This is set after Mystery Spot and a few weeks after my tag to the episode called 'Certainties'. You can read this without having read that first though…:)
Sam sat bolt upright with a gasp, his heart pounding. He blinked rapidly, feeling the sweat running down the side of his face and down his back. It took a moment for the image of Bobby's lifeless body to fade and for the darkened motel room to gradually take shape.
He turned his head at the sleepy enquiry, realising he must have made some kind of noise.
He swallowed, trying to get some moisture back into his mouth.
"I'm fine. Go back to sleep."
Dean muttered something else Sam couldn't quite catch and turned over, shifting about to get comfortable. Sam listened, waiting until Dean's breathing had evened out and it was clear he was asleep again. Only then did he push the covers back and slide quietly out of bed.
In the bathroom he didn't bother putting on the light, if only for the fact the extractor fan made it sound like the entire ceiling was about to fall in and he didn't want to wake Dean a second time. Besides, it was a full moon and it happened to be shining right through the window, making the small room fairly light anyway.
He ran some cold water, splashing it on his face and shivering as he felt the sweat drying on him. Now he was out of bed and awake properly he realised it wasn't very warm, which of course wasn't that surprising given the time of year. There was a shirt hanging on the back of the door, Dean's shirt, and he put it on. He told himself it was simply the shirt that was making him feel warmer, not the fact it was Dean's. He wasn't five years old anymore after all, able to feel safe and secure just from wearing something that belonged to his big brother.
Sitting down on the closed toilet lid he leaned forward and rested his arms on his knees. His breath was still shaky and he could feel his heart pounding like he'd run a marathon. He closed his eyes, then opened them again when the image of Bobby's lifeless eyes, staring at him accusingly, came back into vivid focus. He shook his head, as if that could somehow get the gruesome pictures out of his head.
This was the fourth night in a row that he'd had the dream, and each time it became more vivid. Once, just for extra fun, Bobby's face had suddenly morphed into Dean's and he'd woken from that one with just enough time to make it to the bathroom before he threw up. He'd managed to convince Dean it was the slightly suspect burgers they'd eaten earlier that day, and he'd been relieved that his brother accepted that as the excuse for his quietness for the rest of the day and for the slight shake in his hands that had persisted.
He dropped his head forward so it was resting on his arms and let out a shuddering breath. He couldn't keep on like this, he knew that much, but he also knew he had no idea how to get past it. In the first few weeks after their encounter with the Trickster it had been a lingering fear of losing Dean that had almost driven him crazy, something that had only begun to ease after things finally came to a head and Dean had forced him to admit what was going on. But now he was getting past that, able to stand his brother being out of his sight for more than five minutes at a time, this other fear had helpfully raised its head. And this was one he really didn't want to share with Dean, not least because he was afraid of what he would see in Dean's eyes if he did.
He jumped, actually leaving the seat for a second, and cursed the fact that Dean was a light sleeper. It really did make it hard to get much past him.
"Sammy, you in there?"
He sighed, knowing that if he didn't answer right now in a few seconds the door was probably gonna be kicked in.
"Yeah, I'm here – I'll be out in a minute, ok?"
He really hoped his voice didn't sound as shaky out loud as it did in his head.
There was a brief pause and Sam held his breath.
"Alright, well don't be long would ya? Some of us need to pee."
"Dude, too much information." said Sam and he heard Dean's footsteps move away from the door.
He took another couple of deep breaths and stood up, looking at himself in the mirror and grimacing at what he saw.
Oh yeah. Dean totally wasn't going to notice he looked like an extra from Night of the Living Dead.
Knowing he was just putting off the inevitable Sam flushed the toilet and opened the door. The lamp sitting on the cabinet between the two beds was on and Dean was sitting on the end of his bed, looking a little impatient. He stood up as Sam came out, barely giving his brother room to get out of the doorway before he pushed past him.
"I was starting to think you fell in." he said, not giving Sam a chance to reply before the door shut behind him.
Grateful for the extra few minutes to compose himself Sam went over to his bed and straightened the sheets, uncomfortably aware that they looked like he'd been thrashing around, and just then he was struck by a sudden sense of claustrophobia. The walls were too close, the room too stifling, and he stumbled over to the door. He fumbled with the lock and it took him two attempts to open it before he was finally outside, gulping in a lungful of cool, crisp, night air. It took a few seconds for the coldness of the stone flags to seep through his socks and he belatedly realised he wasn't wearing any shoes. It didn't matter.
Closing the door slightly behind him he took a couple of steps forward and sat down on the edge of the kerb, his feet resting next to the Impala's front wheel. He heard the muffled sound of the toilet flushing and knew Dean would be looking for him in a few seconds but he didn't move. If he had to go back into that motel room right now he'd lose it for sure. At least out here he could just pretend he needed some air.
He shook his head. Like Dean was gonna be fooled by that old excuse.
The slightly edgy enquiry was accompanied by the sound of the motel door opening and Sam forced his shoulders to drop to some point below his ears as he heard Dean come out onto the path beside him. He glanced up at him out of the corner of his eye and saw his brother shiver.
"Man, it's cold – what the hell are you doing sitting out here, Sam? It's 3am, case you hadn't noticed?"
"It was kinda stuffy in there. Just wanted some air, that's all."
He knew if he looked at Dean his brother would be regarding him with raised eyebrows, so instead he kept his eyes fixed on the almost deserted parking lot.
Sam heard the footsteps as Dean went back into the room and for a moment he thought he'd just accepted Sam's explanation and gone back to bed. Of course Sam should have known better and a couple of seconds later something hit him on the back of the head. Looking up he saw Dean shut the door behind him and put on his jacket. When Sam reached round behind him he found his own jacket on the floor, where it had fallen after bouncing off the back of his head.
Dean shoved his hands in his pockets and sat down next to Sam, shivering slightly. He said nothing, knowing if he left it long enough Sam would cave first. Sure enough after a few moments he heard Sam give an exasperated sigh.
"Dean, what are you doing?"
"Getting some air."
"What? I can't get a sudden urge too?"
Sam gritted his teeth and when it was clear Dean wasn't going to add anything else he pulled his jacket round his shoulders, not quite putting it on properly, his movements clearly telegraphing his frustration.
Dean studied the view with a relaxed gaze, taking in the moonlight reflecting off his baby's gleaming paintwork and the way the trees that bordered the parking lot stood out in stark contrast to the clear sky above them, scattered with millions of twinkling stars. He saw something briefly out of the corner of his eye and tensed for a moment before relaxing again when he realised it was only a cat. He waited just long enough to lull Sam into a false sense of security before he spoke again.
"So, we gonna sit out here till we catch pneumonia or are you gonna tell me what's bothering you?"
Sam jumped slightly and cursed to himself. He knew it had been too easy.
That didn't mean he had to give in though.
"Nothing's bothering me. I already told you, it was just too warm in there that's all."
"Then turn down the heating."
Sam looked at him exasperatedly.
"Can't you just let me have some peace and quiet on my own, just once? It's bad enough we're in each other's pockets 24/7, now I can't even get a moment to myself?"
Even as he said the words he regretted them and he flinched when he saw a brief flash of hurt in Dean's eyes. Before he could say anything, his brother stood up.
"Fine, no need to get your panties in a knot. I just thought something might be bothering you, that's all, but pardon me for giving a crap. I'll leave you to it then."
And just like that he was gone, the motel door shutting firmly behind him. Sam felt his eyes sting and blinked rapidly.
Great. Way to go, he thought to himself.
Now not only was his stomach tied in knots by the dream he'd had, he also felt a major stab of guilt for snapping at Dean like that. He'd only been trying to help, just like Sam would've been if the situations were reversed.
Getting up he quickly cleared the distance between him and the door and opened it quietly. The room was in darkness and he could see a lump under the covers on Dean's bed in the light from the window. Closing the door behind him, and clicking the lock back into place, he shrugged his jacket off and sat down on the edge of his bed, facing his brother.
"Dean." he said quietly.
There was no response and for a moment he thought Dean was going to feign sleep and ignore him totally. He was just about to give up when the gruff response came.
"I'm sorry, ok? That was unfair, what I said out there. I know you were just trying to help."
Dean contemplated Sam's words and heard the genuine apology in his brother's voice. He felt some of the lingering hurt caused by Sam's harsh statement ease and he turned over, able to make out pretty clearly Sam's outline against the window. He saw the slump in Sam's shoulders, could feel the tension that radiated off him, and he sighed. Sitting up he pushed himself up the bed until he was resting against the headboard.
Sam felt relieved, even though he was still sorry for lashing out at Dean like that.
Dean nodded, knowing Sam could see him well enough.
"There is something bothering you though, isn't there."
It was more of a statement than a question but Sam found himself answering anyway.
"It's just leftover stuff from the whole thing with the Trickster." he said, going for partial honesty. "It's nothing to worry about."
Dean let out an amused snort.
"Bit late for that, Sammy. Been doing it too long to stop now."
Sam was touched by the simple statement, especially given their current circumstances, and he found himself glad that it was fairly dark in the room since at least that way Dean couldn't see the rapid blinking he was now doing.
"I know, but seriously – it's nothing."
Dean sighed. Anything that had Sam sitting outside in the freezing cold at this time of the morning was clearly not 'nothing' but it was also equally clear that his brother was indulging his Winchester side. Which meant this was gonna be like pulling teeth.
Only more painful.
He shifted so he was more comfortable.
"Do you remember that conversation 'bout a month ago, when you told me you know me better than anyone else in the entire world?"
Sam nodded, having a horrible feeling he knew where this was going.
"Well then what makes you think that doesn't go both ways?"
Yep. Exactly where he'd thought it was going.
"I don't think that, Dean. I know you know me, but that's got nothing to do with this."
"No? Then what does this have to do with?"
"I told you – I'm just trying to deal with what happened, ok? Can't you just leave it at that?"
Dean shook his head.
"No. Not when it has you waking up from a nightmare every night for the last week."
Sam closed his eyes. So much for subtlety.
"Look, if it's about this whole losing me thing, we talked about that before.."
Sam cut him off before he could finish.
"It's not that."
Sam was silent so long that Dean was beginning to wonder if he'd fallen asleep sitting up, then he spoke.
"Do you remember what you said to me, just before we realised Dad was possessed?"
Dean flinched and was glad Sam was looking at the floor and therefore wouldn't notice. That night was still the cause of nightmares of his own, and he tried not to think about it if he could help it. But this was obviously important so he forced his mind back and swallowed slightly before answering.
"I said a lot of things, Sam – you wanna be a little more specific?"
Sam looked up, his face shadowed in the moonlight.
"You said it scared you. What you wouldn't do, for me and Dad." he said softly and Dean frowned slightly.
"Yeah, I remember. What about it?"
"I think I understand now. What you meant by that."
The frown deepened.
"What do you mean?"
Sam dropped his head forward, knowing that there was no turning back now. He couldn't look at Dean, not while he said this.
He couldn't bear to face what he might see in Dean's eyes when he was done.
The tone was soft, and familiar. It was the voice that said 'you can tell me anything and I'll still love you'.
Sam really hoped that was true.
"When you." he stopped, still not able to say the word even after a few weeks. "When you were gone, when I thought it was real. I told you it was a while, yeah?"
Dean nodded, not wanting to interrupt.
"Well the thing is, I can remember it. All of it. I remember what I was like, without you there. And I remember what I did. To bring you back."
Dean had a feeling he wasn't going to like the answer but he had to ask.
"What did you do?"
"I killed Bobby."
The exclamation slipped out before he could stop it and even in the dark he saw Sam flinch and shrink back into himself. Cursing himself for reacting, Dean leant forward, scooting to the edge of his bed and reaching out to put his hand on Sam's shoulder.
"Hey, I'm sorry. You just surprised me – you should warn a guy before you blurt out stuff like that, you know?"
He was rewarded with what sounded like a cross between a chuckle and a sob.
"What do you mean you killed Bobby?" he asked, more gently this time, and he felt the muscles in Sam's shoulder tense under his hand.
"I was looking for the Trickster. I was hoping, man I was praying, that he would bring you back. That he'd make it right. Even though it had been so long I just couldn't let go of the idea that it wasn't real. I was desperate."
Dean could hear that desperation in Sam's voice and he could imagine all to well what it must have been like for him. He hadn't made it past 24 hours, when the roles had been reversed.
"Go on." he said, encouragingly, and Sam glanced up at him gratefully.
"So, like I said, I was looking for the Trickster and Bobby, he wanted to meet up. He'd been calling me, a lot, and I never called him back. I couldn't. When he showed up, well I was sure. At least, I thought I was sure. But I couldn't be certain, not really, and when I did it all I could think was what if I was wrong? But it was too late, and I had to take a chance, I just had to, I couldn't handle it anymore."
Sam was speaking faster and faster, and Dean was fairly sure if he didn't inhale soon he was gonna pass out.
"Hey, it's ok – come on, it's ok, just take it easy. Deep breaths, that's it."
Even in the midst of his meltdown Sam managed to shoot him a slightly amused look and Dean belatedly realised he sounded like he was running a Lammas class. He nudged Sam's leg with his knee.
"You can quit looking so amused, Princess, I just don't wanna pick your ass up off the floor when you faint."
Sam actually managed a grin at that but it disappeared quickly when his brain reminded him exactly why he'd started to hyperventilate in the first place.
Feeling the mood darken again, Dean leaned forward a little more.
"Ok, you said you were almost certain – certain about what, Sam?"
Sam felt cold, and it had nothing to do with the temperature in the room.
"Certain that it was the Trickster. When I stabbed him." he whispered.
Dean looked stunned.
"Let me get this straight – you thought the Trickster was disguising himself as Bobby, so you stabbed him?"
Sam nodded, not even able to look at Dean.
Dean sat back, running a hand over his face. Of all the things he'd been expecting when they'd started this conversation, this was definitely not it.
He forced himself to think about what he was gonna say next, knowing the impact the wrong words could have on Sam right now.
"Ok. Alright, so you thought it was the Trickster – that makes sense. It's not like you deliberately stabbed Bobby."
Sam shook his head, interrupting him.
"But I wasn't sure, Dean! What if it had been Bobby? I was gambling on his life - Bobby's life, of all people. What if I'd been wrong?"
"But you weren't!"
"But what if I had been? I was prepared to take that chance, if it brought you back. I was prepared to do it, to kill someone who's like family to us. What does that make me?"
Dean's heart ached at the anguish in Sam's voice and he found himself wishing he could get his hands on the Trickster, right now. He didn't care that he'd brought him back, if they came across him again he was dead. More than dead.
Dragging his thoughts away from what he was going to do to the Trickster and back to Sam, Dean wracked his brains for a way to prove to his brother what he already knew. What he'd always known.
"Sam, listen to me – I get what you're saying and I understand why it's got you freaked out, but this does not make you a bad person. You hear me?"
Sam looked up at him in disbelief.
"Are you serious? I was going to kill someone, someone I care about, just on the off-chance it might bring you back! How does that make me anything other than a murderer?"
"Because it wasn't an off-chance! You're a hunter, Sam, like me. Like Dad. Hell, like Bobby. You may not always like it, and you may not always have wanted it, but it's there. It's inside you, and that means you have the instinct. You knew something wasn't right, you knew deep down that you were dealing with the Trickster and you were right."
Sam shook his head stubbornly.
"That doesn't matter. I wasn't 100 sure and I did it anyway."
"Yes you were 100 sure, you just didn't know it!"
"And how is that better? Whether I knew it or not, I went ahead and killed him! And it's not the first time either."
"Not the first time you've stabbed Bobby?" said Dean, looking confused now, and Sam glared at him.
"No! Not that first time I've been willing to risk someone else's life to save you. When you asked me in Nebraska if I would have gone ahead and taken you to Roy Le Grange if I'd known how he was healing people, I never answered. And that's because you wouldn't have liked the answer, Dean. Because it was a yes. Yes, I would have done it. Because I couldn't bear the thought of you dying, even if it meant someone else taking your place. That's the truth of it. I'd do anything, anything in the world, to keep you safe. Which makes me no better than what we hunt."
Dean grabbed hold of Sam's shoulder, shaking him.
"Don't say that! Don't you dare say that, Sam. You are nothing like what we hunt! You think I don't understand what you're going through? What do you think I would have done in the same situation, huh? You already know the lengths I'll go to, to save you. To protect you. When you were possessed I should have taken you out, but we both know I couldn't do it. When you had that knife to Jo's throat? If it had honestly come down to pulling the trigger to save her, I don't think I could have. Hell, I know I couldn't have! So if this makes you a monster then we'd best get jackets made cos I'm right there with you, Sammy."
Sam looked at him and Dean could see his eyes glistening.
"But it's not just Bobby. You didn't see what I was like without you. What I became. Hell, I made Dad look laid back! I didn't care, not about myself, not about all those innocent people. I wasn't hunting to save lives, I was hunting for revenge. To kill things. I didn't even recognise myself in the mirror anymore, Dean. With you gone, I wasn't me anymore. And what if that's how it's gonna be? What if I'm only who I am because of you?"
Dean closed his eyes and took a deep breath.
"Sam, I can't take responsibility for who you are and if you were thinking about this clearly you'd know that. Look at Stanford – I wasn't with you then, and you were still 'Sam'. You don't need me to be who you are."
"Yes I do! You're the one who made me who I am, Dean. You're the one I followed, the one I looked up to. You taught me everything I know, and yeah ok – I was still 'me' at Stanford. But that was different. I knew you were still out there, somewhere, at the end of a phone. You weren't gone, man. Not like you were. Not like you will be."
Sam's voice had dropped to a whisper again and Dean felt a pain in his chest so strong he was certain that if he looked down he'd see a knife sticking out of it. Nothing would ever convince him he hadn't done the right thing, bringing Sam back, but the aftermath of what he'd had to do had never felt so terrible as it did right now.
He moved so he was sitting on Sam's bed, near enough for their shoulders to touch.
"Sam, listen to me. I am sorry that bastard put you through all that. And I am so sorry that you're gonna have to deal with what happens when my time is up. I wish I could change it, but I can't. Don't get me wrong, I'm not giving up, not yet. But if I do, you know – then I am beyond sorry that you're gonna have to live with that. But you have to listen to me, you have to believe me – you are not evil. You never have been, and you never will be. Never. I've heard all this destiny crap and you know what? That's exactly what it is – crap. I've known you your whole life, Sam, and you think I wouldn't know if that was inside you?"
Sam leaned against him, wanting to believe but not able to bring himself to let go of the fear gripping him.
"But you've heard what they say, what they all say. I'm supposed to lead the demon army, remember? You're telling me they're all wrong? We don't know what's inside me, Dean. I have these powers and now, after all this. The things I've been prepared to do."
"Are no different than the things I've been prepared to do, and I got absolutely squat psychic mojo going on or any demon armies lining up behind me! Things aren't black and white in our world, they never have been, but stepping into the grey areas to do the right thing – that does not make you evil. Or me. As for what you'll do to protect me – do you really think you're the only one who feels that way? Most people, most decent people anyway, would walk through fire to protect the ones they love. We're no different, Sam. We just have to actually follow through on it more often, that's all."
Sam slumped forward, feeling bone tired.
"He said it's never gonna work. All this sacrificing ourselves for each other. He said we're never really going to be able to save each other."
"Yeah, well, the guy was a Trickster so I'd be a little wary of trusting a damn word he said if I were you."
The room was silent for a moment and Dean leaned forward, so his face was level with Sam's again.
"I know this is hard, and I know we're starting to run out of time here. But we don't know what's round the corner and you know what? We've been through so much already and we're still here. So you gotta stop borrowing trouble from the future, Sam. And you gotta start believing in yourself, cos otherwise it's not gonna be the demons out there that destroy you but the demons in here." he said, tapping the side of Sam's head gently. "You seem to think I did such a bang up job in raising you then how about you believe in that for a minute, huh? Don't you trust me?"
Sam looked at him.
"You know I do."
"Then trust that I know this is the truth. You are not evil. End of story."
Sam closed his eyes briefly then opened them again to meet Dean's gaze. Before he'd been dragged kicking and screaming into this conversation he'd been afraid of what he'd see there. Of what reaction his confession would prompt. But instead of horror, instead of disgust, all he saw was belief.
He felt a lone tear escape and slide down his cheek but he ignored it, and so did Dean.
"What if you're wrong?" he said and Dean gave him a cocky grin.
"I'm never wrong." he said simply and Sam didn't know whether to laugh or cry. He settled for something in the middle.
Dean gave him a minute to pull himself together, sitting with his hand resting on Sam's back and pretending not to notice when his brother rubbed his eyes with his hand. Eventually, when he was sure he wasn't going to go pieces, Sam sat up a little and Dean moved his hand. He leant back, meeting Sam's gaze head on.
"So. We done here?"
Sam raised his eyebrows incredulously.
"That's it? You think this solves everything?"
Dean gave him an exasperated look.
"Of course this doesn't solve everything – I look like I gotta magic wand hidden up my ass?"
"Dude, that was so not a mental image I needed."
Dean smirked, pleased to see Sam's mood gradually returning to normal.
"Whatever. My point is of course this solves nothing. We're still gonna wake up tomorrow and this whole thing is still gonna be hanging over us. But that doesn't change the fact that you need to let this go, otherwise we're both gonna be in trouble. So can we please at least agree that we've had the 'dark side' conversation for the last time?"
Sam sighed. He still wasn't entirely convinced that Dean didn't view his motives and actions through rose coloured glasses at times, but maybe he was right on this one. Maybe the reality he'd seen was more down to the Trickster than what would really happen if the worst came to the worst.
It was something to consider if nothing else.
"Alright, fine. No more 'dark side' conversation. But I can't promise I'm not gonna still worry about this stuff, Dean. There's a line we're supposed to stay behind and I'm not sure I can, not when it involves you."
Dean's face softened.
"And I appreciate that. But you're proving my point right there, Sam. While you worry about the consequences of what you do, you are nothing like the monsters we hunt. So worrying means you got nothing to worry about."
"Ok, I know one day that's gonna make sense."
Dean stood up.
"Of course it will. Probably when it's not 4 in the morning. Seriously, you can't pick a normal time of day to have these 'moments' of yours? It's worse than when you were a baby."
Sam looked indignant.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"It means that if I'd known then that you'd still be waking me up in the middle of the night, 24 years later, I'd have left you on someone else's doorstep."
Sam rolled his eyes, then blinked as Dean switched on the light to check the door was locked. As he walked back to his bed, satisfied the room was secure, Dean glanced at Sam and raised an eyebrow.
"Dude, is that my shirt?"
Sam glanced down and blushed, having forgotten all about grabbing it in the bathroom at the start of all this.
"Uh, yeah. It was hanging up and I thought it was mine."
Dean shook his head.
"And here was me thinking you grew out of that when you were fourteen."
As Dean got back into bed, reaching out and flicking off the light, Sam took the shirt off and folded it neatly on the chair beside him.
Which was more than Dean normally did.
As he slid under the covers Sam thought about what had been said and found that he did feel different inside. He still believed that a lot of who he was came from having Dean around, but maybe the stuff that really mattered, the stuff that existed deep down inside, maybe that was something that couldn't be changed in the end.
It wasn't a definite answer, but for now it would have to be enough.
In the meantime he'd simply make the most of the little things. Like having clothes to steal and a brother who wouldn't give up until he found out what was bothering you.
Even if he did complain about your timing.
He smiled to himself.
There was a long suffering sigh.
There was a brief silence followed by a simple statement.
"That's what I'm here for."
Sam felt a pang and resolutely pushed it to one side.
Dean was right, that was what he was there for. And if Sam had his way, he'd be there for it for many years to come.
Whatever it took.