A/N: This is for doyleshuny because sometimes a good Supernatural fic can help you get through the worst of times.
There isn't anything I wouldn't do for my little brother; but the one thing I wish I didn't have to do is get him through his memories of hell.
Everyone knows Sam's the emotional one but nothing breaks me like seeing him break down.
After the wall came down at first he tried to deal with the aftermath of hell on his own. Sometimes I would see him literally struggling to keep a check on his emotions; but at night he would lose his grip.
I suppose it's one thing to use all your will power to keep demons at bay when you're conscious. But when they invade your dreams, they have you cornered.
That is, unless you have a big brother who'll literally go to hell for you. And fortunately for Sam, he does. He knows that better than anyone and I guess that's why when the nightmares get horrific, he'll call out for me.
When I hear my name from the opposite bed in the dead of the night, I know it's bad; and tonight it looks awful. I'm on my feet the second Sam calls for me, and the first thing I do is let him know that it's only a dream. I shake him 'til he wakes up and then I get him to focus on me. Under most circumstances, I'm as rough with as any self-respecting brother should be. But when it comes to hell inspired nightmares, I'm so gentle that anyone looking would label me a momma's boy and I couldn't care less.
When Sam wakes up with the fear of hell in his eyes to me he seems more delicate than the infant Dad put in my arms almost thirty years ago when he told me to run from the fire. Sure he's ten feet tall and packs a ton of muscle but when I see the terror and vulnerability in his eyes I handle him with the care and tenderness of a new mother tending to her premature baby.
Once Sam is fully awake, I have to establish that it's me who's with him and not some sinister facsimile who'll do Lucifer's bidding. I start by convincing him that his big brother's here and I'll always protect him and care for him and I'll never hurt him. Then, when I get him out of the dream I have to get Lucifer out of his head. The best way to do that is to get him to talk; but for him to even mention the horrors he suffered he has to feel safe. He has to feel like nothing can harm him and to be honest, only a hug from big brother can do that.
So I hold on to him long enough for him to know that I'll do it for as long as it takes to get him grounded. And I hold him close enough for him to believe that if I'll willingly indulge in such a shameless display of affection then there really isn't anything I wouldn't do to keep him safe.
"It's O.K.," I tell him, trying not to be alarmed at how much he's trembling in my arms. "Big brother's here now and nothing's going to happen to you."
I wait, hoping the shaking will stop and his breathing will calm down. When that doesn't happen I try to reassure him even more.
"He can't hurt you, Sammy," I say, running my hand down his back. "I got you away from him and he can't hurt you anymore."
When Sam's only response is to cling to me even harder, I understand.
"I get it, Sammy," I say softly. "Escaping physically is one thing, now we've got to work on the psychological part."
I ease him back so we can make eye contact and even though he's nodding at me, they're tears streaming down his face. Nothing throws me off my game quicker than the sight of Sammy's tears and seeing him cry now leaves me struggling for control.
"Sammy," I grip his shoulders and try to keep my voice even. "Whenever it happens, you have to remember that it's just a dream. All you have to do is to call out for me. I'll hear and I promise I'll wake you up. Got that?"
Tearfully, he nods again. And I'm no therapist but I know Sam needs to talk, whether he realises it or not, so I gently press him some more.
"No matter how bad it gets Sam, if you remember anything, or if you feel like you're slipping back there, even if you're wide awake, just talk to me about it and I'll make sure you know what's real and what isn't, O.K.?"
Sam breaths out a shuddering sigh. "It's worse than I can tell you," he whispers. "It's more horrible than you can ever imagine."
"There's nothing you can't tell me, Sammy," I reassure him. "I don't care what he did to you or what he put you through, you can talk to me."
"I can't," he murmurs and I can feel him cowering in my arms.
"Yes, you can," I insist, tightening my grip on his arms. "Tell me Sam, what's the worst thing that happened, what's the worst thing you went through?"
When his only response is painful, laboured breathing, I gently push a little more. "Say it, Sammy," I whisper. "Once you say the words, it loses its power."
"The worst thing," he says urgently. "Was knowing that I'd never see you again and knowing that I was completely separated from the one person that meant more to me than my life."
Suddenly, I can't breathe.
And I realise – again – why no matter how hard I try, I'm completely incapable of living without my little brother.
Suddenly, I can't speak.
I want to say something that will comfort him and I search for just the right words to reassure; but the moment I try to say them, they die on my lips. All I can do is pull Sam to me and hold him. I know the force of the hug probably knocked the air out of his lungs, and I know I'm holding him so hard that I'll probably crack every last one of his ribs but I really don't care.
I'm not even going to pretend this is for Sammy, this is all about me. This is my share joy, relief and wonder that the person I love more than anything in this world loves me right back. Only Sam could face the fire of hell and come out of it with his deep, abiding ability to love another human being so strongly intact.
And even as his extreme vulnerability is laid so plainly in front of me, now, it pales in comparison to his incredible strength of character.
"You did it, Sammy," I tell him, not even caring that my voice is trembling like a girl's. "You took Lucifer's best shot, you faced your worst fears and you're still standing. I'm right here Sammy and you're right here with me. That bastard threw everything he had at you and you survived."
Now I think I'm crushing him, but he doesn't seem to care. My little brother takes my onslaught of affection in vintage Sam Winchester style, he cries like a baby.
"Of course I survived," he sobs, "I learned from the best."
When I hear those words, I'm done trying to hold it together.
And, when Sam lays his head on my shoulder and lets his tears flood out, for once, I feel like I could actually outcry him.