Hi, everyone! Sorry again for the delay. Life kicked my ass a bit, so it took me away from the story. I also struggled with the ending. But no more excuses! Onward to the last part of the story. Please, please let me know what you honestly think. Thanks so much for your support.
He awoke to the smell of coconut and the feeling of overwhelming déjà vu. There were overlapping echoes in his head, stark whispers that made him afraid for Dean and for himself. It tore a moan out of him, even before the pain—both hot and cold—thrumming from his body did. Sam sounded thin and scratchy to his own ears, and the subsequent vibrations hurt. But then again everything did.
He heard a voice that was home and North almost as much as Dean's was, and wanted to turn his head, but his body was overloaded that it couldn't respond and even retreated. It flitted backwards, awareness dimming. Sam focused on the voice, plucked that silver thread out of a tapestry of gloom, and tried to stay.
"..the sky was nothing but a rolling slab of gray. The light burst through in some places, and I didn't say it, but it looked like joining of Heaven and earth. Like if we could see a little further, we'd see Mom. We walked through the waves with our pants on, because we didn't have swimsuits. You knew how much I wanted to go in, so you waded in fully dressed. The waves were strong…the ocean had a mind, a heart and a current all its own, but you were stronger, and grabbed onto me. We swam and floated and bodysurfed. And you never let me go, even though there were girls around and we were in public, and I was 14. You just held on."
The memory kept him there, tethered and he could feel the lightness hardening, and could feel himself sinking, spirit bowing beneath the unbelievable weight of reality and the pain that came with it. He could feel the scrape of a hand jammed into his, sweaty but calloused. He could feel a hot, sandpapery tightness in his throat, and the swollen tissues inside. He could feel the tearing pull of stitches and in his chest and the almost cautious beat of his heart and the resonating ache a second later. He could feel his lids working, lashes separating. The light was brilliant and it stung unused eyes. He blinked with it, turning his head. He opened his mouth, preparing to speak.
"Not yet, Sam. Don't talk." Bobby commanded softly. "Glad you're back."
Sam's mouth snapped shut with a click and he squinted at the watery image of the man beside him. He didn't know how he got there and didn't care. He melted into the secure comfort of Bobby's house. Now he was just worried about one thing…
"Dean's fine, Sam." Bobby knew him enough to know what that was. "You can't see him, but he's on the floor, asleep."
Something wound tight within Sam loosened, wilted. His blood pressure dropped by notches, although another part of his still felt panicked and too alert. He caught the used cartons of coconut water and discarded IVs. It was a quick and dirty trick used in on patients of war to keep them hydrated and somewhat nourished when they were too sick or injured to eat. And that gave him an idea how bad it was.
"Bad?" he said voicelessly, forgetting not to speak. His swollen vocal chords scraping together felt like tectonic plates grinding…and his eyes watered from the aftershocks.
"Maybe you'll listen to me next time," Bobby chastised, letting Sam squeeze the hell out of his hand. "And yes, that bad. What did you think you were pulling, kid? Demon-spun toxins aren't anything to mess around with…"
Sam's heart lurched with him, locking his lungs up. It made sense to him why he felt sullied to the soul and unspeakably anxious. His eyes widened and he twisted Bobby's sleeve, enduring a turbulent wave of panic and guilt and ugliness.
Dean appeared out of nowhere, all shadowed eyes and visible exhaustion. He climbed on the bed, turning Sam's face towards him. Dean's lips were forming words, but he couldn't process the sounds until seconds later. "I should filet you like a fish."
He blinked, knowing he misheard, misunderstood as Dean's face was wide-open with relief, eyes a glistening, relieved green. Sam's faze flickered to Bobby, gauging his reaction. But his expression was shutdown and unreadable, like a hunter.
Dean was mumbling and it sounded warbling like he was speaking backwards, until: "Dad should have put a bullet in your head years ago."
Sam gasped, horrified. Wherever he was, this wasn't right. His heart was thumping painfully hard. Sam was becoming unhinged. Bobby gave him a reassuring pat on the hand.
"Dean, son, why don't you go get Sam some cold water. For this throat. A-and the pills too."
Sam pushed himself up on his right elbow, channeling all of his energy on Dean's response. Dean inhaled to speak, backing off the bed with hopeful movements. Now his face was dark, twisted with hatred, his words of sulfur. "Jess burned because of you."
He melted back into the pillows, fight gone, spirit broken. He wanted it all to stop. And wanted to go back to wherever he was before—a plane of undulating nothingness peppered with sporadic snatches of anguish. His eyes rolled and he welcomed the numbing that licked upwards from his toes.
"Son, you're running a pretty high fever, and I'm sure it's scramblin' your brain like eggs on a Texas sidewalk. Dean's fine. The mojo's out of his system. He's been really worried about you." Bobby's tone was as soft as it got. "I know you're confused, but…You need to open your eyes, Sam. Sam!"
But Sam was already gone.
"…right after we'd killing the poltergeist. It was one of my first hunts, and I was still completely terrified that I'd trip over my big feet and shoot dad, or something. But we did it. As a family. Dad was so proud, he was BEAMING. We packed up the motel room and he drove all night. We woke up and saw the spiraling red tracks of rollercoasters. He gave us wads of cash and turned us lose. It was early spring, so not that many people were there yet. We rode everything ten times. We ate junk. You even got me to pick pockets when we ran out of money. I just remember eating chili dogs and cheese fries and seeing you and Dad laughing, and rollercoasters screaming behind us. I have a picture of it in my head. We felt like a family then. Not a team of demon hunters, not a widower and his two sons, but a bonded, complete family."
Sam's eyes opened involuntarily, but it took them awhile to focus on the torn, frayed denim of Dean's knees. He shuffled the loose-leaf papers of…that embarrassing list of memories Sam had written. "I can't…believe you wen' thru my stuff," Sam croaked. His voice would startle small children, but it actually sounded better.
"All's fair in war and sick little brothers."
His lips twitched upwards in a phantom of a smile. And Sam could see HIM, not the evil person Sam's deception had turned him into. He finally had his brother back.
"How'm I doin'?"
Dean's face was sharp with fatigue, body tight with worry. But he seemed to be feeling the same impossible hope. "Not great, but better. Your fever finally broke. How ya feeling?"
"Holy." Sam muttered.
Dean barked a quick laugh.
He tried to lift his hands to gesture, but they were trapped beneath the blankets. "No…HOLE-Y. Lotta holes."
Dean looked grim. "Oh…yeah. Nothin' the Pecs of Steel can't handle, right?"
He grunted in agreement, ignoring the pain and pressure in his chest when the muscle twitched.
There was a long pause punctuated by Dean cracking his knuckles. "Sam. Look, man, we can talk about you goin' all 'Revenge of the Nerds' later," he paused and when his spoke again, his voice was cracked and thick. "There's nothing I can say to fix…or make up for what I said…or what I did to you."
He was grateful to have Dean back again to hear his voice when it wasn't shrouded in hatred or husky from pain. He wondered if Dean knew that he'd actually stabbed him, if Cas actually pulled off the lie. But he didn't say anything. Pushing would have just made Dean investigate. He would have been weeping in remorse if he knew.
"I know…you probably can't forgive me."
Sam's surrendered to the weight of his heavy lids, but he shook his head slightly. "It's done."
Sam didn't want to think about it anymore. He wanted to sleep and forget. He wanted to heal and dive head first into a case. He didn't want to waste time being scared of his brother or trying to wrap his mind around the fact that he'd had to live through yet another one of his worst nightmares. "…if you felt that way…'bout me, and you forgave me…then I can forgive you…fo' oversharin'."
Dean exhaled sharply, a fast sigh that sounded more like a scoff. Suddenly, there was a hand on his shoulder—softly squeezing—but Sam couldn't fight the reflex to jerk away. His eyes shot open and he stared at Dean's face, shutdown from emotion. "Yeah…that's what I thought."
Dean had been gone for six days when Sam was determinedly done with his wallowing. Panting through the pain, he eased himself up and out of bed—a process that took at least ten minutes—and into the bathroom. After nearly fifteen years as a hunter, Sam had turned the task of bathing injured into an art. It was a dance of agonizing precision. But soon enough, he was dressed and sitting on Bobby's porch, staring the sunlight, pinging off the rusted husks of cars and spreading light on the fields beyond. The morning was an inspiring burst of colors and Sam felt drastically better when the sun light lifted to warm his face.
"Good to see you up and about, kid." Bobby greeted as he parked his wheelchair next to him.
"Hi, Bobby. Finally got sick of the room."
"Took ya long enough. I gotta doc comin' up later to check on ya."
Bobby's wheelchair gleamed in the new light of the day. He still wasn't used to it yet. Part of him expected Bobby to stand up from the chair like his paralysis was an elaborate practical joke. "Do…you ever blame…Dean or even me for…losing your legs?"
Bobby's face turned sour. "It's way too early for questions like that Sam."
Bobby sighed in concession, much like Dean did when Sam really wanted or needed something. He placed his weathered hands on his knees, rubbing as if to restore the sensation. "There's always gonna be apart of me that wants to. But this is about as much as your fault as it is mine. It's just the luck of the hunt."
"What brought this on, kid? You blamin' Dean for this whole ordeal?"
Sam pursed his lips and didn't answer. The weight of this secret was already unbearable, and he ached for someone to carry it with him. As much as he wanted to tell Bobby, he couldn't.
"Now I have a question for you, kid?"
Bobby sipped his steaming cup of coffee and rolled the bitter brew around in his mouth before swallowing. "I called you on barely four days after Dean was roofied with leads on the punks that dosed him, and Dean said you'd already found them and got yourself ambushed. I didn't even have solid IDs yet, so how'd you figure it out with a sick brother to look after?" A beat. "They didn't shank you, did they...Dean did?"
Sam laughed, but it was rusty and dark. He hadn't thought that Bobby would figure it out. He chanced a glance at him and turned his head, hotness flushing his face. He brushed away a stray tear angrily. "I put all the weapons away…I just forgot about the knife…under his pillow."
"He doesn't know, Bobby. You can't ever tell him."
"No, Bobby, you can't. H-he forgave me for the…everything I did to him. If you tell him that he stabbed me, he wwwwon't forgive himself. He won't…fight anymore. I've done terrible things to him…I got him killed…you can't, tell him." He was pleading, and it was desperate and pathetic. But it had to be done. He had to give Dean this much.
He was still weak and sick, and that extended to him composure. It was unraveling, shattering and disintegrating. When it was gone, Sam was crying. Harder than he had after the shock of his father's death had ebbed, almost as hard as he had when Dean was dead. He'd swallowed a hurricane, and the rush of wind and crackle of rain was escaping through his sobs and his tears. He leaned again, legs shaking involuntarily. Somehow, he ended up draped over Bobby's wheelchair in a rough-handed embrace.
"Okay, kid, okay. The secret dies with me...I got a lot more to keep it company. He won't know. It's okay. You're a good brother."
Bobby soothed and patted, as strong and sure as any father, and eventually Sam settled to sproadic hiccups. But the reassurances never stopped. He closed his eyes, letting them fill his mind, and clear out the echos of his fraternal sins.