A/N: After many comments on my LiveJournal asking about what happened to Sam, I realized that the story did need to be told. If you loved "Forget and Forgive" just the way it is, and have no want or need to see what really happened to Sam, don't read this fic. Because the angst? It will be a'plenty. But so will the brother-ness that has been sorely missed.
It was two weeks later that Sam remembered something. Funnily enough, it was while he was standing in the candy section of the gas station they'd stopped at. The candy bar in front of him tugged at his mind, and when he frowned, a memory came same candy bar in Dean's hand
as Sam gazed at the newspaper. The words were blurred, but the picture showed officials in front of trees. "This could be something," Sam said.
Dean's words were muttered, and the gaze moved from the paper to Dean, who was crumpling up the candy bar wrapper. A twist in his gut, and Sam put the paper down. "Dean-"
"We'll do the hunt," Dean said. The wrapper was tossed into a trash bin, and Dean headed for the door of the blurred place around them. Sam quickly folded the paper and moved fast to follow Dean to the car. Dean hadn't left him behind yet, but his hands were clenched and after everything
Fingers filtered into his vision, and Sam started, turning to Dean, who was watching him in concern. "You okay?" he asked, before his frown deepened. "You sore? We can stretch for a little bit more before-"
"I'm okay, Dean," Sam assured him. Dean relaxed, but only a little. Sam raised his eyebrow and continued, "Really. We haven't been in the car that long; I can handle more."
"You'd tell me if you couldn't, right?" Dean insisted, and Sam nodded.
"I'd tell you. Trust me, I'd tell you."
Dean finally relaxed all the way and gave his nod. "Yeah, all right. You want anything?" He snagged the candy bar that Sam had focused on and used it to give a friendly wave at Sam. Sam chuckled and shook his head, and with a shrug Dean headed for the register. Sam didn't have to look to know that his brother was still watching him. It made him smile.
Even as he frowned. Because what had that been? A memory? It had felt real; from reading the paper to his gut twisting at Dean's distant behavior. And he'd seen that paper before, but-
The hunt. Sam stiffened and glanced over at Dean. Dean was giving a flirtatious smile to the cashier, who blushed but grinned as she tallied up the purchase. He'd been smiles and the big brother Sam had known for years ever since Sam had woken up two weeks ago to a messed up hotel room and both Bobby and Dean hovering anxiously.
He hadn't remembered anything about the hunt then, except for a snippet of a newspaper. Dean had been relieved, and considering the aftermath of the hunt, Sam had understood. Thirty-two stitches. Severe blood loss. Concussion. Out for five days. Fever, infection, sprained ankle, pulled muscles, if just to think of some. It'd been bad, worse than usual. And the memories that had seemingly been bleached and wiped from his mind hadn't helped either, though they'd certainly made Dean relax.
But the memory of a whispered conversation to Bobby still lingered in the back of his mind. Dean's words ran through his head, his brother sounding wrecked and tired and scared.
It's bad enough I remember what happened. If Sam doesn't remember, then good.. If he finds out what happened, or if he remembers, I'm gonna see that look on his face again, and I...I can't. I can't, Bobby...
Maybe something else had happened. Maybe Dean wasn't telling him what had happened, still, for another reason.
Sam turned to see Dean with the bag, his brother's eyebrows raised. The concern in his eyes, though, made Sam move. Slowly, because his side still hurt, but he was moving. "Yeah, I'm coming," he said, and when he reached Dean and his brother's eyes still hadn't cleared, Sam gently nudged him with his elbow. "You movin' or what?"
"Bitch," Dean tossed his way. He grinned as he said it, and Sam knew the endearment for what it was.
"Jerk," he threw back, and they headed out for the car together. Together, like they hadn't been in so long. Things were good between them, better, even with the angels and Ruby still floating around. Sam didn't need to remember what had happened. If he'd gotten his big brother back because of it, albeit through the very hard way of getting his brother back, then Sam didn't care.
Two weeks, two days after Sam had woken up, and they still weren't looking for hunts. Dean hadn't asked him to look, and refused to look for himself.
So Sam decided it was high time they did.
The only time he could snag the laptop (Dean had confiscated it as soon as Sam was up and looking at it, talking about hunts) was while Dean took a shower (which tended to be short these days). By the time Dean had come out, pajama pants already on as he quickly dried his hair with the towel, Sam had a hunt. Dean stopped short when he caught sight of Sam with the laptop open beside him, both facing Dean, and Sam could've sworn Dean paled a little. "I've got details about a haunted house only about sixty miles from here," Sam said, keeping his voice soft. "Sounds like an easy spirit case."
"No," Dean said immediately, just as Sam had predicted. "Absolutely not."
Sam sighed, and felt pleased for a brief moment when it didn't pull on his wound. "Dean, it's been two weeks. I'm-"
"Still limping and moving slow," Dean interrupted, tossing the towel back into the bathroom. Messy again, instead of insisting everything be put in place so Sam couldn't possibly trip over anything. Sam was actually glad it was messy; he'd missed it.
Of course, he'd missed his take-charge, big brother more, so really, either way was okay with him. Messy or OCD clean that rivaled Sam's...it was all good.
"You've done hunts where you've been worse off than I am right now," Sam countered, raising an eyebrow. "And don't tell me-"
"That's different," they finished together. Sam crossed his arms, but too quickly, and the movement of his arm pulled his wound and made him flinch. "And that is why we're not hunting," Dean said, lips pressed together. It wasn't the blind anger Sam had been seeing all year, though: it was obvious worry for Sam.
"No, Sam, end of story. We're not
taking this hunt," Dean insisted, shoving the laptop across the table. The room was blurred, but the door looked familiar, like many of the thousand doors Sam had passed through in his lifetime. Sam barely caught the laptop, and managed to close it before standing, his fists clenched.
"You know what, Dean? I've had it up to here with you. First you're all about hunting every day, run run run and no rest, not even for a hotel room, and now? Now you're not willing to take an easy case about-?"
The words were felt in his mouth, but not heard. Dean heard them, though, and shoved away from the table, almost knocking the chair over. "No, Sam, I really don't. But you go on ahead, since I'm 'holding you back'," and the sneer in his voice made something inside of Sam's chest break. Damn Dean and his insistence on keeping Sam's words, supernaturally fueled, alive and well.
Of course, Sam was doing the same with Dean's words, and right now, he didn't know whose words were truthful, and whose words rang false.
"You know, maybe I should," Sam snarled, pushing the hurt down as deep as it would go, where the grief and worry and fear were residing. "Since, you know, I'm a little brother who needs backup. Oh wait, that's right, I'm NOT a little brother anymore, am I?"
Dean's face was wide open for a moment, hurt and something else Sam couldn't place, and then it was closed off. Like Dean always was these days. "Fine," Dean said, low and monotone. "We'll take the hunt. Wouldn't want to be the weak one between us."
He turned away and grabbed his jacket before Sam could take back anything, before Sam could try and formulate how he could take any of it back. "I'm going to the bar down the road. Try not to worry yourself or anything on my account
Sam blinked twice, then moved his gaze down to where Dean was crouched in front of him, eyebrows knit in worry. "I'm fine," Sam said automatically, though he had no idea what Dean had asked of him. He was fairly certain it was about his health; that seemed to be Dean's main question these days.
Dean shook his head. "No, Sammy, you're not," he said, but it was soft, not argumentative. "You did this a couple days ago, at the gas station; what's going on?"
And suddenly, Sam was caught right back to where he'd started months and months ago, with Dean asking a simple question with an easy answer, and Sam lying because he thought he could keep Dean safe. He parted his lips to answer, and a more clear memory came to mind. Of Dean's voice, broken in all the ways Sam had hoped it never would.
He doesn't need to remember...god, Bobby, his face...
A hand brushed against his forehead, and Sam instinctively shied away. "You don't feel warm," Dean said, biting his lower lip. "Talk to me, Sammy."
"Dizzy," Sam said simply, because that was the truth; he was feeling a little dizzy at the moment. Without a moment's hesitation Dean had his elbow and was bringing him to standing, patient and slow until Sam was upright and against him.
"Bed," was Dean's simple reply.
"It's three in the afternoon," Sam complained, even as he walked with Dean towards the bed.
"Tough, I don't care." Dean sat him down, and within a few seconds Sam was laying down, covered to his chin. Dean's hand paused, his fingers loose over the blanket, his eyes dark with worry. "I'm not risking you on a hunt when you're spacing out because you're too tired to rest and you're pushing it," he finally said. "I won't. I can't, Sammy. Not after what-" and he broke off, his voice scratched and his throat swallowing convulsively.
Sam winced at the stark emotion on Dean's face. It was better that he'd held Dean's question off until later. Dean looked as wrecked and scared now as he had when Sam had finally woken up, asking what had happened. He slid his hand out from under the covers and placed his hand over Dean's. "Then I'll sit it out," he said softly. "Or...I don't know, come sit in the car or carry salt for you or something. But Dean, we can't sit and do nothing. If someone got hurt in that house or somewhere else because I'm dragging you out of the hunt? I don't think..." It was his turn to swallow hard, even as Dean's tight, worried face relaxed, his eyes widening as he saw where Sam was going with it. "I don't think I could live with myself," he finished quietly, his voice barely a whisper.
"Sammy..." Dean gazed at him long and hard, and Sam gazed back, biting his lip and hoping. Finally Dean nodded, though he didn't look happy about it. "Yeah, okay. We'll do the hunt. IF," he added quickly, his free hand coming up to point at Sam. "If the hunt is as easy as you say it is. I'll do some research while you rest, see if it comes up pretty decent. If not, we don't do it. And put those eyes away; your doe-eyes should be made illegal," he muttered. Sam rolled his eyes but grinned, and Dean grinned back.
"If it doesn't pan out, then...?"
"I'll find something easier, like a unicorn or something." Sam snorted at that and pinched Dean's hand, making his brother's grin widen even further. "Bet they're bound to be easy."
"Yeah, like the pixies you thought would be a breeze," Sam countered, and both brothers cringed at the remembered hunt.
Dean sighed and stood, a fond smile on his face as he regarded Sam, and Sam couldn't honestly remember when his brother had been so unguarded around him. It'd been a long time. "Get some rest," Dean said softly. "I'll do some digging, and I'll order pizza in a couple of hours."
"Are you intending on waking me up when it arrives?" Sam asked, then immediately yawned. When he could see again, Dean's grin was answer enough. "You better wake me up," Sam warned, but he burrowed down into the bed even as he spoke.
"Sure thing," Dean said cheerfully, and Sam groaned as any suffering little brother would. Dean headed for the laptop, sliding the chair out a little further than he needed to so Sam could still see him. Sam smiled and let the pillow take the full weight of his head.
It let him think about the memory piece he'd remembered earlier. Another angry fight between them, another fight Sam had instantly regretted having, and it made something in Sam's chest tighten and ache. Dean had been just as hurt and guilty as Sam had been, and he didn't understand why he hadn't seen it before. They'd both been guilty over words said, both been hurt over words said, for months. They'd just been hiding it differently, dealing with it differently, like they always had. Sam wondered when he'd forgotten that. For all their likenesses, they were total opposites sometimes, too.
At least they weren't stuck on the words and actions of the Siren incident anymore. They'd been so lost that week after, so angry and so tense and so distant. Now, they were back on track, closer than they'd been since Dean had been dragged downstairs. More in tune with each other since that last day before four of the longest months Sam had ever lived through.
Sam glanced to Dean, who was still typing, eyes locked on the screen. "Go to sleep, Sammy," he said, never once moving his gaze.
Sam slowly began to smile, and let his eyes slide shut. "Wasn't thinking," he couldn't help but add, his voice soft and sleepy, and Dean's affectionate snort made Sam smile even more as he drifted off.