A/N: So I owe you all a backlog of fics, as I've been recovering from graduating from college. Prepare to have a lot tossed your way. Not that I think most of you mind.
He wasn't aware of how long he sat there, holding her. Long enough for him to feel the slick slide of blood on his skin, feel it soaking into his clothes. Madison was a dead weight in his arms and there was nothing he could do about it. He'd pulled the trigger. He was responsible. She was dead because of him, his fault, he'd done it-
The voice came in again, distant and almost from underwater. The next time it was called, it was clearer and softer than before. The third time it was loud enough to be deemed close, and the gentleness behind it finally brought Sam's head up.
Dean was crouched in front of him, his face shining despite his calm gaze. "Sammy?" he called again, and Sam blinked through swollen eyes. His brother shifted closer to where Sam was slumped on the floor. "Sam?"
Madison slipped slightly against him and Sam tightened his arms around her to keep her from falling. Dean winced slightly, grief and worry flashing through his gaze, before he slid back into the calm and strong big brother Sam had always known. "Let me take her," Dean said softly.
Carefully Madison was slid from Sam's arms, even while he tried to hold her closer. "Easy, Sammy," Dean soothed as he grasped Sam's wrists gently and pulled them apart. Madison tumbled from his embrace, tearing a whimper from Sam's chest. Even before he could say anything she was caught in Dean's arms, his brother holding her just as tenderly as Sam had. Then she was laid down on the carpet, eyes closed and arms by her side. She looked peaceful, almost. The beast within was gone, leaving only the body of a beautiful woman who didn't deserve to die.
Sam didn't respond. A moment later hands carefully took him under his arms and began to lift. Sam stumbled, Dean caught. A simple pull brought Sam to standing, even while his legs trembled and his gaze stayed locked on her. Turn her limbs just so and she could be on the ceiling, hair fanned out and flames rising around her-
"C'mon, Sammy, let's go. Car's just downstairs, okay? Let's get you down the stairs, get you cleaned up. Maybe get you something to eat; I don't think either of us ate today. We'll get something to go, hit the road..."
Sam didn't pay any attention. For all he could hear, Dean was speaking ten dollar words like gentrification and halitosis. Instead, he kept his eyes on Madison, beautiful Madison, who'd be laid to rest before the end of the weekend more than likely. They'd never know how heroic she'd been, putting the lives of strangers ahead of her own. They'd never know how she'd kept her eyes open and on Sam, even given him a smile as he'd cocked the gun and pulled her close. How she'd forgiven him with a simple look as he'd pulled the trigger.
Then the door was shutting and Sam was cut off, alone and lost and cold in the hallway. She was gone, locked behind the door-
Hands took him by the elbows and led him almost tenderly down towards the stairs. "Easy steps," Dean was murmuring. "Just take it easy, Sammy. I got you, go slow, down we go, watch the last step." Sam felt all of four years old again, Dean guiding him down a rickety staircase that creaked and scared him, tripping him when the heights of the stairs were off. Dean had been there, hand in his, making sure he made it down without catching his foot on the uneven wood.
Everything felt uneven. Everything felt wrong, and he wanted to close his eyes and curl up in a ball somewhere and cry. If he closed his eyes now, though, he'd simply fall, and leaving Dean to haul his weight wasn't fair.
His brother wasn't complaining about it at the moment. The sky was gray above them as Dean ushered him towards the car. He was pushed in gently, the door shut quietly, and then the car started up. In the apartment building, Madison was on the floor, dead.
Sam let himself close his eyes then, leaving Dean to get them away from her silent apartment.
When he blinked, the outside that he'd been staring at came into view. The day was still gray, and it looked like rain. Sam felt the insane urge to rush out of the car and into the middle of the road and let the rain wipe away everything. Her blood was still underneath his fingernails, and he doubted he'd ever be able to get it off.
His eyes still felt swollen, and when he finally turned towards Dean, he could see his brother wince in sympathy. "You hungry at all?" Dean said instead of what was obviously worrying him. "Almost dinner time. Figured we'd stop somewhere nearby for the night."
Food. Sam had passed up lunch hours before, and he was pretty certain Dean hadn't eaten anything, either. They'd simply grabbed things from the motel and booked. Flown out of the city and left Madison's body on the floor, and even the anger, the rage at the unfairness of it all faded as swiftly as it'd come. All he felt was numb. A crushing numbness that pulled his limbs down and left him with barely any energy to move. Plenty to think, unfortunately. Not enough to work his mouth and give Dean an answer.
It was for the best. If he opened his mouth everything would come pouring out, and neither of them needed that. Honestly, Sam wasn't sure what was going to happen if he did say anything, but it wasn't going to end well. That much he knew.
Dean sighed. "How about soup? Something warm would help. Not that rabbit food you call a salad."
Food was always Dean's way of trying to fix everything. Comfort foods were all types of food, ranging from chocolate to coffee, pizza to corned beef. Somehow, Dean always knew the right thing to get, even when Sam didn't want it.
Sam didn't want soup. He wanted to be enjoying a coffee right now with a beautiful woman who'd been cured of a werewolf bite. He wanted to know how she took her coffee, if she was a cream and sugar woman, or if she mixed in hazelnut, if she was a girl that caught all the drops or if she spilled some and laughed as she cleaned it up-
A hand on his shoulder brought him back. "Let's see if any of the places here have soup," Dean said softly. "Sure there's bound to be some that have a soup of the day that catches your eye."
I'm here and it's gonna be okay, I swear to god, Sam heard instead, and he swallowed hard. A part of him wanted to reach up and grab Dean's hand to keep it there, to keep his brother from letting go. The majority of him couldn't raise up the energy to do it, though, so he settled for not shrugging off his brother's hand, hoping Dean would get the message.
Dean's hand stayed on his shoulder, a firm grasp, all the way to one of the restaurants.
He shot awake with a gasp, shivering and trying to breathe. The room was dark and disorienting, and for a moment he was back in his dream, Madison's body splayed out before him, blood leaking from the heart she'd offered him. Her eyes stared at him, accusations loud from her forever silent lips, and Sam shut his eyes tight to where the darkness followed him.
Light appeared from beyond his closed eyes, and he opened them again. The bathroom in the corner had the light on, the door partially shut to not blind him. Dean was already moving again, his shadow cutting through the light. He was still disoriented enough to not know where his brother was until Dean sat beside him on the bed.
"You awake, Sam?" he asked, voice quieter than it had been all day. Sam struggled to sit up on weary arms, still trembling slightly. If he looked over at Dean's bed he knew he'd see her. God but he'd tried to save her. He'd done everything he could to save her.
Save her while he'd put a bullet into her heart.
A barely heard sound met his ears, the slide of one smooth object over another. Then Dean was wrapping Sam's hand around the plastic complimentary cup from the bathroom. "Easy, it's not completely full, but it's full enough," Dean cautioned. The water was cold and soothed away some of the shaking. Sam took long pulls from the cup until it was drained, then sat with the cup in his lap, hand and mind useless as to what to do next.
Without so much as a pause Dean took the cup and moved it to who knew where. He didn't leave, though. And somehow it was so significant in that single moment, it mattered so much that he was there and knew what to do when Sam's brain still couldn't compute two plus two, and Sam choked on a sob that came out of nowhere. Hitched breaths became small gasps for air became high pitched whimpers filled with pain, and Sam buried his face in his hands.
There was no hesitation in the way Dean wrapped his arms around Sam's shuddering form and held on. Knew exactly the way to hold Sam, like he was holding him from exploding all over the motel room. He'd held Sam this way not that long ago, while Sam still smelled like smoke and Jess was burned forever into his retinas.
That only made Sam dig his hand into the folds of Dean's t-shirt and cling as tight as he could. There was no blood soaking through his clothes, no hole where his heart was. Dean was whole and alive and right there.
Through it all, Dean held on, whispering nonsense that made complete sense and mattered more than anything else. Things like, "I'm here," and, "Just breathe," and, "Easy, Sammy, shhh, Sam," that made all the difference. He didn't promise that it was okay. He promised that he was there and that he wasn't leaving.
Sam squeezed his eyes shut and let his tears stain his brother's shirt.
Sam opened his eyes. They felt even more swollen then they had the other day, and when the first thing he could blearily make out was a washcloth, he didn't hesitate to take it. It was cold without being frozen, and it was heaven to his eyes. He kept it pressed against his skin that still felt too warm to the touch.
The sound of springs told him Dean was still there. "Wanted to get you one last night, but you fell asleep before I could. Figured sleep was better then waking you up for a cold cloth." Cloth rustled slightly, and he could imagine Dean shifting ever so slightly on the bed. Probably leaning forward towards Sam. "I was gonna head out to get breakfast, but I wanted your order before I went."
I didn't want you to think I'd left you, was heard. The cloth fell away so Sam could regard his brother. Dean looked just as tired as Sam did, but where his body was slumped with fatigue, his eyes were clear and earnest as they watched Sam. Worry, concern, anything that had to do with making sure Sam was all right and Dean was it.
Despite the crying lag yesterday Sam's eyes still managed to produce a few more tears. Dean bit his lip, and the urge to do something was evident as his fingers flexed. Sam wasn't sure he could explain to his brother that they weren't for Madison, or for Jess, or really anything sad. These were for the heartache swell that came with knowing you were loved, that there was someone there to watch you and protect you and pick out soups of the day and wring out cold cloths for your eyes. If it hadn't been for Dean, Sam knew he'd be in the apartment, holding Madison's body. On the bed at Stanford, watching Jess burn.
He swallowed and felt one of the tears cross over the bridge of his nose. "Pancakes," he whispered, voice hoarse. Dean blinked in surprise. Sam licked his lips to speak again. "Pancakes. Lots of syrup."
Relief shuddered through Dean's body, and the smile he gave was tremulous but genuine. "Sausage or bacon?" he said.
"Ham," Sam said, and Dean shook his head, mumbling something about corrupted little brothers who didn't understand the goodness that was sausage or bacon. When he rose to his feet, though, his hand found Sam's shoulder again, and this time Sam found his hand in return. Pancakes didn't particularly sound good at the moment, and he knew Dean knew it. And part of him desperately wanted to ask himself if Madison had been a pancake girl, if they could've had pancakes yesterday morning instead of having to rush to find her after she'd changed and escaped from the apartment.
"Orange juice," Sam choked out. The thought of coffee was suddenly too much.
Dean squeezed his shoulder. "Try and sleep for a little more, kiddo," he said softly. "I'll be right back. Okay?"
Sam managed a nod. Dean gathered his things and headed for the door, shrugging on his jacket as he did so. Sam's attention drifted to the wall ahead of him, clear of scorch marks and blood.
The one word call spoke everything that would take too much time to say. It wasn't necessary, not when Dean would know-
-the right thing to say. "Blueberries," Sam told him. "For the pancakes."
His brother's smile was easy to hear in his reply. "Good choice," Dean said warmly, and Sam closed his eyes with a small smile.