Summary: I was angry at everyone; especially Dean, for doing the one thing I could never forgive him for.
Author's Note: Okay, so I'm not entirely sure about this, but my muse has been driving me mental so I'm finally posting it. This fic is dedicated to my friend Lorna, who's celebrating her birthday yesterday *cringes at the lateness*...Lorna, just letting you know that this is completely your fault! lol Hope you have an awesome birthday, lovely!
Disclaimer: Nope, don't own them. Just playing with them for a bit. Lemme tell ya, if I did own them, there would be a lot more hugging. Brilliance belongs to Eric Kripke and his amazing--although sometimes wonderfully twisted--group of helpers.
Part of my brain told me that I was shivering.
But the rest of me couldn't find the energy to care.
I had no idea what time it was but I knew that I'd been sitting outside in the middle of the dark salvage yard, perched on the hood of the broken down Barracuda, for at least an hour. No matter how cold I got, I couldn't seem to find the drive to get up and make my way back to the house.
Just the idea of being in there made my chest fold in on itself.
We'd been back at Bobby's for a while, the three of us trying to find some sort of peace or balance after the crazy events of the last few hours. We'd been trying to act as normally as possible, until the bogusness of it all got to be too much.
That's when I'd walked out.
It was nearly a complete blur…a whir of hazy images, scratchy sounds…small pieces of conversations that still made absolutely no sense to me. I sat there and tried to process everything…
Dean was screaming for pie.
I walked into the diner.
I smelled sulfur.
I woke up in South Dakota.
I fought with Jake.
I saw Dean.
I felt pain.
I woke up.
We were in the cemetery.
The Devil's Gate was opened.
We killed the Demon.
And I found out that my big brother, my best friend and the only family I had left in the whole world, had made a deal with a devil.
I'd died in his arms…and he'd brought me back.
He'd tried to hide it from me, of course, I'm sure thinking that the less I knew the better off I'd be. But I knew the second I'd looked at him; the invisible weight on his shoulders, the haunted look in his eyes. I could see it all.
How long you get?
One year. I got one year.
An amount of time that had always seemed like so much to me now seemed like absolutely no time at all.
On the way back from the cemetery, I'd ridden in the Impala with Dean – like I ever would've spent the drive anywhere else – and all I could do was quietly cry. I couldn't help it. I'd never been so thankful that the music was loud or the car was dark; with everything else, I didn't need Dean seeing more tears.
Tears were the last thing he needed.
But as I sat there, my mind had been racing. Memories flooding my head of my childhood, my teenage years, the time I'd spent on my own and the time I'd spent hunting with Dean after leaving Stanford. It was all on fast forward, as if I'd subconsciously been trying to remind myself that I still had all of my memories and that they were as perfect and preserved as the moment they'd been made.
One of my jobs had become to keep them that way.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw one of the upstairs windows go dark; the room I shared with Dean. And even though I couldn't see him, I could feel his gaze. I could picture him sitting beside the window in one of the old wooden chairs from the kitchen table (which he'd probably dragged up the stairs, ignoring any complaints from Bobby), pulling aside the dusty old curtains as he kept one eye on me and the other eye on everything else.
My big brother's ever watchful eyes.
If I was somewhere out of arm's reach, he made sure I was never out of sight.
Under normal circumstances, the knowledge that he was watching would've made me feel safe, comfortable and cared for. But at that moment, I didn't feel any of those things. Sitting there, in the back of my mind-- where I'd been trying to shove it all night-– was the knowledge that one year from that moment, only three-hundred and sixty-five days away, Dean would be both out of sight and out of reach.
For the first time since forever, my brother was going somewhere and I couldn't follow him.
No matter how much I may have wanted to.
And I wanted to.
More than anything.
Since I'd been back on the road with him my life had changed. I'd fallen back into an old routine, a routine that I'd known since I was a kid. Even though it was familiar, it was new; hunting with Dean was different than it had been with our dad. Hunting with Dean was laid back and sometimes even cheerful, a lot like Dean himself. With our dad, it had been about military precision and strictness; everything had to be done a certain way, at a certain time, however he thought best. Our dad had cared most about the hunt, while me and Dean cared about each other.
The number one rule? The brother comes first, always.
Dean had taken that to the furthest level.
I turned my head towards the familiar voice and let out a breath. Bobby was walking slowly towards me, a puffy black winter jacket in his hands. I sat there in a long sleeved shirt, my brown jacket having been thrown away once we'd returned to the house.
"What are you doin' out here? I've been lookin' for you."
"Yeah, sorry about that." I cleared my throat. "Needed some air."
Coming to a silent stop beside the Barracuda, Bobby held out the jacket. "You must be freezing, put this on."
"Thanks, but I'm okay-"
"It ain't a suggestion."
I raised an eyebrow and looked up at him. "So it's an order?"
The older man made a face and sighed at me. "Think of it as more of a…brotherly demand."
In spite of myself I felt the corner of my mouth twitch and my eyes travelled up to the dark window pointedly. "A brotherly demand, huh?"
Bobby nodded and gestured at me enthusiastically with the jacket; I shook my head and took it from him, letting out a breath as I slipped it on. "You don't wanna be gettin' sick."
I didn't say anything.
"So you thinkin' about comin' inside anytime soon? It's after two."
I shrugged one shoulder, looking back over the expanse of the yard. It was silent except for the occasional howl of the wind or the familiar clanking of metal-on-metal. They were normal sounds that I was used to. "Not really tired."
"Not tired?" I could hear the skepticism in Bobby's voice. "Right. Tell me another one."
"I'm not lying."
"Don't tell me you're not lyin', Sam. I know you pretty well."
The corner of my mouth twitched again. "Yeah?"
"Well, don't get me wrong, I ain't your brother-" Bobby leaned back casually against the front end of the car and shoved his hands into the pockets of is coat. "But since I've known you since you were a midget, I'd like to think I got some kinda idea."
"I don't know, Bobby-" I shook my head and let out another breath, which came out in a white cloud in front of my face.
He nodded, a gentle look on his face. "Yeah, I hear you there. It's been a crap day."
"Try a crap week."
"You talked to your brother since we got back?"
I felt myself swallow hard. "I tried."
"You tried?" Skepticism again.
"I don't know what to say to him."
"You say whatever you wanna say, Sam. Now ain't the time for keepin' quiet."
"I know that."
Bobby nudged my shoulder in silent encouragement; it painfully reminded me of my brother. "I wish I could tell you that I know how you're feelin', but I don't." He said quietly, still leaning close. "But one thing I do know is that you two idjits should be together, tryin' to talk things out-"
"I'm going to get him outta this, Bobby." I said in a strained voice. There was already moisture in my eyes. "I told Dean I was going to do it and I'm going to."
His hand was suddenly resting on my shoulder, and he squeezed gently through the material of the jacket. "I don't doubt it." Bobby bobbed his head. "Grief makes people do things, Sam. Believe me, I know."
"I'd rather be dead than try to figure out how to keep going without him."
"Well…maybe…when it came right down to it? Your brother felt the same way 'bout you."
"Gettin' wise in your old age, Bobby."
I whipped my head around to the other painfully familiar voice and watched as Dean strode towards us, his hands shoved deeply into the pockets of his leather jacket. Even from where I was sitting, I could see the light purple hue on the side of his face and the small angry cut just in his hairline. He walked slowly and there was still that invisible weight on his shoulders, but I could see he was trying to act as though it wasn't there at all.
Bobby shrugged lightly and cleared his throat. "Well, gotta start sometime."
Dean smiled slightly and came to a stop right beside the car. He took a deep breath and looked around before his eyes settled on me. "Bobby, you mind heading back inside for a bit?"
Bobby nodded and pushed himself up from the car, giving my shoulder a gentle squeeze before he set off quietly across the yard back towards the house.
I swallowed hard, looking down at my hands as I fidgeted with them in my lap. Dean took Bobby's place beside me; I felt him gently nudge my shoulder. "You plannin' on sleepin' out here?"
"I was thinking about it."
"Kinda cold, isn't it?"
I shrugged. "It's ok."
And just as easily as that, I was faced with the same problem as before. I had absolutely no idea what to say.
When we were kids, we talked about comic books, TV shows, homework (mine, not Dean's), anything that passed the time. When we were teenagers, we talked about girls, sports, cars and homework (mine, not Dean's).
I felt my mouth twitch at the realization that things hadn't changed all that much.
"So, you wanna tell me what's goin' on in that giant head of yours?"
I shook my head, looking back down at my hands. "I don't even know, man."
"It's just…been a long day, that's all." Glancing up at Dean, I swallowed hard. "How's your head?"
"Still got that headache you were talking about in the car?"
"Popped a couple Advils, no problem."
I nodded. "Good."
A small silence fell over us, broken only by the sound of Bobby's dog barking loudly from inside the house. The porch light flicked on suddenly and cast a strange glow across the gravel of the front drive.
Dean let out a breath and I saw him look down at me out of the corner of my eye. I knew my brother well enough to feel it coming, and when I heard him clear his throat awkwardly, I knew it was his way of jump-starting the chick flick moment that at that point was inevitable.
I couldn't decide whether I wanted to have it or just pretend there was no reason for it.
"Bobby was right, y'know."
Ok, definitely wasn't ready for it.
"When it came right down to it?" Dean shook his head. "Old guy got it in one shot."
I felt my throat constrict and didn't say anything.
"We should talk about this."
All I could do was nod my head, a feeling of desperation surfacing in my chest.
The sudden silence of the yard was getting to me, the feeling of Dean standing so close, the sensation of his shoulder nudging mine again as he tried to grasp my attention.
Cruelly, it only served as a reminder. Dean wouldn't always be standing close…his shoulder wouldn't always be touching mine in silent encouragement.
Not for much longer, anyway.
I nodded again.
"I asked you not to be mad at me."
"I can't help it." My voice was raspy as I finally turned my eyes to my brother. I saw the uncertainty flash in his eyes at what must've been a truly miserable look on my face. I saw his own sadness, the remains of the primal desperation, the complete terror, which had brought us to that point.
Three-hundred and sixty-five days.
"You should never have done it, Dean. I wish you hadn't."
It was Dean's eyes that flashed that time and when he spoke there was an unmistakable anger in the current of his voice. "I shouldn't have done it?"
For a second, he seemed beyond words. I swallowed hard and took the opportunity. "Making deals with demons? Selling your soul? It can't be like that, Dean, not for me…and not for you."
"But bein' taken out by a freaky-ass douchebag like that Jake guy, that's ok? That's an ok way for you to go?"
"I'd rather that than this." I swallowed hard again. "When Dad died, you said that making deals with demons wasn't supposed to be Dad's legacy. What makes you any different?"
Dean's eyes darkened, deadened, and I knew I'd hit a nerve.
"You're better than that, Dean. You deserve more than that."
"Well, I did what I did, what's done is done, it's not gonna change."
"I told you I was going to get you out of it-"
"No, you're not."
I looked up at him and narrowed my eyes; he mirrored my look. There was something else swirling in his eyes, another emotion that for once I couldn't place. Before I had the chance to even try, it was gone. His eyes went back to a darkened green, a dangerous shade of the usually bright and protective green I'd been looking into most of my life. "I'm not?"
"No, you're not. I won't let you-"
"I won't let you stop me."
For a moment, I expected an explosion. An argument or a snark that would serve to put me back in my place as the younger brother. But for once, no snark came…no sarcasm and no anger. Whatever anger that was in Dean's face cooled and he sighed, shaking his head dejectedly as he looked down towards the ground.
The slump, which had been missing for only a few minutes, was back in his shoulders. The weight of my life, his life…the weight of that year…it was all on him. And if I could've, I would've reached over and grasped some of it with my bare hands to lighten his load. That was all I wanted.
For as long as I could remember, it was Dean who shouldered everything. The stress, the responsibility, the fears and insecurities. When I was younger, measures were always taken to make sure I didn't see any of it or feel it; I was the youngest which automatically meant that me and my innocence were protected.
But I often wondered about Dean's innocence. He never got that protection. He never asked for it or demanded it. He took the weight on his back without complaint or argument.
I wanted so much more for him. I always had.
"Why do you do this, Dean?"
He didn't look up. "Do what?"
"Take all this on all the time. Why do you think that I'm worth more than you are-"
"Because you're mine, Sammy." Finally raising his eyes, he looked over at me. "Ever since Dad first put you in my arms, you've been mine…my responsibility. Never mattered what it was. Bullies, scraped knees, bad dreams… I always made sure I was there."
"All the things in my life, Sam, the things I've seen, the things I've done-" He shrugged his shoulders and let out a breath, looking out over the endless sea of cars. "Out of all those things, you're the only thing I'm proud of. The only thing I know I got right."
And there it was. The words that would break me. I felt a burning in my eyes, a torrent of tears that was threatening to break free. I fought against it and tried to find comfort in Dean's voice.
"I taught you how to read, you ended up goin' to one of the best schools in the country…I taught you how to throw a punch, now, you can kick anyone's ass without breakin' a sweat—hell, even mine too, sometimes—" Dean chuckled gently. "I taught you your first pick up line, and you found Jess."
A soft smile came across Dean's face as he leaned a fraction of an inch closer. An invitation.
I copied his movement, needing the feeling of his arm against mine. Invitation accepted.
"Now I'm not sayin' that I'm responsible for all that stuff, hell, your level of geekishness isn't something I could ever have a hand in-" I gave a watery chuckle in spite of myself, and Dean's smile widened. "But I can't help but think I had somethin' to do with how good you turned out."
I forced myself to meet his eyes and he stared back at me, his gaze unwavering; and as I had so many times before, I drew strength from the connection.
I could only hope that I was lending Dean some strength, too.
"And, as completely cheesy as this sounds…that's my legacy. You. Your brains, your brawn, your geekdom. That's it. And I'm okay with that."
"A year's a long time, Sammy."
"It's not long enough."
A sadness ran into Dean's smile and he finally pulled his eyes away from mine. "No, it's not."
I couldn't hold in the brunt of the tears anymore and I felt one snake it's way down my cheek. My eyes burned. "I'm scared, Dean." I whispered, sniffling quietly; I saw Dean turn to look at me again out of the corner of my eye. "How am I supposed to do this? Let you go. I can't, I know I can't."
"I don't care about deals, I don't care about demons-" Hysteria was building quickly, an all-consuming panic that was making it hard to swallow. It crashed over me, hit me like a wrecking ball; I felt myself shaking, trembling. I was on the verge of losing it and Dean knew it; his hand was suddenly curled around the back of my neck and he squeezed gently, as if trying to get rid of the strain. "No, it can't happen, I won't let it-"
"Sam, stop-" He said gently, but forcefully; Dean squeezed my neck again. "Just…take it easy."
I tried to calm myself, focusing on nothing but the feeling of Dean's calloused fingers, his labored breathing—as if he too were fighting with emotion.
It was a rare moment, a rare display of affection that was normally a cause for teasing or joking. But even though the emotional moments were few and far between, we always knew which ones were laughable and which ones had to be taken seriously.
I jumped slightly in surprise when Dean used his hold on my neck to pull my head down, his forehead lightly resting in my hair. My eyes instinctively closed and I let out a breath.
We stayed like that for a while, neither one of us saying anything, the only sounds were the wind and the occasional sniffle. My sniffles or Dean's, it really didn't matter.
It wasn't mentioned or discussed, but we both knew.
For the first time in a long time, we were keeping each other from breaking. Both of us needed someone, or something, to hold onto.
We were together.
I heard Dean take a breath and after a moment he pulled his forehead away; at the loss of contact, I forced my eyes open. My vision was blurry and I sniffled again.
Swallowing hard, I broke the silence, asking a question I'd been burning to ask for hours. "Are you afraid?"
There was a slight hesitation before Dean answered, his usual confidence slipping back into place. "No, I'm not." He said quietly, pulling his hand from my neck and shoving his hands into the pockets of his coat; it was getting colder. "Like I said, a year's a long time."
"And, like you said, it's not."
"You wanna know the truth?"
I turned to look at him and swallowed, giving him a quick nod.
Dean inhaled deeply and a small smile erupted on his face. "This deal. The year. All of it. Leavin' you is the only part I'm not ok with."
I blinked at him. "What?"
"You, on your own? The idea of that scares me more than Hell."
Feeling another wave of hysteria, I forced it down and bobbed my head. "It scares me, too." At my words, Dean looked over and he sent me another small smile, as if the idea of us agreeing that me on my own would be a disaster made him feel better.
But on the underside, the thought really was terrifying.
The thought of being alone.
The thought of getting a motel room with one bed instead of two.
The thought of being without Dean.
The thought of being without Dean every day and not hearing his voice or seeing his annoyingly cocky smirks…not feeling his presence in the dark when I tried to sleep…not seeing him lounging carelessly beside me in the Impala…and not hearing the shower running in the early morning.
Not seeing his duffel bag unzipped and messy.
Not having the smell of him; gun powder, mixed with cleaning oil and leather.
Not hearing him call me "bitch".
Not having him.
In truth, I'd never been more mad at someone than I was with him in that moment. The wrecking ball hit me again and I felt an anger the likes of which I'd never felt.
I was angry at everyone.
The crossroads demon, for taking the deal in the first place. For preying on a broken man.
The Yellow-Eyed Demon, for bringing this hell down on us in the first place.
Jake, for ever picking up the knife.
Dean, for doing the one thing I could never forgive him for.
And myself, for being who I was…and what I was destined to be.
We'd been stuck in quicksand for years, flailing and trying to claw our way out. It never mattered what we did or where we went, there was always something; there was always something stalking our path, hiding in the shadows.
It was a cross we bared as Winchesters. We'd bared it for years, never having been asked if we wanted it or needed it.
It just was.
Without Dean, there was no tomorrow…well, at least no tomorrow that mattered.
"You gotta let me try, Dean." I said quietly, trying desperately to stop my voice from shaking. I failed miserably but Dean tried to pretend that he didn't notice, even though he shifted nervously. "Just…let me try, okay?"
"I'm gonna do it anyway, so…"
After a few seconds, Dean nodded. "Yeah, I know you are."
And in those few words, I heard his acceptance. He wasn't happy about it, I could tell, but he gave in with a sigh.
My watch told me it was 2:32am.
Three-hundred and sixty-four days.
It wasn't nearly long enough, but it was all we had.