Title: Not the Way It Was Supposed to Happen

Author: kadysn

Rating: PG-13, maybe? Serious illness, death

Disclaimer: I don't own the Winchesters, more's the pity, but if I did, I wouldn't be sitting here writing fanfic, would I? I'd be off doing other more...satisfying...things! *wink*

Spoilers: AU, post-apocalypse, hurt/comfort, character death. (This idea came to me while I was at work, and it wouldn't leave me. Sorry. I had to do it.) This was written before the episode "Swan Song" but tidbits have been added to reflect it.

Summary: Death looms, and there's one last thing to be done before it's all over...

Words: just over 1400

Betas: Two of my bestest friends, Suz and Kim. **hugs you**

Author note: I know little about AIDS or the last stage symptoms, so any inaccuracies written here are all mine. Bear with me, and forgive my mistakes.

Not the Way It Was Supposed to Happen

Whenever he'd thought about it over the years, through all the hunts and injuries, through the battle against Heaven and Hell and on to the other side, he'd always figured that when he finally bit it, when the Reaper finally came for him, it'd be in the thick of things, hip deep in blood and all the other shit that he'd encountered doing what he'd spent his whole life doing. It's what he'd expected, and he'd never thought he'd have anything different. He was a Winchester, and nothing ever came his way easily, so why should death be any different?

Thinking back, though, he should have realized this was just his luck to not die because of a fight against a demon or some other nasty mofo, or even Lucifer himself. Oh no...that'd be too easy, too logical for a Winchester. Instead, he had to face his death through another cause entirely. Poetic justice, really. He had to laugh. All those years of being free and easy, moving from one woman to another, taking what all those beautiful, sexy, and oh-God-they-smelled-so-GOOD ladies gave so freely to him. He'd always made sure he used protection...no oops-I-forgot-the-condom surprise babies to tie him down. And yet, THIS happened, and it was through no fault of his.

Ah, fuck.

Sam couldn't laugh about it. There wasn't a fucking thing funny about the fact his big brother, the man he'd looked up to since they were both children, the brother he'd lost to Hell and gotten back again, the brother he fought side by side with through the Apocalypse, and been reunited with once more afterward, was dying. There was no crossroad demon he could go to and make a deal with. There was nothing he could do or say to keep this from happening.

He sat and watched as his brother slept, something Dean did a lot these days. The illness ravaging his body left him with little energy for anything else. Dean's once strong, healthy, beautiful body was now thin, weak, emaciated, and covered with lesions. It hurt too much to look at him, but Sam did. He kept watch over his brother, taking care of him just as Dean had taken care of him when he was little, and as he often did throughout the rest of his life. It was his turn to take care of Dean, Sam knew. He wouldn't consider anything else. No one else could care for Dean like he could. They were brothers, and he would walk, again, into the fires of Hell itself for his brother, anything to change the outcome of this fucking mess...and there wasn't anything he could do but sit and wait and watch as his brother, whom he loved more than life itself, faded away to nothing.

Dean woke, and looked over to where he knew Sam had been sitting for hours. His brother's huge body was slumped uncomfortably in the chair, his head lolled to the side. Sam was asleep, but Dean knew it wouldn't last long. He wanted to send Sam to bed to get some decent sleep, but he knew Sam wouldn't go. He refused to leave Dean's side for anything except the bare necessities. Dean really couldn't hold it against him. Were tables turned, he'd do the same damn thing.

The situation being as it was, Dean had too much time to think, to reflect, to regret. So much time wasted, too many harsh words said and never taken back. Too many things not done, and no time now to do them.

He could do one thing, though, and he would do it even if it took his last breath. He'd do what they'd never felt the need to do, because actions speak pretty loudly, but yeah, it was time. Time to say the words.

Sam woke, his neck sore from sleeping in such a cramped position. He looked over at Dean, expecting to find his brother asleep, only to find himself being watched. He ran a hand through his messy hair, pushing it back off his face. "Hey."

Dean lifted the index finger of his right hand and replied, his voice soft and breathy. "Hey yourself."

"Been awake long?" Sam asked as he stretched, thrusting his long legs out in front of him and his arms above his head. He felt his spine crack, and he winced. "Can I get you anything? Water?"

Dean shook his head. He wiggled his finger and said, "Come sit with me."

"Dean, I..."

"Sammy. Please."

Sam nodded, and moved to the side of the bed where his brother pretty much spent all his time anymore. He gingerly seated himself beside Dean, and situated himself against the pillows and headboard behind him. He looked over at Dean, and his heart ached to see how bad his brother looked. So ill, so depleted, just a shell of the once healthy and hale man he once was. He cleared his throat than asked, his heart in his eyes, "How d'you feel?"

Dean looked over and tried to give a smile, but what he produced didn't make the cut. "Same." He slowly reached out and put his frail hand over Sam's large one. He squeezed with what little grip he had and said, "Got somethin' I wanna to say to you."

"Dean, I—" Sam didn't want to hear it. He didn't want to say goodbye yet, even though he knew it'd be coming soon. He wasn't ready to let go. Please, God...not yet. I can't—

Dean managed to tighten his grip on Sam's hand just a tiny bit more, and shook his head. "Gotta, Sammy. Not much time left. We both know it. Got things to say. Let me say it while I still can." His voice was weak and raspy, and it hurt to talk, but he forced the words out.

Sam could do nothing but nod.

Dean began to speak, his voice soft and broken. He paused between sentences to catch his breath. He spoke from the heart, no longer afraid or opposed to 'chick-flick moments.' "Sam, you know how I feel about you. I know you feel the same. We've said and done a lot to hurt each other over the years, but that's all over. Done. I'm done. Let me say the words, now." He met Sam's tear-filled look with his own, and said, "I love you, little brother. Always have. Always will. Even when we were at odds, when we gave each other beat-downs, deserved or not, I never stopped loving you. You're my brother, Sammy. You've been my whole life. I never needed anyone else but you."

Sam tried to keep his emotions reigned in, but it was a lost cause. His face crumpled as he listened to his brother speak from his heart, and it was all he could do not to collapse into sobs. Dean needed him to be strong, so he would be.

When Dean could no longer speak, voice gone, Sam turned to him and said, "I love you too, Dean. Always have, from the time I was old enough to know what love is, to now. It'll never go away. You're a part of me, just as you always have been and always will be. Death won't change it. It couldn't." He leaned forward and pressed a kiss to Dean's forehead. "Sleep, Dean. I'll be right here. I promise."

Dean nodded and closed his eyes, and Sam watched, listened. And knew. He reached out and pulled the no longer needed oxygen mask from his brother's face and set it aside, then leaned down and rested his head on his brother's still chest.

It should have been a cloudy, rainy day, with a cold that went right through your bones. Instead, it was sunny and warm, and perfect for being outdoors. Had things been different, Sam knew it was the kind of day Dean would be outside, working on his baby, keeping her maintained. God, Dean loved this car, Sam thought as he stood next to the driver's side door. I promise you, bro, I'll take care of her just as you did. No iPod or CDs. Cassettes all the way.

Sam folded himself behind the wheel and closed the door behind him. He reached for Dean's favorite tape and pushed it into the player, and cranked up the volume. Led Zepp screamed from the speakers, and Sam smiled at the memories.