I Wish I Was Your Brother
A/N: This story took a very circuitous route to completion. Originally, I had the concept for a one shot in three parts. However, that story just couldnStorm WarningA Light at the End of the Tunnels POV and making it a part of this series and finally, I was able to get it done.
A/N: I want to thank all of you who follow this series and always encourage me to continue writing it. Your support is amazing.
A/N: Special thanks and much love to my beta Casy Dee!
Disclaimer: I do not own or profit from Supernatural or any of its characters but I have borrowed several lines from the story's dialogue.
- TWENTY THREE -
In Other Words
Someone once said that for brothers who were closer than twins, they never once heard Sam or Dean say I love you. The truth is they said it all the time but you had to listen carefully to hear it.
I'll admit I raised them to be tough and fearless and that didn't allow much time for either of them to get in touch with their softer side. On top of that, I wasn't overly demonstrative and I didn't figure my sons would come out particularly affectionate. However, the fire that took my wife changed my boys' lives forever. When I gave Sam to Dean and told him to run out of the house, it created a dynamic between them that few siblings will ever experience or understand.
That unspeakable tragedy helped to forge a bond so strong and so deep that nothing in heaven or on earth has been able to break it. So I'd say the feelings of love and loyalty between my sons may be a little more immeasurable than those famed three little words can express.
Apart from all that, my boys are far too masculine for those girlie utterances, and far too tough to come off like a couple of softies. But hey, feelings that strong have to be expressed one way or another. So over the years, I learned to recognize the ways they communicated the sentiment without actually saying the words.
Now to give credit where it's due, Mary's influence had a lot to do with the closeness between the boys. Dean had been the center of our lives from the day we knew we were going to be parents. Then by the time his mother got pregnant with Sammy, Dean had been so coddled and spoiled that Mary was worried that he would resent sharing our attention with a little brother. So from the start her strategy was to get Dean to feel that Sammy was his. She made him play with her stomach and talk to his little brother and she always said that once Sammy was born Dean would have the special responsibility of taking care of him because that's what big brothers did. The strategy was an unqualified success because once Mary was gone and I was too numb to play a nurturing role in either of my sons' lives, Dean stepped up to look after Sam.
The first time I heard Dean express his feeling to his little brother it was on a rainy night when Sam had woken up crying. When I was too slow to respond, Dean went to Sammy and picked him up while I stood back in the shadows. Dean rocked his baby brother gently, trying to soothe and quiet like he'd seen Mary do before she had been stolen from us. Then, he said the words that would define their relationship from that day forward.
Whatever Sammy heard in those two words, it did the trick and he quieted down after that. Those words also resonated with me, leaving me wondering if Dean realised I couldn't give the unconditional, indulgent love Sammy needed and decided then to stand in the void even though he was just a kid himself.
Whatever happened the connection was made and reciprocity came before Sam could even speak. Then once he started to grasp words it was amazing to hear the things he said to his big brother. One evening shortly after he turned two he blew my mind. Dean was feeding him and doing his usual messy job of spooning up the baby food while Sammy waved delightedly in his high chair. Without warning Sam leaned forward and put both his hands on his brother's cheeks and brought his nose to rest squarely against Dean's.
"You!" Sammy squealed.
My eyes filled so fast that I had to walk away before either of my sons could see me cry. You see I was sitting right next to Dean observing to ensure that more of the food made it into Sammy's mouth than landed on his bib, yet it seemed like I was invisible to Sam. My youngest son stretched right over me to affirm his feelings for his brother and at that moment I knew he'd chosen where his first loyalties would lie.
From then on Sammy consistently made declarations to his big brother.
"You make me better."
"I wanna be like you."
"You're my favourite person."
I admit, at first I felt a little resentful but as they grew older I realised how important it was for them to have each other. Sam needed his brother to cherish and care for him and having Sam need him brought meaning to Dean's life.
Dean's expressions weren't nearly as exuberant as Sam's but it was pretty easy to hear the meaning behind his words. He'd say "That's my boy", when he felt pride at any of Sammy's childhood achievements; or "you're pretty cool for a little geek," when he wanted to show fraternal appreciation. Yet what always gave Dean's feelings away were the things he said when Sam was in any kind of distress. That's when we heard, "I got you Sammy" or "Nothing's gonna happen to you as long as I'm around" or in cases of extreme distress, "tell me what's wrong and I'll fix it."
In the tricky teen years, we had all the arguments and fights common to kids that age. During that phase their way of speaking changed, but it wasn't difficult for me to decipher what was being said.
Sam was the expressive one who was always a little bolder about saying what he felt even if it bordered on being mushy. Prior to adolescence the words often flew out before he could stop them leaving me wondering when he would finally appreciate the control that every man needed to have over his emotions.
For quite a while it seemed Sammy would never grasp that, at least not when it came to his brother. As he grew older and began keeping a tighter rein on his feelings and affections he couldn't hold back when it came to Dean. I still have very vivid memories of when Dean had appendicitis and with typical Winchester luck the onset was sudden and excruciating.
I had rushed him to an emergency room with Sam in tow, and when all was said and done he was admitted to hospital with surgery scheduled for the first thing the next morning. From the moment Dean felt the first pains anxiety overcame Sam. Once Dean was tucked into his hospital bed and dosed up with painkillers, Sam sat by his side refusing to move. Hoping to keep the myth of big brother invincibility alive, Dean had tried to act tough.
"Wipe that worried look off your face before I get up and do it for you," he'd threatened.
"I'm not worried Dean," Sam shot back. "I'm freaking terrified."
"Terrified? God geek, you're more of a wimp than I thought."
"Call me whatever you like jerk, but if your big brother was as sick as you are you'd be terrified too."
Dean had been silenced by the admission; but he still tried to save face. "That doesn't make any sense," he said weakly.
"You wouldn't understand it because you're too dense. But if I lose you Dean, I swear to God..."
Sam's voice had cracked and he couldn't seem to find the words to continue. The next thing I heard was a loud sigh and Sam dropped his head and covered his face.
"Hey," Dean said, his own voice lilting with emotion, "Come on Sammy, it's just appendicitis; I'm gonna be OK."
"You better be," Sam chided, gradually recovering his composure. "You're an A one idiot and a pain in the butt but I don't know what I'd do without you."
The whole time they were arguing I had stood in the far corner of the room wondering if I would need to intervene. When I heard Sam's declaration I shrugged off the quarrel, understanding the meaning behind his words. From Dean's response, the message wasn't lost on him.
"I suspect there's a compliment somewhere in there," Dean said, relaxing the bravado enough to make a feeble attempt to ruffle Sammy's hair.
"Maybe," Sam conceded lowering his head to Dean's chest so his brother wouldn't have to stretch too far for contact.
The tumultuous teen years were marked by many such incidents. With all the testosterone in the atmosphere it had been particularly amusing to hear my rough and tumble oldest expressing various sentiments to his little brother. He had his catch phrases like "you're pretty cool for a nerd" or "you're not half bad geek boy," but in moments when Sam was feeling insecure or uncertain, the legendary Dean Winchester cool was set aside to provide whatever care, comfort or reassurance Sammy needed.
On one memorable occasion shortly after Sam turned thirteen, I had reprimanded and punished him and he actually complained to Dean that sometimes he wondered if I really loved him. He broached the conversation one night when we were staying at Pastor Jim's place and with the paper thin partition between the boys' room and mine, I heard every word that passed between them.
"Why the hell would you say that?" was Dean brusque response when Sam broached the issue of my feelings for him. "You know the deal Sammy, you step outta line, you get punished."
"But he always seems to be tougher on me than he is on you."
"That's because I've gotten smarter and I don't get caught as much."
"No, it's because you're his favorite."
"Dad doesn't have favorites. He's an equal opportunity butt-kicker when we mess up."
"You might feel that way Dean, but sometimes I feel like Dad would prefer if I wasn't here then it could just be you and him."
"Hey! Look at me. Don't you even think that Sam. We're a family. We stick together."
"Sure. So you and Dad can just -"
"Me and Dad nothing; our family doesn't work without you."
Dean's assertion seemed to cut right to the heart of the matter.
"I feel like all I ever do is disappoint him," Sam confessed.
"Hey come on, don't do that. Aw shucks Sammy, come here."
I was on my feet, ready to go to them to reassure Sam that nothing couldn't further from the truth. Then I stopped, knowing it would just be awkward and complicated if I added myself to the equation at such a critical moment. Dean would know exactly what to do to calm Sammy down.
There was a too long interlude of very quiet sobbing and muttering that I couldn't quite make out. Then Dean put an end to the matter.
"I know Dad can be tough Sammy. Heck, half the time I think he's gonna disown me for one thing or another but that's just his way. So get it out of your thick skull that this family could ever work without you. It never has and it never will."
That was just one of the many rites of passage talks that Dean had with Sam over the years. I know I left a lot up to Dean but he had a knack for getting through to his little brother in his quirky irreverent way.
One of the conversations that left an indelible impression on me was the pep talk Dean delivered after Sam had his first brush with heartache. I'd seen Sam moping around and given him the line about a lot more fish in the sea but that worked about as well as throwing water on an electrical fire. Finally when it seemed that Sammy meant to stay in his funk for an extended period, Dean jumped in.
We were at Bobby's and they were sitting down right outside Bobby's study. I was in the middle of a detailed entry in my journal when I got an earful of Sam pouring out his heart, and Dean picking up the pieces.
"You've been dragging yourself around here for the last week like your dog died; are you still licking your wounds because of whatshername?"
"Cindy," Sam had whispered, with a hint of awe that said this one had cut deep.
I could only shake my head at the angst of youth. I knew Cindy would be a distant memory in a few months' time but at this point it was still the end of the world for my youngest.
"We've been going out and I thought she was ready to get a bit more serious but the whole time she's been seeing me she's also been going out with a guy named Kyle Harrison."
"So she was two timing you?"
"Yeah, but now she wants to get serious with Kyle."
"OK so her taste sucks, her loss."
"It's not just that she didn't choose me it's who she blew me off for. Kyle's loaded and he drives a sports car."
"Don't take it personally Sammy, girls tend to get caught up with money and flash."
"If it was just that then it wouldn't be so bad."
"So what else was it?"
"When I called her on it and said she was just after his money she said she felt like he was more of a man than me. And this guy is known for just using girls at will and there's even talk that he hit some girl he was seeing once but none of that matters to Cindy."
"Hey bad boys are a turn-on for some girls."
"Maybe, but I think anyone who uses girls and hurts them is really lame. I told Cindy as much and that's when it got nasty."
"She pretty much accused me of being boring and immature. And she said I was the kind of guy a girl would want for a study partner but not a boyfriend."
"Well she's the one who sounds lame," Dean said and he seemed to think that should be enough to appease his brother.
Sammy, however, was just getting to the heart of the matter. "Dean, is that what girls really want? Do I have to be a jerk like Kyle to get someone like Cindy to like me?
"OK listen to me, the bad boy routine works for some chicks but girls who like jerks usually got a ton of issues that just complicate your life. So when you meet a woman like that just keep moving."
"Yeah sure and stay by myself."
"No you keep being yourself and you'll find a girl who actually deserves someone like you."
"Which is what Dean, a nerd who can't even keep a girl interested?"
"O.K., let's get one thing straight. You're not like everybody else Sammy, you're different."
"I think that was Cindy's point."
"Cindy is an idiot. What makes you different is exactly what makes you special. And any girl who doesn't see that doesn't deserve to be with my little brother. And if you ever even think of changing who you are for any reason, I'm gonna beat you so bad you'll forget your first name."
Cindy's name never came up in any future conversations and I was more convinced than ever to leave Sam's growing pains issues to Dean.
In all of this, I don't want to sell Sammy short because as he got older he also learned to talk his brother down, that is, when Dean would let him. Often, when my oldest was dealing with something, his tendency was to shut himself off which was hurtful to Sam. The more Dean pushed him away in a crisis, the more stubborn Sammy became in his insistence that his brother let him in.
With the friction building, it was only a matter of time before a confrontation. The camel's back broke some time after Dean turned nineteen and he had his first experience with a civilian being severely injured on a hunt.
He and I were working a job which put us in the path of a vengeful spirit that refused to be subdued. Before it was over, the man whose property was haunted nearly lost his life and the precarious nature of the hunt meant we couldn't stick around for questions. So we'd dropped the victim off at the nearest emergency room and hightailed it before the cops showed up.
On the drive back to the motel, I let Dean have it about working sloppy. Truth is, I was reeling from how badly the hunt went and I came down on him much harder than he deserved. After blasting his head off, I'd gone and got Sammy and then we booked it out of town. I drove for a couple hours then dropped the boys off at a motel and told them to get two rooms.
After I drove around for about another hour, I came back knowing I needed to apologize to Dean. When I went to check on the boys, they weren't in their room so I went to look around the motel property. I saw them out back in what a sign said was the recreational area, which was clearly meant for daytime because it was barely lit.
They didn't see me approach, but when I began overhearing their conversation, I stood back in the shadows so I could listen in.
"You're doing it again," Sam was complaining.
"Doing what?" Dean asked. I heard the annoyance in his voice and figured he been trying to get his little brother to leave him alone.
"You're doing your big brother thing," Sam kept pressing. "You're acting like nothing's wrong and you're freezing me out."
"What the hell do you mean by that?"
"Dean, we took off in the dead of the night which usually means the hunt didn't go right. And the whole time we were driving I thought the tension between you and Dad was gonna choke me which usually means he's mad at you."
"Yeah so he is, damned if I care."
"You do Dean. Since Dad dumped us here you've been so agitated it's like you're gonna peel off your own skin. You only get like that when you're really hurt."
"Really hurt? What the hell do you think I am a ten year old girl?"
"You see that's it right there," Sam insisted. "You'd rather be a stupid jerk than just be honest with me."
"What do you want Sammy, a freaking confession?"
"Stop trying to blow me off, I'm worried about you. But you can never just let me do that, can you?"
"You want me to let you worry?"
"No that's not what I'm saying."
"Then what are you saying, dummy?"
"I'm saying you never let me help you!"
"I know you're the big brother but you're not the only one who cares, Dean. I care too but it's like you don't want me to show it."
Even from the sidelines I could feel the discomfort in the air between them. I was worried that Dean would say something teasing or even dismissive to diffuse some of the awkwardness and shake Sam off his back.
I should have known better. Sure, Dean had his pride but he would never choose his ego at the expense of his little brother's feelings.
"Gosh Sammy, it's not like I think you don't care about me, I know you do."
"I don't just care about you Dean," Sam said and then paused like he needed to gather up his courage. "I ... I care about you more than I care about anyone else."
"Let me finish. You're always there for me when I need someone and I just want you to know I can be there too."
I could barely see them in the dark, make-shift park, but I could literally hear Dean relenting. There was no way he could stand up under his little brother's emotional assault.
"I know Sammy," Dean admitted and damn if his voice didn't sound a little wobbly. "I just don't know where to even start on this one."
"Just tell me what happened."
"I messed up the job and almost got someone killed. Dad was so angry I thought he was gonna take me apart with his bare hands."
"It's not your fault, Dean. Don't blame yourself."
"You don't even know what happened."
"I don't need to know. I watch you on hunts, your safety always comes last. If someone got hurt it's because there was nothing you could possibly do to protect them."
"That's not how Dad saw it."
"I don't care how Dad saw it. I know my big brother. And there's no one I feel safer with at any time. Whatever happened, I know you did your best to take care of everyone, because that's just who you are."
I walked away at that point, cut to the heart that my fifteen year old was the one supplying the affirmation I should have been giving to Dean. Yet again, I'd let my compulsions and obsessions come between me and one of my boys and then I'd left it to the other one to pick up the pieces.
By the time Sam and Dean were negotiating that tricky transition from adolescence into manhood, the conversations between them were sometimes unbearable to hear. All their lives their roles had been firmly established, Dean was the big brother protector, caregiver and most importantly, firmly in charge. Sam was the little brother, awestruck, adoring and most importantly compliant.
However, as Sam approached eighteen that began to change. He was constantly pushing back at his brother's commands with angry retorts and Dean reacted with increasing belligerence. A vicious cycle started as their words became harsh and hurtful and I broke up more fights - physical and verbal - than a bartender at a last chance saloon.
I started to worry because although fighting was nothing new I wasn't accustomed to them saying things to hurt one another. It had always been the two of them against everyone else and it cut me deep to think of them turning on each other.
One night, after I sent them on a hunt by themselves, I realised that I had underestimated the bond between my boys. Tension had been brewing between them all day but I'd told them to shake off the pettiness and go deal with a salt and burn. By the time they got back from the hunt it was clear they'd had a raging fight.
"You damn idiot," Dean was shouting when they walked into the motel room, "if you ever do that to me again, it'll be your last day on the planet."
Sam countered swiftly, "If you weren't so damn stubborn I wouldn't have had to make a move like that."
A nervous tension surged through my stomach on hearing the brief exchange. Had either of them done anything to put the other in danger? I knew they hadn't been getting along for a while but nothing should get in the way of their obligation to protect each other.
"What happened?" I asked, and to say I was apprehensive was an understatement.
"This idiot almost got himself killed," Dean informed me.
"Near misses can happen on hunts," I reasoned.
"No he did it deliberately," Dean fired back.
"What?" I turned to my youngest. "What happened?"
"Dean stepped right into the path of the damn the ghost-"
"Because it was heading straight for him," Dean ignored his brother's intervention and directed his retort to me.
Sam returned the favour, "If I hadn't come between him and the damn thing we'd be burning his body right now."
"OK both of you shut up," I ordered. "It sounds like you both did what you had to do to protect each other and you both got out alive so I'm considering this matter closed."
I said it with enough menace to think that would shut them up but each of them fired a parting shot.
"Get one thing straight," Dean practically snarled at his brother, "if you ever take that kind of risk with your life, I swear to hell I'll kill you myself."
Rather than flinch, Sam squared off with his brother. "And if you try to get in the way again when I'm saving your sorry life I'll kill you first."
Call me whatever you like, but I walked away from that reassured that even though they could barely stomach one another, my boys were still each other's top priority.
Now I'm not gonna talk about my deal. I had my reasons for making it which I really don't need to explain to anyone. Yet the transition from one realm to the next didn't erase my ever present need to know that my boys were OK. The one thing that gave me comfort was how they felt about each other. I knew that they would go beyond the ends of the earth to protect one another and that's the only thing that gave me the strength to leave them behind.
There wasn't much communication between my realm and theirs, and although I couldn't reach out to them in the way I would have liked once I'd moved on, I still listened. Whenever they were facing crisis, danger or distress, I took note of what they said to each other, examining each word to see if the bond between them was holding firm.
I was listening when Sam found out that Dean had made the deal with the crossroads demon. I could hear Sam's gratitude as much as his anguish at the thought of what his brother had done for him.
When Sam asked, "How long do you get?" and Dean said, "One year," I could feel Sam's pain. It was no wonder he told Dean he shouldn't have done it.
For me Dean's response was predictable. "I had to look out for you. That's my job!"
Then Sammy blew me away when he asked, "And what do you think my job is?"
Stunned, Dean could only say, "What?"
That's when Sammy said it. "You save my life! Over and over! Man, you sacrifice everything for me! Don't you think I'd do the same for you? You're my big brother. There's nothing I wouldn't do for you."
As time ran out on Dean I thought Sam was going to lose his mind. When he told Dean his desperate plan as the clock was ticking down my oldest, being resigned to his fate asked, "Why even risk it?"
"Because you're my brother," Sam said, his desperate insistence implying no explanation should be necessary. "Because you did the same thing for me."
"I know," Dean scoffed, more out of sadness than sarcasm, "and look how that turned out."
When Sam looked at him with anxious exasperation, Dean made his position clear. "Sammy ... you're my weak spot."
The unspoken message was as clear to me as I know it was to Sam. If Dean had it to do over, he would have made the same decision.
Following the disappointment of their brief glimpse of heaven and the unspeakable horror of their pains in hell, my sons' relationship changed in ways I couldn't fathom. Yet no matter how far they drifted from one another reconciliation was always just a matter of time. Even after their separation while Dean was in purgatory they managed to find common ground. So much so that when Dean was insisting on doing the three trials to close the gates of hell, Sam wouldn't allow it.
"I'm closing the gates," my youngest insisted, showing the strong man he had become. "It's a suicide mission for you."
The big brother in Dean wouldn't go down without a fight. When he pushed back, Sam countered with vulnerability rather than defiance.
"I want to slam hell shut, too, okay? But I want to survive it. I want to live, and so should you. You were right, okay? I see light at the end of this tunnel. And I'm sorry you don't, but it's there. And if you come with me, I can take you to it."
However, after putting his life on the line for his little brother so many times, Dean was still prepared to do it again.
"Sam, be smart."
"I AM smart, and so are you. I believe in you, Dean. So, please ... please believe in me, too."
We all know Dean gave in and the trials took Sam to the edge of his sanity. Then all hell broke loose in that church when Sam was just about close the gates of hell.
It was a disturbing sight to see my little boy suicidal with despair as he insisted, "People will die if I don't finish this!"
Desperate to talk him down, Dean made a frantic appeal. "We have enough knowledge on our side to turn the tide here," he said, "but I can't do it without you."
Sammy, however, was almost over the edge. "You can barely do it with me. I mean, you think I screw up everything I try."
When Dean denied his brother's tearful allegations, Sam made his emotional admission. "You want to know what I confessed?" he asked, "What my greatest sin was? It was how many times I let you down. I can't do that again."
"Sam-" Once again Dean tried to intervene, and once again he was cut off.
"What happens when you've decided I can't be trusted again?" Sam cried. "I mean, who are you gonna turn to next time instead of me? Another angel, another vampire? Do you have any idea what it feels like to watch your brother just-"
At that point it was Dean who did the cutting off. "Hold on," he insisted. "Hold on! You seriously think that? Because none of it is true."
And then, Dean made his own confession. "Don't you dare think that there is anything, past or present, that I would put in front of you!"
I considered that moment a turning point in my sons' relationship, a time when a marker was laid down and a line drawn in the sand. After that I figured they would be no more doubts and no more fears because now, they both knew they were each other's highest loyalty. Needless to say, I was blindsided by the devastating effect those trials had on Sam. Then with Sam's life hanging in balance Dean made another infamous Winchester Deal.
I'm not going to take sides on this one; I know Dean had his reasons for saving his brother's life just as Sam has his reasons for resenting the way Dean went about it. Yet watching them now incinerates my heart.
I wish I was there to tell them that when the rubber hits the road, all they really have is each other. More than that, I wish I was there to bring up all the times when the chips were down and they discovered that each other was all they really needed.
I wish I could get my boys to realise that the bond between them is what's brought them this far and neither of them will ever be totally whole without the other.
I wish I could remind them of all the promises they've made to each other and the vows they've kept even when it cost them their hearts, their lives and their souls.
More than anything I wish they would just talk. I long to hear one of those meaningful and memorable conversations where even when little is said, so much is implied. I want to hear words which tell me that there's so much more than just love between them. I wish they would remember they're so much more than just brothers.
There's more to come so I hope you'll keep reading ...