Author's Note: Quick missing scene from the beginning of "Mannequin 3: The Reckoning."
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Dean absently tapped his fingers on the Impala's steering wheel. His teeth were still on edge and he couldn't stop himself from shooting glances at his brother in the passenger seat. Sam was curled up against the door, his head resting against the window—an achingly familiar position he'd taken countless times on long drives across the country when he was trying to sleep; a position his soulless counterpart had never used—but his eyes were open.
Sam gave no indication that he noticed his brother's frequent glances; in fact, his absent stare indicated he wasn't noticing much of anything. For a moment, Dean's stomach jumped into his throat—he was back in the house and Sam was staring unseeingly at the ceiling as he convulsed before going still. For a moment, Sam wasn't breathing and Dean was feeling for a pulse on his unresponsive brother's neck.
Dean had almost felt the mud soaking the knees of his jeans and Sam's blood coating his hands again. Sam had gone down on his watch. Again. Dean had been reliving the worst moment of his life…
In those three minutes that Sam had been unresponsive, when Dean had thought the wall had come down completely and Sam might very well be lost to him forever, he'd realized something. As he called vainly for his brother, he knew he'd never survive losing his brother again. He'd seen his brother die in front of him too many times and each time had brought him closer to the brink.
The only thing that kept him from completely falling apart after Sam had jumped into the Pit was his promise to his brother to try to live a normal life. But even though he loved Lisa and Ben, even though their love and support had kept him going in his worst moments, the last year had been one of existing, not living. He was too far entrenched in mourning Sam to truly enjoy the company of the Braedens.
Watching Sam's memories of his horrendous suffering in Hell kill him would be too much for even Dean to shove down and move past this time. No amount of alcohol would ever be able mute that. And he wouldn't want it to, either. That would be an insult to Sam's sacrifice, to their brotherhood that they prized above all else.
No, as Dean had tearfully begged Sam to come back to himself, he had known with absolute certainty that he'd follow his brother once the wall came down for good.
And then Sam blinked for what seemed like the first time since they had gotten into the car, and Dean was back driving the Impala. Choking in a ragged breath, Dean realized his knuckles were white from how hard he was gripping the steering wheel. He forced himself to loosen his grip and brought his gaze back to the road. He pressed down a little harder on the gas. They weren't rushing to get anywhere, but damn if Dean wasn't in a hurry to get away from Bristol, Rhode Island, as if the Impala could outrun the brief glimpse of the Great Wall of Sam crumbling.
Dean knew the sound of his brother's sentence cutting off and the resounding thud as he fell would continue to haunt him for the rest of his days.
"Hey," Dean said, forcibly pulling himself from the room they had just abandoned as he tried to fill the oppressive silence in the car. He hadn't wanted to turn on any music to spare Sam's undoubtedly aching head. "You with me?" Sam blinked and raised his head off the glass but didn't say anything. He'd been dazed since coming to, not that Dean could blame him. He tried again. "Sam?"
"Yeah, Dean." He rolled his shoulders stiffly. "I'm with you."
Dean cringed at how tired Sam sounded. Whatever Sam had seen, whatever Hell had leaked out from behind the wall in his mind, it had taken a lot out of him. Dean knew the feeling, knew how exhausting reliving the unspeakable terror and pain could be and hated that Sam had to experience it. If there was anything he wanted to protect his little brother from, it was that.
And Sam, like a true Winchester, was in the process of burying it. Dean wasn't one for talking about his feelings, but he knew his brother. He knew Sam worked through his problems best by talking; the amount of shit he'd been burying over the last few years had been a major reason they had ended up where they were. He wasn't going to make the same mistake again, not now that they had a second chance. So if helping Sam's soul heal meant dredging up his own buried memories and talking about Hell—the mutual experience that no one else on the planet shared—then Dean would do it.
He frowned over at his brother. "You want to stop?"
Sam finally looked over at him, confusion intruding on his weary features. "We've only been on the road a few hours, Dean. I'm fine." They both knew it was a lie, but Dean didn't call him on it.
Dean cleared his throat. "Well, I don't know about you, but I could go for a burger and some coffee." Which in itself wasn't a complete lie. His head was throbbing from the stress and some caffeine couldn't hurt.
Sam shifted in his seat. "Yeah, alright," he replied tonelessly.
Dean bit back a sarcastic remark and took the next exit off the interstate.
Just because he knew he'd follow Sam if he died, it didn't mean he wanted it to happen. But everyone—human, demon, and angel alike—sure seemed to think it was inevitable. And that consensus scared Dean down to his core, especially after what he had seen today.
Dean wanted to rage, to scream, or just kill something. He wanted to yell at Sam for scratching at the wall, for ignoring his warnings about how dangerous it was. Any of that was better than being terrified for his brother.
He shot another furtive glance at Sam; his little brother was scrubbing his face through his hands. Sam's entire body radiated tension and weariness. Yeah, definitely some coffee, food, and a dose from Dean's secret pill stash. He saw a roadside food stand and pulled into the parking lot.
He would do everything in his power to keep Death's wall from coming down and prevent his brother from suffering. He was going to make damn sure that Sam didn't keep picking at the wall so there would be no repeat performances of earlier. And if memories from Hell or his soulless time still managed to creep past the wall, Dean would do his best to help his brother work through them. And if all else failed, well… For good or ill, the Winchester brothers were a package deal.
- Finis -