Book of Sins
Disclaimer: The Winchesters belong to someone else. *sigh*
Beta'd: Special thanks to Muffy.
Dedicated: To Phx and our rascally muses who inexplicably were on the same wavelength Friday afternoon.
Time Line: Post4x22, Lucifer Rising. Spoilers abound!
AN: This story was inspired in part by an article entitled: "Excuses, Excuses" an excerpt of "Teacher Man" by Frank McCourt. Interesting reading, if you're a geek like me!
Dean found Sam's book of excuses, a small spiral notebook at the bottom of his brother's duffel while he was searching for clean socks. It was a pocket book, one the younger man could have easily hidden for years, but it still surprised him. Sam was currently in the shower and the battered, unlabeled book practically called out to Dean, begging to be read. He'd never been one for denying his impulses.
The first entry was dated March 7, 1991. The childish printing instantly took him back to the seven-year-old kid who had written the short passage.
"I don't really hate Dean. He just made me so mad."
Dean chuckled. He couldn't remember what he'd done, but there was no doubt he had gotten Sammy's goat. Dean used to live for that. Sometimes he still did.
He flipped forward a few pages. May 1, 1995.
"I wanted to help."
Dean frowned, trying to remember what had happened the day before Sammy's twelfth birthday. For the life of him, he couldn't think of a thing and that bothered him more than the entry.
A few more pages to July 14, 1997
"I'm too small, too slow, and he was trying to protect me, but it's all my fault."
That incident Dean didn't have any trouble remembering. Sam had just turned fourteen. He had been small for his age and the rawhead had seemed to think the youngest Winchester was easy pickings. Dean had a hazy recollection of finding his little brother chained to a tree in the bayou, but that was it until he woke up three days later with a pale-faced brother sleeping in the chair next to his hospital bed.
He scowled. He'd always known Sam had a tendency to feel guilty for things beyond his control, but the fact that he'd written it down and wore it like a hairshirt really bothered him. Damn it, Sammy. Some things you just have to let go. Dean rolled his eyes at his own thoughts. The apple probably didn't fall far from the tree or, the brother, as the case may be.
Dean knew he should stop reading but he couldn't, nor did he particularly want to. It was a book of regrets and the pages were filled way too full for a man of twenty-six.
"I only wanted to go to school."
And two months later "If I talk to Dean, there's no way I'll be able to say no to coming home."
The muscles in Dean's jaw jumped as he read the next date. It was the day after Jessica died, November 3, 2005.
"Dean needed me."
On the same page, further down was an entry written before his not-so-miraculous healing by Sue Ann's reaper on a leash. He quickly flipped a couple of pages unsure he wanted to read Sam's guilt on top of his own. He stopped on a page that was slightly crumpled. His brother's normal scrawl distorted by lines so shaky it was hard to make out.
"Dean begged me not to shoot."
Underneath it was another entry shortly after the one year anniversary of Jessica's death.
"I didn't know the thing that killed mom would come back for me."
An undated entry was next, but one Dean had no trouble remembering.
"I had to kill her, but I think I loved her."
Madison. Smart, beautiful Madison. It was easy to see why Sam had fallen so hard and so fast for her. It was one of those times that Sam's belief he could find a way to fix things had ended up hurting him.
Dean flipped a page or two forward to May 10, 2007
"I thought it would be wrong to kill him, but I should have."
The 'he' was obvious to Dean. It was Jake, and Sam wasn't wrong. It would have been wrong to kill him, but the price for Sam's humanity had been too high for Dean to bear.
The only entry for nearly twelve months was dated September 15, 2007.
"I have to save Dean."
Dean swallowed down a lump, the words jumping out at him not as an excuse for his brother's behavior, but as a reason behind it. It had obviously been the only thing Sam cared about for an entire year. While some part of him realized just how intent his brother had been on stopping the inevitable, it showed just how much Dean had been fooling himself into thinking Sam would be okay when he was gone. He certainly hadn't been when the tables were turned in the other direction.
May 5, 2008.
"I wasn't smart enough. I wasn't strong enough. Dean's gone."
He'd never blamed his brother, not for Sam dying, not for the deal, not for him going to hell. Clearly, a part of Sam did, however.
There were only five more entries in the tiny book, each dated several months apart.
"I've tried everything, I can't get him back," scrawled in poor penmanship with suspicious smearing that looked like water drops.
"I can make something good of it."
"I have to be strong now, for Dean."
"I can handle it."
But the final one caused his chest to tighten. "There is no excuse." The writing was barely legible. The paper ripped a little where it appeared Sam had dug his pen in and underlined the word 'no' many times. Dean didn't understand why Sam had this book. He knew his brother kept a regular journal, but this was something different. A record of sins as Sam saw them or maybe it was just his way of coping.
Sam emerged from the bathroom, his eyes fell to the book in Dean's hand and a stricken look immediately crossed his face. Chest heaving from barely constrained fear, his brother refused to make eye contact, keeping his gaze on some random spot on the floor. As Dean walked past him into the bathroom, he slapped the notebook against Sam's bare chest. "You don't need one," he said in a low voice.
He ignored the sharp intake of breath as he closed the door. Dean stood at the sink looking in the mirror. He felt more connected to Sam than he had in a long time and despite the circumstances, it felt so right. He knew they had an uphill battle in front of them restoring trust on both sides, hiding from demons and angels alike, and finding a way back to really, truly being brothers again, but it was worth the fight.
Dean resolved then and there, at the very next opportunity he was burning that book.
AN: We all tell ourselves little truths, or give ourselves perfectly justifiable reasons for our behavior. It's how we can look in the mirror every day and smile. But that doesn't change the fact I made a comment to a boy in the third grade causing him to cry. I apologized, and we were friends after that, but I never forgot. In fact, the day before I moved to Oregon when I was fourteen, I reminded him of it and apologized again. He laughed. Over thirty years later I still remember what I said and how he looked when I said it. I doubt he even remembers. LOL – and I don't even keep a book!
The point is trust may need to be earned but, sometimes whether we're ready to accept it or not, forgiveness is freely given.