It'd been a long week and Dean was doing his best to drive away from it.
Sam was in the passenger seat, knees against the glove box, hands folded in his lap, staring out the windshield. He'd been quiet for miles, for hours, for most of the five days that had passed in a blur after the cannery, after electrocuting the Khan worm out of Bobby and getting him to the ER, then salting and burning Samuel and Gwen and Rufus, then getting Bobby back out of the hospital and back home again, and then burying Rufus' ashes and hearing Bobby's tale of how Rufus had come to be in his life and then out of it again.
It'd been a long, bad week.
They were leaving South Dakota behind them. They were leaving Bobby behind too, but right now that was okay with Dean. Bobby was the only family he had now beside Sam, but sometimes all Dean needed was Sam. Sam and the car and a few hundred miles of good road in front of him. And now was one of those times.
They weren't headed anywhere specific; Dean planned to just drive until he couldn't drive anymore. But he needed to drive.
Sam's soft voice worried him. He sounded dazed or nauseous or worse.
"Did I do something worse to you than letting you get turned by the vampire?"
Dean's immediate thought was to give a glib answer, 'Yeah, you told Charity Mankiewicz in 9th grade that I didn't like girls…' but that wouldn't be a good answer, not with the look Sam was giving him, worried and serious and scared. But though Dean couldn't think of anything worse than the vamp, until he knew what Sam was really asking and why, saying 'no' could be a bad answer too.
"Why're you asking?"
"What Samuel said."
"What did Samuel say?" Dean asked, trying to not go ballistic. Samuel must've said something in the brief minutes he and Sam were alone in the cannery, and if Sam had been picking at it this whole damn week then that was a whole damn week he'd been picking at the Wall.
"He said – when you said he'd offered us up to the ghouls, that he'd offered his own flesh and blood up to the ghouls, he said I'd done even worse things than that."
Dean expected a little more answer than that, but when nothing more came, he realized – Samuel told Sam he'd done worse, and to Sam that translated into doing something worse to Dean.
"He wasn't talking about me, Sam."
That only seemed to perplex Sam more.
"Well – did I do something to him? To Samuel? Or Gwen? Or –"
"He wasn't talking about family."
"But – you know – flesh and blood. We were talking about flesh and blood."
"We were talking about flesh and blood - he wasn't. We weren't flesh and blood to Samuel. We were a way for him to earn brownie points with Crowley, that's all. None of us were anything to him but an expedient."
"Oh." Sam turned back to looking out the windshield. "Yeah. I guess. But still – he still said that I did worse."
What Samuel said, what he didn't say, what RoboSam did, what Sammy didn't do – right now, Dean just didn't care. But – he knew – Sam cared.
"Look. Forget what Samuel said. He was lying. He wanted to believe that nothing was his fault, that it was all on anybody else. Whatever happened with RoboSam, Samuel didn't stop it. He knew what was up and he didn't do one damn thing about it."
"He wanted to bring Mom back." Sam said, as though he might be thinking that excused Samuel.
"He wanted to bring his daughter back." Dean corrected him. "You know, I never once heard him mention our grandmother. He only wanted Mom. How effed up is that?" Dean thought about it. "Actually, I almost wish he'd been able to bring Mom back. Once she found out what he did – to us, to you – I would've loved to see him get a faceful of Mom pissed. "
Sam only sighed and shook his head, and then he closed his eyes for a minute like he was tired or getting overwhelmed.
"Look, Sam – for what it's worth, there's a cure for getting vamped and RoboSam knew it."
"A cure that could've killed you."
"Sam -." But Dean stopped. Yelling at Sam for still feeling guilty about things he didn't even know about – that wasn't going to get them anywhere.
"Was that the worst thing I did to you?" Sam asked. "Cas told me what little he knew, but – was that the worst thing?"
"I am not helping you poke the Wall."
And that got Sam to be quiet again for another half a minute. But he was only using that half a minute to think some more.
"Dean – I need to know if there's something worse out there that's going to come jump on my back when I'm not expecting it. You want me to keep that Wall standing? Then I need to know – Dean, I need to know what the worst thing is that's behind it. If I know that – if I know the worst thing then I don't have to fear everything else that's behind it as much."
And still – 'worse, worst, and worser still' to Sam meant something done to Dean.
Dean wanted to tell Sam that the worst thing of being with RoboSam was not knowing what was going on with him, with Sam, and not being able to help him, then knowing that part of him was still in hell, still suffering inconceivable agonies and still not being able to help him. But Sam would keep blowing off any concern for himself and keep picking at the Wall with or without Dean's help because – Dean knew - having to face the memories of one hundred and eighty years in hell didn't faze Sam. He wasn't worried about anything done to him in hell; he worried about Dean and everybody else in the world more than he ever worried about himself.
But he was worried first about what he'd done to Dean.
"Hey-" Dean said. Sam turned to look at him. "Nothing worse about me is coming over that Wall, okay? I promise."
"Yeah. Okay. Thanks."
It didn't help though, Dean could tell that didn't help Sam as much as he might've wanted it to.
And of course it didn't because right behind Dean behind that Wall –
"What do you think the worst thing is I did to anybody else?"
- was the rest of the world.
"Sam. Leave it alone."
"What would you do?" Sam demanded. "You know what you'd do – you'd tear the Wall to pieces until you had all the answers, until you settled every debt you owed, no matter what happened to you because of it."
"Yeah – well…" Dean sighed. "You're not that selfish."
"You're not that selfish." Dean repeated. "Yeah, I'd rip that Wall down, damn the consequences, and then you'd be left with the drooling mess of what was left of my brain, because I never think about how my actions are going to affect you. I only care about doing what I want to do. You're not that selfish."
Sam stared at Dean a few moments, but he didn't say anything. Then he turned to look out the windshield again.
"I don't think you're selfish." Sam whispered. "I am – you're not."
"Oh, I think we have overwhelming evidence to the contrary."
Sam shook his head and folded his hands again. His voice shook.
Dean thinned his lips in a tight line because that was the only way to hide the smile. After everything, after all the misery, rancor, and missed opportunities, after any other brothers would've long since gone their angry, separate ways, Sam still stood up for Dean, even to Dean himself.
If anybody hadn't deserved to go to hell – if anybody deserved to never go back to hell again - it was Sam.
"Sammy – you know what the worst thing behind that Wall is for me?"
"What?" Sam asked it, looking at Dean with such intense hopefulness and apprehension, like Dean had the answer to some question Sam hadn't known to ask yet.
"You, man. You're stuck behind that Wall and I'm trying everything I can to get you completely back on this side with me. But it feels like every single time I let go or look away, you do your damnedest to throw yourself right back over, right back into hell. And man, you have to stop that. You keep scaling that wall, trying to get a look over the top and eventually you're going to pull it right down on top of yourself and that'll be the end of you and we both know it. I can't lose you again."
He stopped talking but Sam didn't say anything in answer to it. He looked at Dean, then he looked at his hands, then he looked out the passenger window.
"So just – stay on this side with me, all right? I don't want to crawl over that wall to get you, but so help me, I will if I have to."
It took a minute or so but Sam finally answered.
"Yeah. Okay. I will. I'll stay on this side." He turned to look at Dean. "I promise."
"Thank you." Dean said. He thought that would be the end of it, case closed, discussion over, Little Brother safe and sane and sound where he belonged. But Sam kept looking at him, until Dean finally looked back.
"Thank you." Sam said, and Dean didn't even have to ask him for what.
"Yeah, well, you'd do the same for me."
Sam nodded, and looked down at his hands again. After a minute, his stiff posture loosened and he relaxed into the bench seat. He even reached over and turned on the radio to the station Dean liked.
It'd been a long, bad week, but at least they were driving away from it together.