Disclaimer: See Chapter One
A/N: Alright, I lied. I didn't post the conclusion yesterday. It was preempted. So, without further words, let's put it to bed…
Chapter Four: Point it Home
Sam blamed himself, even though it was Lucky who was slowing them down. He had taken too long getting the door—even though the damn thing probably weighed more than he did—and he was having trouble keeping up with Sam's long legs.
"You go on ahead!" he hollered when Sam slowed to wait for him.
"No," Sam answered back. "We stay together." He thought about hoisting the small man over his shoulder and pulling them both up the hill, but he knew he'd never hear the end of it. He could go on ahead, leave their friend behind. Dean needed to get inside now, but there was still a bullet in the chamber of Lucky's Colt to consider. And Sam had promised.
When they finally made it back to the sanctuary of the cabin, it was Dean who Sam ended up carrying in over his shoulders. Lucky pulled back the covers on the bed. He made more hot chocolate, spiced it with peppermint, and gave Sam the first-aid kit. Then he set about stoking up a roaring fire.
Sam opened the first-aid kit and removed the warming packs. It only took a few seconds in the microwave before they were ready. He wrapped hand towels around each one and placed them under Dean's armpits, then tucked the covers around him.
His eyes drifted to Lucky. There was still a job to complete. "Hey, man," Sam started, "think you could keep your eye on him for a little bit? I need to go out and…" He paused a minute. He didn't think burn your brother was the best choice of words. "Finish things up."
Lucky's eyes seemed to soften. Sam watched his Adam's apple bob, then the little guy agreed with a quiet, "Okay."
It had only taken him a little over thirty minutes and Sam was back, sitting on the edge of the bed, far enough away where he didn't have to touch. Farther than he had ever sat before when his brother had been hurt. His eyes stayed focused on Dean, but he kept his arms at his sides. He knew it would only take a touch to give in to all the rage and pain Sam had been concealing but he wasn't willing to go there yet.
"Hey, man." Lucky nudged his leg.
Sam looked down at the guy.
Lucky handed him a cup of hot chocolate. Sam accepted it graciously. Tasted really good, actually. Like homemade.
"Gonna be okay?" Lucky moved a side table closer so Sam could set his hot drink down.
Sam looked at his older brother. "Yeah, he will be."
Lucky grinned. "I was talking about you, Sam."
Sam had to blink. And then look away. For all the moments he fought to prove he wasn't a freak, he wasn't different, that he was part of the human race, it always took just one fragile moment of real human contact for him to realize he wasn't always a tower of strength. He swallowed and cleared his throat a couple of times. "Yeah. Sure." And just so he could still have leverage in keeping the power he so desperately needed, he spun the bottle. "How 'bout you? You okay?"
Lucky scrubbed a small hand over his face and down the back of his neck. "I don't know." A stray finger started twisting the gold band on his left hand. A permanent reminder of open wounds. Sam understood. His dad had never had to explain why he always wore his wedding ring, either. "I'm all alone now."
Sam nodded. They may be at different spectrums of the height chart, but alone? That was something Sam could relate to. "Yeah. I was kinda in that position not too long ago."
Lucky's eyes narrowed. "Yeah? How'd you…how'd you get through it?"
Sam stared at the man and wondered about that. Wasn't sure he was through it yet. When he let himself really feel, most of the time it was like he was still smack in the middle of all the loneliness. "I don't know. I guess you just have to give yourself a purpose."
"I've had a purpose. Now, it's gone."
"Unfinished business," Lucky said, plain and simple, his eyes reaching out and piercing Sam. "I needed an end. When you go through what I did, something just…changes in you. I woke up the next day and I wasn't the same person I was the day before. I just filled all that pain with a plan."
Sam felt his face flush, hot and red, and he nodded at the little man like he was following what he was saying, like Sam understood where he was coming from. It was different, their lives, but revenge was a language anyone could speak.
"Funny thing is," Lucky went on, "I thought I'd feel different after it happened. Better or justified somehow. But you know what?"
Sam waited him out, his mouth sealed tight.
"It doesn't really change anything. I'm still alone. My family's still dead. And shooting him…it… Well, I still have that empty hole. The pain." A little hand waved dismissively at him. "Anyway, you probably don't know what I mean." Then he stared at Sam, maybe seeing something shimmer behind his eyes. "Or, I don't know, maybe you do. Maybe when you spent that time alone or saw that guy die when you were a kid. Or even when you saw the bear go down. I'm sure it was ugly." He sighed. "Unforgettable."
Sam had to look away again, but his eyes only landed on his brother, who was staring back at him, slits of dull hazel teasing him behind lashes that pushed words away. Sam felt instant relief and a choking sensation at the same time. He wanted to speak, to tell Dean how he wanted to run and hide. To tell him the truth. But in the end, all he could do was be there, on the edge of that bed. On the edge of everything. Walking the line between light and dark. And hope—hope—his brother could see how much he needed him.
Because Sam wanted him to see that.
"I remember that old bear," Dean whispered.
Sam's brows knitted across his forehead. "Yeah?"
Dean nodded. "Sure."
Sam was silent. He had held on to the fact that he had been stronger than Dean, stronger for Dean. That he had held the power now to defeat where he and Dean failed. Now, sitting on a mattress in a nowhere cabin next to his brother, Sam felt stripped of everything.
"What happened after the guy fell off the cliff?" Lucky asked.
Sam stared at his brother. He could see the edge of his vision blur, the white from the linens blending together, smearing Dean's image in his view.
Lucky cleared his throat, wanting to be heard. "You know, with the bear?"
Sam blocked parts of his life out of his memory. Things that were too painful or too confusing or just too gory to remember. But there were always firsts in life, and they were always the hardest to forget. "I stood up." He kept his eyes on Dean. "It didn't see me, but it…smelled me or sensed me somehow." He heard Lucky moving closer and realized his voice had thinned. "I started to walk to it, drawn to it, maybe… and then something…something grabbed me."
"What was it?" Lucky asked.
His eyes filled with tears before he had a chance to catch his breath. His lungs scorched with the words as they burned out his throat, "My brother."
Lucky's gaze landed on Dean, then returned to Sam.
"He pulled me down and put his hand over my mouth so I wouldn't scream." Sam remembered the Lamia turning around just as he was being jerked to the ground. He remembered being held tight against Dean's chest, his brother's hand covering his mouth. He remembered looking over and seeing the fallen man staring lifelessly up to the sky, no breath left in his body. He remembered his tears rolling down over Dean's knuckles…
Sam held still, his stare pinned with Dean's. Then what? Then Dean had leaned in, nestled his mouth against Sam's ear and his lips had moved. Sam would never forget the words his brother spoke to him. Shut your eyes, Sammy. I'm not goin' nowhere. Nothin' bad's gonna happen to you as long as I'm here. Shhh… just shut your eyes.
"So… what? Your dad killed it?"
Sam nodded. "Yep." He waited for obvious questions: Why would your dad have a gun while you were hiking? How did you get separated from him in the first place? Where's your dad now? But they didn't come, and Sam thought maybe Lucky already knew.
"Wasn't really a bear, was it?" The little guy's voice had changed, taken on a harder edge.
A tear spilled down Sam's cheek, and he quickly wiped it away. "No."
Lucky watched him. Waiting. "What…what was it?"
Sam's eyes melted toward his brother. Wanting, needing him, but shoving it all to the side, because if he didn't, it would explode all over them in a sobbing mess. And Sam couldn't let that kind of control go. "Just another monster."
"Damn." Lucky nodded. "And you were eleven? Shit, you must have felt...I don't know, hurt and scared and—"
"Yeah," Sam finished.
"It's okay to feel like that." Dean's voice hit the air, husky and rough. His eyes stayed on Sam. "It's supposed to hurt."
Lucky gave Dean a small smile, like he was just noticing the man was awake. "Jesus, dude, welcome back from the dead."
Which made both brothers laugh.
The little man made sure there were extra pillows, brought in more blankets, set aside some Kleenex, an empty wastebasket, and a deck of cards. It was the biggest help any stranger had given either of them in a long time.
He stood back and grinned. "You know, it's weird, but seeing you guys together like this makes me remember that it wasn't all bad. There was a time when it wasn't sad or bloody." His head bowed down and dark hair obscured his eyes. "I really loved my brother, you know?"
Sam nodded back. "I know. I'm…we're so sorry, Lucky."
Brushing his hair back, the man tried to smile. "Hell, you don't have anything to apologize for. You didn't do anything."
"No, but…we're just sorry your brother got caught up in everything. Couldn't fight himself."
"Oh, I think he fought himself." Lucky's eyes flickered from Sam to Dean, his voice growing soft. "That was part of the problem. Thing I could never figure out, though, was…I don't know why he thought he had to fight himself alone."
It took another twenty minutes for their host to say good night and to be sure there wasn't anything else anyone needed before he retreated with a pillow and blanket to make a bed for himself on the sofa. Sam was relieved when Lucky passed out, exhausted from his hard day's night.
"Think Lucky's okay?"
Sam blinked, his throat bobbing up and down. "I don't know." He glanced over his shoulder.
Lucky had his right arm loosely thrown over his eyes. A rumble of snores escaped his body, intensifying and diminishing in ranges.
"I don't think he even knows yet. But," Sam looked back at his brother, who was more wide-eyed and staring back at him, "I think he's already lived longer than he originally thought he would. He's got a really big heart."
"You cold?" Sam asked, pulling at an extra blanket folded at Dean's side.
"You got a…" Dean's hand started to reach toward Sam but then retreated back and pointed to his own forehead. "You got a ring around your head."
Sam placed his fingers to his temple, remembering the shimmer trying to swallow him, the suction cup seal it had on him. "Yeah." He rubbed at the red mark. "I'm okay, though. It didn't get me."
He looked across the mounds of blankets and found his brother still staring back at him. Sam couldn't quite hold his gaze, his eyes hiding from certain truths.
Dean's head nodded. "Think that's gonna leave one hell of a hickey."
Dean followed with a quiet laugh. "Lucky killed it, though."
Sam nodded, looking back up again. If they were talking about a hunt, he could do that. "Yeah, I made sure. I left—"
"You left?" Dean's eyes narrowed. "You left Lucky?"
Sam smiled in reassurance. "Yeah. Believe me, he was watching you and there was no way he was going to off himself. It was like…he wouldn't have risked anything happening to you." Sam met his brother's eyes and felt a nervous energy exchange between the two of them. "Anyway, I went back out and burned it."
"On the ice?"
"I moved it to the ground first, Dean."
"Oh." Dean cleared his throat. "That's good. Smart."
Sam looked away. Sometimes the talk didn't always stick to the hunt. Sam's fingers played with stray strands of frayed threads on one of the blankets, watching as each fingertip touched a new square. "Dean?"
Dean stayed quiet, waiting.
"Why'd you…why'd you come out on the ice?" Sam glanced up. "I had it under control."
Dean blew out a hot breath. "That thing was trying to eat you." His voice was wet, clogged, but it was still jagged.
Sam tipped his chin down. "I mean, before that. I was trying to draw it away from Lucky so he could shoot it."
"Lucky was scared shitless," Dean growled. "You think you…?" Dean stopped. "What the hell were you thinking, Sam? That you and Lucky could take down the shimmer?"
Sam let out a sigh. "He was there, you weren't, and the shimmer… It was coming fast." He watched his brother following his words, following his thought process. "We had to make a plan."
"And that plan didn't include me." Dean's voice was harsh and defensive, and Sam couldn't blame him. It was always easy for Winchesters to slam doors shut with nothing more than a whisper.
"That's not…that wasn't my intention."
"No." He glared at his brother. "I just wanted to end it. Get it done with, and you were…stuck in the car. You came out and started, I don't know, knocking off rounds and shooting at everything that moved."
"I was shooting at the shimmer, Sam."
"Yeah, well, you hit the ice a few times. I guess that's why you fell in."
Dean nodded, his mouth turned down into a familiar frown, clamping up good and tight. "I guess."
Sam sighed and shut his eyes, trying to will the frustration to roll off his shoulders, trying not to place blame with anyone. Things happened. That was the story of their lives. A shiver ran through his body, and he opened his eyes again.
Dean stared back.
Sam swallowed hard. His voice sharpened like a serrated knife. "What?"
"Anything you want to tell me, Sam?"
Sam narrowed his eyes. That was a loaded question. Trapped in a mountain cabin with nothing to run out to but snow and ice, no car, and this, this is what his brother wanted to do? Hash it out? Because the answer to that question was something Dean didn't want to hear, and Sam didn't want to tell. He knew all too well that once it escaped his lips and Dean knew the truth, knew Sam's fear, that his brother would be the one who would run out into the snow and never look back.
It was beyond huge, and Sam was willing to keep it under wraps for as long as it took. He wiped at the moisture that had collected in his eyes. "Just…"
Dean waited. His breathing slowed until Sam was sure he was holding it.
The salt betrayed Dean's eyes before Sam even realized it. He knew he had given his brother a cop-out answer. His heart wrenched as he watched Dean's eyes squeeze tight. It wasn't the answer Dean had wanted. He just wanted the truth. He wanted Sam's truth. Not his fear. There was no hiding the disappointment on Dean's face over Sam not trusting him enough to let him take some of the weight. To let Dean shoulder some of the burden.
But what does one say when they were both the same? When the outcome has the same result? When only one could win or both could fail? When all the faith you held inside your heart was the gamble?
Sam's brows bunched together over the bridge of his nose. "Dean?" He wanted to say so much more, but lately, his words were getting him into more trouble than his silence. He honestly didn't know which was worse.
Dean cleared his throat. His hand reached up to his eyes and he wiped away tears. "I…I'm sorry. I didn't mean to… God… I fucked up, Sam."
Sam shook his head. "What?" he breathed in disbelief and then, so as not to be the liar, he immediately contradicted his brother with a strong, "No."
"I'm a fuck-up." Dean's face scrunched up, a new set of tears found their way out, and he took in a shaky breath. Sam watched as he tried to get it under control. Tried to find his strength while he was losing it. Dean was crumbling, falling slowly into a pit and there was no way Sam would be fast enough to pull his brother out.
"Why are you saying that, man?" Sam drew back, almost scowling at his brother.
He'd just gotten the job done, got them through the night so they could get back on the road and to the Impala. On their way out of this freakin' town and back on the hunt. Back on his agenda, on his timetable: find Lilith and end it.
But none of that mattered. Not tonight. Not to his brother. "Dean?" There was only one thing that mattered. It was still the same. Always would be.
Dean cracked a small smile. "I was dragged to Hell…"
Sam quieted, his body slowing as his brother spoke. Images of that night flooded his mind. Images his brother would never know. Images that kept Sam awake at night, urged him to find a purpose.
"…and I clawed my way out of a coffin…"
A coffin Sam had constructed. A grave Sam had dug. Not too deep, just in case. A cross Sam had pushed into the ground so he would know…
So he could find, locate, resurrect.
"…just to be sitting here today. Across from my brother…"
He'd never wanted to bury his brother. Hadn't thought it would come down to that in the end. He'd thought he'd be strong enough just by wanting to be strong enough. By believing he could be. But in the end, he wasn't enough.
"…and you're slipping away so fast, I can't catch you."
Sam didn't think he wanted to be caught anymore. He'd rather win, even if meant sacrificing himself for his brother. He stretched his back out, watching and waiting. It was another game in which they were reaching master-level at playing. "Why'd you come out on the ice?" Sam asked again, his voice purposefully hard. Cold to Dean's soft. If he pushed with the right amount of force, he could back his brother against a wall of unspoken words. Push it all under the rug and save it all for another day.
Dean reached his hand across the blankets and wrapped it around Sam's forearm.
Sam's eyes shifted from Dean's eyes to his hand. The hold his brother had on him was so warm it burned. He felt Dean readjust his fingers, his clasp tightening. God, it was blistering and scalding, and Sam lifted tired lids to see Dean's eyes glistening back at him. Dean wasn't going to let him go, and Sam knew then that Dean would catch him kicking and screaming if it came down to it.
"I have to save you, Sammy."
Sam suddenly lost his breath and leaned in, wrapping his own fingers around his brother's forearm. It was the only thing that kept him from slipping and falling to the ground. He was sure of it.
He felt Dean's hold suddenly calm him. It was strengthening and soothing and so tender against him, Sam didn't know how he could have ever thought otherwise. He swallowed back the tears that blurred his vision, his mouth forming the only word he could think of: "Oh."
Sam watched as his brother rubbed his pulse point. Demon blood mixed with the Winchester line. Dean's thumb circled it, calming the injured spot, smoothing the pain away, and Sam wished…he wished he could stop time. Right here. Right now. Not advance another minute more. Just Dean and him with nothing to kill, nothing to hunt. Not losing and not winning. Just being. Young and vital and here. Because tomorrow was another day, and it was another chance for him to lose the game again. It was a fool's wish, but being foolish was what wishes were made for.
Sam felt Dean strengthen his clasp, and he hoped the stronger bloodline would win the race. Dean cleared his voice. "But I can't do it alone."
Sam locked his eyes with Dean's and held on.
It took two days, but Wilfred finally came up the mountain. A bright red Ford pickup truck with an extended cab came barreling into the tiny driveway of the cabin. The mechanic got out and slammed the door, brushed by both boys, almost stepped on Lucky, and looked out into the valley.
"Aw, fuck!" he hollered, his voice echoing back to him. He turned on his heels, pissed as hell, and glowered first at Sam, then at Dean.
"They killed it," Lucky said.
"What?" the big man demanded.
"Too Tall and Swagger Lee." Lucky smiled. "They killed the cougar. The one that's been attacking everyone."
Wilfred looked back down at the wreckage. Way off to the side, there was a small mound of ashes. "How do you know it was the one?"
Lucky looked over the valley with him. "It was rabid. It was going to kill me, but these guys," he motioned to the boys, "they saved my life."
Large shoulders fell. "That so?" Big fingers scratched at a balding head. "Well, we got insurance. We'll be okay." He glanced up. "But Addie's comin' up to take a look, so unless you guys want to get shot or stabbed, I'd suggest you grab your shit and hightail it out with me."
They didn't need to be told twice as they shoved their duffels into the back of the truck. Lucky asked to come along down the mountain, thought dinner at the only dive in town sounded okay, and Wilfred offered to drive him back up before it got too dark.
The brothers crawled into the back. Lucky took shotgun in the front as big Willie started up the engine. The Ford roared to life, a little happy tune ringing out of the speakers.
I have a secret to tell
From my electrical well
It's a simple message and I'm leaving out the whistles and bells.
Dean sighed. "Willie, really? Do we have to listen to this shit?"
Willie glowered, his lips smacking together. "Hey, jerk-face, in my cab, driver picks the music, person in the back shuts the fuck up."
Dean looked away, a smile ghosting his face. Couldn't argue with that logic, even though the cheery jumble-worded jingle was getting stuck in his head.
Blue canary in the outlet by the light switch
Who watches over you
Make a little birdhouse in your soul.
Lucky's head turned towards the big man, his face drawn up into a question mark. "Is this… They Might Be Giants?"
Wilfred glanced over and held up his oversized hand for the little guy to high-five.
Lucky obliged and then stared back out the windshield. "Soundtrack of my life, man."
Wilfred dropped the gear into drive. "Let's beat Addie outta here. She had to stop and pick up Lemon Pie, so she'll be gettin' here any time now."
Dean edged up in his seat. "Willie…"
"Bill…" Dean paused. "Tell me you didn't actually name your kid after a pie."
Yellow and green smiled back. Left incisor missing. "Shit, no."
Dean nodded and sat back against the seat.
"Her momma had all namin' rights. Stupid name for a kid. I tried tellin' her that. All it got me was a busted-out tooth." He shook his finger in warning. "Don't ever marry a redhead."
Dean smiled back at him in the rear view mirror.
"How's the Impala?" Sam shouted over the music. Dean watched as his brother's knee nervously bounced. He knew once they got back to the car, back on the road, it would be worthless going to Bobby's. No matter what the sign, no matter where they were going to be headed, Lilith wouldn't be there at this point. They had wasted too many hours, and another seal was surely broken by now. He knew his brother was sick inside about it.
So Sam asked about the Impala, wondering how their car was. How their home was. The only tangible connection to their family, to their past and their future. To one another. The only thing Sam had admitted had comforted him when Dean was gone.
The big man turned his head slightly. "Wasn't as bad as I thought. You boys sure do love that old girl and it shows. Found the crack and patched her up. Just keep takin' care of her, and she'll come along."
Sam shifted his weight, his leg clumsily bumping up against Dean's. Dean elbowed him in his side and looked over. His voice was low enough for only Sam to hear. "Just sit back, Sammy."
But Sam stayed tense, his body leaning over too far, his left shoulder almost closing in on Dean's right. "You know," his eyes shifted to his hands, his fingers drumming his knee, "I traced every inch of the Impala-"
"I know you did. I was wrong to say you didn't take care of her." Hoped that would end the conversation because the back of Willie's cab was too confining to go another round with the Undefeated Sam Winchester.
"Because," and his voice hitched a second, caught against an invisible force inside, "Because I missed you and I knew… I knew you had touched every part of that car." He lifted his eyes again and they shined back.
Dean found himself caught off guard, wasn't sure what to make of the confession. And it was a confession. Maybe not what Dean was looking for the other night, maybe not the big secret Sam was holding close to his chest, but it was a start.
So he nodded. Smiled a little, even. Gave his brother a small wink. Followed it with a quick clearing of his throat as he curved in closer. "I missed you, too. Now shut up and sit back, will ya?"
Sam rolled his shoulders and pressed back in the seat. His face pulled tight against his skin, his brows drew down into a forever frown.
Dean rested a calm hand on his brother's knee. "It's gonna get a little bumpy." And then, just like that, he let his brother go, looking out the small window to his right. He felt the silver flask pushing into his chest, and wanted that drink. Felt a silver bullet in his right jeans pocket, a gift from Lucky.
His eyes slid over, and he saw Sam staring back. Sorrow and regret. A moment wasted and gone.
Dean shrugged. "Dude, you worry too much. Just try to relax and enjoy the ride."
Birdhouse in Your Soul performed by They Might Be Giants
A/N: Thanks for reading. Reviews welcome. You guys have been the best!