A/N: This is for Leigh Ann Wallace, who is always the first to review.
Handling The Truth
When you love someone more than your life, the concept of meeting halfway takes on a whole new meaning. That fact was underscored, yet again, for the Winchester men when Dean drove the Impala back to the motel just before midnight and found Sam waiting in the parking lot.
Sam inhaled apprehensively as he watched the car pull in and come to a stop. A sense of dread enveloped him in the year-long seconds it took Dean to switch of the vehicle and get out.
This was it, Sam realised with a considerable amount of trepidation; he was going to have to face his brother.
When Dean stepped out of the car and saw his brother sitting on the pavement outside their room, he had to stop himself from turning around and driving back out. In their eventful lives they'd had to confront things that would have made the brashest of individuals turn red-faced with shame; but he had no idea how they would handle this.
Unsure and uncomfortable, Dean protected himself by lashing out.
"What the hell are you doing out here in the cold?"
"Waiting," Sam responded coolly; his urge to snap back tempered, somewhat, by his silent relief at his brother's return.
"Well can't you wait inside like a normal person?"
"I tried being normal once remember? It didn't exactly go down well with me."
Realising that a quick comeback would only prolong the sidebar argument, Dean got down to business.
"O.K. look, I'm tired, so let's get this over and done with right now. I really shouldn't have stuck my face in your private business. Whatever you may have thought or felt that's your issue and you're certainly entitled to your privacy."
"I appreciate that," Sam conceded.
"Good. I'm going to bed."
Dean strode past his brother and went into the room. In a split second, Sam was on his feet and heading after him.
"What the hell happened in here?" Dean asked surveying the wreckage throughout their temporary living space. Trashing the place was more his style than Sam's.
"Anger management," Sam said heatedly as re-entered the room and slammed the door behind him.
"Well I hope it did the trick," Dean pealed off his battered denim jacket and tossed it on the table since both chairs were out of commission.
"Not nearly," Sam stepped towards his brother.
"Well get over it," Dean advised, turning away. "I'm hitting the sack."
"Oh no you're not," Sam laid an apprehending hand on his brother's shoulder.
In a swift move Dean swung around and flashed his sibling off.
"Don't touch me," Dean warned, his façade of nonchalance and concession quickly giving way to mounting anger.
"Well," Sam dropped his hand but stood his ground. "So much for O.K."
"What the hell do you want from me?" Dean moved menacingly into Sam's space.
"I want you to be honest," Sam retorted with equal fire. "Stop acting like you don't give a damn and tell me how you really feel."
"I apologised Sam," Dean yelled, determined to shut things down once and for all. "That's the end of it."
"No it's not," Sam didn't flinch. "Not until you tell me why you felt you had the right to invade my privacy."
"I didn't know what the hell I was reading at first. The only reason why I saw the damn thing was that I thought it was notes or something from your research that you'd forgotten to save and I was making sure it wasn't deleted."
"O.K so you were doing your good deed for the year, but once you realised what it was why didn't you stop?"
"Because I wanted to help you!"
"Yeah. Between the hunt and all that booze you were pretty messed up last night. When I read what you wrote about Dad and wishing we could get out from under him, I thought considering everything we'd gone through growing up that was understandable. I mean what you felt was pretty extreme but face it; we've all had extreme thoughts when it came to Dad."
"Is that what you really think?" Sam's stomach felt hollow with nerves, but he didn't break eye contact with his brother.
"Yeah," Dean said plainly, the heat in his voice dying down. "I honestly didn't think you should hate yourself for that."
"It scared me Dean," Sam fought to keep his voice steady and not sound like a twelve-year old boy desperate to be told he wasn't a bad person. Turning away from his brother he sat on one of the creaky motel beds. "It scared me so much I knew I had to get out."
"Why didn't you say something?" Dean asked, his own temper diffusing as Sam's anger dissipated. "I wish you'd told me instead of feeling like you had to runaway."
"I knew how you felt about Dad Dean. I didn't want you to hate me."
Exasperated, Dean sat down on the opposite bed so he could face his brother.
"Sam, I'm only going to say this one more time. I'm in capable of hating you, O.K? Nothing is ever going to change that."
Feeling his shame starting to ebb away, Sam made eye contact again. "Thanks Dean," he whispered, feeling strangely like he'd been granted some form of absolution.
Sensing he had the upper hand, Dean tried to get out of the damn awkward argument while the getting was good. "And what I told you was the truth," he assured. "I only read what you wrote because, when you started going on about me resenting you last night, I wondered what else you were beating yourself up about that you weren't responsible for. I thought if I knew I could help."
"But the rest of that stuff doesn't really qualify under that heading now does it?"
Oh hell! Dean couldn't believe they were digging even deeper into the crap instead of ending this misguided attempt at psychotherapy while they still had whatever was left of their dignity intact.
"Sam, I stand by what I said, you're entitled to feel however you wanna feel about whatever's gone down. Let's just leave it that."
"You think it's that simple?"
"It is if you don't complicate it. So this therapy session is over, OK. I'm going for a drink and when I get back, I'm getting some sleep."
"A drink? At a time like this?"
Dean got up and grabbed his jacket. "Don't get all bent out of shape Snow White. A Pepsi never killed anybody."
He left the room quickly and found the motel vending machine. He bought a soda he didn't want and took it out to what the motel owner had euphemistically referred to as "the picnic area". The title, hardly lofty in itself, was still an elevated description of the battered wooden benches and scarred tables.
Dean took a seat on the bench that appeared to be the most stable and began nursing the unwanted cola. An extreme sense of irritation surged through his being when he heard the quiet footsteps approaching.
"Damn it Sam," he snapped without even looking around. "I said the discussion was over."
"Yes you said it," Sam slid onto the bench beside his brother. "But I didn't agree."
"I don't care if you agree or not," Dean argued. "Right now I just want some space."
"Do you remember that year after you came back from hell Dean?"
The mere mention of hell and its aftermath made Dean flinch inwardly. He remembered it like it was yesterday but he maintained his facade of invulnerability and stared straight ahead, ostensibly unconcerned.
"What about it?" Dean asked, sounding bored and dismissive.
"We'd both been through so much and we were both feeling a lot about ourselves and each other, but we kept saying that everything was fine."
Even now, Sam still found it hard to talk about that awkward and tumultuous time in their lives. "We kept acting like there was nothing to talk about; like we weren't hurting each other, like we had no issues to settle. And then we woke up one day and we didn't know each other anymore."
"A little melodramatic aren't we Samantha?"
Ignoring the jab, Sam shifted on the bench to look straight at this brother. "After it all hit the fan Dean, I decided that I was never going to let that happen again. I'm not going to let you sit here and act like you don't feel angry or hurt about what you read. And whatever you may be feeling I'm not going to allow it to fester between us. You're all I have left Dean; and nothing's going to take you away from me. Not even you."
He was going to give in, Dean realised with some amount of trepidation. He was going to let Sam drag him into this mire that he wasn't sure either of them would be able to wade their way out of. His greatest weakness, his inability to refuse his little brother anything that Sam truly desired, was going to be Dean's undoing, yet again.
"What do you want me to say Sammy? It's not like it's anything I didn't already know. Of course you'd choose your girlfriend and a nice cushy life over me. You wanted normal, I'm not gonna knock you for that."
"Dean," Sam pleaded. "It's not that I was choosing Jess over you."
"Come on Sam, we both know you're only here with me by default. If everything hadn't gone up in smoke you'd be living the great American, suburban life now."
"That life would have been based on a lie and on denying who I really am."
"Well you were doing OK at it when I found you."
"It may have looked that way because I was desperate to make it work, but I don't know how long I could have kept it up. Dean, as much as I tried to deny it, I needed my family, I needed you."
Dean took a long swallow of soda insisting to himself that it was the cold beverage and the near freezing air that was making him shiver. He bought time by draining the can and then tossing it, but eventually, he had to look at his brother.
"You don't have to say that Sam," he said softly. "Sometimes I can't blame you for wanting out and I'm sorry it didn't work out for you."
Sam held Dean's gaze without flinching. "All things considered, I think I'm pretty damn lucky. How many people do you know who have big brothers who love them enough to die for them?"
Now Dean was the one who couldn't face Sam. He looked away, not trusting himself to hold his brother's gaze.
"I'd do it again," he whispered, as emotion overwhelmed him. "I know part of it is really just selfishness because, no matter what, I'm still not prepared to live without you. But I'd do it again Sam."
"You think I don't know that?" As Sam's eyes filled up he followed his brother's lead and diverted his eyes. "I just wish to God that you'd never had to do it in the first place. I still get cut up every time I think of what you went through Dean; and I still blame myself for it. And I can't help it, but sometimes when I think about Cold Oak, I feel like it would have been better if you'd just let me die."
Dean could hear the tears in his brother's voice, even as he fought to blink back his own.
"If I'd done that Sammy, then I'd have died too."
Now Sam wasn't even pretending. He bowed his head, covered his face with his hands and sobbed.
"Oh come on, Sammy," Dean whispered, his voice heavy with emotion. "We got past all that."
"I'm OK," Sam lied. "I just need a minute."
But Dean knew from experience that he didn't need a minute, he needed his big brother.
"Come here you big girl," Dean half-heartedly tried for a mocking tone but found the words sounded gentle and comforting as they rolled off his lips. He moved towards Sam and slipped an arm around his brother's shoulder. Relief flooded over him when he felt Sam's head settle into the nook of his neck. Hearing Sam sigh, Dean squeezed his shoulder and pulled him closer.
"It still hits me right in the gut whenever I think about it," Sam whispered. "Dean I'd give anything to change it."
"It's not your fault Sammy," Dean soothed. "It was my choice and I'll never regret it."
Dean let his words sink in; praying, with all his heart, that Sam would believe him. This was why even with his anger over seeing Sam's secrets he'd had to come back. When all was said and done nothing mattered to him more than being a big brother.
Leaning into his sibling, Sam savoured the closeness, finding immense comfort in the fact that almost thirty years later he could still lean on Dean. This was why he had waited out in the cold, looking expectantly at every car that drove down the road. He knew his big brother could never walk out on him for good.
They were past the worst, they could both feel it, but an outstanding matter still lingered in the air.
"I panicked when Ruby told me she was pregnant," Sam said, clearly determined to not to rest until every last issue had been dealt with. "I didn't even think about what I was doing."
Dean was now resigned that the talk wouldn't be over until all the dirty linen had been washed, dried and sorted.
"It's O.K. Sam," he insisted. "She'd just tricked you into releasing Lucifer, it's no wonder you couldn't think straight."
"I was so scared it would have been a monster Dean," Sam's voice was riddled with lingering agony. "Everything between me and Ruby was already so messed up and twisted I wanted it to be over."
Instantly Dean decided to play this one differently. There would be no mention of his adolescent fantasy of being "Uncle Dean". Sam felt bad enough as it was and didn't need to be weighed down with the guilt of feeling that he had denied Dean again.
"You didn't kill her Sam, I did."
"I held her so she couldn't get away."
"And even if you hadn't there was no way I was going to let her leave that place alive. That one was on me Sam."
"No Dean. You're always willing to stand between me and whatever's coming my way, but I'm not gonna let you do it this time. I knew she was pregnant when you killed her."
"Demons lie. We have no way of knowing if she really was pregnant."
"But what if she was?"
"Then it wasn't meant to be." Feeling Sam shudder, Dean tightened his hold on his little brother. "I know it's messed up Sam, but just let it go."
And somehow Sam felt like finally, he could.
The thoughts and feelings he had buried so deep had made their way out into the open and somehow the world hadn't ended. At last, he had been able to express these things to someone else and instead of rejection and shame there had been comfort and understanding. And maybe there were thousands of people in the world who didn't have anyone they could trust enough to tell their secrets, but now he knew he wasn't one of them. He didn't have to fear what they feared because he had Dean.
"It's O.K," Sam said closing his eyes and huddling closer to his brother. "I'm alright."
"Good," Dean brought his other hand up to rest on Sam's head, gently anchoring Sam to him.
They sat for several moments before Sam broke the silence.
"You know something Dean," he said, sounding tired but content. "In spite of everything that I've gone through, I still believe I'm one of the luckiest people alive."
"Why?" Dean asked, the single word almost drowned out by a lengthy yawn.
"Because the person who means the most to me now knows my deepest, darkest, secrets and it hasn't changed a thing."
"Hey don't be so sure," Dean gently slapped the side of Sam's head. "I'm not above blackmail and I got the goods on you now."
Sam snickered dismissively.
"Somehow, I'm not worried."
A/N: Thanks so much for reading this series. And for those of you who were wondering, yes, Dean had some pretty dark secrets too. You can read all about them in the follow up fic "The Awful Truth".