A/N: This is the final chapter in this series, I hope everyone enjoys it. Thank you all for coming along for the ride.
A/N:This is for Twinchester Angel who always gets what I'm trying to say.
A/N: Beta services provided by the awesome Ericka Jane.
Talk therapy sessions definitely weren't Dean's style. In fact, he'd only initiate one as a last resort. But, as he looked as his little brother almost limp from a migraine and still flushed with fever, he knew he had no other option. Sam was sitting up in bed resting against the headboard, his face lined with pain and exhaustion. Dean knew his brother needed to get some sleep but past experience had taught Dean that when Sam was this sick, he needed resolution more than rest.
So therapy it was.
"Tell me what's brothering you Sammy," Dean pressed. "What's wrong?"
Hearing his brother, time lost all significance for Sam and instantly he was transported back to the first time Dean had said those words. Not the last time when he'd deliberately shut himself off when Dean had reached out to him, but the very first time his body had given out on him; and as a hapless eleven-year-old he'd taken refuge in his big brother's strength.
"You could have died, Dean," Sam said, his voice trembling.
"And...?" Dean coaxed, waiting to hear more.
Sam's anger overtook his illness as his rage gave him strength.
"AND?" he spat, incredulously. "I almost lost my big brother; why the hell do I need an 'and'?"
Now it was Dean's temper that was blazing, and the gloves came off. "Oh, HELL no, Sammy!" he shouted, forgetting all consideration for the effects of noise on a migraine. "You've spent the last three days in a freaking coma for THAT?"
Dean was preparing to lay into Sam when the look on his brother's face rendered him instantly silent.
Sam was staring at him with a mixture of deep hurt and utter disbelief. In that moment Dean didn't see the hulking twenty-two-year-old who demanded to be treated as an equal. He didn't even see the defiant eighteen-year-old who had left his family and struck out on his own. Instead, he saw the little boy who would have done anything to get Dean's approval; the boy who he'd had the power to deflate or even destroy with one careless word.
Could it really be that after all this time he still held that power?
Dean didn't voice the question, but Sam gave him the answer.
"You don't get it, do you?" Sam said, fighting to keep his voice steady. "Twenty-two years and you still don't understand how much you mean to me."
"Sam," Dean raised his hands in a pacifying gesture which only served to fuel his brother's anger.
"Leave. Me. Alone," Sam turned away, seething with rage.
But Dean wasn't daunted.
They'd been here before and this was where it had broken down the last time. The last time when Sam had turned his back, Dean had foolishly walked away only to find out four years later that if had only pushed it could have spared them both a painful and bitter separation.
"Sam," Dean shook his brother's shoulder to force Sam to look at him.
Sam pushed the offending hand off, then swiftly swung his feet over the opposite side of the bed and attempted to stand up. But a stubborn migraine didn't exactly make for a good sense of balance which was absolutely essential for an enraged exit. So instead of storming out, Sam had to settle for sliding to the floor beside the bed, pulling his legs up to his chest and resting his now throbbing head on his knees.
Dean scrambled around the bed and went to his brother's side. Slowly, tentatively, he ran his hand down the back of Sam's head then gently rubbed between his shoulders.
"Sammy," now Dean's tone was soft, pleading. "I'm sorry, OK? I wasn't thinking. After I got electrocuted and those doctors told me my heart was gonna give out, you were so busy running all over the place and pushing to find a cure that I didn't even stop to think what you must have been going through. To be honest, I didn't really want to think about it."
Sam raised his head but stared straight ahead, not looking at his brother.
"When the doctors gave me your diagnosis it was like I held my breath, and couldn't let it out until I heard that you were gonna be OK. I just kept running and running because I knew if I slowed down and thought about what was happening, if I thought about actually losing you, I think I would have died even before your heart gave out."
"But I couldn't stop. I couldn't stop looking for a cure because for once in our lives you actually needed me to help you and I couldn't let you down."
He was going to lose it, Dean realised. If he didn't calm him down soon he was going to lose it completely.
"You came through, Sammy," Dean tried to reassure his distraught sibling. "I'm alive and in one piece because my stubborn, pain-in-the-neck, little brother wouldn't give up on me."
"I thought you were gonna die," Sam closed his eyes and leaned his head back against the bed. "All I could think was that I wasted four whole years not talking to you and when I finally got you back, I was gonna lose you all over again and for good this time."
"But it didn't happen, Sam," Dean interjected. "I'm right here in front of you."
"I wasted four years, Dean. And for what? A freaking college degree? Four years when I could have picked up the phone and called you but I was just too damn stubborn to do it."
Sam's voice was trembling with anguish and Dean knew he would have to move quickly in order to stave off the breaking of the dam or in no time, he'd be mopping up an endless flood of emotions.
Sam didn't care if he looked and sounded like a hysterical two-year-old; it had been a harrowing experience and he was still reeling from it. In the midst of the chaos, he had managed to keep a cool head and pour all his energy into finding anything or anyone that could save his brother. As he had frantically explored his options, he'd constantly fought off the panic that threatened to overwhelm him at even the thought of losing Dean.
Then, when he'd finally succeeded in getting his brother healed a goddamn reaper had the freaking nerve to try to take Dean away from him again. He'd barely managed to pull Dean from the edge of death when something else was there to drag him back. But Sam had been prepared to wage the mother of all tug-of-wars even if it killed him because nothing was going to take his brother away again.
"Sam, look at me," Dean insisted, turning his brother's head so they were face to face. That's when Dean saw the grief in Sam's eyes; the complete brokenness and abject distress at having come so close to being permanently separated from his big brother.
"I'm sorry about what happened to that man," Sam confessed. "And I'm sorry Layla couldn't be healed, but they weren't getting you, Dean. The reaper and Sue Ann could take anyone else on the planet but they WEREN'T GETTING YOU."
Hearing his sibling's hysterical pitch, Dean halted all attempts to keep the tide back. For Sam, tears had always been a big part of healing; and now, more than ever, he needed an emotional release to free his soul. Dean knew the breakdown would be messy, but it was necessary.
"Let it out," he said gently pulling Sam into a hug. "Just let it all out."
With permission granted Sam clung to his brother and cried. He cried the way he had cried when he was eleven. He cried the way he should have cried over the Stanford acceptance fiasco. He cried out all the pain he had felt at the thought of losing Dean. He cried out all the fear he felt at the thought of living in a world without his big brother. He cried for all the times he had picked up the phone to call but had allowed anger, pride and bitterness to prevent him from dialling. He cried like there was no tomorrow; holding on to Dean as if letting go would mean losing his life.
Dean held Sam tight, enveloping his brother in the hope that his physical embrace could provide the necessary emotional reinforcement. This is what being a big brother was all about: caring, protecting, nurturing. It had nothing to do with SAT scores, college acceptance, or career choices. Sam could have been the world's brightest student and the country's best lawyer but only Dean knew that deep inside the man was the little boy who would always need his big brother.
Dean knew he should have seen this coming. He and Sam had gone from one calamity to the next as his little brother had tried desperately to save him, and Dean should have anticipated the toll it would have taken on Sam when it was finally over. Dean should have expected the let down and he should have been ready for it.
When the tears subsided, Sam still clung to his brother, too weak to move and too exhausted to be embarrassed about his meltdown and frantic revelations. Dean hugged back determined not to break the connection until Sam had all he needed.
He may have been four years out of practice but Dean had perfected the art of comforting Sam during a extended period of training, which started from the day Sam was born and stretched well into his teenage years. Now, Dean easily remembered the ebb and flow of his brother's emotional outbursts and with Sam, it was all about timing. Dean knew when to let him rant, when to let him weep, and when to say or do something to pull him back.
So Dean waited until he sensed the eruption was subsiding and then he paved the way for a reasonably dignified exit.
"You always were a brat," he said vigorously rubbing the top of Sam's head with his knuckles. "But then, you always were my brat."
Sam couldn't help but snicker and then he graciously took the outro. Slowly releasing his brother he leaned back against the bed and wiped his face with the front of his T-shirt.
Dean shifted so he sat parallel to Sam with their shoulders touching. Now, he was the one struggling to keep his emotions in check. Even at the height of their estrangement Dean never really doubted his brother's love for him. But now, after all the insecurity generated by their acrimonious separation, he'd been confronted with the extent of that love and the height and depths of it, the sheer force and power behind it, was throwing him off balance. If he ever felt the need to demand proof that his brother cared for him, then the fact that Sam had suffered such an epic collapse in the wake of Dean's near death experience could more than stand as surety.
"Look," Dean began after taking several moments to gain composure. "I'm gonna be straight with you. I know you care about me Sammy, but I can't stand to see you like this. I can take a lot of things, but seeing you this sick will kill me faster than any damn reaper. I know everything that happened scared the crap out of you but I'm fine now. I'm O.K. because you refused to let me die. You saved my life, Sam. And I owe you for that, big time."
Sam snickered again, this time ruefully. "I think the score is Sam, one, Dean, one thousand."
"No it isn't. Sometimes saving someone isn't just a matter of jumping in between them and danger. Sometimes it's just as simple as being there like you're here now."
"You don't have to say that just to make me feel better, Dean."
"I'm not. When I saw you getting so sick again I thought you were gonna bolt just like the last time, and that's when I realised how much it means to me to have you here. I know you have issues with hunting, I know this isn't the life you wanted for yourself. You could be back at college now or anywhere else, and it means a lot to me that you're here. So trust me, the score's not as imbalanced as you think."
"If you say so," Sam said sincerely.
And there was that little boy again. Dean wondered if he would ever be able to look at Sam and not see the child that had meant the world to him.
"I do say so. And I mean it. Now you're gonna get in bed and you're gonna rest and get better so I don't die of a heart attack for real this time, O.K?"
"O.K.," Sam closed his eyes, powerless to fight off the exhaustion.
Dean got up, then hoisted Sam to his feet and settled him down on the bed. The argument had clearly sapped Sam's strength but as he curled on his side Dean noticed that his brother's features looked peaceful. Bringing the blankets up to Sam's chin, Dean tucked them underneath him to ensure he stayed warm. Then, he reached up and ran his hand through Sam's hair using his fingers to gently rub his brother's scalp. Sam sighed contentedly as the grip of his headache seemed to loosen with the soothing, stroking motion.
"Thanks, Dean," he murmured drifting to the edge of sleep. "For everything."
"If you really want to thank me get well and stay well," Dean ordered but he couldn't keep the tenderness out of his voice.
Tiredly, Sam put his hand on his brother's extended arm. "I will."
Dean went around to the other side of the bed and lay down beside Sam. He only meant to stay there for a few minutes just to make sure that Sam was in fact out for the count. But the sound of his brother breathing evenly was as powerful as a sedative and soon Dean willingly surrendered to slumber's call.
A/N: This is the second story in "the Bicycle Verse" so if you enjoyed it you can check out the other stories in the series, "Like Riding A Bicycle", "You Watch My Back, I Watch Yours" and "What Never Will Be".