With a Whisper
K Hanna Korossy

It starts with…

Dean stood pressed against the door a full minute, listening wearily, hopefully, worriedly to the silence within. The small window in the door revealed nothing.

"I believe Sam is past the worst."

He didn't even look back at Castiel. "I know, you said that outside. I just…I wanna be sure."

Or maybe he was just a coward; Dean had little pride left to shield himself from the facts. Yeah, Sam's demon-blood-amped withdrawal could bounce bodies off walls like they were basketballs and had to be contained. But the truth was—now as it had been months before—that seeing Sam like that gutted Dean. His every fear and failure was stamped into his brother's suffering, and he just didn't have the strength to face it.

Still not a sound from the other side of the iron door. Funny, earlier he would have given all he had to end the screams coming from inside, and now he wished just as earnestly that he could hear something, anything. For all any of them knew, Sam could be dead in there, body failing after its second attempt to go cold turkey off the most vile and unknown drug imaginable.

That was what finally decided him: Dean had to know. Facing a Sam who was hurting and desperate was still better than a dead Sam. Always had been. He tried not to remember how much that priority had already cost him.

Dean started to pull the lock, hearing Cas shift closer as he did. He cleared his throat. "I've got this," he said to the angel. When it came down to it, it was always just Sam and him. He paused until he heard the flutter of wings, then opened the door all the way. It had originally been meant mostly to lock on the inside, keeping others out, and the fact they'd used it more as a prison than a safehouse was just one of the very many things that were wrong with this scenario.

Like a silent Sam, separated from Dean by an iron wall.

The door swung open, revealing…an empty room.

Dean's training immediately kicked in, his balance shifting to the balls of his feet even as his eyes swept as far as they could go right and left. It could be a trap, but it could also be Sam passed out along the wall on either side of the door, and Dean didn't have time on his side. "Sammy?" he said cautiously, one hand curling around the door frame.

Not a sound. Not even that annoyingly loud wheeze Sam developed when he was sick and asleep.

The hairs stood up on the back of Dean's neck. "Sammy?" He pushed forward cautiously, a foot clearing the door, followed by his head. A glance to the right, then the—

"No!"

The yell registered the moment the flash of light and pain in Dean's temple did. His balance scattered, sending him slamming blindly into the door jamb.

"You're not getting me. You're not getting me. You're not, you're not," Sam raged. He sounded crazy. Terrified. Frantic. And really far away.

Dean lifted a hand, fingertips just brushing flannel. "Sam—"

"You're not." It was now only a hot whisper.

Something plowed into Dean's middle so hard, it seized up his diaphragm and stole what strength he had left. He hit the floor and didn't even feel it, gasping for air.

"I won't let you kill me," Sam spit out.

Then he was gone, leaving Dean helpless and bereft behind him.

00000

It ends…

Two and a half days later, five states over.

Dean had known just at what point Sam had finally come to his senses. A few hundred miles away the day after he took off, the police bulletins and speed cameras stopped picking up his pell-mell flight and Sam actually began covering his tracks. Why doesn't the idjit come back? Bobby had wondered aloud at the time, but Dean hadn't. Maybe the demon blood wasn't affecting Sam's thinking anymore, but that didn't mean the fear had abated or the trust returned. I won't let you kill me had rung through Dean's head ever since Sam had laid him out on the panic room floor.

So he'd kept following. Trailed Sam from stolen car to stolen car, knowing the roads his brother was most comfortable with, the towns he would avoid. Knowing the guy well enough to figure out which fleabag motel Dean would finally find and confront him in, but apparently not well enough to have avoided the need in the first place.

Dean sat in his car a long moment, staring at the door, before he sighed and climbed out.

Sam had hitched this last leg of his escape route, a notoriously hard method of travel to track…if one didn't check out the CB chatter. That was also how Dean knew what to expect, and he grabbed the first aid kit from the trunk of the car before he crossed silently to Room 12. He listened for a moment at the door, ignoring the déjà vu back to Bobby's, then tried the knob.

It opened without a sound. That would've worried him if he didn't already have some idea of Sam's state of mind.

Dean peered inside, unsurprised to find the room empty, the only light coming from the open bathroom door. Soft sounds came from within, then a grunt of pain.

Dean set his jaw, slipped inside the door, and headed for the bathroom.

Sam was turned away from him. He was trying to see something on the back of his shoulder, his shirt half off and his body twisted awkwardly around to see his reflection in the mirror. It gave Dean a second to take in the swollen and discolored jaw, the bleeding knuckles, and the jagged cut over one shoulder blade. Then bruised eyes caught his, and they both froze, staring at each other.

Sam gulped. His face drained of color, his breathing growing labored. But he didn't move.

Dean didn't either, waiting to see what his brother did.

Sam's hand slowly came down off his shoulder to hang at his side. He turned his torso back toward Dean, facing him. Fear chased surprise across his face, followed by a short burst of defiance. And then, as his eyes filled with moisture…resignation.

Sam's head bowed in surrender, hair sliding down to hide his expression.

Dean felt his own eyes prickle.

It took him a few seconds to start moving. He ignored Sam's flinch as Dean stepped closer, and the way his brother braced himself. Dean just rested the kit on the edge of the sink and popped it open, then leaned forward to wash his hands.

Sam's head tilted a little to the side, but otherwise he didn't move.

Dean hesitated again, then clasped Sam's good shoulder and pressed him down onto the closed toilet seat.

Sam's knees bent like they'd just been waiting to give out. Under Dean's hand, his muscles flexed with tension, but not to run or fight. Like he was working just to hold himself together.

Dean dug out the gauze, antibiotics, and suture kit, and went to work.

Sam's head never rose. His hands were curled loosely in his lap, and Dean saw them tremble sometimes but never clench. He wasn't positive, but he was pretty sure Sam hadn't ingested any blood since Famine had sent him room service. There was no defiance in his posture or attitude. Just…defeat.

Dean sewed up and bandaged the shoulder, cleaned Sam's hands, and wiped away the blood crusted under his nose. That was a little difficult with Sam's face turned down, but Dean lifted his chin just enough to see, giving him what space he could.

The shirts were a lost cause. The trucker Dean had talked to had guessed Sam had been in a bar fight, but with Sam's questionable state of mind, who knew what the truth was. Dean did his own exam anyway, stripping the torn clothing away, then the wet socks and shoes, eyes sliding over dirty but apparently blood-free jeans. Then he hooked an arm under Sam's and pulled his still-unresisting brother to his feet and out into the main room.

There was only one bed, but that was enough. With his free hand, Dean pulled the covers back, then nudged Sam forward. It didn't take much to lay him down and tuck him in.

Without gravity to hide his face, Sam watched him in weary, wary silence. He followed Dean's movements as he took his jacket off and tossed it onto a nearby table, then dropped into the chair by the bed and rubbed his face with both hands.

"Go to sleep, Sam," he murmured.

Sam watched him a moment longer, eyes deep and opaque. Then his eyelids obediently slid shut, and soon his breathing slowed to deep and even.

Dean sat studying him a long time. He drew a hand back through his hair, rubbed at his gritty eyes, then studied him some more.

Sam didn't expect to wake up.

Dean knew it, had seen that much in his brother's bleak gaze. Sam had started the Apocalypse, turned on his brother, and become a demon's pawn. He was an addict and a monster and a traitor. And despite all his promises, he'd drunk blood again. It had messed with his mind, made him paranoid and delusional and frightened, yeah. But some part of him really believed that he'd finally pushed Dean too far. That he'd become something Dean would kill. Gently, remorsefully, and mercifully, but still put down like some kind of rabid dog.

Oh, God, how had they come to this? When had Sam gone from begging Dean to kill him if he went evil, to being afraid Dean would fulfill his promise? When had the one person Dean cared for more than anything become so scared of him?

Dean snorted. Maybe he was hollowed out like Famine had said, but this at least still had the power to hurt him. Figured.

Dean shoved to his feet, weaving a moment as he stood. He hadn't exactly come out of the showdown with Famine unscathed, either, nor slept much since then. But there'd be time for that later. He had something important to do first.

"Sam." He sank onto the edge of his brother's bed and shook him lightly by the good shoulder. "Sammy, wake up."

Sam's eyes fluttered, then shot open. The long throat worked once as he gave Dean an accepting look, trying to be stoic and failing.

Dean had to swallow, too, before he could whisper, "You listen to me—I will never, ever hunt you. You hear me, Sam? Nothing you could do, nothing you could become, would ever make me do that."

Sam stared at him, brow furrowing a little.

"Nothing," Dean repeated once more, then patted his shoulder, giving Sam a weak smirk. He pushed to his feet and wobbled back to the chair. It wasn't comfortable, but Dean was so tired, he didn't care.

Sam stared at him a long time even through obvious exhaustion, and Dean stared back.

He wasn't sure which of them drifted off first. He was pretty sure, however, that before he faded, he saw Sam relax into the bedding, breath panting sharply a few times before he calmed, and looking at Dean with such undiluted gratitude that it almost hurt.

And he was very sure that, no matter what, he never wanted to give his brother cause to look like that again.

The End