This is just a silly little fic that had been playing on my mind for the last few weeks. So, after having knocked out another chapter of Hunter of the Shadows Book 3, I thought I'd reward myself with this.
It's similar to a combination of other season 2 fics I've written, and inspired by others I've read and enjoyed by some of the best fan fic authors out there.
It's angsty, it's brotherly love, and it's set early season 2.
One of my favourite time periods of the show.
Warning: possible swearing, attempted suicide… ooooh so angsty!
Many thanks to the lovely Devon99 for the beta, especially given what a busy lady she is. Much love to you, my dear.
They'd been at Bobby Singer's place for a couple of weeks now, and yet the scrapes and bruises had barely faded. Sam still looked like shit.
Dean wasn't faring much better, though his injuries were more of the hidden kind. Sam wasn't stupid. His brother was fully healed from the damage inflicted by Yellow Eyes as well as the crash, but down inside, where the deepest scars never healed, Dean was torn to pieces.
He'd rarely looked Sam in the eye the last few weeks, and most certainly never instigated conversation.
"I don't know what to do?" Sam whispered, but his pale reflection had little advice to offer.
If you'd killed that damn demon when you had the chance, none of this would've happened.
His father's words from their fight in the hospital came back to haunt him for the hundredth time that day. Each time Sam heard them, resonating round his head like a bullet ricocheting off armour plating, his Dad's voice grew louder and louder, until it was all Sam could do not to clutch at his head and scream until he turned blue.
It kept sleep at bay which in some ways, he supposed, was a blessing. If you can't sleep, you can't dream, which means no nightmares, right?
Sam's daydreams were becoming as terrifying as night terrors, in that they prodded and poked at his guilty conscience, and seared him down to the bone with their hefty accusations.
It was obvious what John Winchester had done for his oldest son. Even Bobby Singer had raised a suspicious eyebrow when he heard the news of his old friend's death. Dean had just shrugged, forlornly, and headed for the tool shed, his mind already going back to the Impala.
Sam hadn't slept in days, had given up on eating, and Bobby was beginning to ask questions in that gruff manner of his.
'You ok, Sam?'
'Want me to fix you something to eat, kid?'
Each time Sam answered I'm fine, and No thanks, respectively, but the older hunter wasn't buying it. One afternoon, Bobby had cornered Sam in the kitchen and forced him down into a seat with a hand on his shoulder. If he was shocked that Sam could be manhandled so easily, he didn't mention it. He merely placed a cheese and ham sandwich on the table in front of him, frowned fiercely as if to say 'don't even think 'bout pushing it away' and sat at the other end of the table, most notably between Sam and the door.
One bite, and it was like even his own taste buds had given up on him and walked away. The sandwich hit his stomach and lodged there like a bowling ball, heavy and painful, but Sam smiled gratefully at Bobby just the same, and thanked him in a small voice that really should have belonged to a shy six year old.
'Don't mention it, kid' he'd mumbled.
Satisfied his point had been made, Bobby had headed out to the yard with another sandwich, presumably with the same aim in mind with regards to Sam's brother.
Feeling his gut churn, Sam had bolted from the kitchen, clambered frantically up the stairs, and stumbled into the bathroom just in time to regurgitate the sandwich into the toilet bowl.
And that left him with an empty stomach once again, and no closer to his brother, whom Sam feared he was losing piece by piece, day by day.
Just like his mind.
"I can't do this anymore," he whispered at his reflection, tears gathering in his eyes.
Reaching out to the bathroom cabinet, Sam sniffed and hesitated just for a second.
This was for the best, he reminded himself.
Sam needed Dean to ground him, to pull him out of the darkness before it consumed him whole. But Dean didn't want Sam anywhere near him, just buried himself under the ruined Impala and did what he could to fix it, because he couldn't fix Sam and he couldn't bring their Dad back.
And Dad clearly wasn't the only one who blamed Sam for what happened.
Though it had never been said, somehow Dean blamed him too.
Sam knew it, could feel it, the words hanging over them like a black cloud, heavy with rain and thunder. Every night, when he lay in bed and stared sleeplessly up at the cracked ceiling, he heard what Dean didn't say.
Should have been you, Sam. It should have been you who gave his life for me, not Dad. Dad's supposed to still be here, not you.
And one of these days the weather was going to break, taking them both with it.
He couldn't let that happen.
Several nights ago, he'd snuck out of the yard and tried out his Dad's summoning ritual, but no one showed. No one wanted to trade Sam's worthless soul for John's.
But there was something else he could do for Dean.
Sam's trembling fingers closed around the bottle of pills.
It was beginning to rain, but Bobby still couldn't get Dean to give it up for a while, take a break and come inside. That boy was as stubborn as his daddy and then some.
Still, at least it gave him something constructive to do. Whereas Sam spent most of his days in the study, head buried in books about demons. The most recent one had been about bargains with the devil, and Bobby wasn't sure what to make of that. Any attempt to question Sam about it, even lightly, was met with a blank stare and a casual I'm just researching kind of shrug.
And Bobby might have believed it, had it not been for Sam's thinning shoulders and waistline, and the deepening shadows under his eyes. He hadn't seen the boy eat properly in days, and he was pretty sure Sam hadn't slept much either. Not that he could blame him, given what happened, but the kid was gonna drive himself into an early grave at this rate.
Bobby eyed Sam's hunched shoulders as the kid trudged back down the stairs.
"You going somewhere, Sam?" he asked, worriedly.
"Uh…" Sam's head shot up, and a flash of guilt across his young, tired face had Bobby on instant high alert. "N-no, not as such. Uh… just going for a walk, get some fresh air, ya know?"
He gave a little nervous laugh, but Bobby wasn't fooled by the way the boy wouldn't meet his gaze, or the way his bloodshot eyes darted about like a rat caught in a trap.
"Sam, why don't you go for a lie down, huh?" Bobby suggested as casually as he could. "You look beat to hell. Besides, it's raining hard out there. You'll get soaked to the skin."
Sam sniffed and smiled sadly. "Doesn't matter. Rain might help."
Before Bobby could think of anything else to say, the kid turned back, headed outside and began shuffling his way off the veranda. The gruff hunter stood and watched Sam's slow progress for a second, and wondered at the slight wobble in his step.
Shaking his head in despair, Bobby made his way slowly up to the bathroom.
As he stood over the basin, taking care of business, his eyes traced an old crack in the ceiling. It was getting longer and stretching away to the far wall. He'd been meaning to take of it for years now, but each time he got his tools together for the task, he'd forgotten the point of it. It would only appear again next time the house subsided. And one of these days the hunt was gonna kill him, and who the hell did he have to leave this shithole to, anyways? The Winchester brothers? Chances were they wouldn't live to see forty, not with the kind of crap the poor kids were facing.
Their daddy was gone, no doubt in trade for Dean's life, which only meant that John's boys were possibly living on borrowed time as it was.
Well, to hell with it.
Bobby would see that time extended to its very limits even if it killed him, and it probably would. In spite of how things were left between them, Bobby owed John that. And he owed Sam and Dean even more.
Zipping up and washing his hands, Bobby's troubled gaze travelled the ceiling, down the wall by the mirror, and came to rest on a small, white plastic bottle lying abandoned in the sink.
"Huh. Strange," he muttered and made to pick it up. "What the hell's that doing out…? Holy crap!"
The second he felt the weight of it, Bobby knew.
"Hey Dean," Sam mumbled.
Dean didn't even bother looking up from his work.
"What you want this time?" he groused, annoyed at being interrupted. He was busy sanding down the left wheel arch, readying it for a coat of primer.
"I-I…" Sam trailed off, not really knowing what to say.
He actually hadn't intended to say anything, but after he downed the pills it occurred to him that it probably wasn't fair to Bobby to bite the dust in the poor guy's house. So he'd headed out into the rain with the intention of walking out the gates and never coming back.
But then he'd heard Dean talking in a soft, soothing voice to their wrecked and ruined car. The same voice he used to calm Sam down from his nightmares when he was just a snot nosed kid, crying into his brother's Metallica tee-shirt.
It brought forth a wave of nostalgia and regret so deep and intense, that Sam was nearly felled by it.
"I-I…" he stammered, trying again, but the pills he took were starting to take effect and Sam wasn't sure how much longer he could stay on his feet.
"Well? Out with it!" Dean snapped.
He finally looked up when Sam still didn't answer, and studied his little brother's lightly swaying form.
Dean's face turned hard and cold with disgust. "Are you drunk?"
"Uh… n-no," Sam murmured, and blinked heavily.
"Sure look like it," replied Dean. He jerked his head in the direction of the house. "Go sleep it off. And no hurling in the bedroom. Not gonna sleep in a room that smells of puke."
Sam watched as Dean tuned him out completely and went back to his task.
"I'm sorry," he croaked out at last.
"Whatever." Dean obviously wasn't listening or just plain didn't care what Sam did next.
Sam gave a jerky kind of half nod and turned away.
His steps were slower by now, the ground seemed to be trying to rush up and meet him, and he was struggling to put one foot in front of the other. Figuring no one was looking anyhow; Sam gave up trying to leave with dignity, and just stumbled along, eyes fixed on the yard gates. But they, too, were soon weaving in and out of focus.
"I'llll b-be g-gone in no t-time," he mumbled to himself, words slurred with fatigue and sad with heartbreak. "Won't h-hurt no m-more…"
He shuffled out the gate and wandered aimlessly in the rain, not caring whether he was on the sidewalk, or in the middle of the road. Didn't matter either way, the outcome would be the same.
In a matter of minutes, Sam was hoping he'd be too dead to care if a car came along and ground his pathetic, lifeless form into the blacktop.
Bobby was getting too old for this shit.
Panting a little too hard for his peace of mind, he ran downstairs, heart beating faster than a runaway train. He wrenched open the front door and leapt off the veranda with barely a pause. His old knees, jarred from the landing, spiked with pain, and his back put up an angry protest at being treated so brutally.
But Bobby ignored it all in favour of scanning the yard, desperately searching for the tall, lanky form of Sam Winchester.
"Sam?" he yelled out. "You here somewhere, kid? C'mon out Sam, and we'll talk, ok? You need help!"
"Bobby, what's with the yelling?" Dean appeared from the tool shed wiping his hands on a greasy rag, looking tired and angry. "Sam's moping finally pissed you off this time?"
"He was supposed to be going for a walk," Bobby explained, desperately. "But we can't let him leave."
Dean shook his head. "Got that right, state he's in!"
Bobby eyed him, hopefully. "You seen him?"
"Yeah, just now, why?"
"He seem ok to you?"
Dean frowned. "He looked drunk, actually," he said, dryly. "Kid been at your liquor cabinet or something?"
The hopeful look on Bobby's face fell.
"Or something," he tossed the empty pill bottle at Dean, who caught it one handed.
"I know for a fact that was full this morning," said Bobby, darkly when he saw Dean struggling to realise its significance. "I picked it up at Sioux Falls pharmacy just yesterday. It's a prescription for a powerful tranquiliser. Helps me sleep sometimes, ya know? When the nights get kinda rough."
Dean rolled the bottle between his fingers for a second or two, and then he made the connection.
His eyes widened with fear.
"Sam?" he yelled, and whirled around seeking his brother, hoping to see a familiar giant Sasquatch with sad puppy eyes and a shy, dimpled smile. "Sammy? C'mon, buddy, where are you?"
He ran his eyes over the yard, a quick cursory search, until he spied over-sized footprints in the mud. As he watched the rain came down harder, but Sam's footprints were still as clear as a bell.
And they were headed out the yard gates.
"Bobby, look!" he pointed and started running at the same time, not caring if the older hunter was following.
They caught up with the kid easily enough and he wasn't hard to spot, even in the torrential rain. He was stumbling along the roadside, still upright but only just.
Dean's heart was in his mouth because if Sam had collapsed into one of the drainage ditches off the side of the road, they'd never have found him in time.
"Sam!" he called out, angrily. "What the hell do you think you're playing at?"
Sam slowly turned around to face his brother.
"Huh?" he replied, drowsy and struggling to remain on his feet.
Dean held up the empty pill bottle.
"This!" he hissed out and practically threw it at the kid. "Suicide? Really? And you were, what? Just gonna walk out leaving me to wonder what the hell happened to you? You selfish, miserable, sonovabitch!"
Dean took a menacing step forward. Sam flinched and took a stumbling step backwards.
"I-I…" his mouth opened and closed but nothing of any sense came out.
"Well?" Dean yelled, hands fisted at his sides. "I'm waiting!"
It was the combination of the sudden flash of fear and vulnerability on Sam's face, and Bobby's hand on his shoulder that made Dean stand down.
"Take it easy, Dean." He could hear Bobby telling him over the rush of anger roaring away in his head. "Kid needs a hospital right now. We can leave this baggage 'til later, ok?"
Dean stood, shocked at himself, at what he'd said… what he'd nearly done to Sam.
"Sammy," he said, calmly, only just loud enough to hear over the pouring rain. "It's alright, kiddo, I'm not gonna hurt you, I swear. Just come home, buddy, ok? I'm sorry I scared you."
Sam was backing slowly away, breathing laboured and weak. His eyes sluggishly swept from the blurred form of his older brother, to Bobby Singer who seemed to be talking to someone on his cell phone.
Half dead from an overdose he might have been, but Sam worked it out. He knew what they were trying to do, and he couldn't let them.
Sam had to die. It was only right and fair. Dean didn't need him any longer.
Hated his pain in the ass little brother.
"N-nnnnooo…" Sam tried to turn away, but staggered into the road instead.
His befuddled senses didn't register the pick-up truck travelling at too high a speed in such treacherous conditions, and he wouldn't have moved even if they had.
"Sammy, no!" Dean lunged forward and made a grab for the collar of Sam's jacket, pulling the kid back onto the relative safety of the sidewalk just in time. The truck sped on by, its driver yelling something rude out the open window.
Sam struggled weakly, trying to hit out with uncoordinated limbs, whimpering in fear and denial.
"Sam, don't," Dean desperately tried to calm him down, but even dangerously drugged up to the eyeballs, Sam was still hellish strong. "Right, that's it. You're going down, kiddo."
He swept Sam's legs out from under him, caught his upper body and lowered him gently to the wet ground.
"Nnnnn…" Sam whimpered and flailed, but Dean noted he was getting weaker. It made him easier to restrain but it also meant the overdose was now taking full effect.
"Sammy," Dean pinned the kid down by his wrists and leaned over him. "It's ok, I promise. It's all gonna be ok. Trust me, kiddo, please?"
Sam's body went limp, and he gazed back up at Dean with sad eyes, and face wet with tears and rain.
Dean felt a hard flash of guilt when he realised this was the first time he'd really looked at his little brother in days.
"Sammy," he whispered, letting go of a thin wrist to brush a hand through Sam's wet hair. "I'm here, now."
Sam leaned into the touch just as his eyes rolled back and his breathing faltered.
"Sam!" Dean gave the kid a shake, grief and horror taking hold of him in an all too familiar way. "Please… don't do this to me. You have to stay… you can't leave like Dad. Please… Sam…"
He broke off into a harsh sob and buried his face in Sam's chest, noting the short, rise and fall, how the gap was becoming longer and longer between breaths.
"Dean, ambulance is gonna be here any second," said Bobby, tugging at Dean's shoulder. "Now get the hell up!"
Dean allowed the older hunter to pull him up, but he stilled suddenly when he noticed something strange.
Bobby looked up at him. "What?"
Dean wiped his fingers alongside Sam's left ear and held it up for Bobby to see.
The grizzled hunter's eyes narrowed. "Well, that sure explains a lot!"
Dean shifted in the hard plastic seat and tried to remain cool. Leaning forward and placing elbows on knees was only one of the many positions he'd tried to get comfortable.
Any minute now they were going to let him see his little brother. A part of him was looking forward to it. A real big part.
But there was this treacherous teeny, tiny little part of him that was shying away like a frightened horse.
And he was shitting himself in the process.
What was he supposed to say? Hey little bro, how you feeling? Any better since you took enough tranquiliser to kill a bull elephant? Hadn't you heard that suicide just ain't cool?
Dean wasn't sure how to approach it. It wasn't Sam's fault. Poor kid hadn't known what he was doing, but Dean still felt this little spark of anger deep inside. Mainly at himself, he supposed, for not having seen this coming. Sam was right under his nose for the last few weeks, and Dean hadn't noticed anything was wrong.
Hell, even Bobby Singer had guessed something was up with the kid, tried to make him talk, get him to eat. But with the loss of their Dad, Sam had needed his big brother to help him through it, and had needed Dean to want his little brother there in return.
Sam had been right there in front of him, silently asking him for help, but Dean had sent him away every time.
"You look like shit, kid."
Dean looked up at Bobby Singer, watching him with wary eyes.
He decided to ignore that comment. "So what you find out?"
Bobby huffed and sat down beside him.
"It seems that Sam picked up a little hitchhiker at that last hospital…"
As soon as they'd seen the black goo leaking from Sam's ear, they'd mostly figured it out. While Dean went with Sam in the ambulance, Bobby hit the books and made some calls.
It was a pretty sad story, one that even brought tears the eyes of a cynical old buzzard such as Bobby Singer.
Marianne Wilmot, a young college student, grieving for the loss of both her parents from the year before had been suffering from depression. She'd also had a falling out with her older sister not long after the funeral, the grief just becoming too much for them both to bear. Marianne had been desperate to patch things up with her sibling, but big sister had refused to accept her calls and returned her letters unopened.
Marianne felt her hopes knocked down one after another with each unanswered call. Her grades suffered, her long time boyfriend walked away, finally fed up with her on-going issues, and as her life continued to turn to shit she realised there was no place for her in this world.
She slashed her wrists and was found bleeding out on the bathroom floor by her college roommate. She made it to hospital around the same time as three victims from a major road traffic collision rolled up, but she died later, only minutes before John Winchester's death was officially called.
Bobby surmised that the young girl's spirit, on the way to wherever it is the dead go, had latched onto Sam as he was leaving, sensing a kindred, grieving soul in the younger brother. Scared, and not sure what was ahead of her, she'd finally found someone who would understand…
"You mean to tell me," said Dean, swallowing back bile as best he could. "Sam's been walking around with a suicidal ghost inside him for the last two weeks? And I didn't even notice? Oh God…"
He abruptly stood up, leaned over, hands on knees, and fought to pull in slow, deep breaths. Dean shook his head, a thousand questions buzzing round it like bees on a honey pot.
Bobby remained silent, but carefully reached out to gently squeeze Dean's nape.
They stayed like that for a few minutes while Dean pulled himself together.
Finally, he stood up again and stared sightlessly ahead.
"Do you think Sam knew?" he asked, quietly.
Bobby shook his head.
"Hard to say, but doubtful. Most victims of ghost possession don't remember much about it afterwards," he shrugged. "He might recall taking the pills, and the feelings that dragged him into the overdose in the first place, but Marianne? Unlikely. She kept herself well hidden."
Dean nodded, unsatisfied. "So what about the ectoplasm? I thought that shit only appeared when really pissed off spirits were involved."
"Anger ain't the only emotion powerful enough to throw out ectoplasm," Bobby explained. "Love, sadness, loneliness… they all have potential if they're strongly felt."
"So how do we get this bitch out of Sammy?" asked Dean, ignoring that last one. It reminded him too much of the desolate look in Sam's eyes before he lost consciousness on the roadside.
Bobby huffed and glared at Dean, but didn't rebuke him for his language.
"Already taken care of," he said. "Old friend of mine was in the area."
He didn't mention the hunter was there investigating reports of strange sightings up at the very same cabin the brothers had faced down their demon possessed father. He'd already turned the guy away from that with a few over-simplified explanations.
"I asked him to check it out," Bobby explained. "Marianne's body was still at the morgue but he… liberated her, for a final farewell. Sam should be free of her by now."
Dean felt his heart miss a beat. Final farewell meant a salt and burn. He wondered if Marianne's sister would care enough to start asking questions when her body turned up missing. After all, it wouldn't be the first corpse stolen from the hospital morgue in the last few weeks.
A brief image of a shrouded figure surrounded by flames crept up on him.
"Did he say anything to you?" asked Sam, tears streaming down his face.
Dean stared at the funeral pyre.
"Well, that takes care of that, I guess," he said, tonelessly.
They'd been let into Sam's room a couple of hours ago by a young blond guy in a white coat, Sam's doctor, who'd warned them the kid was still unconscious and under twenty four hour suicide watch.
Indeed, the soft wrist restraints keeping his little brother under bed arrest made Dean feel a bit sick.
"Don't worry, Dean," said Bobby, from his chair on the opposite side of Sam's bed. "Soon as he gets the all clear we'll take him home."
"Yeah," said Dean, absently stroking a thumb over Sam's knuckles, eyeing the oxygen tube under his nose and the IV line in his arm. "Maybe."
Bobby didn't say a word, but a raised eyebrows asked the question.
Dean huffed. "S'posing…"
"What?" Bobby prompted when Dean didn't finish his sentence.
"Maybe Marianne somehow brought Sam to this," said Dean, voice trembling ever so slightly. "But I'm thinking… maybe it wouldn't have happened if there hadn't been something there to work on in the first place. After all," he laughed humourlessly. "It's not like I was around to help him. Did my best to keep away from him the last few weeks, in fact. No wonder the kid felt so alone."
Bobby's poignant silence on the subject wasn't exactly a comfort.
They'd pumped Sam's stomach clear of the pills, but diagnosed malnutrition and dehydration. Not extreme, but combined with the effects of the drug, his body electrolytes were deranged enough to require medical intervention.
"Sammy," Dean breathed out, long and deep.
Sam frowned slightly and rolled his head towards his brother, but otherwise gave no other indication he was waking up.
Dean smiled sadly and leaned over the kid, mouth hovering close to his ear, and whispered so softly not even Bobby could hear what he told him.
"It's ok, little bro," he said. "Everything's gonna be fine. I promise I won't be mad. Just… wake up soon. We need to talk. I know that, now."
Dean and Bobby had been shooed out of Sam's room by his doctor, and ordered to go get something to eat. Though Sam was improving, they wanted to run regular blood tests to monitor his electrolytes, and keep him on the road to recovery.
Sam came round slowly with a soft moan just after the doctor left his room, clutching several vaccutainers of blood.
There was no mistaking where he was, even if he couldn't remember how he got there. Sam tried sitting up but his arms seemed to be holding him back. Squinting and raising his head a little revealed the wrist restraints, and it sent him into a blind panic.
"Nonono…" Sam tugged viciously at the bindings, wide, scared eyes scanning the room for something to help free him. It was one of his worst nightmares, waking up on a mental ward, or confined to a padded cell and wearing a straight jacket for the rest of his natural life.
He had no idea what he was doing here, until an unbidden memory marched into his head.
Sam remembered an argument with Dean. Several, in fact, each ending with Dean telling Sam to leave him the hell alone. Then there was the memory of gleaming yellow eyes, a fight with his Dad in the hospital, Bobby Singer's bathroom cabinet, Dean's face red with anger and throwing a small, white bottle at Sam, pouring, torrential rain, wrestling with Dean…
'Suicide? Really? And you were, what? Just gonna walk out leaving me to wonder what the hell happened to you? You selfish, miserable, sonovabitch!'
Sam froze. "Oh God. What the hell have I done?" he whimpered and a wave of intense shame washed over him. "How could I… after everything… how could I have done that him?"
Sniffing, tears rolling down his face, Sam renewed his efforts to get free and by the time the door to his room opened he had one of the restraints off and was making quick work of the other. His heart seemed to stall, until the newcomer appeared in the doorway.
"Knew those things wouldn't hold you for long," said Dean, softly, one hand on the door and the other clutching a Styrofoam cup, a small, sad but proud looking smile on his face.
Sam stared at him, eyes still brimming with tears. "Uh… I j-just w-woke up…" he finally stammered out after an awkward pause. "Wasn't g-gonna run, I swear it. J-just needed to f-find you and explain."
Dean shook his head at someone just outside the room, handed over his coffee, and gently closed the door.
"Yeah, I know," he said at last, crossing over to the bed and taking a seat in one of the plastic chairs. "Bobby and I just came back from a food run. Figures you'd wake up when we weren't there."
The brothers stared at one another for an eon before Dean cleared his throat, nervously.
"So, look, you weren't yourself, Sam," he jumped straight in without hedging or making anymore bullshit small talk. "Some spirit hijacked you at the hospital just as we were leaving. Just after… Dad… you know?" He stared hard at Sam. "The ghost was a young girl around your age, lost her parents, fell out with a sibling. She was a suicide case."
That made sense to Sam. Even though they hadn't quite reached the stage of falling out by the time Dean was released from hospital, the brothers were already on their way to it. Dean had been silent, refused Sam's assistance, barely spoke, and Sam remembered seeing a flash of what could have been anger in Dean's eyes directed his way…
Dean had stopped talking and was waiting for something, Sam realised. An explanation, or maybe he wanted to know if Sam had any recollection of the possession.
"I don't know what you want me to say," Sam whispered. "I remember what I did, and I'm so, so sorry, Dean. I never meant to hurt you or Bobby. But a ghost?" he shook his head slowly. "I don't remember anything like that."
Dean licked his lips and rubbed a hand over his mouth.
"Ya see, what I'm trying to decide," he said, voice hoarse with unshed tears. "Is if my little brother was coerced into taking his life, or if this was a decision he would've made on his own."
Wet, green eyes filled with remorse and anger burned a hole in Sam's aching head. He felt the shame and guilt rush through him again, and dropped his gaze.
"I-I don't know, Dean," he said, as honestly as he could, sounding like a chastised little boy. "But it won't happen again, I promise."
Sam sniffed and resumed his bid for freedom, but his trembling fingers struggled to remove the second wrist restraint, until a gentle hand over his stopped him.
"Let me," said his brother, softly.
Sam nodded but refused to look up again.
His wrist was handled like a fragile baby sparrow, and when he was free a pair of strong arms wrapped around him, cradling him close and tight. At first, Sam stiffened up in surprise at the unexpected and unusual display of affection, but he hadn't felt this safe in a long, long time, so he sank into it, buried his nose in Dean's neck and savoured the moment.
"I never meant to shut you out," Dean whispered, sadly. "And I sure as hell never wanted you to leave. But tell me something, Sam, please? I won't be angry. I just want the truth. I know the ghost was the catalyst, but… just tell me what was going through your freaky brain, huh?"
Sam didn't answer for a long time, and the brothers just sat there, holding onto each other like there was no tomorrow.
Dean's chin was resting on Sam's scalp, eyes brimming over with tears, and staring sightlessly ahead, waiting for an answer.
"Sam?" he whispered.
Sam nodded and pulled back. He stared at Dean then just came out with it.
"I went through some of Dad's stuff last week," he said, nervously. "After the crash, he gave me a list of herbs to give to Bobby. Said they were for protection while you were in a coma. But it turned out they were for summoning demons. I figured that's how he did it, ya know? How Dad saved you…"
Dean's throat nearly closed up. He had a feeling he knew what was coming.
"And?" he prompted, voice almost cracking with fear.
"I-I tried to use it," said Sam, hesitantly. "But either it didn't work, either that or no demon wanted to make a deal with me."
Both Dean's hands suddenly reached up and fisted in Sam's collar.
"A deal for what, Sam?" he demanded, angrily. "What were you trying to do?"
Sam grabbed Dean's wrists but didn't try to pry him off, just held on, and his stubborn gaze stayed fixed on his brother.
"For Dad. And ultimately for you."
Dean stared back at him, mouth gaping silently open.
"I was going to offer my life in exchange for Dad's," Sam watched his face, warily.
The words, spoken quietly, nevertheless sounded like gun shots through Dean's brain.
His reaction was not entirely unexpected.
"And just why in hell would that have been for me?"he demanded, face red with anger. "You saw how I was, Sam. You saw what losing Dad did to me… how could you think this was the answer? You stupid…"
Dean broke off, let go of Sam, got up and paced over to the other side of the room, hands twitching at his sides.
"You said you wouldn't get mad…" Sam began but Dean wouldn't let him finish.
"Don't try it, Sam!" Dean growled and spun around, eyes flashing a warning. "Just don't!"
He turned away again, unable to look at his kid brother a moment longer.
So instead, Sam told him the rest.
"I thought it was what you wanted," he whispered, and flinched when Dean swung back to face him, face now almost purple with rage, but Sam continued on doggedly. "You hated having me around. I was just in the way… and I thought you blamed me for Dad's death, like it should have been me instead of him. I…" he bit back a sob and hung his head. "I felt so alone. Didn't see any point in staying where I wasn't needed. But when the summoning failed…"
He shrugged, still staring down at his hands. "I was useless to you. You needed someone stronger than me. Someone who wouldn't hold you back any longer."
Dean watched him from across the room, face suddenly pale and eyes shrunken to dark, guilty pinholes.
"Sam, I…" he shook his head, overcome with sadness. "I'm sorry. God! I never meant for you to feel that way. I know I've been a dickless asshole but, Sammy…" Dean strode back over to his brother and grasped the back of the kid's neck, gently tugging on his shaggy hair until Sam was forced to look at him again. Once he had Sam's full attention, Dean's hands cupped either side of his little brother's face and pressed forwards until their foreheads met.
"Understand this, ok?" Dean whispered to the kid and gave him a gentle shake. "I never want to lose you. I don't care who those demonic bastards offer up in exchange; Dad, Mom, Caleb, Pastor Jim, everyone we were never able to save… all of 'em! I'd choose you every time. You have to know that!"
Sam eyes were wet and wide, shining with equal parts relief and remorse.
"So you have to promise me," Dean continued, eyes desperately searching Sam's for the truth. "That you'll never do something like that again. Please? Sammy?"
Sam nodded slowly. "I-I promise."
"Good boy," replied Dean, softly and pulled him in for another hug.
"You boys ok in here?" a gruff voice asked from the doorway to Sam's room.
Bobby hadn't bothered knocking. He figured these two boneheads'd had enough time to either kiss and make up, or outright kill each other.
Singer kept his smug smile on the inside when it seemed the former was apparent. The brothers may fight like cat and dog sometimes, but they sure pulled together when it counted. When one of them needed it.
And, I guess, right now the both of them do.
"Just spoke with the doc. Latest blood tests show a vast improvement," Bobby raised an eyebrow at Sam. "You ready to go home, now?"
"Yeah, definitely," Sam's grin was a little watery on his pale face, but Bobby was relieved to note the younger brother looked happier than he had in weeks.
Maybe I can get the little shit to eat properly at last!
"I dunno, Bobby," Sam was staring out the kitchen window. He looked all nervous and fidgety, shifting from foot to foot and biting his bottom lip almost bloody.
Bobby hid a smile. For a grown man in his early twenties, Sam looked like some shy, adorable, eight year old school kid, dreading his turn to go up in front of the class and present his What I Did on My Vacation project.
"Go on, Sam," said Bobby, giving the boy a gentle push towards the kitchen door. "It'll be fine."
Sam cast worried eyes on him but said nothing.
"He won't be mad, I promise," the older hunter said quietly.
Sam still looked doubtful but nodded and left the room anyway.
Bobby watched him descend the veranda steps, shoulders hunched, hands wedged in jean pockets, and sighed.
He couldn't blame him for being worried. Last few times Dean's work on the Impala was interrupted by his kid brother for any reason, Sam had come away silent, brooding and barely functioning. Bobby didn't know what Dean had said to the boy but he could guess it weren't pretty.
But this time, after everything that happened over the last few days, Bobby was one hundred percent certain things would be different.
Dean heard trudging footsteps through the now mostly dried dust, and smiled.
He knew what Sam had come to tell him, because his stomach had been growling out loud ever since he smelled the smoke.
"Uh… Dean?" the hesitancy in Sam's voice broke Dean's heart a little.
The kid still didn't quite trust that he'd be knocked back or sent away with ringing ears again.
Well, Dean thought to himself as he hauled out from under the Impala, it was early days yet. Like trying to coach and encourage a frightened puppy out from behind the sofa during a thunder storm, it would take patience. And Sam was gonna need a lot of it.
"Hey Sammy," said Dean, kindly, eyes twinkling with a fond merriment that actually felt genuine. "Dinner almost ready, huh?"
He sniffed the air appreciatively earning him a shy smile from the kid.
"Yeah, uh, 'bout fifteen minutes ok with you?" Sam asked, obviously desperate to please and accommodate his brother's car-fixing schedule. "Steaks should be done by then."
Dean wiped his hands on a rag and grinned back at him. "Nah. I'm finished for the day. Let's go crack open a cold one, huh? Relaxation is good for the digestion."
Sam's smile grew into a grin and he nodded enthusiastically. "Sure!"
Dean clapped him on the back and sauntered off towards the house, Sam alongside and no longer so hunched in on himself.
Sure, he was still pale and worryingly thin, but he'd only been out of hospital a day.
Dean cast a sidelong look at him, just grateful to have his kid brother safe and well again.
"I thought maybe we could go shoot some pool tomorrow night in town?" Dean hurriedly added "but only if you're up to it, ya know? Don't feel you have to straight away. We can always leave it for another time…"
"No!" Sam interrupted eagerly. "I mean, yeah, sure! I'm up to it, I swear."
Dean full on grinned and threw an arm casually round Sam's thin shoulders.
"I was thinking hot wings, curly fries, ice cold beer," he waggled his eyebrows. "See whose around, huh?"
Sam shook his head, grinning. "Old guys with ear hair, Dean. This is Bobby's home town, don't forget."
"Dude! What you trying to do to me? Turn me blind?" Dean made a sour face that had Sam chuckling. "That kind of imagery I can do without."
Bobby watched the brothers approvingly from the house. Dean worked on the car, while Sam sat nearby on an old tyre, reading an ancient grimoire. Those two didn't always need to talk. Just being there was enough.
In fact, in between fixing the car, Dean and Sam were spending more and more time together. Sometimes with Bobby, sometimes at the local bar, and sometimes, surprisingly given Dean's hatred of the great outdoors, out on some of the distant hiking trails. They talked about John, hunting, 'ol yellow eyes, and even brought up Sam's college years. It wasn't always easy talking about the past, and there were moments when the conversation became stilted with grief or some other soul wrecking emotion, or it just plain ran dry.
But then, for a hunter, the past is never some pretty flower to sniff and appreciate, then press inside a photo album to remember the good old days. It's something that gets locked down deep behind a solid, cast iron door in the mind. Harmless, until the next time someone's stupid enough to open it again.
Yeah, Bobby reflected, the past is something hunters can never let go of, and it would always haunt worse than any spook or poltergeist.
He had a nasty feeling they would all be confronting that particular door over the coming years.
As a special treat...
A small teaser for you Winchester Werewolf lovers, and the big reveal of the final book's title.
So far unbeta'd so please ignore any mistakes at this stage.
Hunter of the Shadows Book 3
Enemy at the Door.
The red wolf is curled up on the sofa, head draped across Dean's denim-clad knees, staring intently at the large TV panel fixed to the wall above the red brick fireplace.
His snout twitches a little and he yawns widely, followed by a slow, lazy lick around his chops. He huffs out a contented sigh. Even though Dean is clearly fast asleep, his hand continues to gently scratch behind the red wolf's ears.
Scream 3 is the movie of interest, and the moment Randy, Sydney Prescott's one time best friend and murder victim from the second film, appears on screen, Sam blinks slowly then tenses up. Randy appears as part of his own video message, and his last words to Sydney have a profound affect on the young wolf….
"…true trilogies are all about going back to the beginning and discovering something that wasn't true from the get go. God Father, Jedi… all revealed something that we thought was true, but wasn't…"
Sam's eyes widen, not in fear as such, more in understanding; he's obviously one of the few in the world who really gets it.
"… the past will come back to bite you in the ass…"
Sam lifts his massive head, dislodging his fatherbrother's hand, and incidentally waking him.
"Sammy? You ok?" Dean yawns then frowns. "Dude, you're shaking…"
Sam ignores him for the moment, just carries on listening to Randy's posthumous wisdom.
"Anything you thought you knew about the past? Forget it! The past is not at rest! Any sins you think were committed in the past are about to break out and destroy you."
Understanding dawns on Dean like the early morning sun.
"Aw, Sammy," he gently grabs Sam's muzzle and turns to stare deep into the young wolf's eyes. Dean is obviously hearing something the camera doesn't pick up, because he nods, smile a little sad. "Yeah, I know. But it doesn't change a thing, dude. You're still my boy..."
Sam snuffles into Dean's hand and whimpers gratefully.
"Out of memory" appears on camera, along with a low battery alert.
Dean's head jerks up immediately. "Dammit! Must've left it switched on all night," he grins sheepishly at Sam. "Maybe now we finally have evidence Tobius snores, and howls in his sleep!" He chuckles when Sam woofs softly in agreement, and the atmosphere is lifted. "Yeah, and scratches himself…"
"I heard that!" is growled from off screen, presumably coming from the other end of the room. "And for the hundredth time I do not snore!"
"Sure ya don't…but you do scratch..." Dean cockily replies.
"Would you like a rendition of your own more... unsavoury habits, pup?" Tobius drawls, smugness abound. "Or should I say Mr Skidmarks?"
"Dude! That was a forest deer with the runs and you know it! And besides," Dean looks mildly uncomfortable, then mumbles: "Thought you were all the discreet gentleman type 'bout that crap."
"Should I pardon that particular pun?" Tobius mumbles, half to himself then, with a snort from off camera, continues "Until I met you, yes. Then years later I ran out of discreet and only had sheer crass to work with."
"Ouch!" Dean grins, good-naturedly, scratches his chest and stands up. He stretches his back with a loud crack! then swaggers his way over to the camera. "Now…" he fiddles with a new memory stick, there's a click as he slots it in place, and the memory warning disappears.
But the battery is another issue. Dean tsks softly, and then hooks up some kind of cable, followed by more clicks and clunks, and crouches back on his heels, smiling broadly.
"Just gotta charge this baby up, and we're ready to roll…" he reaches out to the top of the camera "But for now…TTFN ."
The screen goes blank.
It's fuzzy for a moment, then...
Dean grins widely into the lens.
"Welcome back, guys. Hope you're all doing ok," he leans forward and clasps his hands between his knees. "So, latest is this. After one hell of a battle, Sam fought Jake, got stabbed in the heart with a silver sword, and nearly died. Sire managed to remove the silver by…" he winces slightly, and his eyes darken. "Cutting open Sam's chest and restarting his heart. Anyway, it saved his life but the silver took his sight. " Dean clicks his tongue. "But that wasn't the only issue." He stares at the screen and takes a deep breath. "Ready for this? Apparently, it wasn't some sick cosmic joke at our expense, but John Winchester really was back from the dead, as a demon, and he was coming for us."
His smile has turned grim.
"So we left the Home Pack pretty much as soon as Sam was well enough, and hit the road," he leans forward, green eyes aglow and something about the expression on his face sends a shiver down the watcher's spine. "But we were never going to be safe. Hell's spies were everywhere…"