Title: and the words still ring (once here, now gone)
Rating: PG
Word Count: 1,987
Characters/Pairings: Sam, Dean. Gen.
Genre: Angst.
Disclaimer: I don't own Supernatural or its characters. If I did, do you really think I'd be using the boys to write fic with?
Warning: This is unbeta-ed. But it should be a-okay to read considering English is my first language and all... Nevertheless, even though I reread it, if someone notices a mistake (typo or other), let me know and I'll fix it.
Summary:Keep fightin', you think again, and you fight every urge in your body not to shout out, What the hell for!?– Dean's talking, but Sam's already lost in memories. Spoilers for 3x16.
A/N:Yes, another SPN season finale fic. In all fairness to me, though, I've read like zero fics about that so everything I wrote is completely original to me. And it felt very natural to write so I'm proud of myself for actually going through with it. Yay me!

Well, what am I supposed to do?, you say, and the words get stuck in your throat. They squeeze through to get out and the minute they do, you almost wish you really had choked on them. You know the question won't get you the response you are after. The one that would purge all your worst feelings (the anxiety that keeps you awake all those nights, straining your ears to make sure your brother is still breathing; the fear that makes your hands tremble any time you even glance at a calendar; the devastation that creeps into your heart, giving you chest pain that no amount of medication could relieve, whenever you allow yourself to think that the driver next to you will be gone, and you haven't done a damn thing to stop it).

You can tell by the expression in Ruby's eyes (you tell yourself you're mistaking what looks like genuine sympathy for something else…) that the answer you're really after – it's okay, it's all gonna be okay. I'm fine, you're fine, the Winchesters have beaten the odds – is long past being a feasible expectation.

Deep inside, you feel that your question echoes one that Dean had exclaimed once himself many months before. You know it only causes strife, so you wish it really had stayed buried, safe in the fortified chambers of your mind, where it'd cause you sleepless nights and trembling hands and chest pains, but at least not the tears that are already threatening to spill.

But the question's surfaced. You catch Dean's bottom lip briefly shake and you tell yourself that it has to do with the deep, crimson cut that it's sporting rather than the words you uttered only seconds ago.

He says, Keep fightin', and you think the ground is being pulled out from below you. You never had before dreamed that two words would be able to cut you down like that. Keep fightin'? You reiterate the statement in your head, hoping to make sense of something that seems foreign and strange. Keep fightin'? You bite down hard on your lip (hope to make it bleed like Dean's; attribute your own shaking to a torn lip as well) and you try not to scream out like an eight year old kid who didn't get his way (Dean may have always let you have the last bowl of cereal, but the last cookie in the box was his, every time). Keep fightin', you think again, and you fight every urge in your body not to shout out, What the hell for!?

Mentally, you try to ask Dean to stop (no, you don't ask, you beg him; you beg him like you used to do for that lonesome chocolate chip cookie), but you figure you're not loud enough because he keeps talking. (You briefly think you might like to shriek it out like you had when you were kids – a six year old running after your ten year old brother, chasing down your favorite – only – stuffed animal.)

Take care of my wheels. That was always his favorite toy. Sleek, black exterior with a well-kept interior to match. (Classic beauty, he'd say, and y'know, Sammy, it ain't half bad for picking up chicks, and a sly grin would light up on his face while you'd chuckle and shake your head.) But you shouldn't be so flippant about it. You both know those wheels signify a lot more than a means to an end.

You remember long hours on the road (fields that look exactly the same as countless others, but each having a unique characteristic; quaint, little, towns that make you envy its occupants with an immeasurable passion until you look back over your shoulder and see your brother throwing you your favorite candy bar or your dad giving you rights to the radio for the trip). You remember that car as one of the only places you ever felt truly safe (sleeping in early autumn, windows rolled slightly down so that the cool breeze of the night tickles your feet; head on Daddy's lap, his right arm curled around you and Mr. Duckie and his left hand clutching a switchblade, thumb resting securely on the trigger, and Dean quietly snoring in the backseat, never letting a heavy sleep get to him). You think of home and it's synonymous with the Impala (sapphire nightmares of a burning angel, but strong hands wrap a blanket around you before you subconsciously hear the hum of the engine starting and feel the past slowly being put behind you as the miles add up).

You think about how little you know about cars and consider using that as bait – don't leave, the 'mpala will go to ruins if you do. But unlike the initial question that had escaped from your mouth, struggling through narrow spaces of your throat and fighting against the pleas of your reason, saying anything else seems to be proving futile.

Sam, remember what Dad taught you. (You wish he'd called you 'Sammy.' Let me be a chubby twelve year old again, please, you silently cry out; take me out of this moment.) You had wanted to laugh then, but you were surprised to find yourself giving a short nod and closing your eyes to clear away the tears. You find it funny, almost. Was this how it was going to happen? Ashes, ashes, we all fall down. One Winchester after the other. It's been almost two years since your dad died, one year since you've fulfilled his quest and killed Yellow Eyes. It should've been done. You should've started living the life you never got to explore – the both of you. How could you possibly think? – no, it would've been too easy (Fairytales 101 – the real stories never have happy endings, and this ain't no Disney movie).

But Dad was never one to follow somebody else's rules. At least, he found peace after a while. It was something. (You're not sure what Dean's chances of getting that are.) That's what your father taught you. He taught you about stubbornness. It's something only you two share. He taught you about honor, about saving people from the horrors in the dark so there's one less family that cries over the loss of a wife and mother. He taught you that family comes first, not in words, but by example (You should've killed that demon when you had the chance, he had screamed. Still, you remember him popping into Dean's hospital room, with an arm in a cast, but a mind at ease, and a bittersweet smile playing on his lips. You heard the love in his voice that you had confused with a request for coffee at the time).

That's what you'll remember about your father, you resolve. A sliver of hope starts to give way as you watch Dean give you a quick, reassuring smile. You tell yourself you should reciprocate, let him know you're not going to let him down – not again.

Your mouth starts to form the shadow of a smile, but Dean interrupts with a broken and quivering, Okay? and you catch sight of the clock nearing midnight in your peripheral vision. Suddenly, the tick-tock becomes louder and louder until it's the only thing you can hear. You feel heat surge through you and fleetingly ponder how hot Hell really is (and you worry because you know Dean prefers cold weather).

Okay?, he had murmured, and you just had wanted to yell, No, I'm not okay, you sonuva… damn it, how could I ever be okay with this?

But he stares at you like you're a porcelain doll and you want to be strong for him.

Remember what I taught you.

Then again, maybe you being a porcelain doll isn't so far off from the truth.

You're certainly as easily broken as one.

You try to take a deep breath because you swear you're suffocating. For such a large living room, you wonder where all the air has gone.

Remember what I taught you, Dean had commanded. How the hell could I ever forget?

Dean taught you how to tie your shoes (sneakers with Batman on the sides; you thought he was the best superhero because he didn't have any superpowers, but he still beat the bad guy), and how to ride a bike (Push one foot forward, then the other. Take it easy, Sammy; don't try to rush). He taught you that you're too cool to hang out with the mean kids (girls giggle as you walk by in the cafeteria because you've worn the same clothes for three days straight; Dean takes you by the shoulder, lets you have the ice cream he got with his lunch, and tells you that girls like that are stupid). He taught you his version of Sex Ed (your cheeks are as red as ripe tomatoes and you pray that a demon'll walk through the door and interrupt this talk, but the only thing that temporarily stops Dean is: Hey, you better be listening to me, Sammy!).

He taught you what it felt like to be unconditionally loved (Dean, what do mommies do?, you ask at five. I dunno, Sammy, that's a silly question. I guess, they love and take care of their kids. Oh, and they bake cookies, too, he replies. One year later, at six, when Dean bakes you a batch of cookies (burnt and hard because he hadn't followed the instructions) to take to a bake sale at school, you know that even if he doesn't look like a mom, he still is one to you. Five years after that, at age eleven, when he cheers you on at your soccer game, you realize he's a little bit of a dad, too).

The obnoxiously sharp tick-tock of the grandfather clock drags you back into the present. Tears are falling freely on your face at this point, but you're much too tired to wipe them away. In the time it takes for your heart to beat, the clock strikes twelve. You gasp and find yourself squeezing your eyes shut for a second, before turning over to your brother.

He's smiling. He's actually smiling and for a passing moment, you want to beat him into oblivion. What's he smiling for? You don't want him to be brave for you anymore; you don't want him to consider you (that's how he got into trouble in the first place). But a glance at his face (you furiously blink your eyes to get the tears out of the way) tells you different. Behind the smile that's stretched from cheek to cheek, Dean's eyes are wet. They glisten like diamonds and you quickly wonder if yours look the same (they feel like they would be).

You figure it out.

Dean's not trying to noble about this. It's just that he's remembering, too. He's doing a little reminiscing of his own.

Okay, Dean, you make an unvoiced promise. I'll remember. I remember everything you told me to – the Impala, Dad, you. But you have to remember, too. Remember what you're leaving behind. Remember that I won't accept being left behind.

Don't forget what you taught me. Don't forget the man you are.

Dean shifts his attention to greet a hellhound and you swallow the sob in your throat to ask where the beast is.

Keep fightin', you say to yourself, one last time.

You push Dean into another room, firmly shutting the doors behind you and laying down salt lines.

You watch a wave of panic cross Dean's features. You think about Batman sneakers and ice cream at lunch. Your eyes never leave Dean's face (the same green eyes that shone with pride when you brought home a good report card; the same freckled nose that smelt milk to see if it had spoiled before serving it to you).

Keep fightin'?

You got it.

-Title shamelessly stolen from Azure Ray's November.

-Feedback would be appreciated, whether it's complimentary or constructively critical.

-Enjoy, everyone!