The Truth and Nothing But.
Chapter 4 and epilogue
Thank you so much for all your wonderful reviews, all of which were highly interesting to read, and extremely varied, especially when it came to the subject of Emma Wandell.
I would ask some of you to please try and remember that the poor girl was stressed and grief stricken over the loss of her father, and that she wasn't in her right mind. Don't forget what the brothers got up to in later seasons whilst grieving for each other.
Sorry I didn't have time to reply to your review for chapter 3, but I thought you guys would rather have the concluding chapter instead. I promise to reply to all reviews for this one.
As Sam's fingers nervously fiddled with the hem of his shirt, he resisted the urge to chew on his nails. He could sense Dean's heavy gaze on him, and the arm curled around his shoulder was almost tight enough to bruise.
"It was that girl in the street, right Sammy?" Dean asked, quietly. "Just before we checked in?"
Sam nodded. "She must have been following us, biding her time, waiting for us to split up."
Den sighed. "And now you're gonna tell me why you kept it to yourself."
"I knew you'd go after her," said Sam, risking a glance at him, and wincing when he saw the cold, hard anger in his eyes. "Dean, just leave her alone. She never meant to hurt me."
"Never point a gun at someone unless you intend to use it," Bobby growled, angrily, but neither brother was paying attention.
"The point is," Dean hissed, getting his face right in Sam's. "She did!"
He watched Sam for a few seconds, noting the dark circles under his eyes, and the way his tee-shirt just hung from his thin frame. The brothers would be taking a vacation from hunting until Sam filled out his clothes again, that was for damn sure.
But in the meantime, Dean had to make the kid understand a few things. Like how no one was shooting his little brother and living to tell about it.
"She methodically tracked us down," he said, quietly, deliberately, and all the more menacing for it. "Broke into our room, and threatened you with a loaded gun. Not a toy, not a decommissioned piece, but a real life, loaded, gun, Sam! So yeah, you bet your ass I'm going after her!"
Sam groaned in frustration. "Dean…"
"That bitch nearly killed you!" Dean roared, let go of Sam and sprung to his feet.
His fists were clenching and unclenching, like they were itching to punch something or someone. He paced away across the yard a few feet, and stood facing the sunset, hands by his sides, breathing deep and slow. After a few seconds of this, he swung around and paced right back over to Sam, staring him down.
"The bullet came within an inch of your heart. Did you know that? Huh?" Dean's haunted green eyes bore into Sam's. He crouched down until he was at Sam's eyelevel, and gently grasped the kid's shoulders with both hands. "You were coughing up blood by the gallon; I could see the life draining out of you. You held on, you were with me, but you were leaving and there was nothing I could do to stop you. So you see, Sam? I know what it's like, what you felt seeing that damn tape at Wandell's, 'cos I was right alongside you, and this time it was your blood on my hands. The only reason I came back to the room that night, was because I forgot my wallet, and when I saw the open door, and you… you were dying, Sammy."
Dean hung his head, but not quickly enough to hide the telltale glint of tears trickling down his face.
Sam just sat there staring at him, shocked into silence.
"You're my little brother, the only one I've got," Dean mumbled. He sniffed and wiped his nose on a sleeve. "And I'm not gonna just stand back and let hunters take pot-shots at you for something that wasn't your fault."
"I know," Sam whispered back. He reached over and squeezed Dean's shoulder. "But Emma… she lost her Dad, and she just went a little crazy for a while there. But she knows, now. I'm alive, that's the end of it. It's cool, Dean, let it go. Please?"
Dean lifted his head and regarded Sam through watery eyes. Eventually, he nodded, slowly.
"Ok, Sam. If you insist," he said, wearily. "We'll play it your way."
Sam was instantly suspicious. Dean never usually gave in this easy.
"You sure?" he queried. "Really?"
Dean's smile was slow in coming but when it did, for Sam it was like having the sun on his face after a long, dark winter.
"Whatever you say, dude," said Dean, suddenly ruffling Sam's hair and earning a decidedly unmanly squeak of protest from the younger brother. "Ya big girl!"
"Dean! Get off me!"
So busy squirming and trying to straighten his hair, Sam missed the look that passed between Dean and Bobby, which was just as well, because if he'd seen it?
It might well have made him angry.
"I got her exact address."
"Good. I'll drop by later on."
"Just be careful."
"I'm always careful."
"I'm just sayin' don't drop your guard for a pretty pair of eyes, Dean. Sam said she's young but knows one end of a gun from the other."
"But apparently not the safety catch."
"Touché. Just go in, and get it over with, fast."
"Bobby, there's only one thing in this world that I ain't fast at…"
"It's real important to my sanity that you don't finish that sentence, Dean."
Dean laughed softly at that, but let it go.
"I'll wait 'til Sam's asleep, then I'll slip out. According to Google maps her place is only a few miles away."
"Call me when you're done. And Dean?"
"Don't make too big a mess, huh kid?"
Dean grinned, pocketed his phone and headed back to the motel room with several bags of takeout food.
It had been over a month since the brothers left Singer Salvage, over two months since the shooting. They'd picked up a few light and easy hunts here and there, mainly harmless ghosts scaring the bejesus out of tourists or, in one case, a whole parish of church goers.
Sam hadn't mentioned Emma again, and Dean made every effort not to bring her up. The scar on Sam's chest from the bullet's exit wound was gradually fading, though the kid still winced in pain from time to time, usually after a particularly long day.
In those moments, Dean would feel all the blood drain away from his face, see Sam's blood on his hands, on Sam's back, coming out of his mouth, a growing pool of it on the carpet. He'd immediately push his brother down onto a nearby seat and finish off whatever he happened to be doing at the time, usually amid protests of "I'm fine, Dean." Or "I got it covered, Dean." Or just a plain, drawn out, whiny "Deeean!"
Dean's answer was invariably along the lines of "Shut up, bitch."
Overall, Sam was much brighter these days, their sucky life style aside, and Dean was relieved to see his little brother's sense of humour, and classic array of bitch faces, well and truly back up to par.
He dropped the food bags on the scratched up motel room table.
"What did you get?" asked Sam, eagerly, running a comb through his thick hair.
Dean grinned. His little brother's appetite was also back to normal, at last. In fact, it was vastly improved.
"Chinese, and there was a classic Old English Fish and Chip Shop next door."
Sam sniffed at the bags of food like a hungry, inquisitive puppy. "Nice! Which one are you having?"
Dean took off his jacket and slung it over the back of a chair. "There's enough of each for both of us so tuck in, dude. Don't let it get cold."
Sam grabbed a handful of thick chips and began eating them right away.
"This is great," he announced, after carefully chewing and swallowing. "I think I almost prefer these to fries."
Dean, on the other hand, wasn't nearly so genteel.
"I know, right?"
But it came out, "Ay oooh, 'ight?" hampered, as it were, by the large mouthful of battered sausage he'd stuffed unceremoniously into his mouth.
Sam grimaced in disgust. "How the hell you get girls to sleep with you is really beyond me, dude."
Dean swallowed and smacked his lips suggestively. "Let's just say, I have special talents."
"How 'bout we don't just say, huh?" Sam retorted and stole another few chips from Dean's portion.
Dean smacked his hand away when it came creeping back for more, seconds later. "Hey! You got your own!"
"Yeah, but it always tastes better when it's someone else's," replied Sam, with a cheeky grin.
Den scowled. "Brat!"
Sam laughed, reached over for the Chinese and dipped a chip in the sweet and sour sauce.
"It's in the Little Brother job description, so I take that as a compliment."
"Did you know that Little Brother Ass Kicking is in the Big Brother job description?" Dean remarked, casually.
Sam just grinned and threw a chip at him.
Several hours and one too many beers later, Sam was out cold and snoring on the furthest bed, long limbs sprawled out like an over-sized starfish. Dean grinned fondly, and ruffled his hair again, making good and sure to mess it up properly.
He grabbed his jacket, checked the clip on his Taurus and slipped out the door. He made sure to lock it behind him, though that wouldn't stop a hunter with the right skills and tools. Which was why, for once, he'd chosen a room in full view of the roadhouse, parking lot and reception building. No hunter worth their salt would try to pick the lock with CCTV cameras trained on them, and around a dozen or so witnesses coming and going from the bar. And in the case of another visit from Meg? There was a devil's trap painted above the motel room door on the inside.
For a short while, Sam was relatively safe, but Dean had to be quick if he wanted to get back before the bar clientele became too drunk. A good hunter would wait patiently to take advantage of that, and hide their face from the cameras in some way.
The Impala rumbled approvingly when Dean finally got her out onto the open road, and put his foot to the floor.
It was time to pay Miss Wandell a visit.
Her bedroom balcony door was wide open, white drapes fluttering in the warm evening breeze.
Dean scanned the street outside. No one appeared to pay him any attention, and the only people on the street were a dog walker and a little old man hobbling along with the aid of a wooden cane.
It was a nice enough area, Dean observed, with lush green grass lawns and plenty of leafy trees lining each driveway.
For a former college kid turned-back-into-hunter, she sure had a nice place. Her old man had left a decent enough nest egg to provide for his daughter. Bobby's resources had uncovered several lucrative investments made by Steve Wandell over the years, with the majority of the profits going straight into Emma's bank account. It seemed that Wandell had also been an insurance broker before he was called to hunting, the reasons for which Bobby hadn't been able to ascertain.
Dean didn't hang around waiting for the grass to grow under his feet. He marched straight up to her front door, and calmly knocked, smiling at the elderly guy who nodded in return and shuffled on by.
He counted to ten and pressed his ear to the door.
Dean smiled, and headed back away from the front door and casually sauntered around to the rear of the building, where he spied a pair of long, slim, denim clad legs hanging over the chain link fence, attached to a shapely ass and a slender waist.
Pulling out his Taurus from the back of his jeans, Dean made a special show of noisily cocking the weapon.
The figure hanging over the fence froze and a pretty, young, familiar face turned his way.
"Thought you should know," Dean drawled, hard eyes fixed on her tiny form as she tried to wiggle her way down off the fence. "My safety catch ain't on. I made sure of that."
Emma Wandell stopped struggling, and sighed deeply. "You're Dean Winchester, Sam's brother," she said, apologetically.
Dean ignored her tone. He wasn't here for that.
"Get down from the fence, nice and slow," he said, and his lip curled humourlessly. "Don't want any accidents now, huh?"
The girl bit her lip and appeared a little embarrassed.
"Uh… I would…" she turned her head to fully face Dean. "But I'm… uh… kind of stuck. I think my sweater's caught on the fence."
Dean stared at her for a long moment. Then he lowered his weapon with a loud, annoyed huff.
"Oh, for God's sake!"
Stuffing the Taurus back into the waistband of his jeans, he strode over and grabbed her legs, holding her up.
"Now, either slip out of the sweater or pull it free," he demanded.
"Hang on… I think it's coming free…" she announced and, with a triumphant squawk, fell heavily against Dean when the sweater let out a ripping noise.
Dean's eyes just about crossed when a tiny, booted foot nearly slammed into his joy department, but thankfully missed by a narrow margin.
Bits of sweater were left dangling off the fence, the remainder of it still wrapped around her shoulders.
"Thanks," she mumbled, got to her feet, and tore the rest away, leaving a plain, black v-neck, tee-shirt that accentuated her assets in all the right places.
Dean's eyebrows twitched a little, and his mouth filled with saliva. He'd be forever left with the memory of that warm, tight little body right next to his when he pulled her from the fence. But it wasn't the time or place. He had to remind himself what he was here for.
"C'mon," he grabbed her arm to steady her, and incidentally prevent the little minx from doing a runner on him. "I need coffee, and you need to listen."
"Where are we going?" she spluttered as she was virtually dragged along the sidewalk towards the front of the building.
"Why, we're going up to your apartment, and you're gonna make us some fresh coffee," Dean smiled sweetly, and nodded to a passer-by as they emerged back on the main street. "Just like old friends."
"I only drink tea…"
"Look lady," Dean stopped and rounded on her, feeling a twinge of satisfaction when the woman flinched. "Something tells me you ain't taking this too seriously, so let me clarify for you exactly why I'm here: You shot my brother, and damn near killed him!"
Her eyes filled with tears, but she didn't look away. "I know. And I'm sorry."
Dean stared hard at her. "Not good enough."
"Wh-what are going to do with me?" she stammered, fearfully.
Dean felt the first pang of guilt and wondered if he could really go through with this. Then he remembered Sam, bleeding to death, in pain, eyes begging for help, body soaked in his own blood. Just that fleeting memory was enough to stiffen his resolve.
He ignored her question. "Open the door. Nice and relaxed, now. Don't want to draw attention to ourselves," his voice went back to friendly, but his eyes were icy, his smile brittle. "You scream or do anything to bring help, and I'll shoot you right here where you stand."
She ducked her head and nodded, fumbling for the door keys to her apartment building.
Neither of them said a word as they climbed the stairwell to the second floor. With a shaky hand, Emma unlocked her apartment door, and was immediately pushed inside by a rough hand to her back.
"Sit," Dean had the Taurus back in hand, and used it to point to the kitchen table just inside the door.
Emma did as she was told, sitting down at the head of the table in a solid pine wood chair with arm rests.
Her eyes widened when Dean dumped a small pack on the floor, and brought out rope and two sets of handcuffs.
"What are those for," she asked in a shaky voice.
Dean ignored her. Instead, he grabbed her left wrist and cuffed it to the armrest, then repeated with the other wrist. He wrapped the rope around her waist and the chair back, then wound it downwards and around her legs until she was completely secured to the chair, with little or no wiggle room.
He turned another chair round, and straddled it, facing her with a scary looking smile, and the Taurus aimed straight between her eyes.
Emma raised her chin and met his gaze.
"Do it," she said, voice firm and bold this time. "Just finish it, here and now."
Dean narrow-eyed gaze didn't waver. "Nothing would give me more pleasure than to blow those pretty little brains out. And we'll get to that part. Oh believe me, we will. But first." He lowered the gun to the table and pulled a note pad and pen from his jacket pocket. "I want names."
Emma looked genuinely confused. "Of whom?"
Dean's laugh wasn't pleasant. "Your Daddy, God rest him, had hunting buddies. Men who are gonna come after Sam for what happened, and I intend to be prepared for them." He tapped the pen against the note pad. "So, I want names, and I want to know about any special weapons or talents."
"But," she shook her head. "How would they know it was Sam? The only reason I know is because of the copy of that tape I got in the mail…" she trailed off when it occurred to her.
Dean nodded, slowly. "Exactly. Who's to say Meg didn't pass around more copies of that damn tape."
"I-I guess," Emma frowned and thought about it. "Dad trained me to hunt with him after Mom was killed by a poltergeist. I was about eleven years old at the time. But he never really introduced me to other hunters." She saw the disbelieving look on Dean's face and added hurriedly, "oh, a couple dropped by over the years, but Dad would always take them into the study. Said they were good guys, great hunters, but he didn't really want me getting mixed up with them until I was older. And, then, I wanted to go to college…"
"How did your Dad deal with that?" Dean interrupted, curiously, thinking of the dark day his little brother left for higher education.
Emma barked out a short, unladylike laugh. "Not too well at first, but when he realised it was really what I wanted out of life," she shrugged, as far as the restraints allowed it, and smiled sadly. "We agreed that I would keep up training, and go hunting together some weekends. It wasn't ideal, but he figured it was the best he was gonna get from me. In the end, he just wanted me to be happy, be a part of my life, and this was the best compromise."
Her smile faded and her eyes filled with tears. "When I got that tape, I thought it was from him, one of his cryptic clues for our next hunt. He liked to keep me on my toes, he said, make sure college wasn't making me too soft." Emma sniffed and dropped her gaze to stare at the kitchen table. "I didn't think anything of it. Just put it in the VCR, pressed play…"
She took a deep shuddering breath, and when she spoke next her voice was shaky.
"At first I thought it was a sick joke someone was playing on me, but then I found the note, telling me who the man on the tape was," she glanced at Dean again, her tears finally rolling down her face. "Your brother."
"Where is the note?" Dean asked, sharply. "Do you still have it?"
Not that he needed the confirmation. He was pretty sure it was from Meg, rather than another hunter who happened on the tape by chance.
Emma nodded. "Yeah. Don't know why the hell I kept it. It's in the cookie jar over there," she jerked her head in the direction of a white porcelain cookie jar with red poppies painted all over it, sitting on top of the kitchen work top.
Dean's chair scraped against the floor slightly. Keeping the girl firmly in his sights, he slunk over to the jar and pulled off the lid.
He glanced back at her with a raised eyebrow when he pulled out the note and a small, ladies Derringer-style pistol.
She shrugged again. "It worked for Rockford."
"Until his Dad's cleaning lady found it," Dean acknowledged, dryly, but a little impressed all the same. He and Sam had cut their first teeth on old episodes of The Rockford Files, during many evenings spent in skanky motel rooms waiting for their dad.
He read the note, frowning.
It said, simply, "Presenting, your father's murderer: Sam Winchester."
In Sam's handwriting.
A written confession, in other words.
All things considered, the brothers sure were lucky Emma Wandell hadn't handed the tape and note straight over to the cops. The evidence was highly incriminating, and Sam would have been sent down for life.
Meg, you sure are one clever bitch, huh? Thought of everything… but it wasn't enough.
"What do you intend on doing with that?" asked Emma, looking at the note.
"Same thing I'm gonna do with the tape, once you tell me where it is," replied Dean, matter-of-factly. "Destroy it."
Emma nodded. "It's in the safe under my bed. Code 03061985."
Dean couldn't contain his sarcasm. "Let me guess. Your birthday?"
"No," said Emma. "My brother's."
"You have a brother?"
"Not anymore. Died in Afghanistan last year."
Dean's face fell. Shit.
"No. It's just me, now. I'm the only one left."
Dean couldn't imagine it. To be the last one standing, with no one to watch out for and no one, in turn, to watch your back.
"That… sucks," he mumbled, feeling true sympathy for the first time since he dragged her back to the apartment and tied her to the chair. "I'm sorry."
"Doesn't matter," she said, sadly. "I've still got college if I decide to go back to it, or hunting… plenty to keep me occupied, I guess." She snorted. "Well, up until now, at least."
Dean stared at her, thoughtfully, but still didn't lower the Taurus. As sympathetic as he felt towards her, no one, absolutely no one threatened and shot his kid brother. Dean had no intention of becoming the last of the Winchesters, not if he could help it.
"Uh… my Dad did keep a hunting journal," Emma suddenly perked up. "I haven't really had a chance to look through it, since I was… ya know, tracking you guys down." She had the grace to flush with embarrassment. "It's in the top drawer of the bureau in my bedroom. It might have some names and such, some of Dad's hunting friends are bound to be mentioned in there."
Dean continued staring at her for so long that Emma began shifting uncomfortably in her tight bindings.
Suddenly, he spoke, his voice low pitched with warning.
"I'm gonna go find this journal, and the tape" he said, leaning forward into her personal space and looking her right in the eye. "And you better still be here when I get back. Believe me, lady, you don't want me to come looking for you."
Emma gulped and nodded frantically. "Of course," she murmured.
Dean shifted around her and headed towards the main living area. He glanced back at her occasionally, just to be sure, but she kept still and silent in her seat, not even attempting to free herself from the rope and cuffs.
Her back was to the living room, and he moved so silently that Emma had no idea Dean had returned to the kitchen, until she felt the barrel of his gun pressed against the back of her skull.
"I have what I came for," he whispered in her ear, sending a chill down her spine. "You've been most helpful, Emma. I'll be sure to tell my brother after your funeral."
Emma closed her eyes, and tried not to flinch when the loud click of the cocking mechanism reverberated through her brain. Her breaths came in short pants and she inwardly tried to calm herself down. This was it. Time to go join the rest of her family…
Dean squeezed the trigger.
When she woke up, some hours later, the room was dark, and the night sky was clouded over. The cuffs had been removed, but the rope remained. There on the kitchen table, just catching what little light came in from the street outside, lay Emma's own hunting knife, freshly sharpened.
It wasn't until she'd managed to free herself that she found the note pinned to her tee shirt.
"The only reason you're still alive is because of a promise I made to Sam. I ever hear of you so much as being in the same state as my little brother, and I will come looking for you."
Simple, but menacing.
Emma sighed, more than well aware that she'd gotten off lightly.
Yet, it somehow made her sad. From the moment she laid eyes on Dean Winchester she'd accepted her fate, embraced it even. Now that it was all over, and the guy had left her alive and well, it seemed... well, it seemed a bit of an anticlimax.
Emma had wanted to go. She'd been ready.
She glanced at the cookie jar on the work top.
Seconds later she was sitting on the sofa in the living room, nursing a straight whisky, the very same brand her father used to drink. She hated the stuff, but the bitter scent reminded her of home, love, and the only family she'd had left.
She stared at the Derringer held loosely in her hand throughout the night, mesmerised by it.
In the end, Sam Winchester had saved her, in more ways than one.
The only thing standing between Emma Wandell and a self-inflicted bullet to the brain had been Sam's insistence that she live, to make her father proud. And she was only given grace by Dean Winchester because of some stupid promise his brother had forced on him.
Yeah, she had made some pretty stupid, insane decisions of late. Her father would have been devastated, and bitterly disappointed with her.
Emma broke down and sobbed relentlessly. Her tears flowed well into the early hours of the morning, until she fell into an uneasy whisky-induced sleep.
Dean crept into the dark motel room and paused. He didn't remember turning off the nightstand lamp, or the TV.
"So, did you find her?" Sam's sleep husky voice came from the bathroom.
Sure enough, when Dean looked there was a tall shadow leaning against the bathroom door frame.
Sighing, Dean reached over to the nightstand and turned on the lamp, letting the room flood with soft light.
"Are you going to answer me?" Sam demanded and stumbled towards him.
"Sam, just leave it," Dean wasn't going to bother asking how Sam knew.
"No," said Sam, standing close and glaring at his brother. "You promised me, Dean. You promised that you wouldn't hurt her…"
"And I didn't, ok?" Dean's voice was surprisingly soft, in spite of how much it hurt to hear that Sam doubted his word. "She gave me the tape and her father's journal."
"What?" Sam's double take was almost comical. "Why?"
Dean gently pushed Sam down on his bed. Kid was still a little drunk, and by the way he was rubbing his chest he was obviously in some pain. He was also shivering slightly, and Dean realised just how cool the room had become overnight.
"Because I wanted to know who might be coming after us," he explained, pulling up part of Sam's blanket and wrapping it around him. "Emma agreed there was a possibility that Meg sent other copies of that tape out to her dad's hunting buddies."
He squeezed the back of Sam's neck and stared into his bleary eyes.
"And I want to be ready for them. No one else is gonna get the drop on us again."
Sam's eyes filled with tears and he tried blinking them away, but they rebelliously rolled off his face.
"I'm sorry," he muttered, and sniffed. "I thought… oh God, I'm so sorry, Dean. I should've known you wouldn't…"
Sam hissed softly, and rubbed his chest again.
Any hurt Dean harboured over Sam's apparently lack of faith in him, dissolved immediately. He clapped his soft hearted, gentle giant of a brother on the shoulder.
"It's ok," he replied, and smiled at Sam to prove it. "Now c'mon, dude. You need sleep. We both do."
Sam let Dean tuck him in like he was six years old again, and sleepily watched his brother's own preparations for bed.
"Is she gonna be ok?" he whispered.
Dean paused, then went ahead with tugging off his jeans.
"As well as can be expected."
He wasn't going to mention her brother. Sam felt bad enough as it was.
"But yeah," he slipped under his own blankets, and rolled on to his side, facing Sam. "She'll be ok. Eventually. She doesn't blame you, by the way, not anymore."
He heard movement from Sam's bed, and the soft rustle of sheets as the kid also rolled to face him.
"Do you think she'll hunt, now? Or carry on with college?"
Dean suppressed a sigh. Sometimes he wondered if Bobby's truth drug was still knocking around Sam's system. Ever since the day of the spiked stew, Sam hadn't stopped talking. Great though that was, it was downright annoying at times like this when they needed sleep.
Still, Sam posed an interesting question.
"Honestly?" replied Dean, squinting into the darkness, only just making out the shape of Sam's face against his pillow. "Once she's thought things through, I think she'll blow off college, and hunt full time. Her father was killed by a demon, and that's a gold star, one hundred percent prime beef, classic call to the hunt."
"Yeah," Sam murmured, sadly. "I guess so."
The room fell silent, and Dean was just dozing off when Sam spoke again.
"I know what you and Bobby did, by the way," he mumbled around a yawn.
Dean's eyes snapped open, now completely wide awake.
"And I get it, I do," Sam continued, oblivious to his brother's reaction. "You were worried about me, and I was being a pain in the ass. But it wasn't fair, Dean."
Dean swallowed hard, and wondered when the air had gotten so dry.
"Sam…" he croaked, and swallowed again, then finally managed to get the words out. "Believe me, we wouldn't have even considered it, but you were fading away. I'd only just got you back from the hospital, and I was losing you again. To your own guilt. If there'd been another way…"
"Don't apologise," Sam cut in before Dean could say any more. "I don't need it, Dean, I'm cool. We're cool. Just…" he sighed, sounding despondent. "Just, don't do it again, ok?"
Dean sat up and turned on the lamp again. He needed to see his brother, to look him in the eyes for this.
"I won't ever do it again, Sammy," he whispered. "I promise you. So long as you promise to never shut me out again."
No way was he making any promises like that to Sam unless he was getting some kind of reassurance in return.
Sam blinked up at him.
"I didn't shut you out, Dean," he sniffed, eyes looking suspiciously bright again. "I just… I didn't know what to do, how to deal with what happened. And I know I should've just talked to you, but every time I tried, the words got stuck in my throat and I felt like throwing up."
Dean nodded. "We figured it was something like that."
Sam surprised him by letting out a soft laugh, thankfully breaking the awkward mood.
"Just ask me, next time, huh?" said Sam, smiling at him through his bangs.
"Yeah, yeah," said Dean, rolling his eyes. "Next time you clam up tighter than the NSA I'll just ask "Hey, Sam? You mind if we drug you? 'Cos, dude, it's four in the morning and you don't talk enough."
They both laughed this time.
"Point taken," Sam let out another yawn and closed his eyes for a second. When he opened them again, he caught his brother looking at him with that rare show of tender concern he only reserved for Sam, usually when he was sick or hurt. "Thanks, Dean."
The look was gone in a second. "What the hell for?" the older brother scoffed, brushing it off.
Sam smiled, eyelids drooping, all sleepy and content. "For just being you."
He was asleep and snoring in the next instant, and Dean shook his head, smiling.
"Stupid kid," he muttered, affectionately, and turned out the lamp for the last time.
Well there you go, peeps! Hope you all enjoyed that, but do take a few moments of your time to click that review button and show your appreciation, eh? It only encourages me to let the plot bunnies start hopping again, and the sooner that happens the sooner I'll give you another story.
Love ST xxx