"Son?" Bobby called from the doorway of the panic room. Dean turned and looked at the gruff old hunter, green eyes partially covered by swollen eyelids were what greeted the older man's eyes. "It's time for you to go up and take a break. You've been here all day."
Dean shook his head slowly, he was so exhausted he wasn't able to do much more. "Bobby…" Dean began to protest.
"Son. I'm not going to tell you again. Go on up and get some rest…I'll watch him." Dean took a deep breath, looked back to his unconscious brother and nodded. Deep down he knew Bobby was right, knew that he needed sleep, needed to be functional when his brother woke up, needed to be ready for anything that could possibly happen when and if his brother ever woke up. But knowing that, and doing it were always two separate things for Dean Winchester. He was about to make another protest when Bobby gave him the look that said "don't mess with me I'm armed", the same look Bobby had been giving him since he was a kid running wild through the junk yard. Dean was smart enough to know when there wasn't another choice. That one single slow nod he gave was almost more than he could take, but he managed to stand and his knees creaked with the effort.
Bobby was determined not to move from his position or his stance until Dean walked past him, he wanted to make sure the boy did as instructed. As Dean passed, he touched the boy's shoulder to get his attention. Dean stopped and looked at him and the sadness and despair in the boy's eyes was enough to choke up the hardened hunter. "Dean, a package was delivered for you this mornin'. I put it on your bed." Dean nodded and headed to the stairs. When Bobby was sure that Dean was going to do what he was told he took Dean's place, sitting vigil over the unconscious Sam. He heard Dean's heavy boots contact with the stairs, the door to the kitchen open and close, and heavy footfalls clomp around the house. Bobby pulled his cap off and wiped his brow. He wished that there was something to do for him.
Dean sluggishly made it to the third level of the house, pushed open the door to the room he and his brother shared when they were here, toed off his boots and went to his bed. Next to him was a box, "That's right Bobby said something about a box." He mumbled. He was getting forgetful lately, he would forget why he was in a room, or what Bobby had just said, or he would forget what he had for breakfast, or if he had breakfast. He knew it was because he hadn't slept enough, knew that it was because he hadn't eaten enough, and knew that it was because Sam was unconscious on a cot in the panic room. It also partially was the intense worry that would bubble up in his belly every couple of hours and that he would have to use all of his mental strength to tramp down with reassuring phrases that depleted him the most and destroyed his competence. If Sam woke up and was a drooling nutbag, he knew it would be his fault, not an angel's, not a demon's, not even death's. It would be his, plain and simple. And that weighed on his mind most of all.
He didn't take time to look at the address, he simply opened the box. Inside was a letter.
I didn't know where else to send your things. I hope Bobby doesn't mind.
And his heart sank. Oh that was right, she hated him now too. He'd hurt her son, an inexcusable offense, and he knew it. He'd hate him too. Hell right now, he did hate himself. He threw the letter onto the bed and closed his eyes tight, rubbed them with the heel of his hands and tried to keep the tears at bay. Rage, his old friend, filled him up and he threw the box onto the floor, spilling its contents all over. He didn't care, didn't' want to care, he stood, and paced the length of the room, in between the beds, and pulled at his hair. He'd loved her, loved her and Ben, almost like he'd loved his Dad and his brother, and look at what it got him and them. When he loved someone, it always turned out bad for them.
Hell Sam was in the panic room right now because he loved Dean, had done everything for his brother, including housing the devil in his skin to save his brother and not to mention the rest of the world. Bobby had been crippled, sold his soul, and his dad…Dean rubbed a hand down his face. His dad had gone to hell to save his stupid ass. It seemed fitting that he should never be allowed to experience love like normal people.
He took a deep breath, walked around the bed, determined to pick up the mess, and go to sleep, to shut his head up, and force his body to rest because he needed to be ready for his brother to wake up, and he needed to be ready for any and all possibilities.
The picture that was face up on the floor caught him off guard. It was the photograph that Bobby took of Sam and Dean when they had fallen asleep on the floor as teenagers. Sam piled on his brother's stomach, and popcorn spilled all around them. Sam had been about ten or eleven, and it was one of those times where Bobby had kept them. Dean knelt, and picked up the photograph.
Things hadn't always been this hard.
Dean slipped into a sitting position, righted the box, and began to flip through the materials with the intention of putting them back into their box. It had been years since he had gone through this stuff. He'd thrown things in there as the two of them had traveled around the country, hunting things, saving people. And when he went to live with Lisa and Ben he had kept it close, just in case, but it sat in a box, in the garage, and he'd never looked inside, afraid that if he did he would lose what precious control he had managed to achieve.
But here, now, he wasn't worried about control, or about keeping it together. There was no one left to keep it together for. He pulled another picture to him, the one he stole from that pretty girl who knew Sam at Stanford, the one whose brother had been blamed for a murder a shape shifter had committed. Sam looked so happy, so tall, so….
"God he was so friggin' happy." Dean mumbled looking at the picture of his brother all smiles, looking tanned, fresh and very young, before Dean had come back into his life and with him all of the crap that came with a hunter's life and put years onto his young face.
He put picture after picture into the box, and he looked at the pile in front of him. He suddenly sat up on his knees and on impulse he spread out the materials all around him, turning up pictures, ticket stubs, programs, and other odds and ends from the last couple of years.
There were pictures of simpler times, of times where they were happy and life, while hard, had allowed them some time to have fun, be brothers. Like the picture of Sam, holding a Winchester rifle, trying to look bad ass in front of the Winchester house, Dean making a stupid face in front of the same house, the brochure emblazoned with "Winchester Mystery House" across the front, wrinkled and folded from being jammed into Sam's coat pocket. They had been in San Francisco finishing up a job when Sam made the suggestion that they stick around for a day or so and see it. "Come on Dean." He said with a smile. "It'll be fun. How many people do you think go there and can actually say their last name is Winchester?" When Dean had protested claiming that they didn't have time, this was during the time he was pushing so hard because he was trying to run away from their father's death, Sam gave the puppy dog look and said, "Dean. Life doesn't have to be horrible all of the time. We are allowed to have a little fun now and then." And they had gone. Spent the day exploring the weird old house.
There were ticket stubs from the Ozzy show they drove a thousand miles to see, and spent the whole next day yelling at each other instead of talking because neither could judge volume after the concert.
There was the picture from King's Island, they had rode The Beast, and Sam purchased the picture that was taken at the top of the hill, Sam's arms up in triumph and Dean, who was terrified of heights, looked as if he were coming face to face with a hell hound: his face all scrunched up, eyes closed and hands gripping the handle bar so tightly in front of him that his knuckles had turned white. Sam bought it without his knowledge and when Dean saw it he had complained. Sam just reveled in how dumb his brother had looked.
There were pictures where one of them had been caught off guard just looking off into space, or the one where Sam had a spoon sticking out of his mouth, or the one where Sam was wearing nut hugging shorts and a shirt so short it barely covered his chest because he lost a bet, or the purple dress Dean was wearing, the one that Sam had stolen from a clothes line, because Dean had lost a bet.
Amongst the pile of silly pictures there was one that stuck out to Dean. He picked up the picture of Sam sleeping in the back of the Impala all tangled up half off the bench seat half on, coat falling off of one arm and shirt so twisted and turned around it was tangled around his brother's neck, his hair everywhere, yet his face was peacefully asleep. Just like it was down there in the panic room. Tears fell from Dean's eyes and he put that picture back on the floor, slipping it under the picture from King's Island.
He looked at everything all spread out around him. This was what he fought so hard for, this is why he risked death to get his brother's soul back, this is why he was so willing to risk everything. The good times. These were the times most often forgotten, these were the times he couldn't pull into his brain when Sam had been drinking demon blood, when he had let Lucifer free, when he had betrayed him, when he chose a demon over him….those things weren't as important as what lie before him.
"I remember this one." He heard weakly from the door way. Dean's head jerked up and Sam stood, albeit wobbly, resting against the door frame.
"Sammy?" Dean said. Sam ignored him and slowly took a shaky step forward. Dean went to stand and Sam put a hand up and stopped him. He sat in front of his brother and both sat cross-legged just like they had all of those years ago when Dean was a ghost and Sam was communicating with him via Ouija board. Dean never took his eyes off of his pale and gaunt brother.
"Remember this one?" Sam asked, his voice husky with the effort to speak. He showed the picture to his brother, it was a simple photo, they'd asked someone to hold the camera while they stood in front of the world's largest ball of twine. It dwarfed the two of them and they looked silly, Dean in his badass leather, and Sam in a plaid long sleeved tee, but it was them and they were happy.
"Yeah. I remember." Dean said on autopilot too shocked to see his brother before him to actually care about the picture he held.
"Yeah. You said it was all kinds of touristy. And it was. Kinda dumb too…" Sam gave a small laugh.
"You liked it." Dean said simply. Sammy nodded.
Sam looked down at the pictures and then back at his brother. "Thanks for not giving up."
Dean looked down at all of the pictures and mementos surrounding him, their happy times, their brother times. How could he give up on that?
"You're welcome Sammy."