And He's Gone

It's at night when the world really does rest on his shoulders. Sam doesn't sleep much any more, so his secret life gives him plenty of time to think about what could have been, what's to come, and everything in between. Lillith breaks another seal, humanity crawls inexorably closer to the apocalypse, angels wring their hands, and Sam thinks about his father.

There were things that Dad tried to teach him, lessons Sam refused to learn as a kid. During the long nights, Sam studies those lessons, catalogues them, and learns them by heart – the drills, the hard knocks, each hard truth that kept them alive another day. It's a sad sort of waste, how much of it he understands now.

It's too late, but Sam can forgive his father for almost everything that made his childhood a little too much like hell. But he'll never forgive Dad for what he put on Dean. Some sins are unforgivable.

Dean's already been asleep for a while, but Sam can't stop thinking. Not like he's going to get any sleep tonight. He'd been hoping he could get in a couple hours before meeting up with Ruby, but it's too dangerous to let his guard down, not with a legion of demons gunning for him, and those are just the ones he knows about. Lillith wants his head on a stick, and thus there's never a lack of sycophants to help her out. Heaven and hell have never been short on minions.

Time to get up, but Dean took the bed closest to the door again. Sam can't even take it personally that Dean doesn't trust him. It's not like he can blame his brother. Sam doesn't trust himself either. He's getting pretty damn good at getting past his brother, no matter how many ways Dean finds to block the door. It's another indication to Sam how much things have changed.

Sneaking out would never would have worked before – Dean's always had this clairvoyant thing going on, where he knew what Sam was going to do even before Sam had thought it up himself. But lately, Dean's just so worn out even though Sam sees him trying to push through it.

Dying horrifically and being tortured in hell will do that to you. Sam can't let himself think about the details. Doesn't want to research why four months on earth is forty years in hell or if a day is really a thousand years in heaven. Sam knows where he's going, and he's pretty damn sure no angel's going to snatch him out of any pit. The only one who's going to save Sam this time is Sam himself, and that's only if he saves Dean first.

That's what he tells himself when he sneaks out of the room at night. That's what he tells Ruby when she smiles at him and says, you're good, Sam, you're so good. This is what you were meant for.

He's going to give all this up, once this is over.

But first, he's got to get out of the motel room without waking Dean up, something that is still definitely easier said than done. Dean's mumbling something in his sleep, something Sam can't understand. God only knows what he dreams about. Sam doesn't ask, and Dean sure doesn't tell, but he can see the worry lines that weren't there before, which Sam can't even blame on hell.

Dean actually came back to life looking pretty good. It's what's happened since that's screwed him over, making him look tired and tense all the time. Angels and demons, heaven and hell. And Sam. Nothing tears Dean apart like Sam.

Sam knows that he's scaring the crap out of his brother, and he's sorry, he really is, but this is the only way it can go. Sam hopes that someday Dean will understand.

He went to bed shirtless but is still wearing his jeans. Dean gave him an odd look when he toed off his shoes and slid into bed, but it's one less thing to mess around with. Without sitting up, Sam checks his pockets, making sure he's got a key to the room. Last week, he left without it and had a hell of time convincing the motel manager to let him back in, warning him to be as quiet as possible because his poor, sick brother was sleeping.

The plan's always to be back by morning because Sam's still trying to maintain the line between light and dark. So he dares the ancient mattress to creak as he slowly sits up.

Swinging his legs over the side of the bed, he carefully slips into his shoes, which are right where he left them. He'll wait and tie them once he's safe outside, grateful for old habits. As kids, Dad trained them to always be ready for the things that go bump in the night. Shoes by the bed, weapon loaded before your head hit the pillow, and salt lines as sentry before every window and door. If I should die before I wake was nothing to take lightly. Prayers to scare children didn't just come out of nowhere.

Dean's moving restlessly in his sleep. Sam holds his breath, as his brother kicks off his blanket, turning his head into his pillow. If Dean wakes up, Sam's going to have to come up with something in a hurry. It doesn't even have to be a good excuse because Dean won't believe him anyway. Sam's tempted to tell, he's always tempted, hates keeping anything from Dean. But it's better this way, Sam protecting his brother from what he doesn't need to know.

So Sam waits for Dean to settle down. The room still smells like Chinese takeout, and it's no wonder with cartons left on the table by the window. Sam doesn't eat much any more, doesn't really need to, but Dean can't get enough. That's good. Dean needs to keep his strength up, so Sam says yes to whatever Dean has a craving for. These days, neither has much use for fortune cookies, not after Pamela and Chuck, so Dean always tosses them in the trash.

It takes time but his brother's breathing evens out again, and Sam lets his own calm down as well. It's been months since he got Dean back, but Sam still has to fight off the urge to touch him, to know for sure that he's really there. Dean came back to him, something that is way too good to be true, too much of a gift. It's why Sam can't really hate the angels for what they want from his brother.

As a boy, Sam occasionally snuck into a church, when his dad was away on a job, especially in the Midwest. Dean didn't get it, but he usually let Sam do anything that wouldn't hurt him, and Sam loved to be at church, loved to sing the songs before he fell asleep at night. The ones about angels were his favorites.

All night, all day. Angels watching over me, my Lord. All night, all day. Angels watching over me.

There'd been a time when Sam believed angels were watching out for him. Sam doesn't believe that any more, but he's awfully glad they're looking out for Dean.

Sam knows where he's going – demon blood won't exactly be welcome in heaven.

Sam needs to get a move on. His shirt's on the nightstand where he left it. He slips it on carefully, grimacing when he twists his shoulder the wrong way. His body's not bouncing back from the fight the way it used to. The last time he went to a free clinic, an intern guessed it was a torn ligament and said arthroscopic surgery would probably be the way to go. It would take a good six months in rehab, but after that, the shoulder would be as good as new. Sam thanked the guy politely but laughed his way out the door. Sam's not sure he's got six months to spare for life let alone for physical therapy.

He tries to keep these thoughts at bay when he's with his brother, but at night, there's no escaping the hard truths. It's the reason he can't stop thinking about Dad, about all the ways that Sam let him down. The ways he let them all down.

It always comes to this: he should have killed his father.

Dad was right. He was always right. Sam was a coward. Couldn't make the hard choice when it was right in front of him. That night in the cabin, Sam should have killed his father when ordered to. It's why he doesn't sleep any more. Everything in his life comes back to those yellow eyes shining from his dad's face.

Sam can still hear Dad's agony, pleading with him.

"I can't hold onto it much longer. Shoot me, son! Shoot me! Son, I'm begging you. We can end this here and now. Sammy!"

Bobby says that John Winchester had no right. Says Dad was a cold-hearted bastard for even asking it of him, but Sam knows that Dad was right. It's his fault that Dad and Dean were tortured in hell, all because Sam disobeyed a direct order.

If Sam had killed the yellow-eyed demon while he had him in the scope of that Colt, this would be over. Sam believes this. He could've stopped Azazel's plans before they'd gone any further. Sure, he'd still be cursed with demon blood, but Sam can live with a little darkness. There'd be no deals with demons, no opening of the devil's gate. Dean would be safe. Dean would have a chance at a normal life.

Dean would never have forgiven him for killing Dad.

But Sam can live with that. He just can't live with himself.

Softly, quietly, Sam makes it to the door. He turns the knob as carefully as he can.

That's when Dean says, "Sammy," almost tenderly, and Sam doesn't move, doesn't breathe, certain that Dean's finally onto him. He's going to be stopped at last.

But this secret life seems like it's what he was born for because Dean's just talking in his sleep, and he rolls the other way. Sam feels something. Regret, remorse? For one weak moment, it would have been a relief to have been caught. Surely, he's lost, but he can't let his brother be mired with him.

The angels say that Dean can save six billion people from the coming apocalypse, but to Sam, that sounds an awful lot like sacrifice, and they've already paid enough for a fallen world. Sam's sure of one thing – this isn't going to be his brother's fight.

Dad should never have told Dean to protect Sam at all costs. Should never have told Dean he might have to kill his little brother. This is the second unforgivable sin. Dad should have killed Sam himself if it needed to be done. Sam is John is Sam. They've put the weight of the world on Dean's shoulders because neither was willing to face a hard truth down the barrel of a gun.

It's this simple. Sam will stop Lillith, the world will not end, and Dean can have the life that the djinn dangled in front of him.

Like the psychic he used to be, San can see his brother's future– Dean's beautiful wife and a pair of smart-ass kids, a white picket fence, and a lawn gone to seed because Dean forgets to water the damn thing. Dean deserves this much. It can't be too late for him.

Dean's always going to come first for Sam. That's a given. On the other hand, if saving Dean means he saves the world too, well, that's even better. Because when that day comes, there'll be no more endless nights. Lucifer will be nothing but a morning star, angels will fly away to heaven, and the whole earth will be glad. Like his dad, Sam still dreams he can turn this thing around.

There's something else that he can't name. It's a low hum he feels in his veins, the dark thrill that comes from what he does with Ruby. But it's not about her. It's about him. No matter what the angels say, it's always been about him. He was destined for this, he was chosen. He can do this. He can beat Lillith.

He can't screw this up. Nothing can get in his way. If Dad's taught him anything, it's not to fail at this. Not this time, never again.

Sam sets his jaw and slips out the door and into the cold night. There are still dark places in the world, and Ruby is waiting. Sam doesn't know where he's going, but that hasn't stopped him before. He'll be back before Dean even knows he's gone.


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