They drove away from Oklahoma, still in their ridiculous thin, blue robes. After about two hours, they stopped at a motel. Sam threw on a hoodie and got them a room. Both of them fell into bed and slept a full eight hours, before packing up and hitting the road. Being crazy had obviously taken a lot out of them.
Nothing about the events at the hospital was brought up, or talked about or dealt with.
It was a week later, and they were driving out of Ohio and into Pennsylvania. There were signs of mass possession in some small, steal-belt town outside of Pittsburgh. Bobby told Sam he thought maybe it was a sign of Lucifer or of 'Death.' Didn't really matter which. It was still their job to chase down evil and try to stop the planet from being torched.
Sam drove. It was a sunny, cold day, and he tried to appreciate the beauty of the surrounding countryside. Anything to take his mind off what was coming. Or, what was past. Really, everything was pretty whacked. He couldn't find a safe place to park his mind. Dean wasn't helping. He was generally pretty good at distracting them both from whatever they were about to ride into. But, for the last week, Dean had been quiet. He wasn't humming along with the music, or bitching when Sam put it on classical or country. He didn't snark or grin about waitresses or pie or Sam's hair. He was actually subdued, which, for Dean, was unusual. Sam knew that things had gone on with Dean back at that hospital. He'd asked him about it a few times. Dean wouldn't say what had gone on. But, Sam himself was kind of messed up over what had happened there, so he figured Dean must be, too.
I'm mad, all the time. And I don't know why.
It wasn't like he hadn't known that he'd been angry lately. It hadn't occurred to him that it was maybe a more long-standing problem. He just didn't know what to do about it. 'People can learn to live with their delusions…but, the anger I saw in you…you hurt those two men, and you were going to kill me…it's like you were barely even human. Like a man possessed.' Lucifer, too, had told him that all Sam's pent up rage was going to help the fallen angel. 'Keep that fire in your belly, Sam. I'm going to need it.'
Sam knew if he didn't get a handle on it, his anger was going to come back and bite him on the ass. Lucifer would find a way to use it against him. And, that thought made the rage start to boil again. Because how could he get rid of something that had always been there? Sam kind of felt like, he'd been hitting his head against a wall from childhood on. Now, it was Lucifer breathing down his neck. But, his whole life, everything had been out of his control. Where they lived, what they did, when they moved, all the training and lessons in lore and weapons, no one ever asked him what he wanted. When he did speak up, it was like he was being disloyal to the family Winchester. And, there was no changing that. So, how could he get over it? How could he get over all the things in his life that he hadn't been able to control? Still couldn't control. It was all pretty damn infuriating.
But, he had to get a grip on it. Because, if Lucifer found a way to tap into all of that? Sam would be a goner. It would be just like with Ruby. Every time she mentioned Lilith, and getting revenge for Dean's death, Sam was hers for the taking. Putty in her damn hands. Because he hadn't been able to get the thought of revenge out of his mind. 'Making Lilith pay' had practically been his mantra. Looking back, even knowing the triggers she'd used on him, Sam didn't see how he could have changed any of it. Lilith had killed Dean, right in front of him. Ripped him to bloody shreds. He would have done just about anything to end her. Yeah, you proved that just fine, Sam. He got Lilith, but screwed the world. He couldn't let Lucifer do the same thing to him, use his anger to get Sam to do his will. He just couldn't.
He looked over at Dean, who was staring out the window with a look that Sam could only call 'hopeless' on his face. It scared him. Because if Dean was hopeless? That was it, for both of them.
Sam pulled the car over to the shoulder of the road, slowly brought it to a stop. Dean glanced at him. "What? We just took a break, like, two hours ago."
Sam put the car in park and turned off the ignition. "We have to talk about some things, and I'm not moving this car until we do."
Dean rolled his eyes, but looked nervous, too. "Sam---"
Sam held up his hand. "Okay, let me rephrase that. I have to talk about some things, and I'm not moving the car until I do."
Dean sighed, his face closed. "Go ahead, then."
Sam nodded, tried to work out what he wanted to say. "What that doctor said to me, about my being so angry, that I wanted to hurt people. Like I was a man possessed. He was right about that. And, I need to figure out what to do about it, because, Lucifer…he said something to me along the same lines. How, he needed me to feel rage. That, 'the fire in my belly' was going to help him. And, I just…Dean, I need you to help me. Because if I just bury it, I'm afraid he'll be able to use it. Just like Ruby. And, I…"
"Okay." Dean opened his door and got out of the car.
Sam didn't know what to think, but he got out of the car, too.
Dean went to the trunk, opened it. He took out the ax. Sam watched him warily. "What are you doing?"
Dean looked around. They were at the side of a mountain road, bare winter trees all around them. No other cars had passed. Dean hefted the ax, walked over the guardrail, and up the incline, into the thick stand of trees. He threw a glance over his shoulder. "Come on."
Sam did as he always had, and followed.
They stopped after walking about ten minutes. Dean had found a small clearing in the woods, about twenty feet squared. He turned to Sam, handed him the ax.
Sam's mouth kicked up in a grin. "I thought maybe you were pulling a Snow White."
Dean looked confused. "What?"
Sam waved his hand. "Never mind. What are we doing?"
Dean gestured for him to take the ax. "Not 'we.' You. It doesn't surprise me in the least that you're angry, Sam. It's not like it's from out of nowhere. God, one page of our history is enough to make any sane person a raving lunatic. Put the whole book together, and yeah, I get it. So, get it out of your system. Chop."
Sam took the ax. "Chop? What, just, chop at some random trees, and the rage will disappear?"
Dean sat on a fallen tree. "Hey, I'm not Dr. Phil. But, I do know that during my one experience with anger management class – don't ask – they made me punch a heavy bag for like, an hour. I didn't really talk about anything, but, after all that punching, I felt better. So, chop."
"I don't…you think it will help?"
Sam nodded. "Okay, then." He looked around the small clearing, walked over to a tree about six inches around. Swung the ax. Barely made a dent. Well, hell. So, he swung harder. A small piece chipped away. And he let the feelings loose. Fucking tree. Chop. Fucking Lucifer. Chop. And Lilith. Chop. And Ruby…
He let it all run through his head. Everything that made him furious. Dad. Dad dying. Yellow Eyes. Mom dying. Jess dying. Dean dying. And I couldn't do a damn thing to stop any of it! Why am I even here?! Just to be a vessel for evil? Why can't I get one damn break! He was absently aware of the tree falling.
He turned to another, thicker tree. He swung that ax and raged. Fucking Destiny's Bitch Boy. That's what I am. What the hell does it matter how hard I try? Nothing I do counts for a god damned thing! Dean doesn't trust me. The angels abandoned me. The only one who wants me around is fucking LUCIFER. Well, you ain't getting' me, you whiny, thumb-sucking baby! You fight your family on your own turf. You don't belong here. I won't let you destroy everything. You can throw whatever you want at me, I'm not breaking! I will never SAY YES! And the tree fell over, almost taking him out with it. He stepped back, looked for another target.
He was in a zone for awhile. New things to be pissed about would occur to him, and he'd take it out on a tree. Why couldn't I have kept Jess? Why couldn't I have had what so many people take for granted? WHY COULDN'T I SAVE DEAN!? And, another tree fell. He swung around, picked another target. After who knows how long, his mind finally started to quiet. His thoughts ran down, he became more aware of the cold wind on his sweaty face. His hands were burning, and his shoulders were aching. He slowed his chopping halfway through a two-foot thick tree. He was panting, and hot and cold at the same time.
Sam stepped back from the tree. Closed his eyes, and took in some long, deep breaths. When his heart finally slowed, he opened his eyes and turned. Dean was sitting with his jacket zipped up, hands in his pockets, looking cold but calm. Sam's mind was spent. It was a huge relief. He went over and sat next to Dean, dropped the ax at their feet.
Dean cleared his throat. "Better?"
Sam turned to him, couldn't help the half smile. "Actually, yes."
Dean's mouth kicked up at the corner. "Sammy: nine, trees: zero." Sam's brows went up, he looked around the little clearing. It looked like a logging crew had come through. Trees were flattened in a semi-circle around where Dean sat. Dean clapped him on the back. "Pretty impressive hissy fit, dude."
Sam's mouth dropped open, and he turned back to Dean. "Hissy fit?!"
Dean shrugged. "What would you call it?"
Sam was going to say, 'my life,' or 'a stream of shit luck.' Then, he thought again. Had to admit. "I'd call it a pretty serious pity party."
That surprised a laugh out of Dean. "Yeah? Well, God knows, you've got some material. We'll just stop every few days, and you can take out a few trees."
Sam considered. It seemed as reasonable as anything else he could think of. "Want to take a few swings?"
Dean sighed. "Nah." He held up his hands. "Need to keep my hands in tip top shape for driving."
Sam looked down at his own. They were covered in bleeding blisters. He shrugged. "Just a ploy so you can take over driving, then?"
Dean picked up one of Sam's hands. "Jesus, man. That is nasty." He stood up. "Come on, I'm freezing my ass off out here, and we should clean those."
Sam stood, before he could reach for it, Dean picked up the ax. Only now did Sam see he'd left smears of blood on the handle. "Sorry about that. I'll clean it tonight."
Dean hefted it, turned to look at Sam over his shoulder as they started walking. "Yes you will."
Back at the car, Sam stowed the ax. The sun was warmer out here in the open, and he had to admit, he did feel more peaceful. He didn't want to get back in the car just yet. Didn't want to go right back on the demon-death detail when he'd finally found some equilibrium. He didn't get in the car, just sat on the trunk and tilted his face up to absorb the sun. He let his stinging hands rest in his lap.
Dean came over and Sam felt the car dip as he sat beside him. They didn't talk, just sat. The wind had died down, and the chill didn't seem too bad. He could even hear a random bird every now and again. He tried to absorb the quiet.
Except that, now that his own issues were dormant, he was back to wondering what the wraith had used on Dean. What had she been showing him, or 'amping up' to make him go crazy? Had she tormented him with images from hell? Had to be, right? But, maybe not. Dean had been remembering hell for awhile now, and, yeah, he drank and didn't sleep that much. But, whatever had happened back in that hospital in Oklahoma had made him go quiet. And, the only time Sam knew Dean to go quiet was when he was pretty much on the edge of despair.
Dean 'hmmed' next to him.
"What did you see, back in Oklahoma?"
Dean didn't answer. But, Sam could feel him tense up next to him. Too bad, man. Sam had had enough of 'letting it go' when it came to his big brother. It may have been easier on them both, but it hadn't helped either one of them. "Dean?"
"Sam, let's not."
Sam sighed, opened his eyes, but kept his gaze on the hills and trees around them. Dean had tried to help him, had helped him. And, Sam was going to do the same. Something was eating at Dean, something damn heavy, and Sam was going to get Dean to give up what it was. "Dean, I know that you are a private person. Believe me, I know. But, something happened back there, and I'm asking you to tell me what it was. Just, I'm not trying to fix it, or fix you, I just want you to tell me what's going on, okay?"
He felt Dean let out a shaky sigh. "Sam…"
But, Sam was not going to yield on this. "We know that Lucifer, and probably Michael, too, are going to try to use our own shit against us. The only way we can fight that, is to actually know what that stuff is. I'm angry. And, I have got to get a handle on it so it can't be used against me. So, what was it for you? What were you seeing or hearing in that place that played with your head?"
Sam watched Dean out of the corner of his eye. He saw him shrug, play with the car keys, shuffle his foot against the gravel of the road. But, Sam could wait him out. He just continued to reach for the peace of the surrounding hills.
Finally, softly, Dean spoke beside him. "I don't think I can do it."
Sam waited. When Dean didn't continue, he asked, "Can't do what?"
And Dean gave this quiet, self-conscious laugh. "Save the world."
Sam blew out a long breath. Oh. And what could he possibly say to that? Because, really? They probably weren't going to be able to do it. If Sam had learned anything in the past couple of years, it was that wanting something with every fiber of your being didn't make it happen. "All we can do is try, Dean."
Dean nodded, he was looking down the road. "Yeah. Except, when I fail, 6 billion people are going to die. All because of me."
Sam's brows went up. "That's not true. None of this is because of you. This fight started a long time ago, in a realm we aren't even a part of."
Dean shook his head. "I broke the first seal. The angels told me I have to stop it."
Sam put his hand on Dean's shoulder. "Of course they told you that. Cause they can't clean up their own mess. But, this isn't your fault. This fight, this thing between the demons and the angels and Michael and Lucifer, it has nothing to do with you. They tell you that you have to fix it because they can't fix it themselves."
Dean closed his eyes, let out a long sigh. "Doesn't change the fact that, right now, it's on me to save everyone."
Sam strengthened his grip on Dean and turned toward him. "Dean, even if that's how you're looking at it, even if that's how it is, you aren't alone. This isn't yours to carry all by yourself."
Dean's breath hitched. "No? Sure feels like it."
Sam turned fully to Dean, put a hand on each of his shoulders. "If it feels like that, then I'm sorry. I thought you knew… you aren't alone. Maybe you still don't trust me. It doesn't matter. It doesn't change the fact that I'm here with you, to the end. No matter what happens, you've got me. You've got Bobby and Castiel. Hell, a lot of other hunters, too. And, even if they're dead, you have Ellen and Jo, even Dad and Mom, mom's folks. Hell, Dean, there is a long line of people who are in this fight with you."
Dean shook his head, felt his control start to break. Tried to pull away from Sam. But, Sam wasn't having it. He held tighter, gave his shoulders a shake. "This isn't just yours to carry, man. You and me, remember? I know I kind of forgot for awhile, but, I'm here. I'm not leaving. I'm not going to hulk out or run off. Trust me that much, okay? However this thing goes, I'm right here."
Dean felt his eyes fill. It was too much, and not enough. Having Sam really with him, no matter what, was what he wanted. What he needed. But, even so. "It's too big, Sam. The world is going to go to hell and I'm not going to be able to stop it."
Sam pulled him in, then, wrapped his arms around Dean. Held on tight. And, damn, if that didn't feel like some kind of relief, to lean on Sam, even for a minute. To share the weight, just a little. Sam spoke softly. "Even if that's true, then say, 'we're not going to be able to stop it.' It's not all on you, Dean. This is on me, just as much. More. But, that's not going to stop us from trying, right?" After a long moment, he huffed a laugh into Dean's shoulder. "If it's an epic failure and we break the world, it'll be a group effort. Okay?"
Dean surprised himself when he laughed. He rested his head on Sam's massive shoulder, and just let himself breathe. It somehow felt easier than it had since Oklahoma. Sam was talking quietly, "Don't give up. I know it feels huge, but we'll figure it out. Or we go down swinging, taking as many of the bastards with us as we can. You're not alone, Dean. Whatever happens… I'm not gonna let you do this alone…"
It shouldn't have made him feel better. It didn't change anything, really. The world was still fucked. Lucifer and Michael still hovered, looking for a way in. But the loneliness, the crushing weight of this whole thing resting on him? Somehow, Sam, with his girly hug and stupid Oprah pep talk, was actually making it better.
And, he was right. There were two people in a position to change the agenda of heaven and hell. He and Sam were it. He'd been looking at that as a bad thing. Maybe, it was a good thing. Maybe they were actually going to be able to stop it all. Maybe.
After a hopefully not-too-embarrassing amount of time, Dean finally patted Sam's back in an 'I'm okay, you can let go now…' motion. Sam sat back. Dean was kind of relieved to see Sam use his sleeve to wipe at his eyes. It made it less awkward when Dean did the same. Sam turned to sit with his back to the window again, and they both looked out at the wintry hills. The sky was starting to darken, go pink. The quiet stood between them, more peaceful, this time, less crushing. They sat there, on the trunk of dad's car, waiting to drive to meet up with death and the devil. But, for now, weirdly enough, that seemed doable.
Then, Sam slanted his gaze at Dean. "So, anger management class, huh?"
Dean snorted. "Long story."
Sam stood up. "Luckily, we have some time."