Summary: Dean debates on breaking his main rule as he faces past mistakes with Sam now that his brother was healed & both Winchesters learn that both have been holding onto their own guilt for far too long./ Concerned/brooding!Dean /Tired/hurt!Sam Spoilers!
Tags: 07x17- A Born-Again Identity
Spoilers/Warnings: This contains spoilers so if you haven't seen the episode then be leery. It also contains mentions of things from previous episodes. I'll also toss in a language warning. I don't think I need to include a tissue warning on this one.
Disclaimer: I don't own the boys, Supernatural or anything to do with it. I merely write them for the enjoyment factor.
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"Do I or don't I? Do I or don't I? Sonuvabitch."
Pacing outside the cabin he and Sam had been staying at for the past few months, Dean Winchester stared at the bag sitting on the roof of the non-descript piece of junk he'd been driving ever since they'd been forced to park the 1967 Chevy Impala that had been a part of his and his brother's lives since they'd both been kids.
A glance at the cabin once again made Dean's stomach flip and he was thoroughly disgusted that just a simple little choice had him more nervous than he had been in years.
It had only been a little over twenty-four hours since he'd gotten his younger brother out of the hospital that he'd been locked up in after all the recent events, the traumas in Sam's life caused him to finally lose what control he'd maintained…or at least the control that Dean had allowed himself to believe his brother had.
Dean had known ever since their Angel ally had blown apart the protective wall in Sam's mind that had been keeping him sane after getting his soul restored that his brother had been having the occasional difficult moment. Though Sam had assured him that he was handling it and much to Dean's inner disgust he'd let himself believe the lies and hadn't seen just how badly his brother was hurting and how close to the edge he'd gotten ever since their mentor, friend, ally, and surrogate father figure, Bobby Singer, had been killed.
It had only been just recently that Sam had finally told him that he was hearing and seeing Lucifer again but unlike the times before he couldn't make him go away using the trick Dean had showed him of pushing on the scar on his hand. This time the Devil was very literally driving his little brother insane and still outside influences, other distractions kept Dean from paying the attention to Sam that he should have been a huge piece of Dean knew that a lot of what happened next could have been prevented if only he had been watching more closely.
Now, after a frantic race to find a mysterious healer that might be able to heal Sam before it was too late, Dean found himself embroiled in another mess because the healer he found had been way too familiar and also on the Most Wanted list of some demons.
"Damn," scrubbing a hand over his face, Dean leaned against the car while still considering the store bag and thinking back to the last days.
Learning that Castiel was indeed alive if a little confused had been one shock, having to cope with Meg was just another pain in the ass but it was seeing the hospital surrounded by demons that truly made Dean's decision for him.
He hadn't planned on telling the Angel who had was, or what he once had been even though he knew he needed him to not only heal Sam but also get into the locked down building to him before it was too late because some old big brother sixth sense was just screaming that Sam was in trouble.
So Dean hadn't wanted to reveal it all to Castiel but Meg took it out of his hands by spilling the beans then it had been up to Dean to convince the Angel not to walk away.
Dean knew that while a huge part of him blamed Castiel for what happened to Sam since his brother would've been fine if that wall had remained intact, a larger part understood that it was his sense of remorse and guilt that caused Castiel to do what he did in the end to heal Sam and for that Dean had forgiven him a little. Not fully but a little which was a start.
Probably even more terrifying to Dean than thinking of his little brother, the kid he'd been watching out for ever since Sam had been a baby, going insane was the sight he found in that electro-shock therapy room.
Knowing Sam hated to be restrained in the best of times when his mind was clear, Dean could only imagine what his brother was feeling as the demon tried to fry him and then after getting Sam free, taking a moment to quietly reassure him that he was safe and feeling him try to pull away in a way that Dean had seen him do only a few times in their lives, he'd gotten Sam back to his room and left him with Castiel who was trying to see why he wasn't healing then he went to rip that head doctor a new lung or two for allowing what happened to even happen.
It had been Castiel who pulled him away from the stammering doctor who was completely clueless that he had demons in his midst and then Dean's world fell away when told that the damage to Sam's mind was just too bad and that was why he wasn't healing.
Thinking that this was it, this was how it would end for them, for Sam, was a sickening blow that Dean was struggling with and so he hadn't fully been paying too much attention to what Castiel was rambling on about. He didn't grasp what he intended to do by 'shifting' the damage until it was too late then all he could do was grab for Sam who was in a total state of shock, confused, and coping barely with memories of recent months now that his mind was fully able to concentrate on them.
Then the realization that to heal Sam, Castiel took the damage onto himself hit and that left the Winchesters with another problem. An immensely powerful Angel who barely understood what was happening now was seeing the very thing that Sam had been and that meant the danger to him was tripled.
Sam had been leery about leaving Cas in the hospital since Meg knew where he was but Dean knew they had to risk it since they couldn't take him with them considering everything else they had on their plates at the moment and he could only hope their ally would be safe until they found some way to either heal him or maybe his own inner Angel power could undo that damage since at this point and time they weren't on speaking terms with any Angel with enough mojo to heal Cas even if one would.
That now left Dean with his most current problem and why he was still pacing outside the cabin after he'd gone out to grab some supplies, get dinner, check out a few leads…well, he was supposed to be checking out leads only to decide to do something else. Right then he was debating on breaking one of his own cardinal rules.
Green eyes shifted to something he'd tossed on the dashboard of the car, Dean blew out a breath before grabbing both the item and the sacks in the car to head for the door. He accepted that he and Sam still had issues. They hadn't been as close as they once had been and it was only the other night while driving back from the hospital and glancing over to see that Sam had curled up in the front seat much like he would in the Impala made him realize how much he missed those moments between him and his brother.
He'd never been as emotionally open as Sam but then Dean accepted that was because he'd learned early on that to protect Sam as best he could from the life their father had dragged them into he'd had to give up some things and that included showing the emotions that he only would let come out when Sam needed to have his big brother or when he was alone.
Now though he understood that by shutting Sam out again, by hiding the emotions that had been threatening to burst to the surface since Bobby died, that he was very close to losing his brother again and that wasn't something Dean was willing to risk…even if it meant swallowing his pride and breaking his one main rule.
"Hey! You drown in there while I was gone?" Dean shouted as he came in the door only to realize that the shower was still running and knowing Sam as well as he did he knew that just wasn't a good sign since it'd been gone for at least four hours. "Sam!"
Sitting most of the bags on the tiny kitchen table, Dean sat the one bag aside while counting down in his head and had nearly hit the magic number of five when he heard the water shut off and could visually imagine his brother's next moves until he heard the door open.
"I thought you'd be gone longer," Sam had tugged a hoodie on over the t-shirt as he entered the cabin's main rooms to look between the bags on the table and his brother. "Any leads on either Frank or what Roman's been up while I was…busy?"
Not missing the pause in that last words, Dean shrugged it off casually as he tossed his jacket over the sofa before digging into the fast food bags while taking a careful look to gauge Sam.
He'd only just begun to notice how pale Sam was when he learned his brother had stopped sleeping and nearly stopped eating anything but highly caffeinated coffee drinks. Since getting him out of that place, Dean had gone back to not letting the kid out of his sight much and hated the thought of Sam learning that he'd stayed awake last night to be sure he slept peacefully and didn't have any nightmares which his brother had always been prone to.
Now he noticed that Sam's face seemed flushed but shrugged that off to the steaming hot shower he knew his brother had just had. He also took notice that his younger brother's hazel eyes were normal looking, not too tired or wide which relieved some of Dean's concern. He did pick up on the wariness in Sam right then but had actually been expecting that too and decided it was time to put that right as well.
"Nah, I decided to skip the leads and clue hunting tonight," he admitted, sitting out some burgers but also the plastic container holding a fresh salad then he reached for the bag he'd set aside to toss it. "Here, catch."
Blinking, Sam quickly caught the bag with some surprise then eyed it cautiously before curiosity got the better of him and he looked inside. "Dean? If I turn on my laptop is it frozen on some porn site again?" he asked suspiciously while staring at the box containing a new smartphone to replace the one broken when he'd been hit with the car that landed him in the hospital.
"What? No!" Dean frowned slightly then coughed as he considered something. "Maybe," he mumbled under his breath, tossing a dark look back at the very close to full on bitch face he was getting. "Can't a guy do something nice for his pain in the ass little brother without getting the third degree?"
"Yeah, but this is you and something nice from you usually means you've blown up my laptop," Sam returned then bit the inside on his cheek when he caught the brief look of regret on his older brother's face and realized he wasn't being fair. "Dean…sorry, that's not fair," he began quickly, not wanting to start a fight neither of them was prepared to handle right them but couldn't stop the slight jerk when the hand landed on his shoulder.
"Isn't it?" Dean's smile was dry not angry as if he understood Sam's feelings and in some way he did because he couldn't recall off hand the last time he'd actually done something nice or on the spur of the moment for his brother. "Yeah, Sammy, it is fair because we both know these last few years I haven't been an awesome big brother to you and it's time we talked…or I talked and you sit your butt down and eat."
Staring at his brother for a long moment, Sam felt the hand on his shoulder give a gentle shove until he was sitting at the table. A small part of Sam wondered if this was real or if he was dreaming or worse since he was still wary about the healing not being complete and things going wrong if he slept too long or too deeply.
"Who are you and what did you do with my normally non-talkative brother?" he tried to joke to relieve some of the tension he could feel building but was surprised at the low chuckle.
"Cute, Sammy, real cute," Dean shoved the salad toward him while straddling the chair he pulled closer to he could try to maintain some form of contact since he knew this talk wasn't going to be easy on either of them. "Shut up and eat the bunny food before some poor hungry rabbit hops in looking for his lunch."
Accustomed to Dean's dislike of his normal food choices, Sam considered the healthy salad of greens when his stomach seemed to rumble from the smell of the all too greasy double cheeseburgers also sitting there and he reached for one of those instead while deciding he'd go back to his normal diet when his body wasn't reminding him that it had been days since it had anything really solid in it.
"Dean, whatever it is we don't have to talk about it or anything," he decided while pulling a few onions off before biting into the burger and missing the small smirk from Dean who had figured his little brother would probably go for the burger before the salad this time since anytime Sam was sick he shrugged off greens for a more normal choice in food.
"Yeah, we do have to talk about it," Dean corrected, making sure his brother wasn't eating too fast before crossing his arms on the back of the chair to sigh. "I'm not going to push it now and I'll let you choose when and what you want to tell me about things that you might have questions over or…nightmares about," he began carefully, seeing the way Sam tensed and guessing he knew what he meant by that but went on slowly. "Sammy, I know I've let you down in so many ways and it's been that way since I made the deal. I blamed you, I let others blame you for things that went done when it's pretty plain that if I had taken more precautions, if I had done more in that last year before I went to Hell that maybe Ruby wouldn't have been able to do so much damage to your self confidence or she wouldn't have been able to push us apart."
Expecting the lecture about more recent things or not being honest about his mental health, Sam hadn't been expecting the emotional strain he heard in his brother's voice as he broached the things that had indeed started them down this path. Nor was he expecting to see the usually buried emotions shining in the deep green eyes that were across from him.
"Dean…" he paused, unsure where this was going when he got the more expected and totally big brother look that had always told Sam to shut up and let Dean talk.
"When I got back I wasn't expecting what I found. I wasn't expecting to find my little brother not needing me to have his back so much and I ended up hurting you. I can say I'm sorry for that and for everything else you went through with Zachariah and the Angel patrol but I can't take back the trust you lost in me and I sure as hell can't take back all the crap you went through over this," Dean laid the black band of stretchable rubber on the table, letting his eyes stay on it rather than the all too large eyes he figured Sam had right about then. "I can say that it was your fault for not letting me know you were out of the Cage, or that it was Cas's fault for getting you out and not telling me but in the end, I was your big brother and I should've known something was wrong. Hell, I did know something was wrong but everyone told me it was my imagination but…"
"You did your best for me, Dean," Sam was slow to pick up the band that was one of a pair that both he and Dean once had. He hadn't seen his since before Detroit because he'd given it to Dean because he had refused to take that with him when they confronted Lucifer. "You tried to save me both from the demons, the Angels, and myself but I made the choices so what happened to me was my fault, not yours. Though…I always needed you to have my back," he dropped his tone as the burger was forgotten in favor of running the band through his fingers before slipping it back on his wrist. "No matter what I've said or done to say otherwise, I will always need my big brother…I needed you this time."
There it was. The one thing he'd been wondering about but hadn't been about to push for until Sam was more at ease again. The sudden break in the all too soft voice warned Dean in time to move before his brother could bolt. "Hey, easy," he urged quickly, catching a trembling arm and knowing Sam's emotions that had been on the surface anyway would break now that his mind was fully his again and his inner self had been reconciled with all the memories of his recent life. "Sammy…I know you did, kiddo and it's that time, this whole mess that I am so sorry for."
Having gotten used to Dean shutting him out, refusing to speak of things that even came close to touching an emotion or breaking the one rule that had been drilled into his head, Sam just wanted to put some distance between them until he could regain control.
Ever since the night the wall in his mind was destroyed Sam had struggled with maintaining his own sanity, not giving into the lies Lucifer would whisper and keep believing in the one thing that had pulled him back. The drawback was he had to do all that while fighting the fears, the nightmares, the feelings of not knowing when his brother would finally snap, of having the Leviathans get them back on the FBI's Most Wanted List, handle the disappointment and pain of thinking Dean didn't trust him then cope with what happened with Becky, losing Bobby and everything else lately.
Now with Lucifer no longer distracting him, all of that was coming back with a vengeance and Sam knew his emotions had always been more open and didn't want to dump more stuff on Dean since it had been his decision not to burden his brother in the first place that had allowed all of it to come to a head.
He just wasn't expecting the strong arm that was leading him over to the worn out sofa or the hand that stayed on his shoulder after he'd sat down. Nor was he expecting what came next.
"I'm sorry, Sam," Dean had spent all his life watching after his brother and had learned to read the tells that Sam still gave off. He knew before this was done that the no chick flick rule would be shattered into a million pieces but for once didn't care. He just wanted to know he and Sam were at least back on level ground before the next monster popped up. "Billion dollar question, Sammy, how much do you blame me?"
"Huh?" hazel eyes snapped up to just stare but saw nothing but a look in Dean's eyes that he hadn't in a long time and slowly something started to dawn on Sam. He began to understand why his brother was burying it all again, why Dean was struggling to hold it all together, to take on the world all by himself. Guilt. "Dean, I don't blame you for anything," he finally replied, reaching over to grab the retreating hand in order to keep his brother sitting when he knew he was going to stalk like he had been doing when overly agitated.
"You've always done everything possible for me, even when it got you hurt. Yeah, I know you and Dad didn't always get along before you stood up for me when you shouldn't have so I stopped blaming you for it looking like you always listened to him," Sam went on, tightening his grip because he knew he was treading on thin ice now but decided to risk it since Dean had opened the door on this. "I never blamed you for anything that's ever happened to me. Hell, you should've blamed me since you went to Hell because you saved me and I fell right into everyone's little plot."
The disgusted tone caused Dean to sit back on the couch and gaze at Sam, seeing the familiar twitch in his jaw that they both seemed to have when upset. "Anything I ever did for you was because…"
"That's how Dad raised you," Sam nodded, glancing down and missing the flash of anger that was brief in Dean's eyes a second before his chin was grasped and lifted back to eye level.
"It was because you're my baby brother and I made you that promise to always protect you, to always have your back, and to always make sure nothing bad happened to you," Dean corrected firmly, using the tone he only did on Sam when being in serious big brother mode, something he hadn't really been in for quiet a while and they both knew it. "I made the deal because I wasn't living with you dead, I went to Hell without question, guilt, or feeling any blame to you, I did what I did in Hell to keep you…" he stopped before letting that go too far because there were still things he was unwilling to share with Sam. "I never blamed you for anything, Sammy and quit turning this back on me. I asked you what you blamed me for.
"I let those Angel douche bags come between us, I trusted them more than I did you, I wasn't there when you needed me too many times, I let you confront Lucifer and go into that goddamn Cage alone and all I've done now is shut you out when I should've seen how bad you were hurting," Dean gave up ticking things off on his fingertips and seemed oblivious to the raw emotion in his voice.
More than a little stunned that Dean actually considered any of that was his fault, Sam stared for a long moment when a phrase from his childhood popped into his head and he smiled a little. "Shoulda, woulda, coulda," he murmured, hearing the sharp breath from beside him. "That's what Pastor Jim would say then he'd slap you in the head like Bobby used to because how in the hell could you have stopped any of that, Dean? I made the choices, I made every single choice that led to those events. You tried to talk me outta 'em and I didn't listen so if anyone's to blame for what's happened to me…other than Ruby, the demons, Lucifer…it's me and before you ask, since I know that's what you were thinking in that hospital…I don't blame you for getting my soul back."
"Yeah, that plan worked out so well for us," Dean snorted, wincing as a light slap seemed to hit his neck but a look told him that Sam hadn't moved except to shoot him a full blown bitch face look that, despite all the stress of recent months, he was thrilled to see again. "Death put that wall up in the first place and I was way too cocky thinking I could keep it up so…"
"Robo-me wasn't a better choice than risking that wall falling. Hell, why you didn't kill me the first time I did something out of character…why you didn't kill me for that car is a mystery to me," Sam countered, slowly relaxing again now that he knew Dean wasn't shutting him out for the moment. "Do you blame me for the vampire thing?" he asked quietly, well aware that there were two things that his brother flat out refused to broach and he was touching one of them now.
Sliding a warning look next to him, Dean felt that muscle in his jaw twitch but knew his annoying little brother was just trying to slip one by him. "No, and don't even think about asking the next thing because I will not talk to you about that," he growled then looked over when he heard the deep sigh which he always knew meant Sam was leading up to that huge emotional moment he normally tried to avoid. "What?"
"We've sacrificed so much for each other, Dean that I think trying to decide who's at fault is pretty pointless. I mean, Mom made the original deal that brought that demon into our lives. Dad took the ball and ran with it and we were just pawns in everyone else's sandbox. Now, we have the choice of starting over and doing what it is we do best," Sam paused to shift on the sofa so he was facing his brother, seeing the wariness reflected there as he smirked. "Hunting things, saving people…the family legacy."
Memories of a much easier time floated back as Dean recalled saying those very words to his still grieving little brother, a time when Wendigos, water spirits, and shapeshifters seemed like the worst thing they'd ever face. "College boy thinks he's so smart," the simple comeback came without thought but not without emotion since both Winchesters felt the change in both the room and between them. "I don't blame you for what Robo-you did, Sam. I just wish…I just wish that I could keep all those promises."
"I'm not twenty-two, Dean. I'm not saying I don't still need my big brother because I do but all I am saying is that you have to let me help you too," Sam knew pigs would fly before that happened but he'd at least try now that his head was back on straight. "We're all that we have…unless you count the occasional weird happening that could be anything…so are we good?" he asked more cautiously.
"Yeah, we're good, Sammy," Dean returned after a moment of thought then threw both caution and his own rule fully to the hellhounds by reaching over to tug his unsuspecting brother forward into a full hug; the kind that he hadn't had the heart to give since the day Sam woke up after having his soul put back in. "Bitch."
If the unexpected hug hadn't caused Sam to freeze then the softly whispered old insult would have because it had been years since Dean had called him that. Reaching up to shakily return the hug, he held on longer than he normally might've before swallowing the lump that had formed. "Jerk," he murmured just as he was easing back and he caught the small smile that reminded him of when Dean had less worries.
"Shut up and go play with that thing the geek at the store swears is a phone," Dean growled, giving a small shove before standing up to grab a burger that he didn't bother to heat before beginning to eat. "Oh and Sammy?"
"Dean, what the hell is this?" Sam had instantly been distracted by the smartphone until he realized the built in music player had songs already installed…songs that he could just see his brother's hand in when he looked up to see a familiar glint of amusement shining in Dean's eyes. "That rule only applied to driving, Dean," he argued, fighting the urge not to laugh as he recognized the same three songs his brother would play constantly in the Impala.
"No, house rules, Sammy. Old brother who buys little brother the smartphone also picks the music," Dean smiled back, waiting a beat to add that he knew Sam was waiting for. "Annoying baby brother can shut his cakehole and not get this phone destroyed."
"So says the guy who let a demon kill his phone," Sam shot back, ducking the rolled up paper that was launched at his head. "Dean?"
Deciding not to get into the dessert he'd also bought, Dean was almost to the bedroom to take a shower before finding a way to convince Sam to sleep without seeming obvious about it when he looked back. "Yeah?"
"Thanks for not giving up on me," Sam murmured, keeping his head down so he could pretend to look at the phone when he felt fingers grip his neck and squeeze it lightly like his brother would do when they'd been kids.
"You're my brother, Sammy and someone will have to put me in the ground before I ever leave you alone or give up on you," Dean assured him, squeezing one final time before giving a not so gentle smack to the back of Sam's head. "Now, put your toy away and crash."
Waiting to be sure Dean was fully out of the room, Sam gave a much more patented eye roll to that suggestion but then yawned and decided to take his brother up on that suggestion.
Pocketing the new phone, he let his fingers close on something that he'd found in his hand at the hospital. Running the familiar little horned object through his fingers he considered the best time to drop it on Dean that somehow Castiel had passed the tiny little amulet to him and then decided to wait for when he needed an easy out to something.
Flopping down face first on one of the twin beds in the bedroom, Sam also decided against moving since sleep seemed to welcoming after weeks of not sleeping and was out even before his brother was done in the shower.
Instinct had Dean not reaching for the light as he exited the bathroom since a simple look told him Sam was sleeping fully. Grabbing an extra blanket from the closet, he tossed it over his sleeping brother before sitting on his own bed to consider things.
Dean wasn't naïve enough to think that this was the end of Sam's problems. His brother just wasn't that lucky but this time he was determined to keep those promises. He'd keep Sam safe even if it did mean letting Sam help him occasionally though there was no way in hell he was letting Dick Roman anywhere close to his brother. The bastard had taken one thing from them so Dean wasn't willing to risk the last person he loved to the head Leviathan.
The boyishly soft voice told Dean that Sam was half asleep as did the dropped letter in his name as he knelt down to see sleepy hazel eyes watching him. "Yeah, Sammy?"
"You think if Bobby's a ghost that he talks to Missouri?" Sam asked curiously, too tired to catch the hesitance in his brother or the way Dean's fingers shook as the gently carded through his hair to brush it back.
He hadn't considered that himself but wasn't surprised that Sam would. "He might," he replied, trying to avoid thinking that those two could end up talking about. "We'll give her a call and ask if you want."
"Hmmm, just wanna know he's…okay," Sam yawned then gave another flip that shifted his 6'4" frame on the bed but more on his side as he pulled the blanket up more. " 'Night, De'n," he murmured.
"G'night, little brother," Dean whispered, keeping his hand on Sam's shoulder for a moment longer until he was sure the kid was back to sleep before stretching out on his own bed to close his eyes and fell to sleep fully for the first time in months without any of the worries or stress that he'd been having.
As the brothers fell to sleep in the safety of the bedroom, out in the mainroom of the cabin Sam's laptop suddenly blazed to life only to reveal the main screen froze on some site that was decidingly not something Sam would go onto and a soft breeze seemed to fill the room and only one who was listening would hear what sounded like a disgusted snort. 'Damn idjit,' before the laptop shut off and the cabin fell silent except for a small radio in the kitchen that switched on so there'd be some noise much like he'd do when Sam and Dean had been kids.