A/N: An idea I got watching late-night TV one night and seeing the commercial Dean sees. Set between 4.02 and 4.03
Song "Angel" by Sarah McLachlan
Sometimes I think I wasn't the only one to die that night.
I'm awake. Suddenly, I'm just awake and the clock says it's nearly 2a.m. With the light coming in the window from the street lights, I give a quick look around and do a visual on Sammy but he's asleep, so I guess nothing woke me up. Great. Maybe being in hell threw off my internal clock.
I switch on my overbed light, then check Sam again but it didn't wake him. He's still turned on his side away from me, blankets pushed down and t-shirt twisted around like he's been tossing himself back and forth, with Jake's little 'souvenir' fading but still visible.
I'm not hungry but I could eat and there's pizza left over so I get out of bed and bring the box out of the fridge. The pizza is cold, so I heat up the oven. The motel room is cold so I pull Sam's blankets up to his shoulders then go check the thermostat.
"Dean." Sam's sleep-deep voice surprises me. He sounds a lot like Dad. "I'm not seven."
"I thought you were asleep."
"Even asleep I'm not seven."
He turns to look at me and it's not the face I remember from that last night, those last few minutes. It's not the tear-stained face of the boy who solemnly nodded when I told him to keep fighting and remember everything I taught him. I wonder if that boy died that night, the same as I did – ripped to shreds.
"Are you all right?" He asks me, and it's not the voice I remember either. It's not the soft, concerned, 'I'll do anything for you, you just have to tell me' voice. It's more of a flat 'do you have a headache? I think there's aspirin in the duffel,' voice.
"Just not tired. Thought I'd have some more pizza. You want some?"
"No thanks." He turns back to his pillows and – I smile to notice – keeps his blankets pulled up to his shoulders. Big brothers aren't big brothers for nothing you know.
"Will it bother you if I turn the TV on awhile? I'll keep the volume down."
"No, it won't bother me. Knock yourself out."
I still don't recognize that voice. It's flat, casual. Too close to being a stranger for my liking.
Anyway, I remote on the TV and coax the volume down and wait for the pizza to heat up. Flipping through channels is about as exciting as reading the magazines in a dentist's office and I stop on some 'everything blows up but nobody dies' video reality show. Hey, you never know when I might hit on something connected to the job.
And it's nice to see somebody else get their head handed to them for a change.
So I wait for the pizza and watch mindless TV and check on Sam every once in a while because I don't think he's gone back to sleep. If the TV was too loud, he'd tell me. Maybe he doesn't sleep any better than I do.
A commercial comes on, something about abused animals. Some singer whose name sounds familiar but I don't know. I punch on the channel guide looking for something else while some sappy song plays in the background of the commercial of dogs and cats and puppies and kittens who'd been rescued. Who could hurt an animal like that? I've said it before and I'll keep saying it, demons I understand, people are just crazy.
"Turn it off." I'm surprised when I hear Sam's voice.
Sammy has – used to have maybe is more like it – a lot of distinct voices. Like the soft, young one that got used a lot, especially when he needed whoever he was talking with to forget that he was a complete stranger who stood a good foot taller than they did. It was the voice he used when he seemed to forget that he was full-grown or nearly so and he wanted, needed, something explained to him. Then he's got his annoyed voice, the full-on 'I'm pissed and here's why' voice that I was on the receiving end of a lot. But the voice that always surprises me is the one he just used, the one he uses when he's angry or desperate. That's the voice that's as dark as fresh plowed earth and so deep I swear it must come up from the soles of his boots.
"That commercial. Turn it off."
It's not a request, it's not a suggestion, there isn't a 'please' anywhere in it. It's an order. He hasn't even turned to look at me. But I don't think he's angry, which leaves desperate.
"OK." I punch the mute button and the room is silent.
Except for the funny way Sammy is breathing, coiled in his bed so tight he could be a trip wire.
I flip through channels on the guide again. I think 'Spike TV' won't have any commercials about puppies and kittens but I'm really not feeling wrestling right now so I keep looking. Sam gets out of bed and goes into the bathroom and shuts the door. The faucet turns on immediately so I know he's trying to block me from hearing something.
Apparently big brother doesn't get let in on the hurts anymore.
Apparently little brother forgets that big brother has super hearing.
I flick the TV sound back on in time for some something to explode on the screen and turn a street corner into an inferno. And yet nobody gets hurt. I look at the bathroom door and think, 'If only…' It doesn't take long for the montage of flames to annoy me so I turn the TV off altogether. Sammy doesn't want to hear about abused animals, I don't want to think about fire.
The pizza should be warm enough now, so I slide it out of the oven onto its cardboard box and set it on the table next to Sam's laptop. I warmed enough pizza for him too if he wants some, if he changes his mind. If I can convince him to talk to me.
The water turns off and the bathroom door opens and Sammy with his freshly washed face comes out. Just as I'm gearing up my second invite to pizza, he sits on the bed and starts pulling clothes out of his duffel.
"Just for a walk."
"Yeah." It's a short word already, but Sam can make it even shorter.
"I wasn't gonna watch TV anymore. Nothing on anyway."
"It's not that."
Either he's turning his boots upside down because he can't find a sock or he just doesn't want to look at me. OK. Time for door #2.
"We can get separate rooms."
His response is as surprising as it is surprised. He stares at me and his eyes are wide. Desperate, I think again. He's the one going for a walk at 2am but I better be here when he gets back. This has got to be more than puppies and kittens; still that's a place to start.
"We can send them a donation if you want."
"The SPCA." I gesture to the dark TV.
"The commercial? Asking for donations to the SPCA?"
He looks at me, he looks at the TV, he looks back at me. Completely flummoxed.
"The commercial you hate so much and you don't even know what it's about?"
"I – it's not – no. I never – no." He shoves his clothes back into his duffel and zips it shut. That seems to be the last word I'm going to get out of him just now.
"Pizza's hot if you want some."
"Uh – sure. Yeah. Thanks." He sits at the table across from me and I'm reminded of all of the late-night-early-morning talks we've had at motel tables in our lives. He reaches over for a slice of pizza and I can see under the pushed-up sleeves of his long sleeve t-shirt that he has goosebumps on his arm.
"Really Sam, it's cold in here. You should put a sweatshirt on."
He ignores me. There's no whine, no complaint, no eye roll. Nothing. He rubs his face and pushes his hair out of his eyes and ignores me. He pushes his laptop out of the way and turns the pizza box around so he can read it.
"This pizza reminds of that one we had – was it Colorado? Basalt? The sauce is sweeter than most pizza."
"Maybe they used ketchup." I offer and for a second Sam's face assumes a smile. OK, I am so not going to catalogue all of my brother's facial expressions, but he's got a lot and I know them all and that one was offered for my benefit and not because he felt it.
"Sammy –." I start then I think, he's not really Sammy anymore is he? I mean, he'll always be Sammy to me. He'll be a hundred and I'll be a hundred and four and we'll be in a nursing home in wheelchairs and he'll still be Sammy to me. But I also think that Sammy died almost as soon as I did. Maybe as soon as I did, maybe when he buried me, maybe in those four months he couldn't find a way to bring me back. The boy is gone and the man is here and I wonder if Dad ever felt this way as I was growing up.
I can't think what to say then so I give him one of my perfected stares, the one that he's supposed to infer means I know what's going on and I'm just waiting for him to spill his guts. What he doesn't know or hasn't figured out is that I usually use that look when I have no clue what's going on and I won't figure it out if he doesn't spill his guts.
"The song." He says so fast I almost forget to congratulate myself on a job well done of making him cave.
"What about it?" I ask while I'm thinking 'What song?'
"That commercial – it's the first song I heard after – after –."
I'm still not cataloguing his expressions but he's got the one where he's saying something but his mouth is hardly moving because his eyes are doing all the talking. So I'm thinking 'AFTER – after I died, after he buried me, after he could breathe again.'
He's not looking at me and he's trying to say something and nothing is coming out. Finally he drops his pizza, grabs his laptop and boots it up.
"Here." And he pushes it at me. The song he hates so much he bookmarked it on his computer? It's the lyrics and I insert them into the melody I still have in my head from the TV.
In the arms of an angel fly away from here
From this dark, cold motel room and the endlessness that you fear
Pulled from the wreckage of your silent reverie
You're in the arms of the angels, may you find some comfort here.
I want to ask, 'yeah?' again but this is so obviously so painful to Sammy and I don't want him to think I'm not getting it. I mean obviously it has some connection for him to me, but it's not like it was angels that took me away to hell.
So I give him another perfected look. The 'I get that this is important to you, but I'm not following' look.
"I tried everything and I couldn't bring you back." As though that explains everything. By the soft distress in his voice, it is everything. He shuts his laptop without turning it off.
"And you know what – I'm glad none of what you tried worked." I mean – no way did I want Sammy trading his soul for mine, but he all of sudden looks like I punched him. Worse – like I stood by and let somebody else punch him and didn't even care.
"What?" I ask.
"Was it because you didn't want to come back?" He's practically whispering. He's afraid of the answer he thinks he already knows. "That song made me think – maybe it never worked because you didn't want to come back. Maybe you were at peace."
He shrugs and doesn't look at me.
"Anywhere away from me."
He looks like he's going to cry. That used to drive me crazy when we were kids but not anymore. The past few years we've been back together I figured out that it's not – it happens when Sammy is on the last thread of his sanity and it's either cry or go ballistic and believe me you do not want to be on the receiving end of Sammy's ballistic. Only an idiot wouldn't be afraid of him like that, when he's got hands that can wrap around a phone pole and strength enough to pull it down. Crying at least he knows there's no fear of collateral damage.
"Why would I be at peace away from you? Sammy?"
"You told me. How many times did you tell me that you were tired of 'the job'. How tired you were of it. Wasn't I your job? Taking care of me, protecting me?" He jerks his head dismissively, not quite shrugging, not really looking at me. "You were tired of it."
I'm feeling a little ballistic of my own right now but it's not Sammy I'm angry at.
"Did a demon tell you that? One of the ones you exorcised or tried to make a deal with? Hunh? Did they put that into your head?" He doesn't answer me. "Demons lie ,Sam."
"Sometimes they don't."
I stare at him, I almost feel dazed it's such a ridiculous thought that I'd want to get away from him so bad I'd stay in hell.
"Yeah, I protect you. Yeah that's my job. You protect me too. How many times have you saved me?"
"I couldn't save you from hell." He says in that pinched, snotty tone he gets. "Maybe you just – I'm not saying you didn't want to come back. Maybe you just didn't want to come back – with me."
"Dude, that is so stupid, I don't even know how to answer it."
"Just tell me the truth." He says, saying more with his eyes than his mouth.
"The truth. You want the truth." I say it instead of asking it. He nods like he thinks he knows the answer. "OK, yeah. From the time you were six months old it was my job to take care of you, to protect you, to show you the ropes. But it was my job because I took it. I wanted that job. If I didn't want to take care of you anymore, I could've left Jake's knife in your back, couldn't I? I could've salted you and burned you and buried the ashes, and walked away, couldn't I?"
I'm not yelling at him. I'm just trying to get him to see the logic of it. Like back in the day when I was trying to teach him how to zag when zigging seemed the logical choice. I just want him to understand. He doesn't answer. Still not looking at me.
"If I didn't want to be back with you, I wouldn't have driven from Pontiac to Bobby's hoping I'd find you there. I wouldn't have GPS'd your cell phone and hauled ass back to Pontiac to find you. I could've just left you alone, couldn't I?"
Still no answer, and I'm getting pissed.
"Sammy, my job will always be to protect you. I don't care if you're twenty-five or sixty-five or a hundred and five. That's my job. Now – you look at me and tell me if you think I ever want to be quit of that job."
Finally he looks up at me, raising his eyes before he raises his head. He looks at me, looks into my eyes and shakes his head.
"So we're clear on that?"
"I'm just gonna go back to bed." He says. He gets up from the bed and sits on the bed but before he lays down he rummages in his duffel again. He pulls out his sweatshirt, puts it on, then gets back under the covers and I smile while I turn off his computer and put away the pizza.
Big brothers aren't big brothers for nothing.