The lyrics to 'Sleep Well, My Angel' are property of We Are The Fallen. In my head, the lyrics of this song sum up Sam's feelings perfectly. (And once you've read the story, you'll understand what I mean by that.)
Watching you sleep for so long
Knowing that I can't turn the rain into song anymore
I've given you all that I am
Now I stand here too scared to hold your hand
Afraid you might wake to see the monster that had to leave
Cause you see the shelter as the storm
Holding wind to keep you warm
You were everything to me
This is why I had to leave
So sleep well, my angel
Under the ash and the lies
Something beautiful once here, now dies
And the tears burn my eyes
As you sit there all alone
I just wanna come home
You see the shelter as the storm
Holding wind to keep you warm
You were everything to me
This is why I had to leave
So sleep well, my angel
A shrill ringing woke Dean slowly out of a deep sleep. He blinked a few times in confusion until he recognized the sound as the ringer on his cell phone. He glanced at the blinking red numbers on the alarm, dulling noting it was just after midnight. He reached past the clock to pick up his phone.
"Hello?" Dean answered groggily.
"Dean?" a voice said softly; hopefully.
Dean's eyes shot open and his entire body went rigid. "Sam?"
All he heard was a shaky breath.
Dean sat up and threw off the blankets. "Sam? Are you okay?
"Dean …" Sam barely whispered, his breathing shallow and ragged.
Dean's heart was beating out of his throat. "C'mon, Sammy, talk to me. Are you hurt?"
"No." The word was accompanied by more shaky breathing.
Dean stood up abruptly, his protective instincts taking over. "Alright, that's it, I'm coming to get you. Where are you?"
"No, Dean, I – I'm fine."
Sam's voice sounded a little more present and Dean relaxed a bit.
"I'm not hurt," Sam repeated. "I just needed to talk to you."
"Fuck," Dean breathed. "Don't do that to me!"
"Sorry," Sam mumbled apologetically.
Dean tried and failed to keep emotion from seeping into his voice when he spoke. "Sam, it has been three years since I've even heard your voice. You didn't want anything to do with me anymore, you made that abundantly clear when you left. And now you're calling me in the middle of the night? What the hell is going on?"
"Look, I know it's been … it's been a long time. But I need to see you. Where are you?"
Sam's voice sounded so broken that Dean gave in.
"Oregon?" Sam didn't wait for Dean to answer. "That's not too far. I'll be there in a few hours."
"Wait, how are you going to get here?" Dean asked. "You don't have a car, Sam. You're not going to catch a bus from Palo Alto in the middle of the night."
"I – " Sam's voice faltered. "How do you know I don't have a car?"
"Answer the question, Sam." Now wasn't the time.
Dean could almost hear Sam shrugging through the phone.
"Argh," Dean growled. He finally had the time to get a good night's sleep. But hearing Sam's voice after all this time … Dean could try to fight it but he knew it was ultimately useless. He had never been able to say no to Sam.
"I'll come to you, alright?" he said roughly.
"No, Dean, you can't. Jess is here. My girlfriend." Sam lowered his voice pointedly.
Dean didn't need the clarification. Of course Dean knew about Jessica. There wasn't much he didn't know. But for some reason, hearing Sam use an affectionate nickname about someone else … that one hurt.
"We'll get a room." Dean put on his most authoritative voice and hoped Sam knew enough not to argue.
"Dean – " Sam began.
"Goodbye, Sam." Dean snapped his phone closed.
When Dean saw Sam his breath caught in his throat. Three years … it had been torture. Dean had gone to sleep every night almost hoping he wouldn't wake up again. He'd thrown himself into hunting, becoming more and more reckless and ruthless with each passing month. Too many nights had been interrupted by images of Sam bleeding, and he'd jerked awake in a cold sweat more often than he cared to admit. He'd had a string of unsatisfying one-night-stands with a waitress here and an attractive victim there, but when he came it was always Sam's name on his lips and Sam's face behind his eyelids. It had been nearly a year since Dean had separated from his father, so the previous months had been extremely lonely, on top of everything else. Dean hadn't wanted to do it, and his father had protested loudly, but Sam had John's eyes and Dean couldn't look at them anymore.
Sam was sitting on the front steps of the old, stone building, shoulders hunched and eyes focused on the cell phone in his hand. He jumped a bit when he looked up and saw the impala, then panic flooded his face and he frantically gestured for Dean to wait for him around the corner. Dean rolled his eyes, but complied, breaking half a block away and putting the car in park. In the rearview mirror he could see his brother walking quickly towards him, his breath turning to fog in the cool air and the mop of brown hair shining silver in the faint moonlight.
When Sam reached the impala, he leaned down to rest his elbows on the open window and stare at Dean.
"Were you sitting there all night?" Dean asked, forcing his voice to remain steady. It had been a long time since he'd seen those eyes … that strait nose … and those soft lips …
"I – I was expecting you to call …" Sam looked flabbergasted. "How … how did you know where I live?"
Dean threw Sam one of his famous 'you're-an-idiot' looks. "I drove you here, Sam, remember? When Dad wouldn't?"
Brows furrowed together, Sam shook his head. "I moved, Dean," he said slowly, accentuating every syllable. "This is a different building … on the other side of campus …"
"C'mon, Sammy, just get in the damn car," Dean said impatiently.
Sam stayed resolutely where he was.
"Fine, look, I called the, what's it called, residency … whatever," Dean fumbled over his words and knew there was no way Sam would believe him now.
Sam had 'yeah, right' written all over his face. "It's five thirty in the morning, Dean. And it's Sunday. The residency director isn't taking phone calls. I'm not getting in the car until you tell me how you knew where I was."
Dean rolled his eyes and played the only card he had left. "Get your ass in the car right now or I start honking. Do you want Jess to wake up and find you sneaking out?" Dean mocked Sam with the way he said his girlfriend's name. It was childish, but Dean didn't care.
"Alright, alright, I'll tell you, I swear. Just get in," Dean conceded, emphasizing his point by pushing the door open.
Sam dropped his body onto the seat heavily and slammed the door. He stared strait ahead and didn't say a word. For some reason, that hurt Dean a little. He'd imagined seeing Sam again a hundred times, but every time there was less snapping at each other and more … well.
"It's good to see you, Sammy." Dean resisted a very strong urge to reach and touch Sam's arm.
Dean thought he might have seen the glimmer of a smile twitching at Sam's lips, but Sam fought it and stayed serious.
Dean sighed. "Alright look … I may have asked some friends to, you know, check on you, every once in a while."
"You – you – " Sam spluttered. "You've been having me followed?"
Dean shook his head fervently. "No, not followed. I just, you know, put the word out."
"I – can't – I don't know what that means," Sam stuttered helplessly.
"It means I called all the hunters I could think of and asked them to check on you if they were in the area. Not to follow you, just to make sure you were okay."
Sam gaped at him.
"C'mon, Sam, you can't be that surprised. You didn't really think I'd just let you go off on your own and not do anything to make sure you were safe."
"Yeah. I did," Sam said quietly. "I asked you to let me go, Dean. I thought you were going to."
"Well, you thought wrong, kiddo," Dean replied, starting the ignition. "You can run away all you want but there isn't a corner of the damn earth you can hide in. Not from me."
The rest of the ride to the motel was silent. Dean watched Sam nervously rub his thigh out of the corner of his eye, forcing himself not to take Sam's hand. Or replace Sam's hand with his. A lot had changed, but the sight of his brother still made Dean as crazy as it ever had. He was just beautiful, always had been. All straight, white teeth and tanned skin and soft, floppy hair. Dark blue eyes that could vary from a dusty grey to moss green depending on the lighting The mole beside his nose. The smooth voice; low and breathy when he was sad and high pitched when he was scared. There wasn't a single bit of Sam that Dean didn't love. And being this close to him again, after all this time, it was physically painful.
Dean pulled in to the first motel he saw, not caring that it looked like you'd probably get hepatitis off the toilet seat. Anything to get far enough away from Sam that he couldn't smell him. Dean saw Sam wrinkle his nose a bit at the sight of peeling paint and cracked windows, but Dean ignored him. He was the one who'd dropped everything and driven all night, so they were going to do this his way.
Dean smiled dully at the pretty receptionist as he paid for the room, while Sam waited in the car and threw him increasingly apprehensive looks. Dean was starting to get the feeling that whatever it was Sam wanted to talk to about, he probably wasn't going to like it.
The room was as grungy as Dean had expected, but he didn't really care. He wasn't planning on sleeping there anyway, so it would do. Dean did his usual once over, just to be safe. Then he plopped down onto the hard mattress and turned his attention to Sam, who hadn't moved from the doorway.
"Are you planning on coming in?" Dean asked, an edge to his voice that he didn't bother to mask.
Sam blinked a few times, then made his way into the room, shutting the door behind him and leaning against it.
Dean was silent. Sam was the one who'd said he needed to see Dean, so Dean waited for whatever was coming. But Sam wasn't talking, so Dean settled for taking in the sight of his brother. Dean couldn't help a slight flutter of arousal when he finally let himself notice how big Sam had gotten. Three years ago, a tall, skinny kid had climbed out the impala and walked away. Legs and arms too long for his body; eighteen year old Sam hadn't gotten used to his new height yet and was still awkward and lanky. Twenty-one year old Sam was a different story entirely. He was still lean, but his shoulders had broadened into those of a man. The way his almost-too-tight jeans clung to his hips made Dean wish Sam would turn around so he could check out his little brother's ass. And though his shirt was too loose to paint an accurate picture of what was underneath, Dean had a suspicion that firm, toned muscles were hidden by the fabric. Dean had a quick thought of that Jessica is one lucky bitch, but he pushed it away. They were over, Sam had every right to find someone else. And he couldn't let himself think of Sam that way if he had any hope of getting through this.
Sam still hadn't said anything and the silence was driving Dean mad. So he gave in.
"I like your hair that long," he commented, willing his voice to remain casual.
Sam smiled a little. "Yeah?"
Dean nodded. "Looks good."
Sam smiled a little more, and finally made his way a bit further into the room, settling himself in one of the chairs at the small table.
Dean sighed. The hell with it. "So are you going to tell me what I'm doing here?"
Sam ran a shaky hand over his face. "Just … there are some things, I need to … tell you. Things I want you to know."
"Okay," Dean said slowly.
Sam's eyes wandered around the room, looking anywhere but at Dean. He twitched a little and took a deep breath. "A lot's happened recently and … it's … changed things."
Dean waited patiently for his brother to collect his thoughts, a little unnerved at how much Sam was struggling to get the words out. When a thought entered Sam's brain, it left his mouth half a second later without even a glimmer of hesitation. The only other time Dean had seen Sam like this was when Sam was fourteen and was trying to admit to Dean that he had developed very non-brotherly feelings for him.
"I want you to know why I left."
Dean was confused for a moment. "Why you … you mean why you left for Stanford?"
Sam nodded. "Because whatever you think the reason was, it's not."
Dean wasn't sure what to say to that. He'd had theories about why Sam left, and he wasn't sure finally hearing Sam say it would make him feel any better. Sam had still left, regardless of the motive. Dean had still spent three years alone, haunted by dreams of brown hair and soft skin and adoring eyes. But the part of him that was scared to find out the reason wasn't as strong as the part that yearned to know.
Dean stood up and turned away from Sam, running his hands over his face. "Alright."
"I loved you too much," Sam said simply, as if it should make all the sense in the world.
It didn't. It didn't make any sense at all. Suddenly Dean found it very difficult to breathe. It was too late, he was in it now, but Dean wished he could turn the clock back thirty seconds and stop Sam from saying that.
Dean shook his head slowly and tried to squeeze the tears out of his eyes. "I don't know what that means."
"Look, I – it scared me, okay? I was only eighteen, I didn't understand … I didn't understand a lot of things. My feelings for you – they were too intense, too out of my control. Every time you even looked at me, I felt myself falling apart. Every time we went on a hunt, I was useless because I was beside myself with worry that something would happen to you. And when you touched me …"
"What?" Dean asked, a little more gently.
Sam sighed. "When you touched me I lost myself. Completely. But I was so terrified that you'd get bored of me; that you'd realize that you were too good for me. I was terrified that Dad would find out and force us apart. I couldn't have handled that, Dean."
Dean whipped around. "So you ran away? You thought the best way to handle things was to walk out and ignore me for three years?"
There was pleading in Sam's voice when he spoke. "No, not the best thing. The safest thing. I was safe without you, Dean. Safe from your touches and your kisses and from that look that sees right through me. I wasn't happy without you, not ever. But I didn't have to live with the constant fear that you'd be taken away from me. Or that you'd leave."
"Why would I leave?" Dean cried. "Where did all this insecurity come from? I loved you, Sam, I wasn't going anywhere."
Sam closed his eyes and hung his head. "Look, I … I know it doesn't make any sense. I can't even make it make sense to myself. All I know is how much I felt for you, and how much it scared me. It was, just, too much."
Dean clenched his jaw painfully. He felt that spot on his temple start to twitch. "Why are you telling me all this? We're over, alright? You went off to college and I stayed with Dad and kept hunting, and now you've got yourself a girlfriend and a life of your own. You don't need me anymore. So why the hell are you even bringing all of this up?"
"Because I do need you." Sam looked right into Dean's eyes for the first time. "I always did. I've tried to fight it. I've tried to make myself happy in a normal life. But I can't."
"So what, you're saying you want to come back?"
Sam shrugged helplessly. "I don't know what I'm saying."
Dean growled in frustration. "Damn it, Sam, why didn't you ever talk to me about this? Do you have any idea how much it hurt me to think that you might've left because of something I did?"
"I'm sorry," Sam whispered dejectedly.
"A year," Dean ground out through his teeth. "For an entire year I called you, every day. Every single fucking day, Sam, and you never picked up. Not once. Did you ever stop to think about what that did to me? I spent three years thinking that you didn't love me anymore. That I'd done something wrong, something to drive you away. That this whole fucking mess was my fault. And now you just show up here and expect to snap your fingers and have everything go back to the way it was?"
"No, I don't expect anything. I don't expect you to forgive me, I don't even expect you to understand. You've always been stronger than me, Dean. You've always been better suited to handle this. All I wanted was for you to know what really happened. To know why I ran away; that it wasn't because I didn't love you."
"What about Jessica?" Dean couldn't help the distain that dripped off her name.
"I love Jess, I do. It's just …" Sam sighed again and pressed the heels of his palms into his eyes.
"I love her as much as I possibly can. But it's not enough, it's not as much as she deserves to be loved."
"What does that mean?"
"It means I can't love her as much as she deserves. I won't ever be able to. Because she isn't you."
Dean exhaled heavily. He'd wanted to hear Sam say that for so long, but now that he had … it was a lot. And Dean didn't know what to do with it. Not anymore.
"What brought this on?"
Sam shrugged, not meeting Dean's gaze.
"Oh, no you don't," Dean said firmly. "I got up in the middle of the night and drove for five hours because you asked me to. There's no way I'm letting you clam up on me now. You owe me that much, Sam."
"She asked me to marry her," Sam said flatly.
Dean was floored. "Sam, if you're here to ask me to be your best man …" he began dangerously.
"No, no, that's not it," Sam said quickly.
"I don't know, man, it was just so easy to – to lose myself in Jess, when that's all it was. I wanted to be normal, I wanted to not miss you so much that it hurt, and it worked with her. But marriage … I mean, the thought of making this forever …" Sam trailed off and sighed.
Dean stared. He should never have come. "Seriously? You seriously called me and made me come all this way because you wanted me to give you the 'cold feet' speech? I swear, Sam, you are so – "
"No," Sam said harshly. "No, Dean, will you let me finish? That's not it either."
Dean was silent. When Sam didn't continue, Dean gave him an obnoxious 'Well? Go ahead!' look.
"I'm not scared of getting married, Dean," Sam said quietly. "I'm scared of living the rest of my life without you."
"I don't know what you want me to do with that."
Sam ran a hand through his hair. A few shiny, chestnut strands fell back into Sam's eyes, and Dean had to hold in a gasp.
"Maybe …" Sam's eyes were suddenly downcast and his voice small. "Maybe you could tell me if you feel the same way?"
"I don't need to tell you that, you know I do. I always have."
Sam looked up at him hopefully. "You still love me?"
The fact that Sam even had to ask was like an icy hole in Dean's chest. "Of course I do."
Sam's eyebrows knitted themselves together and the ever expressive eyes underneath them assumed the sad, unsure expression that Dean knew so well. Sam stood up and took a few steps towards Dean. He closed the space between them.
"Can – Can I …?" Sam asked tentatively, lifting his arms a little bit.
The hopeful look on Sam's face broke the last of Dean's resolve. He nodded and pulled Sam close to him. Sam's arms wrapped around Dean's back slowly, still unsure, so Dean gripped Sam's shirt and allowed himself to get lost in the warmth and the scent. Sam still smelled exactly the same. Like soap and salt and Sam.
"I missed you," Dean whispered, unable to stop himself.
"I missed you too." Sam buried his face into Dean's shoulder. "God, I missed you so much."
Dean bit his lip until he tasted blood. There were a million words threatening to escape from his mouth, but he couldn't let them. This could just be a moment of weakness on Sam's part. Dean could get lost in a hug but he wasn't going to allow himself to get his hopes up that it meant anything. Sam could pull back at any minute and decide to leave again.
And there wasn't anything without Sam.
Sam let out a shaky breath that strangely had a lot of emotion behind it. A lot of 'I missed this' and a lot of 'what the hell are we doing?' And a lot of never wanting to let go. Dean knew exactly how he felt.
"I'm so sorry, Dean," Sam whispered against Dean's collarbone.
"Its okay, Sammy." Dean had never been mad at Sam, he couldn't ever be mad at Sam. Not really.
"No, it isn't." Sam pulled back a bit to look in Dean's eyes. "I really messed everything up."
Dean didn't let himself think about what Sam could really mean by that. Instead he leaned his forehead on Sam's and enjoyed the feeling of Sam's hands on his neck.
"What are you gonna do?" Dean asked quietly. He didn't think any answer would make him feel better, but he had to know.
Sam sighed. "I have no idea."
"You don't want to marry her, do you?" Dean was pretty sure he already knew the answer.
"I wish I did."
"That's not what I asked."
Sam sighed again, this time in defeat. "No," he admitted quietly. "I don't want to marry her. I love her, but I don't want to be forever with her."
For half a second, Dean allowed himself to believe that meant Sam wanted to be forever with him, but he pushed the thought away.
Sam lifted his head up to look into Dean's eyes. There was so much pain on Sam's face and Dean hated it. But he didn't know how to make it go away. And that was worse. When they were kids, Dean could make anything better for Sammy. He just had to hold him and stroke his hair and murmur that everything would be alright, and somehow it was. It wouldn't work that way anymore. There wasn't anything Dean could say to make this okay, for either of them.
So, against his better judgment, Dean did the only thing he could think of. He leaned in and pressed his lips against Sam's, so gently it was barely a kiss and more of a light brush of skin. A question. And Sam answered, throwing caution to the wind and crashing into Dean hungrily. Dean gripped at Sam's hips to steady himself, not caring if his fingers left bruises Sam would have to explain to Jessica. When Sam's tongue forced itself into Dean's mouth, a fuse in the back of Dean's brain exploded. He moaned loudly. Embarrassingly loudly. His body was so alive with sensations that he was almost numb. But it was a good kind of numb, not like the black nothing he'd felt for the last three years. It was electric and blazing hot. Sam's hands ran down Dean's chest and tugged at his belt, clumsily trying to undo it. It was way too fast, but Dean had lost the ability to care. It had been nearly a thousand days since the last time, but to Dean it might as well have been a million years. He might as well have been dead, and now Sam's lips were bringing him back to life.
Sam had managed to pull off Dean's belt and was working on the button of Dean's pants when a shrill ringing startled them. Sam jumped and back away from Dean quickly.
"Shit," he muttered, hurrying over to the chair where he'd discarded his jacket. He dug his hand into a pocket and pulled out a black cell phone. "Hello? Oh, hey babe."
Dean ran a hand through his short hair. This was not a conversation he had any interest in hearing.
"Yeah, sorry, I should've left a note."
A muscle twitched in Sam's jaw.
"No, I'm fine, Jess, I swear. I'm, uh, my brother called last night, my Dad's sick … no, he'll be okay, Dean just needed my help for a bit."
Dean turned away as Sam was silent for a minute.
"Cleveland … No, you've got that paper due tomorrow, you can't … no, Jess, really, you don't need to. It isn't that serious … I'm not sure, a few days maybe."
Dean turned back. A few days?
"Yeah, I will. Okay. Love you too. Bye." Sam hung up, staring at the phone for a minute before dropping it back onto the chair.
"And what exactly do you imagine we'll be doing for a few days?" Dean asked icily. He couldn't help it. Hearing Sam call someone 'babe', hearing him say 'love you' to someone else, it was physically painful.
Sam threw his hands up helplessly. "I don't know, Dean. I just said that, you know, to be safe."
Dean sighed and rubbed the heels of his palms into his eyelids. "What are we doing, Sam? Why am I here?"
Sam shrugged and dropped down onto the edge of the bed. He looked miserable again and Dean's temper disappeared immediately. He moved over to the bed and sat beside Sam.
"I'm sorry I kissed you."
Sam looked up. "What? Why?"
"Because I know how confusing this must be, and I'm sure I just made it a hundred times worse."
Sam tucked one leg up onto the bed and turned into Dean. "You didn't. Hey," he added when Dean rolled his eyes. "I swear, you didn't. Besides, if anybody needs to be apologizing here it's me, not you. You didn't do anything wrong. Ever."
Dean knew what Sam meant by that last word, but he still had a hard time believing it. His insecurities still whispered into his ear that he had never been good enough for Sam; that Sam deserved better. Sam seemed to sense Dean's doubts, because he took one of Dean's hands and squeezed.
"You just loved me. That's all," Sam said. "I was the one who couldn't handle it."
"Dean, I – "
"I know," Dean interrupted. "I know you already told me why. But I need to hear it again, okay? I want to understand. So explain it to me again. Please."
Sam considered him for a moment, then ran a thumb along Dean's jaw.
"Because I was three years younger," he said simply. "Because we had a crazy childhood and I guess I'm not very well adjusted."
Dean nodded, trying to wrap his head around that.
"Because I wasn't used to being happy," Sam continued sadly. "And because I was all too aware of how quickly it could go the other way."
"But that's still true, Sam," Dean reasoned. "What's changed?"
"I have." Sam reached up and cupped Dean's cheek with his hand. "Look, I don't know what I want, I really don't. But I know what I don't want, and that's being away from you."
Reviews are appreciated and constructive criticism is always welcomed.
And for anyone who lives in the area, yes I am aware it would take more like 7 hours to drive from Medford to Palo Alto. But I figured, it's Dean driving, so. Plus, his Sammy said 'I need you', so of course Dean would have the pedal to the fricken metal.