SUMMARY: Missing scene from The Song Remains the Same; takes place between Michael sending the Winchesters back to the future and Cas showing up in the brothers' motel room.
RATED: T, for some minor language.
DISCLAIMER: The brothers Winchester are owned by the Kripkeeper himself, Eric Kripke, and this story is based on events written by Sera Gamble and Nancy Weiner. I am simply playing in their sandbox, for fun not profit.
A/N: This episode was a goldmine of great moments. This tag picks up on the fact that Michael may not have been entirely truthful when he said Sam had been sent back 'safe and sound.' Any excuse for h/c, right? For Trasan, who wanted some brotherly schmoop. This is schmoop noir but, hopefully, it fits the bill. Oh, and for non-U.S readers/non-football fans, Roger Staubach was the Dallas Cowboys quarterback in the late '70s. He would have been one of THE big names in sports around the time Dean was born. A big hug and thanks to Ann for the lightning-fast beta.
Screw Destiny, and Can I Borrow a Shirt?
"Bend your knees," he'd told Sam, only half in jest.
He'd stopped trying to wrap his head around the idea he could Marty McFly through time; that hurt more than the physical stresses of time travel itself. But when Michael tapped him on the forehead, launching him 30-something years back to the future, Dean wasn't thinking about the sensation he'd once described to Sam as someone trying to pull your stomach out through your nose. He wasn't even thinking about Michael's grand revelation that free will was all an illusion.
He was thinking about Sam lying dead on the floor, blood trickling from his mouth and spilling from his stomach where Anna had gutted him with a metal pipe. The pain of watching his brother slide lifelessly to the ground ripped through him far more savagely than any kick to the gut by Uriel, the growing pool of blood beneath Sam choking off Dean's ability to breathe far faster than the angel's hands around his throat.
Dean blinked and he was back in their motel room. Time travel on top of the beating by Uriel was too much; his knees buckled and he toppled backwards, slamming into the heavy steel door and sliding down it to the floor.
"Son of a bitch." Dean swallowed against rising nausea, and the screaming protest of ribs that had taken one hit too many. Exhaling through clenched teeth, he clumsily pushed himself to his feet, then froze as his gaze fell on the bed on the far side of the room.
Sam was sprawled on his back, his face turned away from Dean, one arm lying across his belly, one long leg hanging over the edge of the bed.
"Sammy?" There was no response.
Safe and sound. Dean launched himself across the room, anger muting pain as he took in Sam's pallid complexion and the blood that still stained his shirt, his jeans, his mouth… "Damn it, Michael. You said safe and sound." Dean dropped onto the side of the bed, the fingers of one hand pressing against the side of Sam's neck, the others curling around Sam's wrist and gingerly lifting his arm away from the wound in his gut.
The fatal wound.
"Sam?" The slow, steady pulse beneath his fingers registered but it was the blood that held his attention, still wet and sticky around the torn fibers of the shirt where the jagged pipe had ripped first through cloth, then skin and muscle. The bitter, coppery tang filled his nostrils.
Heart slamming against his ribs, Dean pushed aside Sam's jacket and hauled up his shirt; the white t-shirt beneath it was similarly torn and stained. He yanked up the undershirt – then exhaled audibly. There was no wound. Blood, crimson where it was wet, reddish-brown where it was drying, stained the contours of his brother's chest, but there was no broken skin…no gaping hole.
"Come on, Sam…" He watched his brother for any sign he was coming to. "Seriously, this Rip Van Winkle routine is getting old, fast."
Sam still didn't move.
Dean flashed back suddenly to Cold Oak, to walking into the cabin after meeting the Crossroads Demon and seeing Sam standing there, confused but breathing. Relief had initially blinded him; he saw only that Sam was alive. It was only when he hugged him, when he heard the sharp inhale and the hissed, "Dean," that he realized Sam was in pain, that the demon had jump-started his heart but had done a piss-poor job when it came to 'healing.'
Dean stared down at Sam on the bed. "That's another thing these dicks have in common, huh?" he muttered as he deftly pressed his fingers into Sam's abdomen, experience – too goddamn much experience – guiding him as he sought out any hidden damage. "They bring you back but leave you broken… just because they can."
He cringed at the sticky feel of the blood beneath his hands but he could find no obvious signs of internal injury. He grabbed Sam's wrist; the pulse was steady, if a little slow. He sat, unmoving, repeatedly counting the beats, eyes glued to the slight rise and fall of his brother's chest.
At the quiet croak, Dean's gaze jumped to Sam's face; unfocused hazel eyes blinked back at him. "Damn it, Sammy, you scared the crap out of me."
Sam forced open his eyes, then frowned as he watched Dean wipe stained hands down the front of his shirt. "That's blood."
"No…it's your blood, genius. Not mine." Dean's expression softened. "Just how scrambled are your eggs, huh?"
"What? My blood?" Sam' breathing quickened as he glanced down and caught sight of the stains on his shirts and jeans, then escalated further as he lifted his hands and took in the blood that was smeared his palms and caked his fingernails.
"Hey, hey…relax. Look at me." Dean grabbed Sam by the arms, waiting until Sam's panicked gaze met his. "Far as I can tell, you're okay. But if something's off, if something doesn't feel right, I wanna know about it – now."
Sam stared at Dean for a moment, then closed his eyes and inhaled deeply. "I'm…okay." His eyes popped open as memories flooded back. "But…Anna…she stabbed me..."
Dean's chest tightened. "Yeah…she did."
Sam swallowed. "I…was-"
"Yeah." Dean's jaw clenched.
Sam pulled free of Dean's hold, struggling to sit up. "So…how-"
"Michael." Dean's tone was clipped as he pulled Sam up, holding on to him until he was sure he wouldn't keel over.
Sam was fighting to stay upright but his eyes were locked on Dean. "Mi-"
Sam's voice was barely audible. "Why would he-"
"Because it wasn't your freakin' destiny to die in some backwoods cabin in 1978." Sam seemed steady so Dean pushed himself off the bed, pacing beside it, fighting to bring churning emotions under control. His hands curled into fists, knuckles whitening, as he wheeled to face Sam. "We have bigger roles to play, remember?"
He kept pacing as he recounted everything that happened after Sam was stabbed: Michael, wearing their Dad's meatsuit, turning Anna to dust, banishing Uriel and reminding Dean of the brothers' pre-ordained roles, with the new wrinkle that free will had no place in the grand plan.
Sam was ashen when he finished. "You think he's right?"
"No. Screw destiny. Both sides have been trying to ram crap down our throats from the get-go. This is just more of the same." Dean hoped he sounded more confident than he felt but, given Sam's stricken expression, he was pretty sure his brother was being gnawed at by the very same doubts and fears chewing him up from the inside out.
Sam slowly swung his legs off the bed, fingers gripping the edge to steady himself. "Where's Cas?"
"Still back in time as far as I know." Dean walked over to the desk, grabbed a bottle of water and took a long drink, wishing it was something stronger.
"Then how'd we get back?"
"Michael." Dean placed the half-empty water bottle on the dresser, then frowned as, through the mirror, he watched Sam struggle to shuck off his jacket. "Said he'd send us home, fix you up." He turned to face his brother. "Which is more bull in my book because you don't look fixed."
"I'm not dead." Sam slowly pushed himself to his feet. "That's a good start." He lost his balance as he pulled off his jacket, falling back onto the bed. "Damn it."
Dean stepped back to his brother's side. "Just…keep your ass parked for a minute, okay? At least 'til we run a full diagnostic."
Sam shot his brother a look. "You mixing me up with the Impala again?"
Dean snorted. "You're a much bigger pain than she will ever be."
Sam leaned forward, elbows on his knees, raking his fingers through his hair. "Yeah, well you start talking oil, lube and filter, I'm outta here."
Dean bit back a smile. A smartass retort, however lame, was a good sign. He picked up a fresh bottle of water from the dresser and offered it to his brother. "How 'bout we start with topping up your fluids. First time I went McFlying, I felt like I'd just come off a three-day bender. And I didn't get stabbed in the process."
"Copy that." Sam took the water and downed half the bottle in one pull, then poured some in his palm and splashed it over his face.
Dean shook his head. "Hate to break it to you, Sammy, but it's gonna take more than that to clean you up."
"I know." Sam grimaced as he pulled at the shirts sticking to his chest. "I need a shower – and to burn these clothes."
Dean shrugged. "Toss the jeans with the dirty laundry; we've cleaned worse." He scowled at the drying blood and torn fabric where the wound had been. "But the shirts are toast."
"Yeah." Sam pulled at his buttons. "Bet you're not sorry to see this one go."
Sam somehow managed to get his arm stuck as he tried to pull it from his sleeve. "You hate this shirt."
Dean moved in to help, as he'd done so often when Sam was little, as he did too often now when Sam was hurt. "Hate to break it to you, but I don't really have any strong feelings, one way or another, about your clothes."
"Bull." Sam offered a tired smile as, with Dean's help, he wrestled his arm free. "I seem to recall some crack about this shirt being perfect camouflage if I ever had to hide in the banana display at the market."
Dean stared down at the green and yellow striped fabric now in his hand. "Must've been drunk when I said that…" He glanced up at Sam. "But, you gotta admit, there's some truth to it."
Sam snorted, toeing off first one boot and then the other, then groaning as he leaned over to pull off his socks. "You gonna fight me for first shower?"
"Nope. If you can make it there under your own power, it's all yours." Dean dropped Sam's bloody shirt on the dresser, then walked into the bathroom and twisted on the taps. When he turned back into the room, Sam was down to his boxers, staring at the blood that stained his chest.
"Hot water's wasting." Dean kept a watchful eye on his brother as he staggered drunkenly toward the bathroom.
Sam paused in the threshold, grabbing the door jamb to steady himself. "Think I need to borrow a shirt. Pretty sure that was my last clean one."
Dean nodded, then scooped up Sam's bloody jeans as his brother disappeared inside the bathroom. He heard the shower curtain drawn and then closed again as he grabbed Sam's duffel, unzipped it and pulled open the plastic bag that held dirty laundry.
On the top of the pile was Sam's 'pink' shirt – pink swirls over dull white, flashes of red on the insides of the cuffs. Dean smiled. Damn, but he'd ribbed Sam over that one when he'd first put it on.
"Dude, it's pink."
"The hell it is. And what's with the buttons only halfway down? Fastening a full set too much for you?"
Dean shook his head. They shopped in thrift stores which offered slim pickings at the best of times. When you were Sam's size, the choices were even more limited, often leaving his brother with stuff like the psychedelic pink thing or the late-not-so-lamented banana shirt.
"What's with big dudes and bad taste?" Dean had snarked when Sam found the latter.
"You pay him no mind, honey." The 50-something sales clerk winked at Sam as she passed by. "A face like yours, trust me…no one will be looking at the shirt."
That and Dean's glower were enough to convince Sam. He bought the shirt.
Dean's smile at the memory faded as he caught sight of the shirt screwed up beneath the pink one; it was the white and green checked button-up Sam had loaned him when he first crawled out of Hell.
Convinced he could get Dean back, Sam had initially kept his brother's duffel, full of clean clothes, safely stowed in the trunk. But, as hope faded, the bag became a symbol of failure. Refusing to get rid of it, but unable to look at it, Sam had ultimately stashed it in a bus locker.
"You should've burned them," Dean had said as Sam loaned him a shirt until they could reclaim the bag. "Them, and me."
"No." Sam cracked open a bottle of beer. "No."
Dean shook his head. "Then you should've worn them. Dad's jacket at least. It's warmer than anything you've got and one of-"
"No." Sam's glare added the exclamation point to the response.
"You wore my amulet."
Sam took another pull on his beer. "That was different."
Sam's jaw clenched as he searched for the right response. "It…kept me grounded, kept me…human."
Dean screwed his eyes closed. He'd spent so much of the past year battling with his own pain and guilt, he'd missed, or ignored, the fact Sam was wrestling with the same psychological demons, as well as Ruby's manipulations and his growing demon blood addiction. Dean got angrier, Sam got more secretive and neither of them talked, and that just led both of them right down the rabbit hole to freeing Lucifer from his cage.
Dean's stomach churned as his fingers closed around a blue shirt screwed up in the corner of the bag. He hated that shirt, and it had nothing to do with pattern or color; it was the one Sam was wearing when he and Bobby had locked him in the panic room to detox. In his nightmares, Dean could still hear Sam's screams as he battled fever and hallucinations. And in a lifetime that had given him a litany of 'worst-ever' moments to pick from, seeing Sam convulsing on the floor as they pinned him down, belt shoved in his mouth to stop him biting off his tongue, ranked pretty close to the top.
He rammed Sam's bloody jeans into the bag and scrunched it closed.
Things between them were better now. He snorted at the irony of that thought. The devil was free, the apocalypse was under way and he and Sam were destined to face off in the smackdown to end all smackdowns. Only when your last name was Winchester could that in any way be considered better.
But they were back fighting at each other's side now, rather than fighting each other. He had to believe that counted for something. And Sam had been clean since their trip on Soul Plane, had stayed clean even when a possessed Bobby ripped into him and when the rogue hunters in Garber, Oklahoma had tried to force-feed him demon blood.
Dean pulled clean boxers, a t-shirt and fairly clean jeans from the duffel and was about to zip it up when he noticed a khaki shirt rolled up at the back. "Looks like you've got one clean shirt left after all, Sammy." As he grabbed the khaki fabric, he got a sudden flash of his future self, dressed in army green, leg holster in place and angry expression permanently etched across his face.
Not a day had gone by since that trip through time that he hadn't wondered what had pushed Sam to say yes. And not a day had gone by that he hadn't vowed it would never happen.
Dean curled his fingers into a fist to stop his hand from shaking. "Damn, I need a drink."
He grabbed Sam's clean clothes, then took them into the bathroom and dropped them on the vanity. "Y'okay?"
"Yeah." Sam's voice from the other side of the shower curtain was quiet, barely audible over the running water.
Dean turned to leave. "Clean clothes are here when you're ready – and save me some hot water."
"It was worth it…"
Dean frowned. "What was?"
"All this…to meet Mom…To see Dad before…before he lost her…"
Dean's chest tightened and he slumped back against the door jamb. "I'm glad you got a chance to meet her, Sammy… to see them." The corner of his mouth curled upwards. "Although I thought Dad was gonna deck you when you started telling her how beautiful she was." His smile widened when his quip earned a small laugh.
"What do you remember…from when you were little?"
Dean closed his eyes. His memories of his mom were his most treasured possessions. They were one of the few things he could take with him anywhere, and that no one, or no thing, could take from him. He'd carried them with him throughout his childhood, through adulthood and even through Hell.
And, yet, selfishly, both he and Dad had refused to share them with Sam. Part of it was a misguided attempt to protect him; he couldn't grieve for what he didn't know about, right? But, mostly, it just hurt too damn much. Then it just became habit. "Quit asking, Sammy. You know we don't talk about her."
"Still here." Dean slid down the wall to sit on the floor in the bathroom doorway. Part of him would always be angry that he had only four years' worth of memories – but that was four years more than Sam. "I've got bits and pieces…" He glanced over at the ugly orange and brown floral shower curtain. It hid Sam from him but, as the emotions churning inside his head threatened to break through, he was grateful it also shielded him from Sam.
He cleared his throat. "I told her today, when I was trying to convince her I wasn't some raving lunatic, that I remembered her giving me tomato rice soup when I was sick."
"That's what you gave me when I was a kid and had a cold."
Dean smiled. "What can I say, I learned from the best." Again, he closed his eyes. "And when she put me to bed, she'd sing Hey Jude; it was her favorite Beatles' song. I'd listen to her sing the melody and then I'd join in the 'la la' part."
There was a soft snort from behind the shower curtain. "You? Singing The Beatles?"
Dean scowled. "Dude, I was two. Besides, it was 1981 – I'm just glad she didn't pick Jessie's Girl or Endless Love or some of the other crap that came out that year. I'd have been scarred for life."
Dean dropped his head back against the wall. "She could throw a pretty mean Nerf football. We'd be in the backyard and she'd yell, "Go long," and I'd run like hell to try to catch it." He shook his head. "My strongest memory is running full tilt, hands out, eyes on the ball…"
"…then catching it just like Roger Staubach, right?"
Dean snorted. "Wrong. I was watching the ball, not where I was running. I tripped over the garden hose and landed flat on my ass in the flower bed." He smiled. "I was fine but Mom's tulips were DOA. I'm pretty sure that's the first time I swore in front of her, too. I was pissed I'd missed the catch."
"What'd Mom do?"
Dean savored the memory of his mom picking him and biting back a smile as she dusted him off. "Made sure I was okay, told me not to use that word again and then asked me where I heard it."
"Where did you?"
Dean grinned. "Where'd you think? Where we learned all our four-letter words – Dad. I was watching him fix the car and a wrench slipped or something. He didn't know I was there so the air got pretty blue." He shook his head. "I didn't get in trouble for swearing that time, but I'll bet Dad did."
Sam shut off the water and Dean heard a soft chuckle. "I don't think I'd want Mom pissed at me."
Dean pushed himself to his feet, wincing as his battered ribs protested the movement, then grabbed a towel off the rack and held it over the shower rail until Sam took it from him. "I'm right with you on that one. Anyone who can handle a gun, a knife and make a birthday cake that looks like the Impala is someone I want in my corner."
Sam pulled back the shower curtain and stepped out of the tub, the towel wrapped around his waist. "She made an Impala cake?"
Dean nodded as he walked out of the bathroom. "Don't know whether it was for my birthday or dad's but I do remember my tongue was black for week from whatever she put in the frosting. I took advantage of it too – stuck my tongue out every chance I got at everybody I met – just to show them."
"Course you did." Now Sam stood in the bathroom doorway, leaning against the jamb as he rubbed his hair dry with a hand towel. With the blood gone from his face and chest, there were no visible signs he'd ever been stabbed. His colour was better, too.
"You good, Sammy?"
Sam nodded, tossed the hand towel back in the bathroom, grabbed his clean clothes off the vanity and came out of the bathroom shaking his head.
Sam raked his fingers through wet hair. "I just realized; it took an archangel, an avenging angel, and a trip through time to find out about a family birthday party when my brother was two or three."
Dean, pulling clean clothes out of his own duffel, looked up at Sam, eyes narrowing. "Yeah…We shouldn't have shut you out. You had a right to know about your mom."
"It wasn't an accusation, Dean. I'm long past that." Sam dumped his clothes on his bed and sat down beside them. "I just meant…we don't do anything the normal way, do we?"
Dean snorted. "Mr. Ivy League is just figuring this out now?"
A shadow passed over Sam's face at the Stanford jibe. "Man, that was another lifetime."
"For both of us." Dean crossed to the bathroom, pausing in the doorway. "You got any cash?"
"Good. There's a liquor store across street. Give me five minutes to wash up, then I'll go get us some Scotch. I'd say we both need a drink."
Sam pulled on his t-shirt. "I'll get it. I'll be back before you're out of the shower."
"Sure you're up for it?"
"I'm fine." Sam sighed loudly when his brother didn't look convinced. "To pull a page from your book, there's nothing wrong with me a strong drink won't fix."
"Oh god; if you're reading my book, we're both in trouble." Dean stepped into the bathroom, caught his reflection in the mirror and shuddered at the sight of Sam's blood on his shirt and on his hands. He twisted on the taps, then shucked off his shirts; purple and red mottled his chest where Uriel's fists and his boot had landed. He groaned as his fingers probed the bruised skin but the ribs beneath seemed intact.
"Dean? You okay?"
"Fine." Damn; he used to be better at hiding groans from Sam. He finished undressing and stepped into the shower, bending his head forward to let the surprisingly still hot water pound down on his neck.
"Be back in five." Sam's shout was followed by the door slamming.
Dean closed his eyes, wanting, just for a moment, to forget about Lucifer and Michael, the apocalypse and their supposed destiny. He smiled at the memory of his mom tossing him the Nerfball, laughing as she shouted, "Go long." That morphed into an image of his dad bent under the hood of the Impala. There was a clang of metal and a loud, "Shit," which made young Dean giggle. But, this time, Dad didn't keep right on working. He turned, looked directly at his son and smiled.
"It's not random, it's not chance. It's a plan that's playing itself out perfectly. Free will's an illusion, Dean. That's why you're going to say 'Yes.'"
Dean's eyes snapped open and he slammed his palm against the tile wall. "Screw you, Michael. Screw you."
A/N: Some of Sam's shirts are interesting, to say the least. But given the boys don't give a 'rat's ass' about fashion sense, I had fun playing with the idea of how Sam came to pick some of those shirts. Hopefully you did, too. If the 'banana' shirt shows up again, this story becomes AU *g* but, for now it's within canon. Thanks so much for reading, and I'd love to hear from you. Cheers!