A/N: This is part of a challenge I have given myself that I've decided to call Project Winchester. Basically, I'm going to write a drabble, ficlet, oneshot, chapter-fic, song-fic, tag, or missing scene to every Supernatural episode.
Warnings: Language, very brief and vague mentions of suicide, angst, and AU-ness
Update: Major re-vamp 12/28/10
4x22 – Lucifer Rising
The sun is high in the sky, scalding the earth with its rays unmercifully. Bobby's place is quiet like it's empty even though it's far from it. Bobby is sitting with a bottle of Jack with his feet propped up on a nearby pile of books. He tosses back a shot, his second that day. The burn is familiar after years of hunting and he barely notices the harshness of it sloshing down his throat. He reaches up and readjusts his trucker cap, wiping the summer sweat off his brow as he does so.
"Damn air conditioner," he growls as he glares at the useless appliance hanging limply from the living room window.
The gray box clinks in response and Bobby's eyes narrow, "It ain't over yet."
Bobby figures that things must be going to hell if he's trying to battle an air conditioner. Add that together with the unnatural May heat and he figures the apocalypse is just days away. He pours more whiskey and throws it back. He wonders if he should stop now or wait until he's properly hammered before putting the bottle down. His eyes wander to the basement door, which is cracked just a bit, mercifully letting some of the cold air from downstairs waft through. It's then Bobby decides that he should be more sober than not, mostly because he's got two extremely misguided Winchesters on his hands, and that's been known to start some pretty spectacular fireworks.
He sighs deeply and pushes the dark bottle away from him. He picks up the screw driver from the table and shifts his eyes to the looming air conditioner, "It's just you and me, now."
Dean's sitting on the basement floor with his back against the panic room door. He can hear metallic clanking from upstairs and Bobby cursing, but other than that it's silent. Dean hates silence. It's fairly dark down there and the air is heavy with summer mugginess, but Dean doesn't plan on going anywhere, not until Sammy does. He can hear the industrial like fan spinning from inside the panic room. The constant hum and whoosh whoosh of the blades is making him sick to his stomach. Everything about that damn room makes him sick to his stomach.
His nausea isn't helping his mood much, not that anything really could. Dean is crammed with so many negative emotions that his head doesn't feel like it's on straight. He's been two timed by angels of all fricken people, hell is spilling out of a cracked floor in Maryland, Castiel is probably a POW by now, and Sam's…Sam's not ok. Or at least Dean doesn't think he is. He's not really sure.
Yesterday he and Sam had staggered into Bobby's house, barely standing and covered in dirt and grim, just twelve hours after fleeing the convent. Sam had tear tracks cutting through the dust on his face and Dean's expression was pinched, like he was barely containing his emotions. Bobby had immediately jumped in, multi-tasking between setting the boys down and demanding to know what in the hell happened. As it turned out, hell happened. While Dean was monotoning his way through the explanation to Bobby, Sam had snuck downstairs. It took Dean a few minutes to realize that he was missing one extremely unstable baby brother and by the time he did, Sam had already bolted the panic room door.
Dean hasn't seen Sam since.
He's tried everything he can think of to get into the panic room or to make Sam come out, but he hasn't gotten anywhere. He's tried banging on the door, yelling at Sam through the peep hole, and threatening him with everything from hugs to a serious ass kicking. He even tried to do the one thing that Dean Winchester does not do: beg. He's this damn close to getting the blow torch and cutting his way inside, or dismantling the door entirely. To make matters worse, Sam hasn't said anything except, "Dean, just leave me."
Not, "Dean, leave me the hell alone," or "Dean, go away," but "Dean, just leave me."
Dean won't even try to pretend that he's not scared shitless right now. He knows there's water in there but he very much doubts that Bobby put all the furniture and army food back in, which means Sam is going on who knows how many days without food. It makes Dean's own stomach clench with panic/concern/anger, a feeling that's only going to go away when he sees Sam with his own two eyes. He's terrified about Sam's state of mind. Between Maryland and South Dakota Sam didn't say one damn word. All he did was let a few tears fall and swallow convulsively like he was going to puke. Dean doesn't have any room to talk. He didn't say anything the whole time either and there were a few times that he considered pulling over just so he could freak out. Or hit Sam.
Dean doesn't know if there's anything in the panic room that Sam can use to hurt himself with. Not that it matters because Sam wouldn't do something like that. He wouldn't.
He's not sure if the withdrawal has started yet or if it's even going to at all. He hasn't heard much of Sam from inside the room except the occasional sob, and the one time that he answered Dean with "just leave me." Dean's not sure if he should be relieved that it hasn't started yet or anxious because when it does start, he's not going to be in there with him. It's strange how much his priorities have shifted in the past forty eight hours. The first time Sam went through withdrawal, Dean was more than happy to leave him to it. Dean had bigger fish to fry at the time and he didn't have the stomach to sit with Sam while he worked the demon blood out. Now Dean's wondering how he ever left Sam alone in the room to begin with, especially while he was screaming something awful.
Dean hears the steps creak as Bobby's weight hits them and he watches as his friend comes into view.
"Dean? Come upstairs for a while," Bobby says. The man's usual stern tone is toned down but the order is still there.
Slowly Dean shakes his head, "No reason to. Sam hasn't come out yet."
"Well, when he does you're going to be dead on your feet. Have you eaten anything in the past three days?"
Dean's silence is answer enough and Bobby sighs, "Idjit. Get up here."
The oldest Winchester doesn't move and Bobby rolls his eyes, "Now, boy. What part of that sounded like a request?"
Dean finds his lips twisting a bit in a smile at Bobby's gruff mother hen routine. Some things never change. Slowly, Dean pushes himself off the floor and away from the panic room door. Then he turns and stares pitifully at it, as if his silent plead will make it open.
"He'll be ok for a bit," Bobby assures, following Dean's eye line and frowning a bit in concern.
"Don't want to leave him," Dean protests softly as he starts to make his way up the stairs.
Bobby nods in understanding. He knows that Dean is thinking about the last time Sam was in the panic room. Bobby kind of feels the same way Dean does but of course, he had a problem with the way they handled things the first time anyways.
Dean clears the basement door and winces at the bright sunlight flooding the upper level of the house. The scent of coffee immediately wafts towards him and his stomach lurches, but he's unsure if it's out of nausea or anticipation.
"Get some food in ya," Bobby orders as he walks to the pot of coffee.
"I'm not really all that hungry," Dean says as he eases into a kitchen chair, grimacing as his lower back pops a few times.
"Tough," Bobby shoots back, handing Dean a mug of black coffee.
Dean glares half halfheartedly over the rim of the chipped mug as he takes a sip. Bobby stares back unwaveringly. The Winchesters are in some deep shit and taking care of themselves is always last on their to-do list. Bobby figures he's doing some much needed intervention and a weak glare from Dean isn't going to even dent his determination.
Bobby watches as Dean sips the coffee and rolls the mug in his hands, starring at it like it holds all the answers. Bobby frowns.
"How long do you think it'll be before it starts happening?" Dean asks
"What? The apocalypse?" Bobby asks as Dean nods, "Who knows. These things work on their own schedule, no telling what's going to go down or when. The last time something like this happened it was before the written word."
"Or no one survived to tell about it," Dean states and looks Bobby full in the eye.
Bobby isn't sure if he agrees with that or not so he does nothing but stare back.
"We blew it, Bobby," Dean says and looks back down into his coffee, "I blew it."
Dean clenches his jaw, an act of anger to cover up his anguish, "Lucifer was set free."
"Yeah, I gathered that much from when you came stumbling in and said, 'Lucifer was set free,' what's your point?" Bobby demands.
"I was supposed to stop it," Dean replies, "I was supposed to stop the apocalypse from starting and…"
Bobby pretends not to hear how Dean's voice is dangerously close to cracking, "And what?"
"I was supposed to save Sam."
"And what? You failed because Sam's made some shit choices? Because he was so broken up over your death that it's taken him a whole year to snap out of it?" Bobby asks and like he expects, he gets silence from Dean.
"Sam's still alive, Dean. He's still Sam. I know he hasn't done much to prove it to you lately but he is still your brother," Bobby says and then makes a point to catch Dean's eyes with his own, "He still needs saving."
As if Dean doesn't know that already. He just isn't sure how to go about doing it anymore.
"I don't get you Winchesters. Three days ago you were ready to abandon the kid for good. Now you're beatin' yourself up because you think you've failed him," Bobby says, pushing a pulled pork sandwich in front of Dean.
Bobby expects Dean to lash out or at least give him a glare the devil himself would be scared of. Instead, Dean's look softens to the point of what suspiciously looks like tears and he's quiet.
"We screwed up, Bobby," Dean says softly, "Lucifer's throwing a freaking party on the East coast as we speak. It should've been so easy, you know? Come back from the dead, find my brother and get back to kickin' ass and taking names. But it wasn't."
Bobby knows he's not imagining the glassy wet look in Dean's eyes and he wants to make so sort of quip like, "What do I look like to you? Oprah?" but now's not the time. Dean needs this and Bobby isn't about to stop him.
"Hell was…I was too screwed up and Sam…I guess he was too. I just assumed that he was going to be fine because I was back. Stupid, right? How could I expect him to bounce right back? I know that kid better than anyone, better than he knows himself, and I was completely blindsided."
Dean pauses and finally loses that far away look in his eye to stare at Bobby, "And it took you calling me a princess to see how stupid it all was."
"Yeah, well, someone's gotta knock some sense into your noggin," Bobby says and gives Dean a slight smile.
Dean smiles back briefly, "Yeah, I guess so."
Bobby turns to the fridge and takes out a beer, "Eat your sandwich, I'm going to see if anything's popped up on the apocalypse front."
Dean watches Bobby leave the room before he looks back down to the bread and meat in front of him. Dean grimaces and pushes it away. Sweat is forming on Dean's upper lip but he doesn't bother to wipe it away, if he even notices. He stares at the wooden kitchen table. It's worn down, beat up from years of oil, paint, gun powder, holy water, and knives, but it has something else too. Etched into the corner is 'DW, SW - 1991.' Dean remembers carving it in with a ball point pen that had run out of ink. Originally, it had just been his initials but Sammy had wanted his in the table too, so Dean tacked them on to the end of his with the year. Their Dad had been pissed but Bobby had chuckled and made a crack about initials in trees and hearts. Dean glared and Bobby ruffled his hair. Dean's stomach clenches as he remembers the conversation that had followed later that night.
"What'd Bobby mean about trees, Dean?" Sam asked, looking away from the fuzzy t.v.
"Nothing, don't worry about it," Dean replied, his attention never leaving the comic book in front of him.
"Dean," Sam whined, "I want to know."
Dean rolled his eyes and sighed, "People who like each other a lot carve their initials in trees, so that they'll always be together."
"So…does that mean we'll always be together?" Sam asked hesitantly.
Dean sighs again and moves to snap at his brother because he has to understand that it's a totally different kind of together that he's talking about, but then he sees Sam's face. It's hopeful, full of the hero worship that Dean's used to seeing and can't really get enough of. Not because he's egotistical (which he is) but because it reminds him that he has a bigger responsibility other than himself, and helping his Dad hunt. He has Sam.
"Yeah, dude, because we're brothers and that's what brothers do, they stay together."
Sam had grinned at him, dimples and all, and it made Dean glad that he had held back on taking the kid's head off.
Dean's sat at the table a hundred times since then but he's never really thought about that conversation. He reaches out slowly and runs two fingers over the ridges of the letters. Brothers stick together, that's what they do. Dean had broken his own rule and they paid the price for it. Dean's always prided himself on how he protected his brother and how he took care of him. He's aware that he hasn't done such a great job this past year. He was too busy trying to get out of bed every morning, to get through hunts with hangovers, and trying to ignore the screaming in his head to be concerned with much else. Dean's brave enough to admit that he played his part in all of this, both in and out of the pit. It's easier to blame it all on Sam but that doesn't make it true. While he was busy trying to bury hell, Sam was busy burying himself in a hole. Sam was scary when he was on a mission, like their dad used to be, only ten times worse. By the time Dean could fall asleep without hearing screaming, Sam had dug himself so deep in his self destructive hole that Dean couldn't reach him. But brothers stick together, that's what they do. Dean thinks that it's time they start acting like brothers, starting with pulling Sam outta that hole.
He shoves himself away from the table, causing his coffee to slosh over the sides of the mug and spill into the grooves of the DW and DS in the table. Dean doesn't pay attention to the spilt liquid as he takes off downstairs, his mind set on one thing: get into the panic room or make Sam come out.And so help him, Sam is going to open that damn door or Dean's opening it for him.
"Sammy! Open the door!" Dean yells. His voice isn't angry, it's steady and determined, a classic big brother tone.
There's silence from the other end and Dean raises his already bruised up fist to bang on the unyielding metal.
"If you don't open the door I'm getting the blow torch, and then I'm making you explain to Bobby why his panic room is ruined! Sam!" Dean shouts. He punctuates the threat with another pound on the door.
Apparently Bobby scares Sam more than Dean does because after a few tense moments, the door cracks open with a groan.
Dean stares at the door in surprise for a moment before slowly easing his way inside. The panic room is hot and muggy, a stark contrast to the concrete cool of the rest of the basement. Dean can almost immediately feel his skin grow tacky with sweat.
Sam's sitting on the cot, his back leaning against the wall, his eyes on the floor. He's stripped down to nothing but his jeans and undershirt, his boots and socks are in a pile at the foot of the cot. His hair is curling and sticking to his damp forehead and neck, and his face is flushed. Dean doesn't know if it's the room temperature or the demon blood that's making Sam red.
"Hey, Dean." Sam's voice is small and shaky, reminding Dean of when he found Sam alone in a motel room, covered in Steve Wandell's blood.
Dean takes a few steps forward, suddenly very unsure of what to do or say.
"I can feel the withdrawal starting. I figured I should let you in so you could…" Sam trails off and shivers despite the heat, "So you can lock me down."
Dean flinches. Cuffing Sam –despite the fact that it was done to keep him safe- is something that still makes Dean's gut ache with guilt and horror. He hates the idea of having to do it again. Dean wonders if Sam remembers being told that it was done to keep him from hurting himself. He wonders if Sam was too out of it to really understand that he wasn't trying to chain him down like an animal, he was trying to save him.
"Okay," Dean states. It's not really an agreement, more of an acknowledgement of Sam's reasoning. He takes a few steps forward, trying to close some of the distance between them. Sam tenses up like a frightened animal and presses himself against the wall even further. Dean freezes and lifts his hands half way in a non-threatening gesture.
"You don't have to pretend, you know?" Sam mutters. He's staring wide eyed at Dean like Dean's a new enemy, "I know you want to kill me."
Dean's jaw drops and with it, his stomach.
This isn't exactly the first time that Sam has mentioned Dean killing him. In fact, it's come up one too many times for Dean's liking. But this is the first time that Sam has said that he knows Dean wants him dead and that he knows Dean wants to kill him. It's the first time that Sam really sounds like he believes it.
Dean works to find his voice, "What are you talking about, Sam?"
"I got the message right before…" Sam starts and then swallows like he wants to vomit, "I get it. I don't blame you for it, I even…I even want it."
Oh no. No, no, no, no. Dean's head is spinning. He's caught up somewhere between "message," and "I even want it." A new feeling, panic, is making his hands tingle and shake.
"Don't you get it? Dad told you, I told you, everyone told you and now…"
"Sam, stop! Just shut up!" Dean yells, the sound echoing off the metal walls.
Silence. Sam stares, panting and trembling with the fever that's steadily climbing. Dean knows that this is it. This is his one shot at making Sam understand, to make Sam come to the same realization that Dean had just a few minutes prior upstairs. He closes the short distance to the cot, ignoring how Sam tenses and presses impossibly tighter to the iron walls, and crouches in front of Sam. Sam stares down at him, suspicious and maybe a bit scared. Dean takes a breath.
"I am only going to say this one more time while the two of us are still breathing, so you'd better be listening. I am not going to kill you. Not now, not ever, not even if it's the last option. And if you ever think of checking out early…on purpose, I will give you the beat down of a lifetime. You're better than that, Sam." Dean stares directly into Sam's eyes, making sure that Sam doesn't miss a single syllable or a single emotion. He needs Sam to know how serious he is about this.
"I'm sorry," Sam says. It isn't the first time he's said it since Lucifer made his presence known in Maryland but it is the first time that Dean's listened.
"Me too," Dean immediately responds.
Sam snorts in self-loathing, "Nothing for you to feel sorry for."
"I had a hand in this too, man," Dean reasons but Sam just shakes his head.
"Dean, what happened in hell wasn't your fault…"
"I'm talking about after I was busted out," Dean corrects.
Sam pauses and scrunches his face, confused, "What?"
"After I got out…we both know I wasn't myself. You were right when you said that I wasn't," Dean says, "I was so screwed up I barely even noticed you were there half the time. I didn't think about what you had been through until months later and by then it was too late."
"Dean, it wasn't your fault. None of it was your fault. You were right all along and I didn't listen. It was all me."
"That's what you're not getting, Sammy, it was both of us. We weren't watching each other's backs like we should've been and we were played, like damn fiddles," Dean says, letting out a breathy, sarcastic laugh.
Sam swallows, looking nervous, "So you don't think that I'm a vampire? You're not going to hunt me?"
If Sam had hit Dean, he'd be less surprised.
"Vampire? What the hell you talkin' about?" Dean asks, legitimately confused.
Sam can't seem to stop his eyes from welling up, "Before I took the last dose of demon blood, I listened to your message. I was having second thoughts and I just…I needed to hear the message."
Dean swallows and tries to still his pounding heart, not at all liking where this conversation is going.
"You said you were done saving me, that I was a bloodsucking vampire and there was no going back," Sam whispers, his face neutral despite the pained look in his eyes, "You were giving me fair warning."
Dean doesn't know what he should do first; yell and hit something or reassure Sam that he never said that, that he would never say that.
"And you believed it?"
Sam blinks at Dean, surprised, "Of course I did. After the way we left things…after what I did and what you said…"
If possible, Dean's hear cracks just a little more.
"Sammy, listen to me. I left you a message that said that I was sorry, that I never should've called you what I called you. I don't think that about you," Dean says desperately, praying that Sam believes him.
Sam stares at him, trying to work the information through his head. Sam's silence is making Dean nervous.
"Listen to it again," Dean says, motioning to Sam's pocket.
Warily, Sam takes out his phone. His hands are trembling when they close around his phone. Sam dials his voicemail and keeps direct eye contact with Dean as he presses the phone to his ear. Dean waits with bated breath; hoping that the original message was there. He can hear his own muted voice coming from Sam's phone as Sam listens to what Dean hopes is the right message. He gets his answer as Sam's eyes water with tears and then close with pure guilt.
"Oh God," Sam whispers and then re-opens his eyes. The anguish staring back at Dean makes his breath catch. "I didn't know. Dean, if I knew I wouldn't have…"
Sam trails off as his throat closes around more tears.
"I know," Dean says, trying to offer some comfort to his emotionally wrecked little brother. This changes everything. Sam had looked to him to pull him back from the edge. If the angels hadn't messed with the original message, Dean has no doubt in his mind that things would've gone very differently. He's more aware now than ever that while Sam did make mistakes and some wrong choices, they were both part of something so much bigger; something that neither of them could have controlled.
"What are we supposed to do?" Sam rubs his face with the back of his wrist, trying to regain his composure. He's still sweating, still shaking and flushed with fever, but he looks less broken than he did when Dean first walked in the room. That's all Dean can really ask for at this point.
Dean reaches out and drops his hands on Sam's shoulders, and then slides one up to cup the side of Sam's neck, "We're going to fix it. Winchester style." Then he smirks, letting Sam know that they're in this together now, and nothing and no one is going to push them apart again.
Sam reaches up and grabs Dean's wrist, smiling for the first time in what seems like months. It's the only answer Dean needs.