Disclaimer: Don't own, don't sue. Deal?
A/N: Long rambly note at the end. Sam's PoV, S1-S4 premiere (so, there be spoilers of a vague and possibly speculation-based nature), GIANT BALLS OF ANGST and run on sentences.
Sam's watched Dean die a thousand times and Dean never remembers.
In St. Louis, Sam watches his brother throw another punch. Sam feels the heat and the pain bloom across his face when it lands. He has to remind himself it's not really his brother, it's not his brother, it's not my brother.
Sam watches the thing that isn't his brother catch three bullets to the chest and knows that it's over, it's finished and now everything will be all right. Except that the police think Dean is dead and at night Sam dreams of his brother, being put inside a black body bag for the medics to carry away. He wakes up restlessly, fidgeting out of the dream and opens his eyes to the sight of Dean's driving. Dean spares him a glance that asks if he's all right but Sam doesn't say anything and they don't talk. Sam breathes deep and tells himself that that's his brother, that's my brother.
In Wisconsin, Sam's not there, and when he comes down the basement stairs, all he sees is Dean lying in the corner, not moving. He drags his brother's limp body out of the puddle, lays him flat on his back on dry land—too close to the rawhead, but there's no where else to go—and everything smells burnt and Sam can't find his brother's pulse with his fingers.
"911, please state your emergency."
"My brother's not breathing. I can't find a pulse."
"Sir, can you give me your location?"
He drops his phone as soon as he's told help's on the way, and he looks at Dean, feels helpless and stupid.
He panics. There's blind moment of god, no, Dean, c'mon, when he's just a guy who's brother isn't breathing and he's looking down the long road of being alone over again.
It doesn't last long. He has seventeen years of living with John Winchester under his skin to beat out the fear (that works in spite of it) in that basement in Wisconsin when his brother's heart stops beating.
Sam doesn't think. Doesn't think about the smell or the sight or the silence. He just works on getting his brother breathing.
He tilts Dean's head back and covers Dean's mouth with his own, pushes air into his brother's lungs until Sam sees Dean's chest rise.
One. Two. Sam counts seconds and then begins compressions, just like Dad taught them, counts to thirty. But Dean doesn't start breathing on his own—Sam can't find his heartbeat under his skin—and maybe, maybe it's too late. Sam wants to think everybody leaves, but he can't, can't, because Dean needs Sam to keep breathing for him, needs him to keep his head.
The paramedics come and Sam watches when they cut Dean's shirt open and resuscitate him on the spot, needles and jargon and more electricity, like that isn't what got Dean here in the first place. Sam watches them put a mask over Dean's mouth and nose to help him breath, watches the medic pump it quick and efficient. Sam watches Dean's chest rise and fall on his own and he wants to reach out and touch Dean's wrist, feel for the pulse he couldn't find.
In Michigan, Sam watches Dean's brain go splat on a wall, watches Dean drop like a boneless sack to the floor, watches the blood tickle out of the bullet hole in his forehead. Sam feels it like hot iron being speared through his frontal lobe, and when it's done, when its happened, Sam's gasping for air and choking on tears and it all builds. Like pressure in between his eyes and at the base of his skull. He squeezes his eyes against the pressure but all he can see is Dean dead on the back of his eyelids and the pressure grows and grows and grows until Sam can't take it, and it hurts so badly but he has to stop Max, has to save Dean, saveDeansaveDean—he hears the shriek of heavy furniture being dragged across wood floors.
The pressure dissipates almost completely and Sam stares at the unblocked doors for a second before charging.
Sam saves Dean at the cost of Max Miller's life (Dean tries to tell him that he's nothing like Max but Sam's shakes his head, because they both made a choice. Max picked himself over his family. Sam picked Dean over Max).
In a cabin in Missouri, Sam watches his brother's blood trickle like rainwater down the front of his shirt (he watches his brother cough and choke on pain. Sam catches the wet shine of Dean's bloodied teeth as he begs their father to stop). Sam hears the crack of each rib as it gives way. Watches, horrified and helpless, as the trickle turns into a dark downpour. Stop, stop, stop, and Sam struggles against the air and tries to concentrate, tries to help his brother (save his family), but nothing happens and Dean just keeps begging their father to fight.
In a cabin in Missouri, Sam shoots their father in the leg because Dean—Dean who can barely speak, who is cradling his chest like he can hold his insides together if he just get a good enough hold on the outside— says, "No, Sammy, don't." And Dean wouldn't tell Sam to disregard a direct order if it weren't important.
In a cabin in Missouri Dean passes out. Blood soaked clothes and bloodied face and red stained teeth and so much blood Sam doesn't understand how there can be anymore left inside him, but there has to be because it just won't stop coming.
Sam carries his brother to the car. Dean doesn't wake up when Sam moves him but he makes a noise like a wounded animal, Dad limps out behind him, and he puts Dean in the back and just asks God for a little more time. Dean's gonna bitch about blood on the upholstery when he wakes up, and Sam's looking forward to it.
On an interstate in Missouri the car gets wreaked and no one is moving, no one but Sam, and Dean doesn't answer, doesn't move, doesn't do anything when Sam yells for him. I'm all that's left, Sam thinks before the last of the adrenaline fades and the pain flares up, and he lets the darkness take him. I'm all that's left, he thinks, and Sam doesn't even know if it's true. He doesn't want to find out if it is.
In Texas Sam watches his brother cut off a man's head with a power saw and then looks him in the eye. The man who looks back at him is burned out; empty and dark, whatever's left in the wake of fire (they burned Dad in the middle of nowhere and Dean won't talk to him, won't listen, won't talk, and Sam could drown in it if it weren't for the fact that most days, Sam's sure he's the only thing keeping his brother's head over water).
That's my brother, Sam thinks, that's Dean, but he's not sure who he's trying to remind.
In Cold Oak, Tennessee, Sam tries to keep his head while he tells the others what to do. He tries not to think of Ava's fiancé, tries not to remember how the Demon left his splayed and carved out when he took her. Sam tries not to picture his brother with his throat slit, blood dripping over the steering wheel, tries to tell himself that Dean's out there, that Dean's fine, that he's coming here and that they'll figure this out together.
Sam needs to believe that his brother is looking for him. He needs to believe there's someone he needs to get back to.
In Broward County, Florida Dean dies for a hundred and twenty-seven Tuesdays and every morning Sam wakes up and Dean's perfectly okay. Already by the third Tuesday Sam can feel himself cracking, feels like the edges of his sanity are curling up after watching Dean disappear under a desk and waking up to his brother singing along to Asia.
He tries everything he can think of to break the loop, finds himself having twenty five versions of the same conversation with Dean, but Dean never remembers no matter how hard Sam tries.
He tries calling Bobby a few times but it gets frustrating, Bobby's disbelief, as though this could ever be a joke with Dean's deal so close. He tries driving them out of town but they never make off Main Street much less out of the county before Dean dies—the car crashes three times, once while Dean's driving and Sam stays awake long enough to hear the wet gurgle of his brother's breathing stop before he wakes up in bed.
Dean keeps dying and Sam keeps trying (except for the twenty-third morning when he just stays in bed and refuses to move, like that might be a key. Sam's exhaustion gets the better of him—it's been twenty-three days since Sam last slept and Dean won't stop dying—and he falls asleep on his own and when he wakes up Asia's blaring and he figures out that Dean's going to die regardless).
Dean dies and dies and dies and Sam doesn't know what to do. Tries everything in their arsenal and even those things betray him and he wakes up with regret and bitterness still at the back of his throat and Dean at his side singing and ignorant. The ninety-four Tuesday dawns and Sam can't take it, just can't take it anymore. He hugs Dean tight and apologizes, says sorry so many times it stops sounding like a word and then he shoots his brother in the heart because its something he hasn't tried.
Dean looks at him, more confused than betrayed, and his teeth are bright red with blood when he tries to talk, but his knees give out and he's falling. His blood's warm against Sam's hands and forms ink blots on the carpet. Sam catches his brother and cries and apologizes, "I just don't know what to do, I don't know what to do." Dean just keeps looking at him, afraid and confused still, still, like he's not even sure what happened, as if bullet in his chest isn't all the explanation he needs.
Sam holds his brother and apologizes. When he wakes up to John Payne, it's almost a relief.
In Broward County, Florida, Sam isn't watching and Dean dies and Sam doesn't wake up. Sam keeps waiting for it, that moment when he wakes up but it never comes, and he's alone in a room with one bed and no brother and all he can think of is finding the thing that started all this and making him set things right. Because Sam watched his brother die a hundred and twenty seven days in a row but that was a band-aid being pulled off compared to this, this gaping wound in Sam's side.
Dean was always quick to say that Sam was a determined bastard and he was the telling the truth most of the time because he finally finds it. The Trickster taunts and jokes, tells Sam this stopped being fun a while ago, and Sam, Sam who had six months to think of all the things he would say to finally put things right, can only say 'please'. The Trickster takes pity on him, sets things right—Sam could only stand there and say please, and Dean is saved by boredom rather than Sam but doesn't care because Dean's right there again. Dean's right there and Sam wants to cling a little harder and never let him go and Dean looks at him confused like he doesn't understand where Sam is coming from.
Sam doesn't know how to make him understand. He tried a hundred and twenty-seven Tuesdays—had six months to think of how he would tell Dean—but not he doesn't know how to tell Dean he died a hundred and twenty-seven times, then once, and now not a all.
In Indiana, Sam watches his brother get dragged off the table and then mauled by nothing Sam can see. Sam watches Dean get torn to pieces, watches his skin get shred and hears bone snap as his brother screams. Sam can't help it, begs for it to stop, stop, stop, don't please, stop. (It's all too much, too loud, and there's no room inside Sam for him to stop begging Lilth and start begging God, but it's all the same because no one listens).
There's no getting away from this, no stopping it until Dean's still, just warm blood spilling out onto the carpet. Then Lilth holds her hand up and Sam's glad for it, stops resisting whatever it is holding him up because Dean's dead and Sam, Sam is tired of being the one left behind.
The light burns Sam's skin, makes him shut his eyes tight against it, and he thinks the relief is enough to guarantee him a place where Dean is going—where Dean is, now—and when it's over Sam's confused because he didn't expect to feel so—
Dean is dead but Sam's still here, standing in a room with the demon that killed him and Sam feels it, the pressure gathering between his eyes and at the back of his skull.
Lilth's head snaps back and Sam doesn't know how to stop it from happening, just watches her disappear, watches Ruby crumble like a rag doll (except for how she's not Ruby anymore, just some poor girl whose body is beaten and broken and no one will ever understand why).
Dean is dead and Sam's still here, still breathing, but there's no fixing this, no breathing for him, because Dean's body is broken and Dean's soul is gone, and Sam's still standing, like he was after Jess, after Dad.
Dean's gone now too and Sam's can't expect to wake up from the nightmare of his brother's blood and torn flesh and still heart. "I'll save you." Sam promises, still holding on to his brother's body, just like he promised in the car when Dean told him he didn't want to die, "I'm gonna save you Dean." And how can any of it sound like the truth anymore when Dean's dead in his arms? But Sam means it. "I'm gonna save you."
In Wisconsin, two months later, Sam realizes that he can't, can't save his brother short of walking into Hell and giving orders, but the doors won't open without a key, and Dean would hate him for it (and god, Sam hates Dean sometimes, because Dean never thought, never figured out that Sam would be as alone as he was in those hours Sam was dead). He drinks for a day, thinks about calling Bobby in the haze of alcohol but never does. Sam wishes he'd listened to Ruby when there was still hope, wishes there were someone around to distract him from the twisting in his gut and the fist in his chest. Sam's drowning and there's no one to keep his head above water. He's drowning in guilt and regret and rage, all the things that pushed him ahead when Jess died above him.
Sam drinks himself and finds a crossroad, but no demon shows and he knows what he has to do. Morning dawns, terrible and bright, and Sam kneels amid chalk sigil and summons Ruby. Ruby clucks her tongue at him—he recognizes her despite the new body, sees her in the cant of her hips and the snarl at the corner of her mouth—when he asks her to teach him.
"Done dicking around then Sammy?" (The name cuts now, and Sam glares hard enough that Ruby takes a step back, cautious, but she must get her answer because she doesn't ask again).
Dean's been dead two months and it doesn't matter that he asked Sam not to.
In Pontiac, Illinois, Sam watches his brother sleep for a minute before he can make himself stand up.
Dean's alive and Sam's not sure how to feel. Dean's alive but Sam didn't save him, Sam couldn't save him and the guilt and the regret turns to resentment against whatever it is that did. And Sam knows he should be grateful, knows he should breathe easier with his brother there, but instead it feels like weight around his neck, knowing that Ruby won't be able to stay, won't be able to teach him anymore. The pressure is a constant in his head now, it hums at the back of his head and Sam knows Dean won't understand. Because Dean was dead for four months but Dean doesn't remember any of it. Dean doesn't know time like Sam does, no before Hell, after Hell (before Dean died, after Dean died, and it's only now that Sam has to add, when Dean came back, two months after Sam gave up trying).
His brother is right there, and Sam can reach out and wrap his fingers around his wrist, feel the steady rhythm of his pulse against the pads of his fingers. Dean's alive (but Sam gave up, Sam stopped trying, and something else saved him, and Sam wishes he could just be grateful).
In a different motel room six hours later, Sam can't stop it. It's like the pressure in his head, except that its all behind his eyes, and Dean's looking at him like he's waiting for an answer and Sam doesn't know what to say. Because he came back to shattered glass and an empty room and he thought his brother was gone again, felt the fear and the panic be swept away by numbness before his phone vibrated in his pocket and it was Dean—who was alive, back in Sam's life like he'd never left—asking him where he was.
"Where are you man?"
And Sam answered because he was asked a question, the facts, listened to Dean when he said he's explain everything when he got back, then went and got them a new room because the old one was ruined.
Two queens he said to the clerk and it's the request that does him in probably, because it feels like something cracks in Sam's chest and when Dean gets back, Sam's sitting outside the new room, with his back against the door and Sam's can't stop it. "I didn't save you. I tried Dean. I did everything. I—I couldn't save you and you, you, I—I shouldn't have stopped. It's not fair. Dad sells his soul and you sell your soul but no one wants mine. I, there wasn't anything I could do—" and Sam should be shutting up now, soon, before he lets too much go, before he slips and says something stupid, but he can't stop his mouth from moving. He was silent for four months and now it's all spilling out.
And its every explanation Sam never had to give and every single one Dean never wanted to hear trying to get out at once because Dean doesn't remember what Hell was like, but Sam does and he can't stop himself.
"It's okay, Sammy," Dean tries to shush him, runs a hand through his hair like when they were kids and Sam wanted something he couldn't have, and Sam's eyes burn at the memory. "It's alright, now. I'm alright."
Dean's always alright, but Sam isn't sure he knows how to put himself together anymore, isn't sure he'd recognize himself if he did. "C'mon Sammy, let's go inside." And so much of him wants to let Dean lead him, wants to be guided inside and put to bed like after Jess or Max or Madison, but he can't. The realization puts the stopper in everything, makes Sam bottle it back up, makes him wish he'd never said anything. He shrugs off Dean's hands and can't look at Dean's face when he opens the door. He shrugs off his jacket, kicks off his shoes, and gets into the bed closest to the door.
He hears Dean hesitate, listens to his brother's slow calculated movements, and the bed dips besides him.
"Got you a bed too." He says wearily, too tired for Dean's concern.
"I know." Dean says but he doesn't move, just lies back until their shoulders are barely touching. "I'm sorry, Sam." Dean says, and Sam squeezes his eyes shut against the pressure that won't stop building. "I," Dean clears his throat; "I never wanted that for you Sammy."
Sam nods, throat too tight to get words out, keeps his eyes closed. There are four months of words to tell Dean, but none of them Sam wants to say so he just bites his lip and nods again.
"You made it though, Sammy," Dean wraps a bloodied hand around Sam's wrist, Sam feels the pads of his fingers against the thrumming pulse point, and Sam feels the words fight like bile in his stomach. "You started hunting again." Dean says the words like they're everything, and Sam's head aches, the pressure gathering like a lightening storm on the horizon. "You were gonna be alright." (And Sam's stomach twists because those words are everything to his brother, Dean's blind hope even now).
"No," Sam says, pulling his arm away, tucking it up under the pillow, eyes watching Dean's face, watching his brother's surprise and his hurt. But Sam can't right now, feels Dean's return like the reopening of a wound Sam never properly treated to begin with. "Not really."
Because it's Dean who is always alright (Dean who can rise from the dead without the hesitation, Dean who comes back without the after thought that something might be differentwrongevil) but Sam's not sure he knows how to put them back together, as partners, as brothers, as people.
Because Dean walked out of Hell just fine and Sam, who's never been, has been losing pieces for so long, who's to say he has them all anymore. But Dean's alright now, Dean's alivealivealive again (third time's the charm, and Dean's on what? Sam's lost count).
Sam's watched his brother die a thousand times and Dean never remembers but Sam doesn't know how to forget.
Son of a bitch, this story was just, a one sit write, except that the end wasn't really working, so it's really the only part that's undergone any revision context wise. Basically, after last weeks episode, Are You There God, It's Me, Dean Winchester?, I was left feeling like Show is constantly dropping the shoe as far as Sam's reaction to things. And I'm a diehard Deangirl, but as a fan of Show in general, I think Sam's been a little neglected so the point that when that boy finally does blow, it better be HUGE. So yeah. Giant ball of angst ensued—blame midterms for the rambly style, its what came out—and well, it's my first fic for the new season, so, really would love some feedback. ( I'm unspoiled for future episodes, and would like to stay that way.)