Oath between Brothers
Author: Cheryl W.
Disclaimer: I do not own Dean, Sam or any rights to Supernatural, nor am I making any profit from this story.
Summary: Kinda a combo of an angsty/sappy follow up to season 3 finale/season 4 projected. No spoilers for season 4 because this is all just in my head.
Everyone says the Grand Canyon takes your breath away, that its awe inspiring, can never truly be captured on film, that you have to stand along the rim to understand its full majesty. But Sam can't see that, his eyes are too full of tears, he can't feel anything but the void at his side where Dean should be standing, isn't awe struck as he crumbles to his knees, sobs ripping him apart. It's a bitter irony to feel Dean's absence in a place his brother never was.
The restaurant is a quaint town favorite promising big burgers with heaping onions and the best apple pie south of the Mason Dixon line. San can almost feel Dean's presence sitting across from him, doing his happy eyebrow dance at the pies in the glass covered tray on the countertop. Sam orders a burger with onions even though he's not hungry, forgets what it feels like to be hungry, to feel like living is anything but a punishment. He forces down the first bite, nearly chokes on a sob as he remembers Dean looking at a burger, saying "Oh baby, I could never stay mad at you." He barely manages to toss some money onto the table before he's stumbling out the back door, uncertain if he'll be ill. But he ends up sliding down the wall, sitting on the ground his knees drawn up, his head down and his soul shattering all over again.
He orders a purple nurple and he's not sure if it's a blessing or a curse that the bartender knows what's in it. His hand trembles as he reaches for the shot glass of purple liquid, bites his lip as he remembers fighting with Dean during that case. The Trickster comes to his mind, bringing both hatred and gratitude, because he might have killed Dean a hundred times but that was one hundred days Sam had with Dean that he wouldn't have had otherwise. Sam knows bitterly that even a day spent watching Dean die was something to be treasured. And the Trickster had done something Sam wished to God he could do: Bring Dean back. Had brought Dean back and allowed Sam to spend those too short, incalculably precious months with his brother before Dean's contract was due. Swallowing down the purple nurple, he orders another before the alcohol even hits his blood stream. He reaches for the second shot glass but a new song vibrates from the bar's speakers. Before the chorus kicks in, Sam's in the bathroom, throwing up. But God help him, there are speakers in the bathroom, making sure he doesn't miss Bon Jovi's chorus of "I'm wanted dead or alive."
He's stopped at the red light when he sees the two boys crossing in front of the Impala, the littlest boy's hand trustingly tucked into the older boy's hand. Brothers. Big brother protecting little brother: against tons of steel of the vehicles, against scraped knees, against the world. Tears well in Sam's eyes. It takes him a moment to realize the light's green and he sets the Impala in motion. Making the turn, he can't keep his eyes from flickering in the rearview mirror to the brothers starting to walk down the sidewalk. Sees them break into laughter after the elder brother says something. The scene of merriment, of brotherhood, it closes up Sam's throat, has the first tear slipping free of its moors to trail down his face as he pulls the Impala over, puts it into park.
The voice is raw, weak and one of the best sounds Sam has ever been blessed with hearing in his life. Shaking his head, he turns to the Impala's passenger side, to his brother, to Dean. No matter how pale Dean is, no matter how frail he is, the sight of him still has Sam fervently offering up silent prayers of gratitude even as he fights down the need to reach for Dean, to touch him, make sure this isn't some twisted dreamscape he's going to wake from. But Dean's skitterish now in a way he never was before, has scrambled away from being touched enough times that Sam makes his movements slow and blatantly telegraphed.
And Dean's only started talking in one or two word sentences this week. But even that meager reward was a blessing to Sam after the two weeks of silence that had come before, had greeted Sam when he had finally broken Dean from hell.
Sam knows that the old Dean would have prodded him again for an answer, couldn't let his brother's tears go unexplained, his hurts go untreated. But this changed Dean, this damaged Dean, he doesn't have the stamina for pressuring him. Meeting Dean's eyes, there is something there that Sam recognizes, that tells him that, though his brother may not be able to verbalize his concern, his heart still had the capacity for it. Always did when it came to his little brother.
"I'm sorry, Dean" Sam breathes out, his guilt, his misery evident in his eyes, in the tears that won't stop. "It shouldn't have taken me so long!" and his words of apology are mingled with his tears. "You should have never had to be there in the first place!"
"My choice," Dean's raw voice cracks with its conviction even as Dean lies back against the Impala's passenger seat, movement too taxing to waste needlessly. "Not your fault," he manages though it comes out breathless, pained.
Turning fully to face Dean, his knee sliding onto the seat, Sam slowly raises his hand, watches as Dean's eyes track it as he lowers it until it lightly comes to rest on his brother's chest, thankfully without causing a flinch from Dean. "Hey, just catch your breath. You've got years and years to ramble on to me about how you're the older brother, that you're always right, that you're smarter and better looking," Sam softly jokes, treasuring the rise and fall of his brother's chest under his hand. Feeling his brother's heart beating against his palm, he's proud of himself for not breaking down like he did the second Dean had opened his eyes, the second he saw that, in spite of the state of his body, his brother's soul resided within, battered, beaten but not defeated.
Dean chokes instead of releasing the laughter he intends and pain spikes through him, making his labored breathing falter. His hand feels weighted down as he moves it, wraps his fingers around Sam's wrist, holds on to the only thing, the only one that could make his torment, then and now, worth all the effort to endure.
Covering Dean's hand with his own, Sam slides closer to his brother. "I'm here and you're here. Neither one of us are going anywhere, Dean," Sam promises, his words soft but forged in steel, his eyes gleaming with tears and love.
Shutting his too heavy eyes, Dean hears his brother's worried intake of air at his action. Giving his brother's wrist a squeeze, he conveys to Sam that he's alright, that he has heard him, believes his vow.
His heart rate simmering down at Dean's physical reassurance, Sam looks fondly at Dean, knows now that his brother is still in there, the brother who is his protector, the brother who is part of him, body and soul. That who his brother is at his core hasn't been snuffed out by either of their choices. Sam's look shifts out the passenger window as the two brothers walk by. He's startled by two older boys that run past the Impala, knock a school book from the older brother's grasp, taunt "little brother's keeper" as they tear away.
Anger surges in Sam, his protective instincts for big brothers honed rapier sharp these days. But his breath catches as the little brother slips his hand free of his big brother's hold, bends down and retrieves the book. Instead of relinquishing it to his brother's outstretched hand, the littler boy totes the book in his own grasp as he slides back to his rightful place at his brother's side and slips his hand back into his brother's. Turning his face up to his brother's, he says something that has the older boy laughing and ruffling the younger boy's hair as they start again the long walk for home.
Watching the tender scene, Sam drew in a shaky breath, knew his place in the world better than he had moments before. Knew that little brothers were needed, were sometimes the only ones that could mend where their big brothers were broken. No, big brothers weren't the only ones who had the power to protect, to defend, to heal.
"Softie," Dean softly chides, his eyes having swung from the two boys to this brother's too expressive face.
"Yeah," Sam admits with a fragile laugh, eyes still shining as they met Dean's. "But I'm your kid brother so you'll forgive me."
"Probably," Dean returned, a smile finding its way through his exhaustion and pain.
A beat of silence falls between then, their eyes never leaving each other's gaze. And then Sam can no longer let the truth go unsaid, to let the pain go unacknowledged, to let the plea go unasked. "And for the record Dean, I'm not stronger than you, I missed you every minute of every day and if you ever die on me again…" but his voice shatters there and he bows his head, tries hard to not break into sobs as his hands tightens around his brother's wrist and into his shirt. "Just don't…" he begs, head coming up, tortured gaze piercing Dean. "Please don't."
"Alright, Sammy. Alright," Dean replies, knows it's a promise that he can't keep forever but figures sixty years is doable. Is enough for Sammy right now, to take that terrified, shamed, sad look out of his brother's eyes.
It's the first time Dean's called him Sammy since his return and Sam's never heard a sweeter word in all of his life. He laughs out loud in true joy, knows the fond memories he has toted around in his heart will have to make room for more, years and years of more laughter, more jokes, more bickering, more Dean. "That means you're stuck with me, got that? No more going to drastic measures to get away. And these chick flick moments," he says, freeing his right hand from its grip on Dean's shirt to swing between them, to encompass them, the present scene, "they might happen every day for the next sixty years."
"I can live with that," Dean breathes out, his body weak but conviction in his eyes as they stay steadily on Sam. His words are a shatterproof guarantee on his promise of a moment ago, he offers it willingly, knowingly. And as the darkness of loss, and pain, and fear lifts in Sam's eyes, he knows Sam understands his words for what they are: An oath between brothers.
Sam swallows before he talks but his voice is still thick, still conveys every emotion that is surging through him a million clicks a second: joy, relief, happiness, peace, love. "Yeah, well, you're going to have to. And so am I," returning Dean's oath, binding them together, making theirs a deal that has no expiration date.
Dean pushes past his growing exhaustion, needs Sam to know one more thing before this chick flick scene's end credit's role. "You were right." He watches confusion wrinkle Sam's face, can't help feeling affection surge in him as Sam tilts his dark hair in that boyish, confused way he does. "About hope…and about you saving me." He needs to draw in a breath, to marshal his fledgling strength but he gets the next words out, "Thanks Sammy."
Sam's smile is tender, gentle, full of admiration and love. "I just did what you taught me to, Dean." Deans nods in silent acceptance but there is the sheen of unreleased tears in his eyes and a look of tenderness that Sam has missed like breathing. Starting the car, Sam heads back to Bobby's. But he and Dean, they don't have to drive anywhere to get home, they are already there. And nothing in this world or the next is going to ever change that.
Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed it.
I admit, I'm a fanatic about not reading spoilers so season 4 is a total mystery to me and I really want to keep it that way. I love a good surprise!
Have a wonderful day!