Death Becomes You
Disclaimer: The Winchesters and the Metallicar belong to Kripke et al. The love belongs to us.
Beta'd: By the "I want more here" Phx. I know you didn't realize you were beta'ing, but ya were. :)
Warning: If you just popped on here and didn't read the first chapter, what're you doing? Who reads the ending first? (*cough*Sherry*cough*). Rest assured, it's not a death!fic. Now, go. Read the first chapter. I'll wait.
Sam sat on the edge of the bed watching his brother sleep. Two months. It had been two months of this: Dean trying desperately to keep his promise and failing in a slow and miserable slide, and Sam trying desperately to find a way to communicate with his brother, to let Dean know that he was no longer trapped in the cage with Lucifer. Neither of them was experiencing much success.
Sam vacillated between being with his brother and nothingness. He usually blinked out of existence about the time Dean fell asleep and when Sam was snapped back, Dean was already partway through his day, or even several days. Sam had no idea were he went when he wasn't with his brother, but wherever it was, it was dark, and quiet, and peaceful.
Dean's head jerked once, a low moan escaping and Sam knew why he was here this time. Nightmares. Sam's fingers barely grazed Dean's and, in spite of the fact his touch could not possibly be felt, the whimper growing in his brother's throat cut out.
"I wish you could let it go," Sam said, whispering even though his voice couldn't be heard. "I can't find a way to let you know I'm okay, but I am."
Sam stopped talking when the furrow in Dean's forehead deepened and he moved restlessly on the sheets.
Okay might be a strong word for it. He was free of the cage, the hole where he'd spent mono y mono time with Lucifer. When the fallen angel had been in his skin, Sam had felt the oily evil presence permeate every inch of him. The anger, the darkness, and the power were simply overwhelming. He'd been beaten, downtrodden, heart-broken, but the torment in the hole, for as long or as short of a time that eternity had lasted, is what had fractured his soul.
Now the pain was background noise. Sam could remember it all, it plagued his mind while he was self-aware and with Dean, but it was muted somehow. As though the memories remained, but the emotions that went with them were mere shadows of the darkness that created them. They still hurt deeply, but they didn't cut as sharply.
Sam curled ethereal fingers around his brother's. He needed to find a way to let Dean know everything would be alright. Dean was free to live a life of his own choosing and Sam could move on as soon as he knew his brother would be okay. The question was simply how.
It had been days this time, and Sam had missed it. Dean and Lisa had apparently reached a mutual decision that while they wanted a relationship, it wasn't the right timing. They were still friends, but it was back to emails, texts, and phone calls. Sam suspected his brother was in some ways, relieved.
The windows were open, the music blaring, and Sam couldn't help but smile. Dean seemed just a shade closer to himself. It wasn't until hours later that Sam realized how wrong he was.
"You're headed for Stull Cemetery, aren't you?" Sam asked, his question laced with concern. "Please don't do anything stupid."
In response, Dean turned the music on louder.
The miles flew past and as the cemetery loomed ever closer, Sam's fears for his brother grew. Dean fumbled in his pocket, pulling out a heat-damaged piece of metal, the horsemen's rings and the key to Lucifer's cage. Dean took his eyes off the road as he examined the rings, turning it over in his hand.
"Don't," Sam begged.
Dean's phone chirped, barely audible over the thrumming music pulsating through the car. He studiously ignored it.
Sam glanced at the familiar name on the readout. "Dean, it's Bobby."
Dean started thumping the steering wheel in beat to the music and the phone went to voicemail.
Sam stared at his brother. He willed Dean to feel him sitting here right in the passenger seat, if only in spirit.
The phone started ringing again.
"Dean, answer it. It's Bobby." Sam didn't try to hide the plea in his voice; there was no point anyway. Dean couldn't hear him.
After five rings the call went to voicemail and Dean turned onto the bumpy dirt road into the cemetery.
"Dean, please don't." He couldn't let his brother throw away his life in a misguided attempt to rescue Sam from a place where he wasn't trapped any longer.
Dean reached over and switched the tapes. Sam's hopes sank as he heard Def Leopard's Pyromania start playing. Dean stopped the car and threw it into Park. He simply sat there, staring at the devil's key.
Sam knew he was running out of time to stop his brother.
The phone started ringing again. Dean ignored it, turning off the ignition.
Sam's agitation grew. He couldn't let his brother do this, there had to be something Sam could do, that Bobby could do if only Dean would listen.
"Dean, answer the damn phone!"
Dean shuddered, the blank expression slid off his face, and he picked up the phone gazing at it as if he didn't recognize it or know what to do with it.
Dean thumbed on the phone and slowly lifted it to his ear. He didn't say anything, just sat there and waited.
"Dean, you there boy?" Bobby asked.
"Where are you?" To Sam's ears, the older hunter sounded concerned and bone-weary tired.
A long exhale whistled through the phone. "You're not planning anything stupid, are you?"
"Look, it doesn't matter. Just get your ass over to the Millstone Long Term Care Facility. It's only ten miles from there."
"Little busy right now," Dean said tonelessly.
"Damn it, Dean, take the time!" Bobby sighed, his voice softening. "I think Sam's there."
Dean's face went white and his hands shook. The phone fell from his fingers and Sam could hear Bobby's voice calling to his brother from the floorboards. When Dean started the Impala and turned her around, Sam winked back into oblivion.
Dean stood in the doorway to his brother's room for several long minutes. Other than the tubes and wires attached to Sam that indicated life, he was as still as death, face pale and expressionless. The medical staff was stumped. The doctor on duty had informed Dean they couldn't find any compelling physical reason or injury to explain Sam's condition.
Dean wondered if perhaps his brother's body had been expelled from the cage, an unwanted, unneeded vessel now that Lucifer's essence and Sam's soul shared the same jail cell. It was more than he dared hope to think somewhere beneath that unreadable mask lay his brother, impossibly back once more from the dead.
Several times the last couple of months, Dean swore he could feel Sam's presence or that he'd heard his voice. In the end, Dean assumed it was just further proof he was inexorably losing his mind.
Was it really you, Sammy?
Dean shook his head, discarding the insane notion. It was much more likely that Sam's body had been discarded and was now lying soulless on the bed. Their lives up to this point pretty much guaranteed it.
Dean strode over to his brother and took a seat in the chair next him. He dropped the bag of Sam's personal items the nurse had given him earlier onto the bedside tray, and stretched an arm across the bed. Dean curled warm fingers around his brother's chilled ones. There wasn't a flicker of recognition on Sam's face, not a flutter of movement or life.
Dean's hope snuffed out completely.
"Sammy, I know I promised, but this was so hard already when I thought you were trapped in that pit with Lucifer. But now? Knowing if I can get you out you have a body to come back to, how can I not try?"
Silence from the shell of his brother on the bed.
"I told you, kiddo. Looking out for you, it's not just my job. It's kind of…" Dean stopped and cleared his throat. "It's kind of who I am."
It reminded Dean too much of talking to his brother's corpse back in Cold Oak. Only this was ten times worse. Sam's body was alive not decaying, his skin warm not cold, and pale not gray. It was like having him here, yet not.
"I can't pretend to be happy. I can't - live like nothing is wrong knowing what's happening to you." Dean shifted uncomfortably in the chair. "You know what I mean, Sammy. You've been here before."
Sam's chest moved up and down with each breath, but that was all.
"'Sides, Lisa and me, it's just not meant to be, at least not right now." Dean took in a deep breath and slowly released it to gain some control over his emotions. "Maybe never, and I can't even try to make it work right now."
There was no response to Dean's words other than the consistent and steady beep of Sam's heart monitor.
"Maybe you're in there somewhere, maybe you're not." Dean swallowed down a ball of denial and loss. "But I can't take that chance. I have to go."
He searched Sam's face for a sign and received none, just as he suspected.
"I probably won't be back, but if I do this thing right, we'll both finally be free." Dean gently squeezed his brother's hand as he stood. The shock of Sam's fingers closing weakly in response sent Dean plummeting back to the chair.
"Don't go." Sam's voice was barely above a whisper, hoarse and dry. "Please."
"Sam?" Hope flared anew, nearly choking off his voice.
Hazel eyes blinked open and a lazy smile spread across Sam's face, dimples briefly appearing.
"I think God found me." Sam licked his dry lips.
Dean poured a glass of water from the pitcher and helped Sam take a few small sips.
"He said, he…" Sam coughed, his face turning red from the effort.
"Easy," Dean said, attempting to reassure his brother. "Take it easy, you can tell me later."
Sam shook his head and began again. "He said you'd be able to have the life you should have had." Sam sounded just this side of indignant, like he was insinuating he'd been lied to. He coughed again, lighter this time. "That you'd have peace."
"Sam, knowing you're okay? That's the only way I'd ever have any kind of peace." Dean's voice cracked and he held the glass for Sam to take another sip of water before he put it on the table. It gave Dean a moment to regain a tenuous hold on his composure. "And the only life I want? Is a road trip – with my brother."
Sam nodded, his quiet "Me too" barely audible. Tears glistened in the hazel depths sparkling gold and blue. "You sure?"
"Very sure." Dean leaned forward, narrowing the distance between he and his brother. "Maybe someday I'll want the white picket fence, maybe we both will now that all that destiny crap is behind us."
Sam nodded, the tears in his eyes threatened to fall, but he held them back.
"But it ain't yet." Dean lightly gripped his brother's forearm. "Right now, we've still got a job to do."
"Yeah, we do."
"And there's no one I trust more to have my back, Sammy." Dean held his brother's gaze, willing him to pick up on the unspoken sentiment.
"Same here, Dean." Message received. Sam's face split with a yawn.
"Get some sleep, bro," Dean said, resting a hand on Sam's chest. "I'll be here when you wake up."
Sam lifted his hand, snagged the collar of Dean's jacket and pulled him down closer. A long arm came up and wrapped around his shoulder. "Promise me?"
Dean returned the hug, holding his brother close and tight. "Promise."
"We really need to talk about your reckless driving," Sam whispered as he fell asleep, his hand slowly sliding off Dean's shoulder.
Then, and only then, did Dean release his hold on his brother. His face puckered momentarily as he tried to figure out Sam's odd comment about his driving. Discarding it as the ramblings of his half-asleep brother, Dean sat there for a long time and simply enjoyed the novelty of watching Sam sleep. There was a part of Dean that feared if he took his eyes off Sam, for even a second, he would disappear.
Dean closed his eyes, keeping one hand on his brother's arm, and rested for awhile. He awakened when the nurse came in to check Sam's vitals and Dean told her how his brother had talked to him. She smiled, promising a doctor would be by soon to check on Sam and left.
Not wanting to turn on the television and disturb the easy quietness that existed between them, Dean opened the personal items bag he'd been given only a few short hours ago. There, on top of his brother's folded shirt, was a familiar pendant.
Dean's heart stuttered as his brother's words came back to him. "I think God found me."
Dean carefully removed the cherished gift with shaking fingers, and then closed his hand, clutching it tightly inside. He pressed his fist to wobbling lips as a tear slowly traversed down his face. Dean placed his free hand softly on Sam's wrist and lifted his face skyward.
Somewhere in the vast universe, in a place and time where places and time had no meaning, Dean's prayer of gratitude was heard.
AN: Sappy little bro-mo though it may be, I just had to have a hug. I think we deserved it.
Happy hiatus everyone! :D