A/N: Thanks to those who stuck with me on this. I actually have quite a bit of other pre-S5 fic I need to be posting here in the next week, so I needed to get this one up. I hope the ending here is satisfactory :) Thanks again to geminigrl11 for the beta, sendintheclowns for organizing the exchange, smth_blue for the art (on my LJ!), and spoilerwolf for the prompt (included at th end).
It was a short trip, but not short enough. The instantaneous nature of it undoubtedly gave Sam a fighting chance, but as Dean barged through the emergency room doors, Sam's body slack in his arms, he realized how little of a guarantee that was.
It didn't take more than five seconds for an entire medical team to converge on them, lowering Sam onto a gurney, cutting away his clothing while the doctor pelted him with questions.
Age, name, cause of injury.
They had all looked at him a little funny when he told them about jumping off a cliff, a trip over a waterfall, and a rock slide.
Dean shrugged awkwardly. "Camping trip from Hell," he muttered. "What can I say?"
Dean didn't even have the energy to think about how they would have responded to the details about the black-eyed buffalo.
The incredulity was overshadowed by Sam's condition, however, and as a monitor wailed, a doctor cursed, and the team returned its attention to Sam's prone body.
"Sir, I need you to wait outside," someone was telling him, a hand on his arm.
Dean just shook his head, too busy watching as a doctor threaded a tube down his brother's throat while a nurse hooked up an IV.
"Sir, please," the voice said again, more insistently this time.
But all that mattered was Sam and the sudden sound of the heart monitor flatlining, resounding heavily in his ears.
"We're losing him."
He was being pulled now, almost forcibly, but Dean couldn't budge, not even if he had wanted to. Because he was watching his brother die. He was standing there, watching his brother die. Someone was administering compression. Someone was squeezing air into Sam's lungs. And Dean was standing there, just watching as his brother's life slipped away.
And it struck him as ironic that it took him this long to notice. Sam had been slowly slipping away for weeks, months, years. Since he got back from Hell, since he made the deal, since Jess died, since he was eight years old and learned that everything in his life had been a lie.
There were no lies now. Everything was laid bare between them, with the harsh clarity Dean had always thought he wanted. It was as clear as the stillness of Sam's heart, as painful as the doctors working to save his brother's life.
What was left of it, anyway.
When Dean found himself in the waiting room, his head cradled in his hands, Dean wondered what deals he would make to fix this mess.
Sam was alive.
It was the only thing the doctors had told him that had mattered. His brother had survived the surgery. He was on the critical list, and they would just have to wait and see, but Sam was alive.
It was a cold comfort, more so because Dean remembered a time when that had mattered more than anything. He remembered a time he would have sold his soul to bring his brother back....
Now, Dean couldn't be so sure. Protecting his brother was part of his life, part of who he was, but it was a question now of what he was protecting Sam from: from the world, or from himself.
He had considered letting Sam die once. For Sam's own sake. For the world's. At least he'll die human.
Standing in Sam's hospital room, watching his brother, he wondered now how he could have ever thought that way.
Sam had done horrible things. Sam had lied to him. Sam had killed and been deceived. Sam had brought about the end of the world.
But Sam was still his brother. His little brother.
And he did look young. The weariness of the current situation was gone in the lax features, and Dean could recognize the little brother he'd sold his soul for. Somewhere beneath the medical equipment, somewhere beyond the worn edges of his brother's current life, that person still existed. Dean knew that, now more than ever. That was the Sam who had come back for him during the hunt. Who had followed every order except the one that might cost Dean his life. That was the Sam who had jumped off a cliff, gone over a water, gotten crushed in a rock slide, just because he believed in Dean.
It was too much to think about. Too much to process. Sam had hurt him so badly, Sam had screwed up so badly--so how did that reconcile with the kid who was lying in a hospital bed after fighting by Dean's side?
It was a hard truth Dean wasn't ready for: that maybe Sam wasn't the only one with something to atone for.
And not just for this hunt, because as whacked out as it was, what went down had not been entirely Dean's fault. But he had contributed to it, by keeping Sam in the dark. He had done it for Sam's safety and for his own, to keep Sam out of trouble, and effectively keep Sam living with doubt. That was what it did, after all. By not trusting Sam, Sam didn't trust himself. Dean didn't call him a monster or a freak outright, but he didn't have to. Sam got the message all the same. Hell, Dean could see it in Sam's eyes every time he accepted an order. Not because he didn't question it, but because his brother believed he didn't have a right to question it.
There was a fine line there, of course. Dean's mistrust was natural--to a point. Sam had turned to Ruby, after all, and managed to let himself be blinded by his own damn pride to start the apocalypse. It wasn't quite monstrous, but it was pretty damn close.
But monsters didn't have to act on it. That was the lesson Dean had resisted for so long, the lesson Sam had pushed Dean to see back in Carthage. It applied here, too. Sam had proved himself worthy on the hunt. That didn't mean Sam was infallible, but it did mean that Dean couldn't keep the kid caged forever. Not without risking the consequences.
And Sam in a hospital bed was a not a consequence he wanted to deal with. He missed his brother. By keeping Sam as his inferior, Dean would never get Sam back.
Of course, unless Sam woke up, Dean might still never get Sam back.
The thought was hard to take, and it drove him to sit down heavily in the chair by Sam's side. When he looked up again, he took in Sam's appearance and felt ill.
The injuries were clear. The gash on Sam's head was neatly stitched and bandaged. There was a bruise on his cheek, running along his cheekbone. There was a cast on Sam's right foot, running part way up his calf, making a lumpy impression under the covers. Dean could see the large bandage on the other leg, too, wrapped tightly around the long line of stitches that ran up his left calf and stopping just above his knee.
What was harder to see was the surgical scar, but Dean knew it was there. A neat row of stitches for the exploratory surgery, and Dean would never see the internal sutures, but he could almost feel each one as though they were his own.
And in all of that, it was still the knock on the head that was causing the biggest question mark. There was some swelling in Sam's brain, and his brother was mostly in a coma, complete with intubation tube and all.
Dean had seen Sam hurt before. But over the last few years, his brother had seemed invincible. Maybe it was the demon blood, maybe it was Sam's blind insistence to do it himself, maybe it was just how weak Dean felt in contrast--maybe it was just the fact that Sam had survived everything else.
But Sam was barely surviving now. And that wasn't just the physical injuries. It was everything. Dean had to be honest: Sam was wasting away. The surgery, the swelling in his brain--it didn't mean anything. Sam was dying emotionally and probably had been for months, for years, and there was no medical miracle to fix that.
Dean wasn't sure how long he sat there, but it was long enough. The minutes ticked by with the steady cadence of Sam's heart, and Dean listened to every one and wondered what it was worth. When the air rustled behind him, he didn't even look up.
Dean couldn't stop Castiel from being here, but he had no use for the angel. Not now. Not with this.
A moment passed before the angel asked, "How is he?"
"Crappy," Dean said flatly, not looking up. "They think they got the internal bleeding under control, but not before he went into shock and flatlined. Twice. Now they're just waiting to see if his body can hold together long enough to recover or if everything will just fall apart anyway."
It was a harsh truth. The doctors had presented it far more gently, but Dean knew what it meant. Sam was teetering on the brink, and while medical intervention had him tethered to the land of the living, it wasn't by much, and if Sam tipped too far away, there would be nothing they could do to bring him back.
Which brought Dean back to one painful truth: it could all be too little, too late.
Those were words he'd flung at Sam before, in the wake of their father's death. They had been words he'd thought about watching Sam grieve Lucifer's rise. It was easy to see the right thing when all was said and done. Too bad it never made a difference. Sam could regret fighting with their father, but he could never tell their dad just how much he loved him. Sam could hate himself for trusting Ruby and downing demon blood, but he couldn't send Lucifer back to the pit or get rid of all the blood entirely.
No, the first was Dean's job. And the second was an issue for another day.
Sometimes, Dean liked his I told you so's. He'd earned them, after all.
Watching Sam in the hospital bed, barely clinging to life, he didn't want them at all anymore. Because all of a sudden, he knew the feeling. He knew what it was like to be too little, too late, and he would give anything to make it better.
It had taken long enough, but he finally understood. Sam had wronged him. Sam had wronged the world. And even if Dean did feel like he had a right to tell Sam I told you so, the time had come and gone. He'd spent so much time being angry, that he forgot why Sam did it. He'd overlooked how much Sam had changed.
He'd forgotten how much he needed Sam. How much he wanted his brother back. He had thought it was Sam's shortcomings that kept them apart, but, all these months later, it was Dean who was keeping his brother at bay. If he wanted his brother back, if he wanted things to feel like they were back when things were simple, back before the apocalypse and demon blood and Hell, he had to let Sam move beyond it all.
Looking back, he could see it now. The conversations he'd refused to have. The side comments that he'd made. None of that made Sam's choices okay, but they weren't right either. Sometimes they could both be as wrong as they were right, and just because Sam fell harder didn't mean that Dean hadn't taken a dive of his own.
He sighed, looking at his brother again. It was so wrong.
"His soul is weary," Castiel noted.
Dean glowered at him, wondering why the angel was still here. "Like that's a surprise."
Castiel shifted, his eyes flickering down for a moment. When he met Dean's gaze again, his lips were slightly pursed. "We need to talk."
Dean raised his eyebrows. "I'm a little busy here."
"Please, Dean," Castiel implored. "This is important."
At that, Dean laughed straight out. "Important, huh? More important than this?"
Castiel had the good sense to be adequately chagrined.
"Besides," Dean said, his eyes drifting to Sam once again. "Sam's unconscious. He's not going to screw up your master plan when he's in a damn coma."
"I do not think this is an appropriate place," Castiel said.
"Well, I don't really think this is an appropriate time," Dean snapped back, turning his eyes to Castiel. "So why don't you just leave me the Hell alone."
He held the angel's gaze a moment longer, intense, almost daring Castiel to test him on this.
Castiel did not speak, did not move, and Dean let his eyes go back to Sam. "I'm not leaving him right now. Not until...not until he's okay."
Dean didn't hear Castiel leave, but he didn't have to. He hear the faint rustle of wings, and when the nurse came in to check on them a few minutes later, there was no one else there. Just him and Sam, the way it once was, the way it always should have been.
It was hard to think about, but it was hard not to think about it. How they'd gotten here.
Not just the demons and the rock slide. But the entire thing, starting with Lucifer rising, and before. With the lies, the demon blood, the memories of Hell, and a contract Dean couldn't escape.
And more. Of a night in Cold Oak when Dean's world ended.
He had told himself he was buying Sam a second chance, but it wasn't true. He was buying one for himself. A second chance at being a big brother, a second chance at fulfilling his duty.
Funny thing: he failed again.
He'd forgotten to remember who Sam was. He'd forgotten to see his brother as a person. He'd forgotten that Sam was still looking for his second chance to save Dean and hadn't found that either.
Hell, if anyone could understand Sam, it was him. The blind desperation that could break a man was nothing to scoff at. Not even after forty years of soul-rending torture.
They'd both squandered their second chances. The angels had granted them a do-over and Dean had been too tied up with Hell to remember what his brother had gone through, and Sam had been so set on making amends to see what his sins were costing. Dean could make a list of all the wrongs, point all the fingers he wanted, but it didn't change that they'd had a chance.
Or had they? With angels pulling the strings and demons pushing them around, they seemed more like cosmic puppets, rising and falling at the whims of others.
It was destiny that Dean now clung to and pushed away in equal measures. He believed the prophecies about him, almost out of necessity. After all, he could remember Hell, he could remember breaking in Hell, and there was a consequence to that he needed to make right. If the cosmic forces wanted to give him that chance, he would believe it--for them and for himself.
But belief didn't mean he would cow to their demands. Dean bucked the system just to prove he could. As though determining the exorcism on his own somehow made it his hunt, and not theirs. It was a tentative balance, and sometimes he felt like Pinnochio, part puppet and part boy, with a total hard-on for his own independence.
But Sam--the brother who had fought and rebelled and questioned--was taking to the part doled out to him with the alacrity of a condemned man. As though Sam believed his choices didn't matter.
Then Dean realized that maybe they didn't. How much choice had Sam had? When the universe was stacked against him, how much was free will and how much was just impossible circumstance? How much was a brother who had lost everything and couldn't fathom what else there could be to sacrifice until it was far too late?
Dean had found his purpose; he had started living again, started hunting again, with the angels' mixed blessings.
Sam had lost his and no one cared. Worse, the angels, Dean--they all seemed content on keeping Sam from finding anything to live for.
Without something to live for, dying was gain.
The thought was cold in Dean's stomach as he watched his brother on the hospital bed. The doctors said Sam was fighting--but fighting to live or fighting to die?
Some failures were acceptable. Others were not. Dean could survive Hell. He couldn't survive losing his brother. That was the lesson of Cold Oak, painful and true. And it was a lesson he didn't want to learn again.
When Sam woke up, it was less than Dean had thought it would be. The glimmer in recognition in Sam's eyes was not the relief it should have been. The warm reassurance from the doctor that Sam had turned a corner felt like cold comfort. Even seeing the tube removed didn't change things like Dean had thought.
Because Sam was alive, Sam was going to be okay, but that didn't change the problems that had gotten them there in the first place.
And it didn't change the distance in Sam's eyes. The way he shied away from Dean's touch, or the way he never quite met Dean's gaze. The kid hadn't remembered much about what happened, that much was evident, but Sam didn't ask any questions. He answered Dean's with about as much lackluster obedience as he did the doctor's--monosyllabic mostly-truths. And for Dean, another apology, which Dean had tried not to accept, but Sam had insistently given, followed by a thanks for getting him to safety.
It was all Dean could do to keep his composure. Instead, he took the easy out, asking if Sam wanted to get some sleep.
Dean didn't want to think about what it meant that Sam merely nodded, turning his head and closing his eyes nearly immediately.
With a sigh, Dean watched his brother, wondering what the hell he was going to do. Natural disasters, demonic wildlife--no problem. Awkward hospital room aftermath? Was so not in the job description of savior.
Two years ago, this would have been it. The end of the hunt, where they could commiserate on their near-miss and move on.
But it wasn't two years ago.
Dean had gone to Hell and Sam had started the apocalypse and the notion of brotherhood, as powerful and strong as it was, wasn't as easy as it used to be. Unconditional love was easy until something tested it, and Dean was fumbling to figure out how to have it in place after all the mistakes Sam had made.
Ultimately, Dean was almost grateful when Castiel finally showed up again, and he ushered the angel unceremoniously into the hall. It was Castiel who pulled him into the stairwell, and Dean was too tired to argue.
"What do you want?" he asked, feeling weary.
"Sam is doing better?"
"No thanks to you."
"I am glad to hear that his recovery is imminent."
"I'm sure," Dean said tersely. "Is that why you basically left him to die?"
Castiel bowed his head for a moment before looking up at Dean, his face grim. "I told you--"
"Priorities, I know," Dean said, shaking his head.
The angel took a deep breath. "It is not a task I relish."
"Well, we have something in common there," Dean muttered.
"I have not heard you speak this way," Castiel said. "Your protectiveness of Sam...it is surprising."
Dean narrowed his eyes, stiffening a little. Prior to Hell, his protective nature had defined him. He had wanted to think that it had still been a part of him, that he had still been the big brother extraordinaire, even with all his issues. Besides, given Sam's propensity for lying and sneaking around, it was more than easy to foist the blame on Sam, acting like it was Sam who wouldn't let Dean's big brotherly mojo come through. Dean's deal had taught him a hard lesson in the limits of love, and it was necessary, it was important--
But it wasn't just about Sam. It was about him, too. It wasn't just that Sam had changed, it was that Dean didn't know how to give himself up like that anymore. He didn't want to protect Sam, because he didn't want to know what went on in that freaky head. He hadn't wanted to know what Sam's life had been like for those four months alone, and he didn't want to know how his brother was recovering from his addiction to demon blood. He just didn't because it hurt too much.
Yet, Dean wasn't sure they were really better off this way. Dean felt like he was living with part of his soul missing and Sam was barely living at all. Love was about risks, it was about falling sometimes and loving anyway. Dean had been looking for a purpose without taking the time understand that the problem wasn't his cause, it was how he approached it. It was possible, he thought, to protect Sam and still be his own person. It was possible to love Sam, faults and all, and still make his own way in life. Needing Sam wasn't weak--needing to protect Sam wasn't wrong--as long as it was his choice, part of who he was, not all of it.
"Yeah, well, things have been busy lately."
"This is how you are best," Castiel said. "Zachariah was mistaken to think that driving you apart was the best course of action. You are stronger with him."
It had never felt that way. It had made him feel weak to need his brother, which is why he pushed it away so hard. Protecting Sam had put him in Hell, and that was a weakness he was desperate to overcome. But the problem still wasn't Sam.
"So that's why you left him to jump off a cliff?"
"I have made many mistakes," Castiel said slowly.
"Don't I know it," Dean grumbled. "You may have come through when it counted, but I swear, sometimes you are more trouble than you're worth."
"More than you know."
Dean narrowed his eyes, stepping closer to the angel. "Something you're not telling me here?"
"There have been many orders, many tasks, you did not need to know."
That sounded familiar. He'd spent a lifetime in his father's army, and here he was, all over again. The fact that this was his choice was little consolation.
And none of that made him feel better about this line of conversation. Castiel didn't make small talk. In fact, unless there was a mission, there was no reason for Cas to be here at all. "Somehow, I'm thinking that's not entirely the case."
"There is something that weighs heavily on my soul," Castiel admitted.
Dean tilted his head, cautiously. "And that is?
"The night you locked your brother into the panic room in an attempt to detoxify his blood." He paused, drawing in a breath. "I was not entirely honest with you."
Dean felt the hair on the back of his neck prickle. "What do you mean by that?"
The angel sighed, lines deepening on his forehead. "It is not only a lack of trust that I keep Sam at bay."
Swallowing nervously, Dean didn't want to ask. But he had to know. "Yeah, so what is it?"
"It is a human emotion that I was afraid to confess to," Castiel said. He met Dean's eyes warily. "It is guilt."
"I already know you guys played Sam," Dean said. "Played both of us."
"It is more than the phone call," Castiel said. "And it is more than the lies we tried to tell you in the green room."
"What else could you have possibly done?"
"We knew what Sam was doing," he said. "All along."
"Yeah, I figured that much out."
"We...encouraged him," Castiel said. "We left him out of the plans. We sought to separate you. When you asked me if it would change him, I told you it would."
"And it did," Dean said, a little skeptical.
"But it has not changed his nature," Castiel told him. "Your brother is still human and always has been. Whatever evil resides in him is only that which is native to your race."
Dean's mind backtracked, trying to recall that conversation. He'd called for Castiel for hours, desperate for some kind of answer, to know if he should let his brother die. When the angel had appeared, Dean had just been so grateful for confirmation that he hadn't even thought to question the source. "You're saying you lied to me? That Sam isn't something I should have wanted to hunt?"
"For his deeds, perhaps," Castiel said. "For his nature, no."
"Then what was with all the big talk?"
"I needed your allegiance."
It hit Dean like a ton of bricks. "So you did it so I would sell my soul. Again. After everything it cost me the first time around, you tried to get me to do the exact same thing."
Castiel looked down, his posture slumped. "I have done things I am not proud of," he said. "But I did it for what I thought was the greater good."
"Some greater good," Dean said with an incredulous snort. "We're talking Apocalypse Now."
The angel looked up again. "That is not the worst of my actions," he said.
"Well, unless you tied Sam down and fed him the demon blood, I'm not really sure how much worse we can be talking here."
"I let him out," Castiel continued.
Dean was sure he'd misheard or at least misunderstood. He clenched his jaw. "You what?"
"The night Sam escaped from the panic room," Castiel said. "I was the one who undid the lock. I waited until you and Bobby were sleeping and then I unlocked it. It was his choice to leave--"
Dean swore. "You knew he was lost in withdrawal and you opened the door," Dean said. "That's not really much of a choice."
Castiel nodded. "I am aware."
Dean turned, running a hand over his face, trying to process this. He'd trusted Castiel--he'd trusted him implicitly. The angels were dicks, that much wasn't in doubt, but he'd counted Castiel as different. He'd counted Castiel as one of his few trusted allies. After all, the guy had defied his orders to help Dean try to stop the apocalypse. Even now, Castiel was working overtime, keeping tabs not only on the big happenings, but the small things, too. Castiel wanted to save lives, he wanted to save humanity, and that had counted for something with Dean. It had counted for a whole hell of a lot.
He looked back at the angel, unable to hide his distrust. "You let him out?" he asked. "When you knew where he'd go? When you knew what Ruby was getting him to do?"
Castiel wet his lips. "I believed it was part of God's plan," he said. "More than that, I allowed myself to believe it was Sam's choice. Your brother's weakness allowed him to be manipulated by Ruby's lies."
"And yours," Dean spat at him. "And what about me, huh? You manipulated me, too. You think I'm an easy mark, too?"
Castiel would not rise to Dean's bait. He remained impassive. "Neither you nor your brother are easy marks," he said. "Zachariah had counted on Sam breaking far more easily. The phone call was a last resort, designed to destroy whatever remnants of hope your brother had left."
It was all too much. Too much information. Too much of a reveal. To think Dean had been pinning his hopes on this. On a being who had lied to him, who had withheld information, who had betrayed him.
He shook his head. That sounded awful familiar, right down to doing it for the greater good. "You can't be around Sam because he reminds you of yourself," he said softly. "You see him, and you see yourself."
"Yes," Castiel acknowledged. "As should you."
It wasn't a truth he wanted to think about, and though a denial rose in his throat, he couldn't speak it. Sam's mistakes were grave--they were deep and they were terrible. And Dean knew that if hunters caught wind of it, Sam would be hunted. Normal people who discovered Sam's darkest secrets would be appalled.
Yet, what made a monster? Blood? Actions? Intentions? All of the above?
Sam broke when Dean went to Hell. Dean was just finally beginning to accept that that much was true. Everything else was a slow, inevitable fade--a fall orchestrated by the forces of Hell and Heaven in equal parts. Sam could have still said no, and Sam should have still said no, but the vulnerability of loss, the desperation of failure was more powerful than Dean wanted to remember. The moment Dean had lost hope, he lost everything. It was no different for Sam.
He looked steadily at Castiel, his heart clenching painfully in his chest. "You let him destroy himself?"
"You were willing to do the same," Castiel said, and there was a twinge of desperation in his voice. "We were all willing to do the same."
"I just wanted him to die human."
"I just wanted to save the world."
In that, he heard Sam's excuses. For the bigger picture. And Dean felt sick. "Yeah, well, it looks like none of us quite got what we wanted," he muttered, turning away.
"I am sorry, Dean," Castiel said. "I should have confessed this to you sooner."
"You're right, you should have," Dean snapped. He turned back to the angel. "But I'm not the one you should be apologizing to."
Castiel shifted, uncomfortably.
"He's apologized to you," Dean said. "Again and again and again. And maybe he has more to be sorry for, but that doesn't mean you get off clean."
With a nod, Castiel looked at the ground.
"Isn't that what this is about? Restoration? Making things better?"
That was the lesson he had learned on this hunt. This is what he had felt when Sam came back from him. He didn't just want Sam's contrition. He wanted Sam's partnership. Sam was willing to be there for him, and now it was time to let him.
More than that, it was time to let Sam know. To tell Sam it was okay. To stop the apologies, once and for all.
At least, until the next time they pissed each other off.
"It is what I desire," Castiel admitted.
Dean flattened his lips. "Then what's stopping you?"
"It is...harder than I would have suspected."
Dean just snorted. "Yeah," he said. "Tell me about it."
Castiel looked confused, and Dean just rolled his eyes.
"Come on," he said. "It looks like we have some work to do."
Sam didn't look much better when they got back. In fact, if anything, Sam probably looked worse--his pallor was horrible, accentuated even more by the circles that seemed to have reappeared under his eyes. It didn't help that the kid was slumped in the bed, the pillows behind him only serving to make him look smaller than he should have.
Sam looked up when Dean entered, his features flickering almost nervously. Dean could almost see another apology on the kid's face--probably for not waking up sooner or something equally ridiculous that Dean simply wasn't sure he could stomach.
But then, Sam saw Castiel.
Licking his lips, Sam tried to push up. The process wasn't going smoothly, and Sam winced, but it didn't stop him.
Muttering a curse, Dean went to Sam's side, putting a restraining hand on his brother's shoulder before the kid broke his stitches. "Sam, relax," Dean said, hoping to keep his voice calm.
Sam shifted, his mouth opening, but nothing came out. He swallowed painfully, straining a little, eyes flickering from Dean to Castiel and back to Dean again. He tried to speak again, but it was garbled.
"Seriously, man," Dean said, wincing a little. He poured his brother a cup of water, and handed it to him.
Sam accepted it, keeping a wary eye on Castiel, before drinking obediently. After swallowing, he looked at Dean again. "I can probably leave if you need me to," he said, and his voice sounded awful and quiet, but the offer was definitely audible.
And more than loud enough to hit Dean like a sucker punch. Sam had only woken up six hours ago; the doctors were still running tests. Sam had only been taken off the critical list as of two hours ago, and the doctor hadn't even started talking about the necessary recovery time.
All that, and Sam was offering to leave.
It just drove home the point how wrong this was. There was atonement, and there was building trust, and there was just too much. Dean was pretty sure they'd crossed that line awhile ago.
"Dude, you're really not going anywhere anytime soon," he said, trying to keep his tone light enough to hide the painful incredulity he felt.
Sam didn't look convinced. "I just have to get a nurse--"
"If you try to get up, I swear to God, I will tie you down," Dean said, and it came across harsh.
Chagrined, Sam withdrew, his shoulders slumping.
Blowing out a breath, Dean ran a hand through his hair. "Actually, Cas wanted to talk to you," Dean said. "Didn't you, Cas?"
At that, the angel bowed his head for a moment, before looking up and meeting Sam's eyes gravely. "I have."
Sam seemed nervous, twitching a little. "I'm sorry about the hunt," he said. "I know I could have finished, but Dean needed the help. I couldn't let anything--I mean, he's the one who's supposed to kill Lucifer, right?"
"That is not what I wish to discuss," Castiel said.
"I should have done more research," Sam said. "You had to come in, and I wasn't ready. I'm sorry."
"You have apologized sufficiently," Castiel said.
Sam made a face, his eyebrows drawn together. "I can never apologize sufficiently," he said. "The things I've done--I've damned myself, and the fact that you don't smite me--is more than I deserve."
"All people deserve grace."
"Humans, maybe," Sam said with a rueful grin. He looked down.
"Yourself included," Castiel said. "You need to remember the possibility of your own salvation."
Sam raised his head again, giving Dean an uncomfortable look. "I'd like to believe that," he admitted quietly. "I just--can't."
"I cannot speak as to the condition of your soul," Castiel interjected. "That is a matter between you and God, and I urge you to seek Him to make your peace with that. But I can tell you, that I hold no ill will toward you. You broke the final seal, but you did not do it alone."
Sam looked confused, head cocked. His back straightened--Sam's default defensive position. Sam didn't like to talk about what had happened that night, not that Dean could blame him. And Dean had been more than happy to let that go, since it wasn't exactly the highlight of Dean's life either. But they weren't going to get out of this--this was something Castiel needed to do, something Sam needed to hear, whether the kid knew it or not.
Uncertain, Sam glanced at Dean. The kid looked like he wanted to bolt, and if it weren't for the numerous machines and wires, Dean thought Sam might have given it a go. "I...don't understand," Sam said, and his voice was still weak, grating like sandpaper. "I did it. I killed Lilith. Me. All by myself. I believed Ruby. I was wrong--not you, not Dean, me."
"You made mistakes," Castiel acknowledged. "But you did not make them alone. We were well aware of your choices for many months, yet we chose not to act."
"Zachariah wanted the apocalypse," Sam said softly. "I know that. And I made it pretty easy for him."
"You are wrong," Castiel told him. "Toward the end, we had to take drastic measures."
"The phone call?" Sam asked, blanching a little. For as hard as it was for Dean to know that his real message had gotten lost in the shuffle, he knew that whatever was in the message Sam heard had been hard. Sam had refused to tell him the details, but Dean knew the gist of it.
"The insults were designed to strip you of hope," Castiel explained. "And we manipulated what we told Dean about your condition and your choices in an attempt to separate you."
Sam swallowed again, his eyes darting around the room. "Dean was better off without me," he said.
"Hey," Dean chastised. Sam looked at him guiltily.
"He is not," Castiel said. "You have always been stronger together. Which was why that night when you were locked in the panic room, I unlocked the door. So you would leave and sever the bond with your brother irrevocably. You were not in your right mind. The throes of your addiction made it impossible to resist."
Sam's eyes looked wet, and it was harder to watch than Dean had anticipated. His brother shook his head. "No," he said. "You aren't going to make this your fault. This is my penance. My blame. Mine."
Castiel looked sad. "There is enough blame to go around," Castiel told him gently. "I do not wish to absolve your guilt because you need it to grow stronger. But I must confess to my own or I will never grow beyond it either. Will you please grant me that much?"
Dean could see that Sam wanted to protest. He wanted to deny it. Dean had to admit, though, Castiel's approach had been perfect. Sam's guilt manifested sharply in both self-loathing and complete deference. Sam clearly did not want to allow Castiel to ease his burden in the least because the kid didn't think he deserved it. But Sam's low sense of himself also meant that he could not contradict the being, no matter how much he wanted to.
Finally, painfully, Sam nodded.
Castiel smiled. Human emotion wasn't completely beyond Cas, but Dean hadn't seen it very often, especially ever since the apocalypse swung into full gear. They were all frayed around the edges, and angel or not, Castiel had taken the burden hard. Sometimes, Dean forgot just how much they had gone through to get to this point.
Seeing Castiel smile at Sam, he remembered. He remembered Castiel firm grip as he raised him from Hell. He remembered his questioning eyes as he tried to make sense of orders that were painful to follow. He remembered the look of resolve when Castiel made his choice and joined Dean in fighting for what was right.
This was a defining moment--for all of them.
"Thank you," Castiel said. "Now. I must go. I will be back to check in with both of you later."
He didn't wait for a reply, which was probably for the best. Dean wasn't sure he had the words at the moment, and Sam didn't appear to be much better off.
Which was fine for Castiel's angelic exit, but didn't leave them with much in the aftermath.
Sam gave Dean a short look, before turning his head toward the wall. The confusion was evident on his kid brother's face, though Sam seemed determined not to talk about it.
"Sam, I didn't know," Dean said. "I mean, I knew about some of it. But I didn't know--how far the angels went. I always figured it was Ruby..."
"She never had those kind of powers," Sam said softly. "And she made sure they were my choices--all of them."
"So, wait, you knew it wasn't Ruby?" Dean asked, leaning forward.
Sam's gaze didn't waver. "I suspected."
"Why didn't you tell me?"
Sam turned his head, look apologetic. "It wasn't a secret, Dean, really," he said, sounding a little desperate. "It just--didn't matter. You trusted the angels and whoever let me out, whoever left that message--that didn't change the fact that I still made the wrong choice. I could have stayed. I could have gone back. I didn't. It's on me. I didn't want to--I mean, you have a good thing with Castiel. I didn't--I couldn't disrupt that."
It was far too much like a secret but Dean wasn't mad--not this time. This secret wasn't a sign of Sam's plotting or an evil turn. This secret was a sign of Sam's complete lack of self worth.
It was a shocking reality. That his strong, defiant brother, the kid who had gone to college despite their father's ultimatums, the kid who had rallied against the Yellow Eyed Demon's plans at the expense of his life, the kid who had defied angels--his little brother didn't even have enough self worth to stand up for himself.
In fact, the only time Sam had asserted any kind of opinion was when Dean's life was at risk.
And it wasn't okay. Dean wanted Sam to be sorry, Dean wanted Sam to learn from his mistakes--but this was beyond that. This wasn't sorry, this was a self imposed Hell. This wasn't learning, this was penance.
"Aw, Sammy," he said, rubbing a hand over his face.
Sam watched him, uncertain and timid. Timid. Sam shouldn't be timid. Sam shouldn't have to ask for his permission on every turn. Sam shouldn't have to let himself look weak just to make Dean's life easier. This wasn't right.
But Dean didn't know what to say. Didn't even know where to begin.
He was almost grateful when a knock came at the door and the nurse poked her head in.
"I'm sorry to interrupt," the nurse said with a smile, stepping inside. "But it's time for his bath. If we don't do it now, he's not going to get one for another day."
It wasn't really the time for jokes. It wasn't the time for lighthearted distractions. But apparently, it was time for a bath, and Dean didn't have the answers, so a little cleanse might do both of them good.
Dean wrinkled his nose. "And that's something I can't stand in the way of," he said. He leaned toward Sam. "Trust me, buddy, it's not as bad as it sounds. And this one looks like expert."
The nurse blushed, squaring her shoulders a little as she tossed her head. "It's entirely professional," she said, but her grin suggested otherwise.
Dean flashed her a grin back, but Sam could barely muster one up at all. "Yeah, okay," Sam said.
"We'll talk when you're done," Dean said. He glanced at the nurse with a quirk of his eyebrow. "And I expect a full report about how it went."
Sam smiled meekly, and Dean wished he had a way to make his brother smile for real, like he had on the hunt. But not right then. There would be time, though--and for that, Dean had to be grateful.
He gave his brother one more lingering look, before leaving the room.
In the hallway, Dean sighed. Without Sam around, it was suddenly harder to keep himself upright, and he tried to remember the last time he'd slept. It was a vague memory, a hazy period between wake and sleep in the chair by his brother's bed.
Trying to remember when he'd last eaten was even more of a challenge, and he realized his stomach was painfully empty. The Jello he'd snagged off Sam's breakfast tray was hardly tiding him over. It was time for some real food--of the vending machine variety. He wasn't going to leave the hospital at this point, and he was too tired to try to find the cafeteria. Man couldn't live on bread alone, but he was pretty sure he could make a viable case for Peanut M&M's and coffee.
He crashed in a chair in the waiting room, devouring his makeshift meal with as much vigor as he could muster, even if the coffee tasted like crap and the M&M seemed a little stale.
When Castiel appeared in the chair next to him, it was more shocking than usual, and no more welcome. "You know, someday someone is going to see you do that," Dean said between bites.
"It is possible."
"Yeah, and it's also possible that they'll get wise of that fact that, well, you're an angel and that we're in the middle of the friggin' apocalypse, which, the last time I checked we were trying to keep on the DL. Publicity reasons or something. Mass hysteria. Panic. You know, things we don't want."
"I will endeavor to be more discreet."
"You do that," Dean said. "And while you're at it, endeavor to be a little less secretive."
"I am trying, Dean."
Dean sighed, looking at the bag of candy. "Yeah," he said, fingering it. "I know."
"Can we go someplace...private?"
Dean looked at him and raised an eyebrow. "Cas, I didn't know you felt that way."
The angel just looked weary. "Business before pleasure, Dean."
Dean couldn't help but grin. "Good job on keeping up with those humanisms."
"You are an apt teacher."
"And here I thought you weren't paying attention."
"Have we bonded sufficiently that we may proceed now?"
Dean just rolled his eyes. "Doesn't going someplace private sort of defeat the purpose?"
Castiel did not look amused, and Dean felt a hand on his wrist a second before he was moving in a flash of light.
When it abated, he scrambled hard to get his feet beneath him, as his chair was suddenly gone. His coffee splashed to the ground and the M&M's scattered around him.
"What the hell?" Dean asked, regaining his balance. "What's with the angel express?"
"You were wasting time."
"We were bonding, remember?"
"We have work to do," Castiel said.
"So, I take it that your little moment with Sam back there means that we're not getting a reprieve."
"My peace with Sam was for my personal benefit as well as for my relationship with both of you," Castiel said. "It will help the mission, but it does not change it."
"You could have just said that and we could have walked the five feet to the stairwell."
"You were not paying attention."
"I hadn't finished my coffee," Dean shot back. He sighed again. "Besides, it's too early."
"The demons will not wait," Castiel said.
"If you didn't notice, Sam just woke up."
"You are not injured."
Dean licked his lips. "Yeah, about that," he said. "I wanted to talk to you about the whole way that went down."
Castiel raised his eyebrows expectantly.
"Not that I don't appreciate you saving my ass and all," Dean said. "But in the future, if you save one of us, you better save both of us. We're a matched set. If we don't do it together, I don't do it at all, and you can kiss your whole saving the world shtick goodbye."
Castiel sighed, wearily and resigned. "If I have to choose, I will always choose you," the angel explained. "My regret in regards to Sam does not overshadow my duties."
"Yeah, well, my desire to fulfill this master plan does not overshadow my real duties," Dean countered. "So you just think about that when you're making those split second decisions."
Their eyes locked, their gazes meeting for a moment. There was regret and there was fear and there was truth, laid out between them, and for the first time in a long time, Dean felt like this holy warrior thing might work out okay after all. It was a crap shoot the best of days, taking the word of angels he wasn't sure he could trust, playing an epic part in a cosmic battle he didn't even want to understand. He had tried to do it his way, balancing the orders with his instincts, but none of had felt right--Dean hadn't felt right--and he was finally beginning to realize why.
The angels wanted him to be their savior. But deep inside, all Dean had ever wanted, was just to be a brother. Unless he got that much down, the world was going to be out of luck.
"I will do what I can," Castiel said finally.
It wasn't the resounding call of protection that Dean had hoped for, but it was something. Besides, since when did Dean Winchester need anyone to do his job for him? "Good," Dean said.
"Now, may we discuss--"
Dean shook his head. "No, no, no," he said. "Not here."
Castiel glanced around, taking in the empty stairwell with an air of exasperation and utter confusion. "We are alone," he said. "The security camera has no audio recording."
Dean snorted. "You think I'm worried about the security camera?"
Castiel raised his eyebrows imploringly. "I am uncertain, then," he admitted.
"This next job you have for me, it's not just for me," Dean said. "It's for Sam, too."
The angel hesitated for a long moment, and Dean could see it was a struggle.
"You said you wanted to make it right," Dean continued. "So this is how you do it."
There was a look of indecision on Castiel's face, as weary as it was determined. Finally, he nodded. "I will return when Sam is able," he said. "We have work for you. For both of you."
It was what Dean had wanted to hear--what he'd needed to hear. It wasn't necessarily easy to trust Castiel, not knowing what he had done to him, what he had done to Sam, but it was a mistake he understood, even if he didn't want to. These things were in the past. Moments of indecision, moments of weakness--those weren't the things that defined Castiel. They weren't the things that defined Dean.
They weren't the things that defined Sam.
The angel vanished the same way he had come, and Dean closed his eyes sagging against the wall. He put his head to the cement and wondered when he had forgotten that. When it had gotten so hard to see it. In all those months that he tried to overcome what he'd done in Hell, he'd wanted to believe it. Even now, the weight of it was a large reason he kept fighting. Because he was better than that. He was better than who he was then. And he could make a difference now. No matter what the past contained, his future could be brighter--he was sure of it.
It was on these grounds he could forgive Castiel. It was on these grounds he should have forgiven Sam a long time ago.
Castiel wasn't the only one who wanted to make it right. Dean did, too. Sam's sins were one thing; Dean's were another. He had lied to his brother, too. He had assumed the worst about Sam, from the moment he got out of Hell to the start of this last hunt. He had looked at his brother and seen monster when he should have seen that his brother was falling apart. Sam had been a drowning man and Dean hadn't seen it.
He'd been wrong under the siren's spell. His brother had changed, that was true, but he should have known exactly when it happened. It wasn't a mystery. Sam was a broken man. And Dean should have recognized those symptoms, since they were the exact ones that had driven Dean to the crossroads that night.
And he never asked. He never looked twice. That didn't give Sam free license, but it took two people to ruin a relationship. The lapse in trust wasn't just Sam's fault, no matter how much Dean wanted to believe it.
Castiel had swallowed his pride. Sam had given his up long ago.
It was time for Dean to take the plunge.
With a deep breath, he tried to feel resolved. It was funny to him--he could face down demons, he could be God's holy warrior, but trying to be a brother? Sort of left him scared out of his mind.
Though it shouldn't be too scary. After all, Dean didn't have to go over a waterfall to prove his point.
With that, he took a deep breath, and made his way back to his brother.
It was easy to talk big to Castiel. The thought of actually talking to Sam, however, made him feel like a coward. He didn't know what to say.
No, he knew what to say. He just didn't know how to make himself say it.
It went back to being weak, that fear of seeming like he didn't have it in control. He wanted his brother back, but the notion of letting his own vulnerabilities come to the foreground to help bring about reconciliation scared the crap out of him. It had taken more than a little cajoling to get him back on board with hunting, and a whole hell of a lot more to make him believe that he could save the world--so the idea of approaching Sam and letting someone see his flaws again?
Not high on the list of things he wanted to do.
But he did want his brother back.
It was a question of which he wanted more. And if he'd learned anything over the last few days, it was that there was no question at all.
He found Sam sitting in the bed, looking clean, but still as weary as ever. Castiel's apology had confused Sam, left him reeling, and Dean could see that the kid still wasn't sure what it meant--for him and for them.
Clearing his throat, Dean eased himself into the chair, giving his brother a grin. "So," Dean said. "Nice bath?"
"Very spongy," Sam returned quietly.
Dean grinned. "Sounds kinky."
Sam returned the smile half-heartedly. "If not for the stitches and bruises, maybe."
"You have to work the injury angle," Dean chided him lightly. "Haven't I taught you anything?"
Sam's smile faltered, and he looked down.
Dean cleared his throat, feeling awkward. "Well, there's always tomorrow," Dean said. "I haven't talked to the doc yet, but I have a feeling you're not going anywhere for awhile."
"I can sign out AMA," Sam offered. "I mean, I think I can probably get around on crutches. I'd just be slow for a little bit."
"Uh, yeah," Dean said. "You think?"
"I'm just saying--"
"We're not going anywhere," Dean said definitively. "Let's just let the docs tell you when you're ready to book it before we head back out there. It's the apocalypse. It's not going to go anywhere."
It was supposed to be reassuring, but Dean could see it was having the wrong effect entirely. Sam looked positively droopy on the bed, like someone had just run over his dog. Of course, Sam didn't have a dog; he just had a guilty conscience that simply would not quit.
Dean sighed. "We could use the break, anyway."
Sam nodded at that. "Then, I don't know. I thought, if it was okay, I'd get the laptop, maybe see if we can get a lead," he said. Then he shrugged. "Unless, you know, you would rather find us a gig."
It was more than Dean could take. He was trying to rebuild the connection, trying to work his way into some kind of apology, but Sam couldn't stop with his own self-deprecating apologies. At this rate, they weren't going to get anywhere. "You don't have to do that," Dean said suddenly.
Sam looked surprised, his face so blank that Dean swore the kid looked like he was five again. "Do what?"
Flushed, Dean wrinkled his nose, rubbing uncertainly at the back of his neck. "Ask me for permission."
Sam still looked blank, but his eyebrows rose a little. "I just thought you would want me to clear it with you first," Sam said.
Dean sighed. "Dude, I'm not Dad. You're an adult. You can take a piss without clearing with me first. In fact, I'd rather you did."
Sam just looked confused. "I don't have to go the bathroom right now," he said.
Dean rolled his eyes. Subtlety wasn't his thing, apparently. He licked his lips, shifting in his seat. "I don't just mean about the bathroom."
Shaking his head, Sam's brow creased deeper. "Okay, I'll remember not to inform you about my bodily functions."
Groaning, Dean put his head back. This wasn't working. He didn't want another guideline Sam thought he had to follow. He wanted Sam to understand that it was okay to just live, that Dean didn't have to keep in check, because Sam could keep himself in check. That Dean trusted him again.
It was just kind of hard to, well, say.
"Look, I just--I mean--I know you've screwed up in the past, okay? You screwed up bad," Dean began.
Sam's body went rigid, his face tight. He blinked rapidly, nodding his head, quick and fast.
Dean had to keep going. This wasn't how he wanted to say it, but it was the only way he knew how. "And I don't know. Seeing you like that, seeing you drink the blood, seeing you go through hallucination after hallucination. Tying you down, watching you have a damn seizure--I just never thought you could get that low."
Sam's jaw quivered, and Dean could see that his brother wanted to look away, but true to Sam's new self-flagellant nature, he refused to allow himself that much.
Collecting a deep breath, Dean continued. "And then you picked her," Dean said, and his own voice wavered. "You picked her and you choked me. And then when I finally find you again, you'd just ended the whole damn world. Because you believed her and turned yourself into a monster. I told you, Sam. I told you all along, and you never listened. And you were wrong. You were so very wrong. In all of that, just having you around was as much as I could do. The thought of trusting you--it just wasn't in me anymore. Not after what you'd done. Not after what I'd seen you become."
A tear slipped down Sam's cheek, and this time Sam did look away, his head dipped in shame.
"But people change," Dean pressed on, and this was the important part. Important because Dean had spent a long time pushing Sam away, keeping his brother away. Sam wasn't the only one who had something to atone for. It was time to understand Sam, to really know him.
"You aren't the same kid who went to Stanford. But I'm not the same guy who went to Hell. And nothing makes what you did okay, but I should have seen it sooner. Not just that you were different, but why. I just didn't want to think about those four months, you know? Your life without me. If I didn't think about it, then maybe it wasn't real. Maybe I didn't die, maybe I didn't break the first seal in Hell, maybe none of it happened." He swallowed. "But it did happen. I did break the first seal, and you broke the last one. I don't to get into a pissing contest about who screwed up worse, because it's over now. And it's time to put it behind us."
Sam looked up at him, and his face was wet now. He just shook his head. "I don't deserve that much," he said, his voice taut. "I don't deserve any of it."
Sam shook his head, vehemently now. "You had no choice," Sam gritted out. "I did. I had every choice and you told me to stop, and I didn't. You can never trust me again."
"I had a choice, too, Sam. When I made that deal."
"It's not the same," Sam insisted.
"Fine," Dean said shortly. "You have to come to your own peace with yourself. But I need you to know, that for me, for us, I trust you."
Sam looked at him, his eyes begging to understand. "But...how?" he asked.
"Because people make mistakes, Sammy," Dean said, and he could recite his own list as easily as Sam could. "And because people change. But even when we forget it, we keep coming back to it. Family. Brothers. You and me, Sam. We make an awesome team. When we were out there together, working together, as a team--it's the best I've felt in months. The best we've hunted in months. Never once, when it was on the line, did I think you would fail me. I trusted you subconsciously even before I had it in my mind that I could. I just figured it was time for the rest of me to catch up."
It was obvious that Sam wanted to believe him. There was a desperate quality to Sam's expression, but it was masked with fear. Fear to believe, fear of himself--Dean wasn't sure. But they were close, now. Close to coming clean, close to making amends, close to getting back to the closest thing to good that they could ever hope to have at this point.
Bobby was right, though. Sam was strong-willed, in all the best and worst ways.
Stubbornly, Sam shook his head. "I'll stay with you. I will stick by yourself until you tell me to go, but I will never make up for what I did. Ever."
Dean sighed. "You really think you're so special?" Dean asked. "You think you're the only one who got us here? What about Cas, letting you out? What about me, breaking the first seal?"
"That wasn't your fault," Sam said again, stronger now. "And Cas unlocked the door. I chose to leave."
Dean laughed incredulously, shaking his head. "So it's not my fault that while in the pits of Hell, I couldn't resist torturing souls, but it is your fault that in the depths of addiction, you couldn't resist a chance to get a fix? Sam, I saw you. The blood had complete control over you. The detox was killing you."
"And that was my mistake, too," Sam shot back. "I drank the blood. I did it to myself. I'm the monster, me, and you said so."
"And I can't be wrong?" Dean yelled finally. Sam seemed taken aback, his face paling. Dean sighed, running a frustrated hand through his hair. "When are you going to get it, Sam? This isn't about me forgiving you--because I already have. This is about you forgiving yourself. I know the mistakes I've made, and, trust me, there are a lot. And not just about Hell or even the deal. But in how I treated you. I assumed the worst, that entire year. I jumped down your throat and I never even thought to ask you. But I'm trying to own up to them so I can move on. That's what Cas' apology was all about. So, what about you, huh? Are you going to man up and get over this crap or am I going to be stuck without a hunting partner throughout the apocalypse?"
Sam's eyes blazed with the vestiges of his defiance. "You can do this alone," Sam said, his voice strained and soft.
"Yeah," Dean said. "But I don't want to."
Sam's breathing hitched, and a sob broke free. Even after all this time, they both remembered what started them on this journey together.
"It's what makes you stronger, Sam," Dean admitted, his throat feeling tight. "When you were gone, I couldn't do anything. And you--you somehow managed to keep going. You didn't do it all right, but you still did it. And even now, I don't know how you do it. How you get up day after day."
Especially knowing the burden Sam carried. The guilt he refused to give up.
"I do it for you," Sam said. "I always did it for you. I let you down in so many ways, but I couldn't fail at that."
Dean just nodded, his eyes burning suspiciously. "Yeah," he said, nodding a little. "I guess maybe it runs in the family. Bitch."
Sam stared at him, incredulous, dumbfounded, and hopeful. "You think it's that easy?" he asked. "After all of this, we can just be like it was?"
Dean scoffed. "How much harder do you want to make it? You already jumped off a cliff, got thrown over a waterfall, and buried in a rock slide. I think you've worked hard enough."
Sam seemed to consider that, chuckling ruefully. "It has been quite an experience."
"You're telling me," Dean said. "I'm the one who had to fend of the horde of angry wildlife."
"Castiel did all the hard work," Sam said with a shy grin.
"Well, that's more than I can say for you, bitch."
Sam scowled, but it was a good-natured turn. "I was looking for you, jerk."
"Well," Dean said, and he was smiling in earnest now. "Looks like we found each other, Sammy."
Sam hesitated, his head inclining slightly. Then resolved settled over his face, and he nodded, brisk and decidedly. "Yeah," he said. "Maybe we did."
A/N: And that is that! If only it were that simple.
Prompt: The brothers are hunting something (your choice) in and around a rocky mountain side. Sam saves both his brother and a civilian, but sadly falls in doing so. (can be into a raging river, steep incline, waterfall, your choice) He has to survive and get back to his brother. Show Sam's struggles to survive, but his awesomeness in being too stubborn to give up.