Title: And Sore Must Be The Storm
Author: Zubeneschamali
Rating: K+ (language)
Word Count: 1,821
Summary: Tag to 5.14, "My Bloody Valentine." In the aftermath of their encounter with the Horseman, Sam asks Dean to make him a promise.

Disclaimer: Not mine and not for profit.

xxxxx

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune--without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

--from "Hope" by Emily Dickinson

xxxxx

"Dean, you have to promise me something."

Dean gave a heavy, put-upon sigh. "What is it?"

"I'm serious," Sam rasped, lifting his head to look at his brother, slumped against the wall of Bobby's panic room.

Once the hallucinations had stopped, once Sam had gone hoarse from shouting, Dean had come in and brought him some water. Sam gratefully drank it without meeting his eyes, letting Dean squeeze half of the sports bottle into his mouth before dropping his head back against the table, exhausted and racked with pain. It hadn't gone on this long last time, but then he'd only had tastes of blood spread out over days and weeks, not the full-on binge that he'd indulged in thirty-six hours ago. As weary as he was of the physical pain, it didn't seem to be letting up.

Thirst temporarily slaked, he'd closed his eyes, waiting to hear the sound of the door clanging shut behind his brother, leaving him alone with his thoughts and his torment.

Then, to his surprise, Dean had lowered himself to sit against the wall and called out, "Shut it, Cas."

A moment later, the door had swung shut, and Sam was no longer alone.

Now, Dean was staring down at the cement floor, his head drooping tiredly, and Sam wondered if he'd slept at all since driving here and securing Sam in the panic room. "What do you want, Sam?"

"I need you to promise me something," he repeated, straining to catch Dean's eye.

Dean looked up, his eyes red-rimmed and honest, and the vulnerability he was willingly showing made Sam's heart twist. Overhead, the slowly-rotating blades of the exhaust fan cast regular shadows across Dean's face, but even when the weak sunlight was bathing him, he still looked like he was under a cloud. "What?" he asked hoarsely.

Best to do it like ripping off a band-aid, Sam thought. "Promise me that if I say yes, you will, too."

"Oh, come on." Dean rolled his eyes and thunked his head back against the iron wall. "You're not gonna say yes."

Sam stared at him. "How can you say that? Have you not been paying attention?" He could still feel the dried blood on his chin even though he'd scrubbed it clean, could still see Dean's shocked and fearful—and resigned—expression when he burst into the diner and started taking down demons. It had only been a matter of time before he gave in to the demands of his demon-tainted body, and it would only be a matter of time before he made the final surrender.

"There's a big difference between giving into unstoppable temptation and what you're talking about," Dean said.

"You saw what I did to those people," Sam said in a low voice, his gut clenching with more than another wave of cramps. Given everything else that had gone wrong in that town, the two exsanguinated bodies they left in the motel room would be just two more pieces on the pile of seriously fucked-up shit, but Sam would never forget what they looked like, any more than he could forget Cindy McKellan, dumped by the side of a Delaware road. "I couldn't stop myself."

"Yeah, and Cas couldn't stop himself either," Dean snapped back. "So unless you think you're supposed to be better than an angel, it's not your fault."

"It wasn't the blood," Sam said, trying to speak clearly despite his roughened voice. "It was more than that."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Dean asked wearily.

"If it was only the blood, I would have gone after the demons instead of killing them," Sam said. "It was the power. It was the hunger to have that power again. That's what Famine brought out in me." He could still feel that, too, the sheer relief at being able to let go of all of his carefully-maintained restraints and feel terrifyingly whole again, to feel the power rushing through his veins as he watched his enemies crumple to the ground.

"And you think you're gonna say yes because of that?" Dean shook his head. "You're smarter than that, Sam. You know it wouldn't be you wielding any kind of power if he had the reins."

"It doesn't matter, Dean! I'm not strong enough." As if in response to his words, his body chose that moment to tense up in a spasm, and all he could do was clench his jaw and ride it out. Sam shut his eyes, not willing to see pity or fear on Dean's face as his body shook in the throes of withdrawal.

It was probably less than a minute before it passed, and Sam sagged down against the table, limp and exhausted. "You okay?" Dean asked roughly.

"Yeah," Sam hoarsely replied. "It's getting easier." Only fractionally, but he needed to offer his brother something.

"Good," came the brusque reply.

Sam took a few deep breaths to calm himself down and said, "This is my point, Dean. I'm weak. I'm not strong enough to hold out forever. So I need to know that once I give in, you and Michael will be there to stop him." He swallowed hard. "That's the only hope I have left."

Dean slowly stood up, his eyes never leaving Sam's as he took the two steps forward to stand over him. He paused and then, without warning, backhanded Sam so hard he felt blood trickling from the corner of his mouth. "Don't you fucking say that," Dean warned, his voice shaking. "Don't you say 'once I give in.' Don't you say you're not strong enough. You have to be, Sam. You don't have a choice."

He barked out a laugh so sharp that it grated against his sore throat. "That's the point, isn't it? I don't have a choice. I was created for this, Dean. How the fuck am I supposed to fight Heaven and Hell?"

Dean slumped where he stood, and it was obvious to Sam that he'd had that very thought himself. "I don't know," he said.

He wriggled in the leather cuffs, wanting to reach out to Dean but not able to, not in this state. "That's why I need you to make me that promise." He'd asked a similar thing from his brother before, and the strength it had lent him had enabled him to carry on as his own world got darker and darker, from knowing his father had a plan to kill him to watching his own hands slaughter another hunter. He needed that reassurance even more now, and Dean was the only one who could give it to him.

Dean shook his head, sorrow in his eyes. "I'm the one who's not strong enough, Sam. I could never be strong enough to kill you. Even if it wasn't really you." He brought his hand up to his mouth and then wiped his fingers down and away. "I already promised you once that I'd do it, and I was lying through my teeth. I'm not going to do that again."

"Dean, please," Sam begged.

"No." Dean looked beaten but determined. "I'm not going to give you false hope, Sam. I'm done with that. If you make that choice—if you make it, and I swear to God you are strong enough to keep saying no—you have to know that you're not going to get fucking rescued by me or some arrogant archangel. You have to know that it's the end. For you and me and the rest of the goddamn world."

Sam stared up at him, feeling his last resort slipping away through his fingers. Dean had always been the one he could count on, and here in the most dire straits he'd ever been in, he suddenly had no one but himself. Even his brother was forsaking him, telling him to his face that he would no longer have his back, putting everything squarely on his broad but oh-so-frail shoulders.

Then it clicked, like a dim light bulb flickering to life. Sam drew in a breath and asked shakily, "Is that supposed to be your idea of a pep talk?"

Dean stared back at him. Then slowly, slowly, the corner of his mouth curved up, and he ducked his head. "There's a reason I never played team sports, Sammy."

Sam looked at his brother's bowed head, feeling a rush of love and warmth that would have bowled him over had he not already been flat on his back. "Thanks," he said softly.

Dean lifted his shoulders in a small shrug. "I, uh, I went outside last night, when you were…not doin' so hot." He cleared his throat and went on, "I thought about it. I thought how if I said yes, just let it happen, took this weight off, that at least it would all be over. Things would happen how everyone thinks they're supposed to, and that would be that. And for a second there, I almost did it."

Sam swallowed hard at the thought of losing his brother without being able to say goodbye. "Why didn't you?" he asked quietly.

"Because of you." Dean finally looked up, his eyes luminous and liquid. "I meant it, you know. We keep each other human, Sam, and I mean that literally. So don't you go giving up. Because you're my only hope."

Sam looked back at him, gritting his teeth as another unwelcome wave of pain swept over him, temporarily submerging his heartfelt gratitude in response to Dean's words. Dean's gaze stayed locked on his the whole time, his hand straying to Sam's shoulder, the warm press of his palm and the understanding in his eyes comfort that Sam could latch onto, reassurance that he wasn't alone.

When the pain passed, Sam took a shaky breath, mentally crossed his fingers, and said, "Dude, doesn't that make you Princess Leia?"

Dean's eyes went wide in startlement. Then he gave Sam's shoulder a swat. "Shut up, bitch."

Sam managed a tired smirk. "Whatever," he muttered, letting his eyes slide closed, pleased that he had gotten his point across.

Dean's hand rested on his shoulder for a moment more before patting it and moving away. "You think you can get some rest?"

"Gonna try," Sam replied.

"I'll be right outside," Dean said, his voice retreating towards the door.

"'K," Sam muttered, his head lolling to the side. His mind was still churning, but more slowly now that the possibility that he could shore his defenses back up was stronger than it had been a few minutes ago. The tremors had subsided to the point that he could sleep, and a little fragment of peace was taking up residence in a corner of his heart.

The last thing he heard before he fell asleep, coming from somewhere far above him in the chill winter air outside the confines of the panic room, was the cheerful twitter of a bird.