Keeper of Souls - Final Chapter

Dean grabbed onto the angel's forearm, whether to steady himself or pull the offending appendage out of his stomach he didn't know. He was working only on instinct now, screaming against the torment. Vaguely he heard Sam gasping, panting like a wounded animal.

And he felt it, a tearing within, something ripping away, a thing that was so much a part of him he clawed to hold onto it, grabbing it back in a stranglehold.

"Dean. Stop." Castiel's voice was calm, patient. "Let it go."

Oh but he couldn't. He couldn't. This was Sam. Every instinct told him to keep him safe, protected, cherished within a cocoon of his own making. It was the last vestige he had of his brother. He couldn't just give it up.

"Let it go."

Sam's awful panting slid into his awareness. Sam was hurting. Sam needed him. Sam needed his soul back where it belonged. It was the hardest thing he'd ever done, the greatest sacrifice. Straining, resolved, Dean let go, released his hold and felt Sam slide away. The loss of him was more painful than Castiel's probing hand inside him.

Sam's soul wrenched away with a snap and Dean cried out. Light poured into Castiel's arm where it emerged from Dean, glowing beneath the angel's flesh, moving up his shoulder, into his chest, blazing hotly beneath the white shirt. Cas gasped, his chest expanding, holding, expelling only when the light moved on into his other arm, down to his elbow, through his wrist where it stopped, straining, vibrating against Sam's chest.

"Take it, Sam. Let it in," Castiel cooed like a father coaxing an infant.

"Nooo!" Sam ground out between clenched teeth.

"Sam." Dean's voice sounded raw to his own ears.

Sam rolled his head back and forth against the wall. His features were tight enough to burst blood vessels. "Won't. Take. It. Just stop!"

"Sam." Dean pushed outward, felt his own soul shift inside him, moving away, passing through Castiel to touch Sam's soul, give him a little prod the same way he had always done—older brother to younger brother—giving the necessary nudge to get Sam to take that first step into a new school, the first assurance that he'd be able to get off his shot during a hunt, the first nod that allowed Sam to open up after Jess. Soul to soul, Dean supported. Dean encouraged. Go, little brother, take back what's yours.

And Sam's soul responded, pouring from Castiel into Sam in a rush of piercing roaring light.

Dean's soul rebounded back to him like the snap of a rubber band. Castiel's hands jerked out of the brothers, leaving Dean reeling on his hands and knees. His face jerked up at Sam's scream. He squinted against the radiance. His brother was wreathed in bright light, pulsating translucent through his flesh, nearly too bright to look upon. Sam had curled over onto his side, knees drawn up, fingers bent and groping as though he could dig his way through the floor.

"Sam!" Dean was next to him in a second, trying to pull his sibling's legs down, get him to stop screaming. "Sammy, it's okay!"

"It's not okay! It's not okay! Oh, God, Oh God, I hate you!"

And Dean wanted to laugh, wanted to punch his hands in the air. "I know you do. I hate me too." He was back, he was back. He had his brother back.

Dean grabbed Sam's hands, pulled them away from the floor, turned the kid in his arms, though Sam resisted, trying to keep his back toward Dean as he cried out, sobbing. Actually sobbing, no holds barred.

"Sammy, Sam, come on."

The glow began to fade. The sobbing quieted into wretched whimpers. Sam rocked back and forth, resisting Dean's attempts to get him to look at him.

Balthazar stooped over them. "Samuel. This is clearly too much for you. I'm sure we can come to suitable terms should you want to make a deal. I promise I'll screen all buyers."

Dean wrenched his head up to glare. "Get out of here! Go!"

"All you have to do is call." With that Balthazar fluttered into thin air. Damn angels.

"Sam. I know this hard, but come on, man, it was the right call. Just . . . just look at me, would ya. Cas, can you do anything?"

Dean looked up when Castiel didn't answer. "Cas?"

The angel stood transfixed, a look of sheer wonder transforming his features.

"Cas!"

Heaven's Sherriff blinked, shook himself like a wet dog.

"A little help here."

"What? Oh. Yes." Cas knelt by them, staring at Sam in near worship. "I had no idea. Your brother's soul . . ."

"Is more than he can handle right now. Fix him."

Cas frowned at Dean, perplexed. "I can't just fix everything. I can't fix this. Sam came back from Hell. You of all people know what that means for him. I don't know if this can be fixed."

"Just go away," Sam moaned. "Both of you. Leave me alone." His body shuddered in Dean's arms.

A whoosh of air blew the young hunter's hair across his forehead.

"Great. Now Castiel's going to take up listening to you. Come on, Sam. At least let's get you up off the floor."

Sam rolled, shoving Dean away. His face was devastated, wet with tears and God it made Dean's heart clench up tight at the emotion radiating off Sam. "Please, Dean, just go away. I can't do this I can't do this. I can't even look at you." He flopped over to his side again, closing up, covering his face in his hands.

"Yes, you can, yes you can. We'll do it together."

"It's all there, Dean, pouring through me. The teeth and the blood and the fire and oh God oh God oh God I let you get Turned by that vampire. I just watched and let it happen. I let it happen I let it happen oh God you could have died and I didn't care and I just watched. You have to go, get away from me."

"Sam! That's enough." Dean grabbed Sam, wrapped his arms around him even though Sam tried to push away. Dean just gripped him tighter. "Not going anywhere."

"But I . . ."

"Wasn't you, man."

"Yes it was. I knew exactly what I was doing." Sam hiccupped and a smile played over Dean's lips, glad that Sam couldn't see it.

"Sam, tell me this. Answer as honestly as you can. Now that you're you, would you let me get Turned?" He felt Sam still, heard the sharp intake of breath.

"No." Sam's voice was small.

Dean waited, let Sam reason it out on his own.

"I'd die before I let that happen. I don't expect you to believe that. I don't ever expect you to trust me. Oh God you need to get away from me. You can't be near me. I don't know why I did that. I'd never do that, but I did. Oh God, Dean. I would die for you."

Dean closed his eyes, nodding, his heart pumping so wildly he thought it'd spin through his chest. "Then look at me."

He waited again for what seemed like an eternity until Sam's head lifted, turned to look up at him, mossy eyes full of regret and hurt and searching Dean's for . . .

"I'm so sorry, Dean."

. . . searching for forgiveness. Dean nodded, his throat too tight to answer yet. Instead he pulled Sam closer and just held on. They had a lot to deal with, maybe too much, but it didn't matter. He held on. He held on. He held on. He wasn't letting go again. He had his brother back and he wasn't letting go.

Fin

Here's the quote that inspired me:

From my story What's So Right About That? when Dean was performing CPR: "He breathed again, feeling his own life pour into Sam's."

T.L. Arens said: "It makes me wonder at times if it's Dean that rightfully owns Sammy's soul; that Crowley has possession of stolen property."

Amazing thought, isn't it?