A/N: Since it's been so long since I've updated, you shall receive more than one fic. School's quickly winding to an end, and everything's getting very busy. But I wanted to give you guys this for patiently waiting for more fic.
For some reason, when Zachariah turned away, it was to his brothers that Dean looked to first.
Adam was gazing up at him in confusion, lost somewhere between pain and bewilderment. Maybe even some idea of how much he really mattered to his new-found family, but no real idea of how bad it was about to get.
When he turned his gaze to Sam, though, Dean stopped. Zachariah was chanting something, Adam was gasping beside him, but it was Sam who caught him and wouldn't let go. Sam currently had his hand wrapped around his middle, choking out blood from something torn deep inside. He seemed to sense that Dean was looking, though, and turned back.
His gaze was too much, and Dean had to look away. There was pain in his eyes, but there was unmistakable shock and disappointment, too. Sam had put his faith in Dean, and Dean had let him down. Dean had agreed to say yes. It wasn't like he hadn't told Sam as much. Bobby and Castiel had told him that letting Dean go was a stupid idea, and Dean had agreed. He would just say yes.
And Sam had shrugged him off easily. You won't, he'd said. He'd firmly believed that when push came to shove, Dean would make the right call. He always had.
Dean had almost laughed at him right then and there, but Sam had been so...god, sure of himself Dean hadn't wanted to pop his bubble. But Dean, make the right choice? Since when? Sam should know-
But he did. Dean swung back to meet Sam's gaze. He did know that Dean messed up. He knew it better than anyone. He'd had ringside seats to all of Dean's biggest failures, including his own hand in the seals, his own hand in starting the apocalypse. Sam had seen it all.
And didn't condemn him for it. Only stuck with him, held on tighter, and god, still looked up to him even. Loved him despite it all.
You're still my big brother.
Despite leaving Sam, abandoning him with a drunk angel and a town full of emotional refugees, his little brother still wanted him around, begged for and fought for him to stay. Had been doing so for months. Years. I just want my big brother back, he'd said when Dean's year had been ticking down. Come with me and help me do this, he'd said even after Dean had locked him in the panic room. Still wanting Dean, still needing Dean. The big brother. It mattered that much to him.
Staring at Sam now, even as Sam began to frown, suddenly nothing else mattered to Dean either. He was Sam's big brother, Adam's too. Sam's faith in Dean, his refusal to see Dean as anything less than his own personal hero, unlocked a part of Dean he thought he'd lost. The fire that Famine hadn't seen began to burn again. He found himself straightening, standing taller, because he was Dean Winchester, goddammit, and he wasn't Michael's vessel or fate's bitch, he was Sammy's big brother. Nothing else mattered except that. He was wanted, he was needed. Sam was fighting for him.
And if Sam could fight for him, then he was going to fight for Sam. It wasn't a burdening task that weighed him down anymore, it was easy.
He met Sam's gaze and slowly began to smile. When he had Sam's full attention, his brother's frown deepening in confusion, he gave a wink, slow and sure. Everything's gonna be okay, he told Sam silently. Trust me.
Then he turned back to Zachariah, fire burning in his veins. The sonuvabitch had hurt not just one of his brothers, but both of them, just because he could. This big brother wasn't gonna stand for it.
And there was an angel killing knife up his sleeve that was going to inform Zachariah of that.
The empty room startled Dean with how opposite it was to the bright, golden interior it had had maybe thirty seconds before. The windows were broken, discarded boxes were piled everywhere. It was dark, dirty, dusty. Most importantly of all, empty. No Zachariah on the floor.
No Adam anywhere to be seen.
Dean gripped the knob tighter in his hand. He should've opened it, should've fought past the burning feeling. It'd surrounded him from the door, wrapped him in a fire hotter than he'd ever felt, and when he'd touched the knob he hadn't been able to help his reaction. Except now Adam was gone. He gritted his teeth and fought to keep from punching something. "Goddamn you," he muttered angrily.
Then coughing started behind him. It wasn't a 'clear your throat' type of cough so much as it was a wheeze, a desperate gasp for air that was rough and choked.
Dean whipped around and flew back, his heart starting to race again. Sam was curled up on the floor, face red as he tried to breathe and expel more blood from his system. "No, no no," Dean murmured. He caught Sam's shoulder and tried to haul him upright, but Sam's muscles were locked and refused to give. "Sammy, no," he said, helpless. Whatever Zachariah had done was supposed to have ended when Dean stabbed him. Not...not this. God not this.
Not Sam still bleeding out from whatever Zachariah had done to him.
"Dean," Sam gasped, before he spit up more blood. "Adam..."
"We'll get him back," Dean swore, kneeling next to Sam. "Just stay with me, okay? Gonna get you out of here-"
And that was exactly when he realized their ride here, halfway across the country, was gone. Vanished with the rest of the angels he'd taken with him, and Dean shut his eyes tight. Who knew how far out they were from a hospital, or if Dean would even have cell phone service to call for help-
Sam choked again, his hands flying up to grasp Dean's jacket. Dean glanced down at his brother, wrapping his hands around his brother's wrists. Sam honest to god smiled, his teeth coated with blood. "You didn't...didn't say it," he managed, before he turned his head to the side and coughed up more blood. Then he was smiling again, even laughing a little. "You almost, but, but..."
"Shh, just take it easy," Dean soothed, anxiousness welling up deep inside of him. "Hey, stay with me, you don't get to check out now, little brother. Not when we're finally on the same page, okay? Stay with me, Sammy."
Sam smiled up at him, lips painted red against his almost white face. "Knew you wouldn't," he whispered, voice barely forced out. "I knew...my broth...brother wouldn't..."
He paused, gaze looking through Dean, and it was only when his grasp began to slacken that Dean realized he wasn't blinking or breathing. Dean froze, staring with shock down at his little brother. His little brother, who'd fought beside him, who'd believed in him when no one else had-
Who was dead because he'd tried to save Dean. Because he'd had faith in Dean.
"No," Dean whispered, stunned. Then, louder, "No, you don't...Sammy no-"
But Sam didn't move, his gaze vacant. Empty.
Castiel was gone. Adam was gone. And now, Sam was gone, too.
Dean felt his eyes burn, Sam growing blurry as he stared and stared. "You don't get to do this," he managed through numb lips. "You can't go. You can't...not now." He swallowed hard and bit damn near through his lip. "We were just starting to be brothers again," he choked out.
Sam's empty gaze was too much. Dean shakily inhaled and reluctantly let go of one of Sam's wrists, hand reaching to close Sam's eyes for the last time.
His hand had barely passed over Sam's eyes when Sam lurched, choking. Dean jerked back in surprise, only to leap forward and get Sam over onto his side. The blood Sam spit out looked clotted and massive, and Dean's stomach turned at the sight.
Except Sam was breathing, breaths big and shaky, but he was breathing and gasping and hauling in as much air as he could. "Dean?" he asked, bewildered, a moment later.
All Dean had for an answer was to grab his brother's jacket, haul him to sitting, then pull him into a tight embrace. His eyes were burning again, but Dean shut them and let the tears roll down his face. Sam was breathing against him, no wet coughing. His grasp wasn't weak but strong and sure, and he was alive. For some reason, Dean was allowed to have a little brother again.
This time, he wasn't going to let him go so easily.
He pulled back and cleared his throat. "Ready to get out of here?" he asked.
Sam's nod was steady. "More than," he said. Dean hauled him to his feet, and together they headed for the door in search of transportation.
An hour into the drive, Dean let the conversation flow. Sam was content beside him, the truck they'd "borrowed" wasn't too bad, and Dean felt good. A huge weight had been lifted off his chest, and the world didn't feel like it was on his shoulders anymore, like the myth of Atlas. It wasn't even that Sam was sharing it so much as it was that it just wasn't crushing him anymore.
So when Sam asked, it wasn't all that surprising. "I saw it," Sam said. Why hadn't he said yes?
Because you still looked at me like I was your hero. Because you still love me after everything. But he got as close to the truth as he could without getting that chick-flicky. Faith. It all boiled down to faith, and so yeah, maybe he got a little chick-flicky. Sam's faith in him had saved the day.
Sam smiled again, like he hadn't in ages, and suddenly it was so important to tell him. "I owe you an apology," Dean said.
Sam waved him off like Dean knew he would, but Dean refused to be ignored. He needed to say it, and whether Sam told him he didn't have to say it, he knew his little brother needed to hear it. Needed to hear that it wasn't all on him.
Because it wasn't. It never should've been, and it wasn't anymore.
"Screw destiny," he said. Sam's grin was nearly blinding, and Dean felt like everything was okay. Everything was gonna be okay, just like he'd promised. The two of them, together, against the world. The way it had been for years, the way it always should've been.
He was still smiling when Sam began rummaging in his pocket. "Got ants in your pants, sparky?" he asked cheerfully.
"Shut up, jerk," Sam replied without hesitation, and Dean felt a little more of the weight from his shoulders release. God, when had things gotten so complicated, when they could've been this easy? Just the two of them handling everything. They could do it: get Adam back, get Castiel back, get Bobby back to spirits (and he owed the man a serious apology too).
"Make me, bitch," Dean said, turning his smirk towards Sam. Then he swallowed his next words, shutting up utterly and completely. Between Sam's fingers dangled a small leather cord and a single golden amulet Dean would've recognized anywhere. The same one he'd dropped in the trash only a few weeks before.
Dean's hand instantly reached out, unable to help itself. Sam's smile remained, though his shoulders dropped a good inch. "Thought you might want it back, since you're taking the title of big brother and all," Sam said casually. The look in his eyes told a different story, however. Gone was the disappointment and despair of earlier, replaced with the same hope, same love from the panic room.
"Damn straight," Dean managed to get out. He took his hands from the wheel in order to quickly pull it back on. It rested against his chest, a small weight, but this weight he didn't mind. This weight made everything else easier to bear.
When he glanced over at Sam, there was no blood marring his smile. He was still there, still gazing at Dean like Dean hadn't made some of the most cosmic mistakes of all time.
Dean gave the smile right back to him. I've got faith in you, he silently said. I believe in you, kiddo. We can do this together.