Title: Family Liability
Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Summary: "I can't be there every time you call Sam. I have a family." Dean says. The sound of Sam inhaling on the other side of the phone is followed by a sharp resentful, "I am your family." Tag to Live Free or Twihard.
I got started writing this after last week's episode… couldn't keep the annoying little voice in my head quiet until I started writing. It's mostly AU… with little bits and pieces of last week's episode thrown where I want them for my own convenience. Hope you enjoy. ~L
He sways a bit trying to find his equilibrium as he grips the sides of the bathroom sink, his knuckles turning white as he refuses to let go. It's hard to catch his breath these days. Hard to get enough air into his lungs so that he doesn't feel like he's drowning. Fucking dying. But that's hard to do when that's exactly what's happening. He's drowning. Drowning in sorrow, or hurt, or hatred—it doesn't matter. What really matters is that he can't friggin' breathe when he's around Sam.
Just the sound of his name bouncing around in his head, pulls at him, twists his gut, shreds him into a million tiny little pieces that he's fairly sure—no, absolutely positive—he's never going to be able to put back together.
He exhales a slow, steady breath. Opens his eyes and looks up from under heavy eyelids to find himself staring blankly at the reflection he sees in the mirror. There's still blood smeared across his face—dried on and starting to flake off, but it's still there.
He should wash it off.
But he doesn't.
Washing away the blood won't wash away what's wrong with Sam—won't fix him. Won't keep the shattering image—the one where Sam is standing there watching from a distance as he was being turned into a vampire—smiling all the while— from playing over and over again behind his eyes.
His stomach tightens, folding over and over as the feeling of acid crept slowly up his throat. At first he tries to swallow it down, but it's unsuccessful and his grip on the sink wanes. His head spinning, he collapses to the floor, his knees driving into the hard tile. God, this was ridiculous. Half crawling he pulls himself together enough to drape himself over the white porcelain toilet, lets his head fall forward and feels the bile rise up. Spilling out of his mouth and nose; burningfrom the inside out. Sick as it sounded, he welcomed the feeling. Open arms and all. Burning no matter how gruesome was far better than the freezing daggers Sam had been throwing at him.
That's all it takes one lousy one-syllable word and he feels sick again. His brother's name invoking the worst possible memories of late—memories that come crashing down like a fifty foot free fall into the sturdy concrete below. Loss, betrayal and unimaginable pain shining through in the final moments before he hits the ground.
He hated this new Sam.
This new Sam, that swore up and down that he had his back, and then stood idly by and watched him become a monster without even flinching. This new little brother was foreign to him, concerning, loathsome. Even with Sam's outright denial Dean knew that as sure as Sam had left Hell—Hell still had a firm grip on him. And that thought caused his stomach to lurch again. Again and again he heaved over the toilet. He heard the low moan of a desperate man escape his throat and felt the water run from his eyes. Stopping only to watch with strange fascination as the strings of colored bile clung to his lips, and then for good measure he heaved once more until nothing was left.
As the nausea subsided, he welcomed the calming sense that enveloped him, shrouded the room, and for the briefest of moments he allowed himself to feel a very real sense of relief shivering throughout his body. Odd, he thought, how fear and relief can feel so similar.
Unwilling or unable to move he wasn't sure which, he lays his head to rest on the arm he has draped over the toilet. Closing his eyes, he allows snapshots of the Sam he remembered from years ago to flicker through his mind. Sam smiling up at him with a toothy grin and dimples as Dean walked him into his first day of kindergarten. Sam going on his first date—and if he remembered right—that girl had been way out of his league. The first night Dean had gotten Sam drunk—so blindly intoxicated that Sam was still hung over two days later. Sam saving his life over and over, because that's what brothers did.
The love he had for that Sam was fierce, unrelenting. He was always going to love that Sam. Sammy. He'd go to the edge of the universe to save his brother, to bring him back, but the way things were now… he had to wonder how far gone someone could be before you couldn't pull them back to you again.
From the other side of the door he hears a sturdy knock followed by a voice calling out, "Dean, you alright dude?"
And the relief fades quickly back into overwhelming misery.
Clutching his chest he groans.
What a stupid question.
"I'm fine." He says. The words 'no thanks to you' remain unspoken.
From a kneeling position, he musters all the strength he has left, and pushes himself upright back onto his feet. He flushes the toilet and begins to peel the blood soaked clothing from his body. His breathing is still uneven as he turns the water on, letting the steam rise and spread out blanketing the small room.
He leans into the cool glass door framing the shower and swallows hard.
There is no way he can keep doing this, he tells himself, he just can't. He has to take a step back until he figures out what's wrong with his brother.
Until then, he's going back home.
Back to Lisa—if she'll take him.
Just as soon as he gets Sam back to Samuel's compound—aka grandpa's little shop of horrors, he's gone.
After Dean returns to Lisa's he swears to himself, swears to her, over and over again that the next time he hears from his brother he will stand his ground.
He won't go back.
He doesn't want to. He can't.
And then one day five weeks later and completely out of the blue his phone rings again, and Sam's name flashes across the screen. Reluctantly Dean takes the call, knowing full well that just answering the call is putting his resolution to test.
"I could really use your help here Dean." Sam says.
"I can't be there every time you call Sam." He's not sure if he's meant to be as cold as his words had sounded, but he shrugs it off. It might just be the only way he's going to get through this conversation without giving in, "I have responsibilities here too you know. I have a family."
The sound of Sam inhaling on the other side of the phone is followed by a sharp resentful, "I am your family."
Dean has to lean up against the wall to keep himself upright as he struggles to draw in air to his thirsty lungs. Sam's words slamming into him like a sucker punch straight to the gut. And just that quickly his resolution crumbles at his feet.
Sam's voice is still thick with resentment as he continues, "Have you forgotten that?"
For a moment in time Dean blanks out, stunned by the harshness of Sam's words. Seriously what do you know about family Sam? You haven't been my family in over a year. In fact, it was you who replaced me with a whole new family. So screw you. His mind is reeling, spewing out venom at an intense rate, and it takes him a few seconds to realize that he isn't actually screaming at Sam over the phone, but he's listening to the ever so loud voice inside his head play out what he only wishes he could say instead. You've never wanted to be part of our family Sam—you know that family the one connected by our last name— so screw the Campbell's and screw you're new found version of family Sam. I hate you.
"So," Sam's voice crashes through his thoughts cold and a little annoyed, "are you coming or not?"
I hate you. Dean mouths the words to himself as he hears an impatient sigh on the other end of the phone. As he scrubs a hand across his face as his emotions unravel. Even if part of him hates his brother for the things he's done and maybe hates him more so for the things he hasn't done; Sam is always going to be his little brother, his family. And more than anything Dean has a deep desire to fix their screwed up relationship and reclaim the lost version of his Sammy that he still so desperately clings to and loves.
So against his better judgment and any promises that he has made to himself or Lisa he relents. He hears himself clear his throat and answers back, "Yeah, I'll be there Sam."
It takes a full day's drive to get from Indiana to Wyoming, but Dean is fairly sure he managed to get there in good time. Sam is holed up in a small roadside inn just outside of Sundance. And he is waiting for him, opening the door before Dean even has a chance to knock. Sam grips his shoulder, pulls him inside roughly, then turns and locks the door. It's strange to be here, like this. Sam acting like he's in charge, like he's the older protective brother. Acting like the last five weeks were mere hours instead.
"So uh, thanks for coming." Sam replies taking a seat at the kitchenette table. Dean follows him across the floor, taking in the features of the dimly lit room. Sam smiles and holds out a Styrofoam box containing fries and a half eaten bacon cheeseburger, "It's yours if you want it."
Dean stares at him in disbelief, what the hell is going on with you? He shakes his head, "Thanks but no thanks." He says waiving off the offer. Then because curiosity is getting the best of him he adds, "What happened to your love affair with leafy green vegetables? You were all jolly green giant last I knew."
Sam takes a bite out of the burger and licks his lips, "People change." He says his voice a bit too sing-songy. Subtext: Sam has changed.
Really? Okay then. Thanks for that information. He already knows that.
Dean narrows his eyes on his brother, shooting him a look Sam doesn't even register as he takes another bite of his burger. Out of frustration Dean takes to sliding the chair opposite of Sam out from under the table, dragging the metal legs across the hard floor—creating a sound much like nails on a chalkboard. Sam grimaces and looks up at him his eyes conveying a simple, 'What's wrong with you?'
Dean huffs, shakes his head, and drops into the seat in front of himself. Thumbing through a stack of papers Sam has casually piled on the table for later use.
"So… what are we looking at?" Deans asks eying Sam from across the table.
Sam shrugs and raises an eyebrow, "A curse?"
"A curse? Come on Sam, do you even know what we are hunting here?"
Dean holds up a hand cutting him off.
Samuel thinks. That's about the last thing he wants to hear. Because if there is anything more screwed up and wrong than the way his brother has been acting—it's his dear old grand-dad.
Dean clears his throat, "So is it a curse or not?"
"What difference does it really make Dean?"Sam sounds annoyed by the question, as if it's pointless and unworthy, "It's nothing good."
Dean nods and swallows hard, "Right." Copy that—Nothing good. Looking over at Sam he draws in a deep breath, he could think of a few more things around here that if he were to be completely honest weren't so good either.
"Listen, I brought you in on this because I thought we could try to sort some stuff out here. I mean the way you took off after the vampire thing," Sam pauses, looks up with his eyes boring holes into Deans, "it was kinda cold Dean."
To Dean the words feel like a slap in the face. Cold? Really? Me—cold? "Wow," Dean scoffs leaning back defensively in his chair, "You're a dick."
Sam doesn't even acknowledge the statement, continuing to leaf threw his research as if nothing had been said. Stopping intermittently only to take a bite of his burger or shove a fry in his mouth. It's not until Dean has been staring hard at him for several minutes that Sam even looks back up, "What?"
"Seriously? The vampire thing?" He says it in amazement, "It wasn't just a thing to me."
Sam looks up at him, the same cold eyes and misplaced smile he had in that back alley.
It takes every ounce of restraint Dean has not to knock that creepy ass look straight off of his face.
So instead he settles for a sharp, inquisitive, "What happened to you Sam?"
Sam's face changes, relaxes a bit as his eyes go blank, "Nothing." He offers as his eyebrows crease together, "I'm fine." Then tilting his head to the side he sighs, "Are you alright?"
Dean clenched his jaw, shaking his head angrily. No. Not really. But Sam… Sam was so very clearly fine. He was Calm. Cool. Collected. There was not one damn visible chink in his armor.
"I'm fine Sam." Lie.
Sam raises his eyebrows as if calling him on it and Dean clears his throat to amend his original statement, "I'll be fine." But that— it was probably gonna turn out to be a lie too.
Sam reaches up to run a hand through his hair, tossing a book at Dean with his other hand. "Do you think you could get your head in the game enough to help me with this hunt? Or are you just going to be a liability?"
A liability? " Jesus." What the hell was this? "What is that supposed to mean?" The last hunt they had been on his brother had purposely let him become the fucking liability. This was classic bullshit.
"I mean if you're gonna be fine Dean—" Sam pauses, "Then. Be. Fine But don't sit there looking at me like I just shot your goddamn dog."
Yeah. He really hates this new version of his brother.
Taking a deep breath Dean slides back in his chair and pushes himself to his feet. It was time to get off this rollercoaster ride, right now.
Shoving his hands in his pockets he exhales sharply. Looks around the room trying to decide if he should walk or run out the door, and smiles half heartedly, "Hey Sam, I'm uh…" he hitches his thumb over his shoulder toward the door, "I think I'm gonna go out for awhile. I need a drink." He says.
Sam looks up at him, considers the statement briefly and nods smiling back, "Okay."
Dean blinks once, then twice, finding himself shocked by the detachment in Sam's voice. "Okay." Dean says quietly. Then he repeats it again for good measure, "Okay." Maybe if he says okay a thousand times in a row, then maybe things between him and Sam will eventually reach okay… or at least tolerable.
But as he walks out the door away from Sam and into the cool breeze he realizes that just being okay will never fix Sam… who is he kidding anyway?
A/N: I could just stop here… but I have started writing a piece that gives Sam's perspective of this same story—it some general insight to why Sam is acting like such a $!* and sort of ties this up in a nice neat little package. But I don't know if I am going to post it. Let me know if any of you are interested in reading it. Oh and while you're at it- let me know what you think of this little scribbling…. Reviews are always welcome. *Smiles*