember what that feels like, exactly what that feels like. So excuse me if I don't find your habits all that annoying right now."
The last few words were tinged with bitterness and this time Dean did reach out, putting his hand on Sam's shoulder and squeezing.
"Hey, I'm not trying to fight with you about this, Sammy. I just want to help."
Sam found himself blinking as his eyes suddenly began to sting. All the times he'd complained about the nickname and it had ended up being right near the top of the list of things he'd missed most.
"I don't want to fight either." he said when he could trust his voice again and Dean gave a slight smile.
"Well that's great. But I'm not kidding about the whole Pollyanna thing. Honestly? It's downright creepy. I keep expecting you to hold my hand when I cross the road or something."
Sam actually chuckled and, even if it did sound slightly like a sob, as far as Dean was concerned it was a breakthrough. Sam had barely smiled since they'd left that motel room.
"Yeah, cos I want to add broken fingers to the list of things that sucked about this week." he said and Dean smirked.
"Now that's more like it."
For a moment they just stood there, Dean trying to think of what he could possibly say to make this better.
Short of having the Trickster's ability to turn back time.
In the end he did what he always did where Sam was concerned and went with his instincts.
"Here's what I think, Sam – we've both found out the hard way what it's like to be the last one standing. And I think we're agreed it sucks out loud."
Sam snorted at the understatement of the century but stayed quiet, waiting to hear the rest of what his brother had to say.
"But the truth is, we can't spend every day waiting for something bad to happen. Cos in our job, that's just gonna put both of us in the nut house long before we ever have to worry about anything else."
Sam glanced at him, knowing Dean was referring to the deal but appreciating that for once he wasn't actually going to come out and mention it in so many words.
Dean met Sam's gaze and his voice softened as he continued.
"I'm not gonna lie to you and pretend like nothing bad is gonna happen. But if this whole thing has taught me anything, it's that we gotta appreciate the little stuff. The normal. Well, normal for us anyway."
That earned him another slight smile, albeit a tired one.
"So that's it? That's your answer here – live for the moment?" said Sam softly and Dean shrugged.
"You got anything better?" he asked and honestly, Sam really didn't.
"What if it's not that easy?" he said, and Dean heard not only the adult Sam but the one from the past, who'd always trusted his big brother to have all the answers.
"Then we make it that easy. Cos sure as hell no one else is gonna do it for us."
Sam contemplated Dean's answer and wondered if it could really be that simple.
"I'm not sure if I can just pretend this never happened." he said and Dean shook his head.
"I'm not asking you to. I'm just asking you to lay off on the whole bodyguard thing. And stop acting like I'm gonna disappear any second. You feel this?" he said, reaching out and pinching Sam's arm.
"Ow! Of course I feel that!" said Sam, rubbing his now throbbing skin and glaring at his grinning brother.
"Well there you are then. I can do that as often as you need reminding, Sammy. Just say the word." he said and Sam rolled his eyes.
"You know what? I think I got it." he said and found he was only half joking.
Dean's grin got wider.
"Alright then. What do you say we get out of here and hit the next town. See if we can't remind ourselves what life is all about, if you catch my drift?"
Unfortunately, Sam did.
"But what about the spirit?" he said, gesturing to the warehouse, and Dean waved his hand dismissively.
"It was just one report, and we can always swing by another day. Nothing's happened for a few weeks, right?" he said and Sam nodded.
"Yeah, but what about 'hunting comes first'?" he said, doing a pretty fair imitation of John.
"Sometimes it doesn't." was all Dean said and Sam smiled softly.
"So what did you want to do instead, or should I not ask?"
"I dunno. Get some dinner. Maybe watch a movie. Been a while since we did that, ain't it?" he said and Sam found the lump was back in his throat so he simply nodded.
"Ok. Let's hit the road then." said Dean, giving Sam's shoulder a playful shove as he pushed himself off the hood of the car.
"Oh, just so you know though? You totally used up your entire lifetime's quota of hugging back there." he said as he walked round to the driver's side.
Sam raised his eyebrows.
"Hey, I was just returning the favour. You went there first, remember?" he said and was rewarded with a slight blush appearing on Dean's face.
"Extenuating circumstances." he protested and Sam grinned.
"Same here." he said and Dean opened and shut his mouth almost comically, but no comeback was forthcoming.
"Just get in the car, would you." he said in the end, regretting having brought the thing up in the first place.
As Sam slid into the seat he listened, amused, as Dean muttered under his breath about Hallmark moments and things 'never to be mentioned again'. As the Impala's engine roared to life and Dean expertly swung her round to face the road again Sam settled back against the seat.
Maybe there were a lot of things in their life that couldn't be guaranteed. War was coming, demons were hunting them now, and every minute could well be their last. Not to mention the small issue of Dean's deal. But even amidst all that there were still some certainties.
Like knowing the toothpaste tube was never gonna be neatly squeezed.
Like taking more lukewarm showers than you could count.
And like knowing that however far you strayed, there was always one person who would bring you back. Who you would walk to the ends of the earth to bring back in return.
Maybe for now, for today, that would have to be enough.