NOTE: I'd suggest skimming the beginning before reading this part, but it's not necessary.
Please let me know who you think it turned out. Again, thanks so much for reading! I really enjoyed sharing this story with everyone.
For a month, Sam continued using his powers without telling Dean. He'd felt like his brother was a mirage or a cruel joke or a trickster, even though he could handle silver knives and drank a few belts of Holy Water with his breakfast (Sam knew Dean was having just as hard of a time believing that angels needed him for anything. He was waiting for the ultimate punchline too). Sam couldn't let go of the grief, even though Dean was beside him again, because he knew how easily Dean could be taken away, how easy his life could revert back to the living purgatory it once was, and he wouldn't survive it a second time. He wore the rage and hatred like a second skin, and he couldn't go back now. It was the best way to keep Dean alive.
When Dean discovered his demonic secret, Sam felt nothing but shame and remorse so profound, it couldn't be expressed. The words stopped at his throat, tethered to that part inside of him that wasn't human. He didn't deserve to have Dean back. He deserved to go to Hell and suffer like Dean had for all he'd done, for all he'd made his brother do. In the end, he could only promise Dean and himself that he was done with his powers, even though Sam using it now was as habitual as reloading a gun or throwing a punch.
The anniversary of Mary and Jessica's death came with the rising of Sam Hain. Sam had done a lot of underhanded, immoral things in his life, but he'd never felt dirtier than he did when Dean watched him telekinetically kill Sam Hain, but part of him, that was growing daily, relishing in the lethal power he could create with just his mind. He loved the hot spiraling of pain and energy that radiating from the top of his head down through his fingers. But he hated the way Dean looked at him like he could finally see what his brother really was.
When it was over, Sam and Dean separated, repelled by the tension and the weight of the losing another seal. After Uriel left, Sam drank. He hadn't had more than an occasional beer since Dean had come back, but the demons were too close and his head still pounded from all of the sheer force it took to exorcise Sam Hain. If Uriel was right, and Dean remembered Hell, Sam knew he would break. Dean entered the room, world-weary and Sam saw the haunted, tortured look in his eyes, and felt his resolve splinter. Dean glanced at Sam in the corner of the room, drinking in the dark. He swiped a plastic cup from the bathroom and sat down next to him. Sam poured him a shot.
"I'm sorry about Jess." Dean said as he had every November 2nd for three years.
"Thanks," Sam said.
They toasted to their mother and finished the bottle.
About a week later, Sam started feeling sick. The headache he'd had from putting down Sam Hain never subsided. It was an annoying, constant twinge behind his eyes, and but now was coupled with a jitteriness that rivaled anything he'd dealt with at Stanford. But just two days later, he was exhausted and achy. He didn't say a word to Dean, because he was already angry and disappointed with him.
They were in Texas, where it was suffocatingly hot even in November. He leaned against the car as Dean moved around to the trunk, arming himself with his pearl-handled 45mm and a flask before they headed into a diner for breakfast. Sam was still mesmerized by his brother doing mundane tasks like ejecting the magazine in his weapon or gargling in the morning. He didn't even pretend he wasn't staring. Dean rolled his shoulders under the scrutiny and was about to crack some smart ass comment, when Sam folded from a violent cramp of nausea. He sprinted into the alley, a slip of hot brick and precious shade, and threw up.
"Sammy?!" Dean's voice was tight with concern as he followed him in the alley.
Sam could only wave him off before he vomited again, gagging into the dirt.
"That…is a lot of puke." Dean said, shockingly amused.
Sam socked him in the leg and wiped mouth.
"Peachy." He grunted and tried to stand up, but was incredibly lightheaded and dizzy. He flagged back against pavement.
"How about the truth this time?" Dean placed the back of his hand on Sam's forehead. "Son of a…you're burning up, Sam. Come on." He tried to help Sam stand up.
"I got it, I got it." Sam protested, arching away from Dean. He walked out of the alley on his own steam with Dean trailing behind him. "I'm just gonna walk back to the motel and crash. You go eat."
"Uh, no. It's 90 degrees out here. I'll give you a ride to the room."
"I'll be fine, Dean."
"I know, because I'm comin' with you." He insisted.
Sam was irritable and needed his own space. He hadn't functioned in civilized society—diners with perky waitresses and short stacks, soccer moms with their towheaded toddlers—since Dean had died, and it took a lot more effort than Sam remembered. More than that, Dean hadn't left him alone since Halloween. "I promise I won't go darkside while you're having your Pig 'N A Poke."
Dean regarded Sam as if he had sprouted fourteen heads. "I was going to have french toast." He gritted out, his tone barely concealing his anger.
"I just…need some breathing room. I need…"
"All you need right now is to get out of this heat. Let's go."
They rode to the hotel in silence. Sam slumped in the passenger seat, feeling more miserable by the minute. It felt like his body was rioting against him. Sam didn't blame it. The Impala didn't have an air conditioner, so Dean had rolled down all the windows, but the air blowing in was hot and dry. And it made Sam even more nauseous. By the time they reached the hotel, Sam could barely find the strength to get out of the car, but he did anyway, digging into his last reserves.
The room, with its stained carpet and peeling wallpaper, was blissfully cold and they both sighed as they entered. Sam climbed in the closest bed.
"How long have you been sick?"
"…dunno, a week…it was a just a headache.."
Sam watched Dean mentally track back and he seemed even more concerned, but didn't speak it. "You have to tell me these things."
Sam waved him off. "Why? There was nothing you could do."
They lapsed into a loaded silence. Sam's teeth chattered as Dean found some Tylenol and got him a soda from the vending machine. It was absurdly wonderful to have Dean back, taking care of him like he did when he was four. Sam laughed when he produced an old mercury thermometer of their mother's and used it to his take his temperature. The smile fell from Dean's face when he held it up to the light. "It's over 102. That's not normal for you."
Sam snapped, "Well I'm not exactly normal, am I?"
It was true. Save for the rare sniffles as a child and growing pains as a teenager, Sam had always been remarkably healthy.
Dean threw his hands up in the air. "I…I just…I don't know who you are anymore, Sam. You used to play Dr. Sammy and try to get me lay on the couch and spill my feelings and that was BEFORE I went to Hell. You were the broody little brother who overshared his feelings all the freakin' time." Dean started, pacing. "Now, getting two words out of you is like getting Britney Spears to hit a proper note. You hide huge secrets from me. What the hell, man?"
"You have no idea what I've been through, Dean, but I can't even complain about it because you were…dead. In Hell. So just…leave it alone."
"Don't shutdown, Sam. I just…I know this was hard on you, but I played the hand I had. I just never thought you'd become like this," Dean confessed.
"What do you think would happen to me, Dean? You think I'd be happy to live when you died?" Sam was sickened by the very suggestion and he felt the metallic tinge on his tongue. Dean saw the panicked expression on his face and snatched a garbage can, holding it as Sam retched. He breathed for a second and nodded to Dean that he was okay. "I can't do this now, man, please." He went into the bathroom and got drenched a hand towel in cold water. Sam was startled by his reflection, he was pale, downright ghostly, except for the dark rings around his eyes. He could barely stand upright without getting dizzy. He shuffled back to bed and hoped he could sleep it off.
"Just…tell me one thing you did while I was gone. Just one, and I'll leave you alone."
Sam buried his face in the wet cloth and muffled a groan of frustration. "I went to Disneyland."
"Sammy…" Dean sat down on the other bed. "We were apart for four months. I wanna know what you did. What you killed. Who you banged, even?"
He whisked the cloth off his face and twisted it into a knot. He stared at his older brother for a long moment. Dean was faced was open and earnest, and he was geniunely interested in how Sam lived while he was dead. Sam relented as Dean knew he would. "I exorcised some demons that were possessing an entire family. I did it the…old fashioned way—a lot of screaming and holy water—and they all died. That was after the six-year-old girl shot me."
His older brother's face cleared of all emotion as it always did when Dean was trying to swallow the gruesomeness of the supernatural.
It was the job that haunted him. The family had been possessed by Ingehoff demons—a nasty creatures bent on causing humans nothing but carnage and mayhem. They preyed small, connected groups of humans, like families or co-workers, and made them fight and trick each other until all of their human hosts were dead. By the time he'd gotten there, the mother had gravely wounded the father, and the kids had ganged up on the family pets. After subduing and exorcising them, he'd given the youngest one, a four-year-old boy CPR until he'd nearly passed out, and knew he'd needed all his strength to save his own life. Sam dragged himself, bleeding from the hole in his thigh, to the Impala, where he cauterized the wound with the Impala's cigarette lighter in a desperate attempt to stop the bleeding.
When he didn't have nightmares about Dean, he dreamt of that little boy.
"Anything else you want to know?" he asked.
Sam didn't miss the tremble of Dean's chin, but he shrugged and said, "I'll listen to whatever you want to tell me, Sammy."
There was too much and it was too ugly. Sam flopped on the bed, miserable and remembering everything he wanted to forget. He sagged against the pillows, coughing and sick with more than just the fever. He responded with the loudest thought, the truth he'd wanted to tell him for months. "I let you die," Sam confessed.
Dean moved to the foot of the bed, and gently pulled off Sam's boots. "It was my choice, Sam, and I don't regret it."
Sam jolted awake with a searing pain in his head and deep in his bones. He stared at the unfamiliar ceiling, stucco and water-stained, and tried to gain his bearings. All he could remember was nothing but a string grisly dreams blurring with a hardhearted reality. He had visions and echoing screams in his head of dying children coupled with Dean's death and the growl of hellhounds. He could hear Bobby blaming him and walking along the ever-growing line of all the people he'd loved and lost: Mary, John, Jess, Madison, Ash, Andy, Ava, Dean. He had vividly clear images of Dean forcing pills down his throat and tying him up in a net of blankets. Sam couldn't distinguish what was real and what wasn't as if his life was becoming as bleak as his nightmares. He pushed himself up and whimpered at the pain it caused. His long limbs were leadened with illness and weak from dehydration, judging on the aching dryness of his throat. He braced himself against the nightstand and gingerly stood. He knew he wouldn't be able to make it to the bathroom for water, because just walking the three feet between the two beds felt like trekking across the Grand Canyon. Dean was asleep, swathed in a blanket. Sam slumped on the mattress and shook Dean's shoulder. "Dean, hey, wake u..." His voice was a scratchy murmur.
And it all came back, like a flash of cataclysmic white light: Sam discovering Dean's corpse, Dean's death, the drinking, the relentless hunting, the hate. He fell onto the carpet, making sounds that were guttural and pained. He crawled backwards until he slammed into a wall, doorknob in his back. His heart thudded in his chest, hard and fast, and he couldn't get air into his lungs. Dean was dead. He'd never been resurrected by angels. The entire sequence was a disgusting, awful hallucination just like he'd imagined. The room was suddenly filled with light, and Sam hollered, covering his eyes. He was back in that dirt-floor shack in Pontiac with Dean's corpse and a gun he couldn't use. He was back in those clothes that were rigid with Dean's blood.
"You get away from him, Bobby," Sam screamed. He grabbed the nearest object and hurled it at him. "You don't touch him!" He threw a shoe and a clock radio, a coaster and a lamp. Two hands grabbed his arms and he fought them off with quickly dwindling strength. "You're not burning him! If you touch his body, I swear to God…" He cried, "Bobby, please. Just let me get him back. I can do it."
"SAMMY! SAM!" It wasn't Bobby's gravelly voice. It was Dean's deep baritone, strong and lively.
Sam froze, unnaturally chilled by the telltale electric sensation of a ghost entering the room. Suddenly, he was gaping at Dean's terrified face inches from his own. He stared at him for a long, feverish moment before he everything spiraled into black.
He woke up to a piercing coldness on his back. It slithered up his neck and battered the base of his brain, and Sam wondered if he'd turn to ice. Dean's voice was a squeaky rumble above him: "Uriel, I swear if you're punishing him, I'll rip every holy feather off your wings and shove them up your ass."
Sam licked his dry lips and tried to make sense of what he saw: the castors of the bed dotted with pieces of broken lamps and a cracked telephone. "Sammy?" Dean called in a particularly high voice. Sam knew he was scared, and that always struck him as strange. "Sam, come on. Look at me." He pleaded.
Sam felt the icepack Dean had pressed to his neck jiggle and he hissed at the cold. Sam was in a heap on the floor, but his upper body was pillowed on Dean's legs. Head in his lap. He coughed raggedly and felt his entire body rattle from the force. He winced at the brightness of the room, the weight in his chest, the pain all over. His eyes fluttered closed again. He was so tired.
"No, you need to stay awake." Dean shook him roughly.
His world tumbled end over end and he was once against staring at the stucco ceiling. "Drink it, Sammy, please." He felt the rim of a plastic bottle hit his teeth before his mouth was flooded with the wet, sugary taste of artificial berries. He swallowed on instinct and felt the liquid track down to his empty belly. "Just a little more." Dean said and gave him more Gatorade.
He swallowed, forcing it down. Sam gawked up at Dean. "You're not dead." His voice was so soft Dean had crane his neck to hear him.
Dean shook his head and grabbed his hand, squeezing it. "No, Sam, I'm not." He wedged it under his neck again. "You've been really sick, Sam. I can't keep your fever down."
Sam frowned, trying to recall being sick. His mind was a muddled mess, festooned with cobwebs. Nothing made sense. "I can't…think."
"It's the fever, Sam. It's just the fever." Dean promised. His eyes were glassy and wet, and he looked as exhausted as Sam felt. "Can you tell me what happened? What did you see before you passed out?"
"You were lying just like after you…died. Bobby wanted to burn…I wouldn't let him…I wanted to go get you. In Hell. I thought I could get you…" He babbled. "I couldn't pull the trigger though."
"God, Sam. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to scare you. We're going to the hospital right now." Dean said hurriedly. He snatched a pillow off the nearest bed and propped it under Sam's head and gently scooted out from under him. Sam was pliable and helpless. "I'm gonna get the car. I'll be right back." He got up and tried to walk away.
"…no." Sam shook his head slightly and the room distorted and blurred. He reached out and snagged the denim of Dean's pants. "…stay here."
Dean knelt down in front of him. "What is it?"
Sam didn't remember what he wanted to say. Dean sat down, and waited, humoring him. "I killed a gremlin," Sam said. "…silvertipped crossbow. Afterwards, I just…wanted to tell you, and I couldn't. I missed you so much…it nearly killed me, so I changed. I had to…to survive."
"I know, Sam." A tear spilled over Dean's cheek and he nodded, grim, but proud. He grabbed Sam's hand and held on. "But I'm here now, Sam. I'm not going anywhere."
Sam tried to smother the tears, but he couldn't. He could handle the angels and the demonic powers and the apocalypse, if that meant Dean was back. He knew he needed stamp down his unabashed relief that had taken months to absorb, because the only raw emotion Dean embraced was anger. But he was out of control again, and too weak to stop it. Dean was stoically silent, but rubbed his back with a patience Sam had forgotten he had. After a few minutes, Dean wiped Sam's face, and stood up. "We really need to go."
"…no hospital. I'm okay."
Dean lifted his eyebrows ruefully. "Oh, we're not going for you. After the heart attack you just gave me? I need defribulation or some kind of trauma counselor," Dean deadpanned. "My hair's white, isn't it?"
Sam smiled blearily, "…not yet." His entire body was trembling, quivering without his control.
"I'll be right back," Dean said and jogged out of the room before Sam could say anything else.
Sam tried to get up. He'd made it to his knees when Dean flew back in the room. The rumble of the Impala echoed from the parking lot. "Hey, hang on." Dean said and gently helped him stand. The color drained from Sam's face as the room smeared into string of blurry colors as he was pulled upright. "Can you make it? I can carry you," he offered with a cautious smirk.
He nodded and slung an arm around his brother's neck and leaned on him as they shuffled into the moonlight and the relentless heat. Dean grunted theatrically with Sam's weight. "This was a lot easier when you were fifteen, you big bastard." Sam knew he was carrying most of his weight. He was so weak his legs shook as he walked. Dean was still impressively strong.
Sam chuckled dryly and counted the steps to the car. "Little man talks big when I can't kick your ass."
"I think the fever fried your brain. You haven't taken me down yet, bitch."
Sam was downright giddy to reply, "Jerk."
The Impala grumbled and Dean tore down the highway, searching for the nearest hospital. He listened to the car's engine, felt the road beneath him. Dean was behind the wheel, flanked in moonlight. Sam shivered, not from illness, but from the exact opposite.
"You okay?" Dean asked. "Delirium or not, you can't puke in the car."
Sam turned on the stereo, and Styx pounded through the speakers. "Just keep driving, and I will be."