Author's Note: I am so, so, so, so sorry, again, for such a late update! You have no idea how horrible and guilty I feel. There's lead sitting on my chest right now as I speak. Hell, you can almost say I practically loathe myself at this moment!
Real life just got in the way, as usual, and I was once again at a loss as to what I should do in this story, also as usual, and my lack of enthusiasm still isn't helping matters at all. But I promise, I won't leave this story until I'm finished with it! Same goes for 'The Broken Road...'. I know I'm horribly late all the time, but I'll finish these stories no matter what.
Thank you all so much for your beautifully supportive reviews! I got 35 comments in the previous chapter and you have no idea how happy that made me feel! I know I haven't been replying to some of you, but I promise I appreciate every one of them with all my heart! And also a huge thank you to everyone who tagged my story (I got so many since the last chapter *collapses*, or put in their communities (3 communities are a lot for me :P), and stuck with me and stayed patient with me all this time even though I'm not the best writer with the best timing. *runs after you all for a awesomestacular tackle hug* You're all amazing, every one of you.
I apologize if my writing seems a bit rusty.
No flamers. Constructive criticism allowed though, but go a little easy because I bruise too easily. *sheepish*
"You should take him out somewhere, you know."
Dean froze at the sudden voice of his surrogate father, breaking through the prior silence occupying the room.
"Think it'll be good for 'im." Bobby added.
He allowed the previous words to sink in to his brain, and looked back at him with a raised eyebrow. "Don't you think it might be a bit dangerous for Sammy to go out? What with all the demons, hunters and Satan after him?"
Bobby sighed softly. The boy did have a point on that, but surely, staying here all cooped up in his house wasn't actually good for both of them either, was it? And he told Dean just as much. "I get that you're worried, Dean. But it ain't gonna do you and yer brother much good by sitting here all day. Who knows, maybe it might bring a few memories of his back to him, with you and him in your car and your music?" He suggested, shrugging lightly.
Dean went quiet, seemingly thinking about the advice.
He chewed on his bottom lip, looking down at his baby brother in his arms as he played with the hem of his big brother's shirt, seeming almost fascinated. Despite his shaking hands that always made Dean's heart hurt every time he looked at them, he couldn't help the fond smile that slowly blossomed on his lips at the sight.
It was something Sam often did as a kid, whenever he used to have a nightmare and he woke up crying, causing Dean to wake up too at the sound of his harsh sobs. So, he'd call him to his own bed and hold him until his tears would stop, and then he'd always fall asleep fiddling with his big brother's shirt. In Dean's mind, it had probably been some kind of a soothing thing for his brother or a way to distract himself. Either way, he never minded since it was, in some ways, comforting for him as well.
"I guess you're right." Dean agreed quietly as he took his little brother's thin hands in his own, causing him to look up at him with those large, hazel eyes of his. He smiled down gently at him, leaving one of his hands to run his own fingers through his soft brown locks. "What d'you think, Sammy?"
He smiled up at him, two deep dimples denting his cheeks as he did so. And Dean thought it was just as good for an answer, even though a pang in his heart reminded him that Sammy probably didn't understand much of what was said to him.
Dean could feel Sam's bony fingers curl tightly into his sleeves as his baby brother walked alongside him slowly, his own arm wrapping around his narrowed waist as he led him to the Impala all the while whispering soft, quiet and soothing encouragements and reassurances the whole way. He could sense Bobby's eyes following the back of his head all the way until they reached the car, the old man's wheels creaking behind them as he came to a stop before the staircase on the porch.
He tugged open the sleek black car's door and carefully guided his brother inside to sit on the seat. And, not for the first time, he felt sharp sorrow jolt his heart when Sam immediately curled up, pulling his legs into his chest and wrapping his arms around them tightly.
And Dean was left wondering once again.
How the hell did all of this happen?
The car rumbled as it drove down the open road, Bobby's house left behind miles ago. Dean could almost imagine things being back to normal, almost imagine that Sammy was absolutely alright and they were just back from another exhausting hunt and putting another town in the rear-view mirror.
But there was a part of him that knew better, the one that was still connected to reality.
Sammy wasn't alright at all.
He wasn't alright because his legs weren't awkwardly placed on the floor of the car, nearly crammed against the dashboard and the door. Instead, they were held tightly against his chest, heels digging into the edge of the seat, curled up just like he did back in that room when those bastards came in. He wasn't alright because he wasn't mentally counting cars or trees and his head wasn't resting against the cold glass of the Impala's window, looking out of it dully and watching the familiar scenery pass by them out of boredom, like he had already seen it all a thousand times before.
Instead, there was awe in his large eyes, like he was seeing everything for the first time.
And Dean wondered how he could still look so innocent even after everything he had been through.
The awe and joy was something that he didn't see on Sam's face for a long time, which was why it did make Dean happy. But somehow at the same time, it broke something inside of him. It made it ache, made his eyes burn with something akin to despair and sorrow for his damaged little brother.
Dean swallowed and pulled in a deep breath to keep the tears in his eyes and the pain in his chest at bay, and leaned across the car to turn his music on, letting it fill the silence and drown out his thoughts.
Dean smiled softly when he heard his brother's quiet and off-tune humming next to him (Sammy was never good at singing...), and he took a second to reach over and ruffle his hair affectionately, taking it as a small sign of improvement as he felt his heart beam with pride. It may not seem much to others, but to Dean, it was everything.
Sam only looked at him and smiled back.
They stopped at a small lake, just about enough distance away from Bobby's, but still close enough.
Dean had to admit that this was actually a great idea. It wasn't the panacea for their shitty situation, but the fresh air and the sunlight did manage to deplete some of the depression away. The grass and tree leaves were a wonderful shade of light, dry green, covering all the areas surrounding the lake, the water reflecting the marvelous blue colors of the sky and glinting mesmerizingly in the golden sun. Something about the place, the very atmosphere, was relaxing and peaceful and full of hope, and God knew they needed that right now.
He gently helped his little brother out of the car and slowly led him towards the lake, and Sam followed him without question, putting all of his trust and faith in his big brother just like he used to when he was a small kid, never once doubtful as he clenched his fingers tightly into his sleeves.
Dean sat him down just a bit far away from the edge, then plopped down beside him as well and opened his arm, allowing his baby brother to scoot closer and curl into his side, clutching at his shirt as he laid his head down his shoulder, and Dean brought his lifted arm down and wrapped it around his shoulders, sighing out a soft, peaceful breath and pressing his nose fondly into his brother's soft brown locks, and smiled tenderly at his brother's low humming.
The world was ending.
Dean didn't care.
Maybe that would have made him seem selfish in other people's eyes. But at this point, he just couldn't bring himself to give a crap.
Because they didn't have a little brother who used to follow them around and study everything they did because he wanted to be just like them, looked up to them and trusted them with all his heart and turned to them before anyone else because they were his greatest superhero (the kid had wrote a damn near five page essay in third grade on how awesome his big brother was). Because they didn't have a little brother that they taught everything and took care of and protected and looked after their entire lives and went to hell for and loved more than anything or anyone in this world.
And they didn't have to watch that same little brother get whipped and beaten and tortured until he broke and screamed and cried, didn't have to see him look up at them in the middle of every night after the dreams of that horrible past left him shaken and scared, tears streaming down his twisted face and filling his hurt and miserable eyes.
Didn't have to be the one to wipe them all away and hold him close and whisper soothing words in his ear while he whimpered and cried and sobbed brokenly in their arms.
They didn't have to feel themselves break inside as they did so.
His world was right here, fallen to pieces and bits in his arms, but here. And it was all he needed.
"As long as I'm around... nothing bad is gonna to happen to you."
Broken pieces of his memories, his past, whirled through his mind. Broken enough that they don't make much sense to him.
Him and Dean singing. Him and Dean laughing. Him and Dean driving down the road. Dean holding him. Dean taking care of him. Dean pulling him out of the fire. Dean keeping him safe.
But they made enough sense to know that De was home. De was safety. Love. Comfort. De was everything.
Dean pulled him closer. "Yeah, Sammy. We're safe."
He begged. He cried.
They laughed. They mocked.
"You look a little dirty there, Sammy. Lemme give you a bath," one of them said smugly, voice taunting and coarse, as he held a full bucket of scalding hot water in his hands, freshly boiled and steaming with gray smoke, and their dark and sadistic chuckles made his gut turn and his heart jolt with terror.
And then they roared with laughter, loud and brutal, as he poured the sizzling liquid all over his trembling body, and laughed even more as he screamed and writhed with merciless pain on the cot, his flesh raw and burning with agony as he sobbed quietly and tried to curl up.
But it only hurt more, so he just lied there limply and cried, let the tears fall and the whimpers tear out of his throat and his gasping sobs wrack his body and leave him breathless.
They took their newly-sharpened knives and held him down as they carved words into his scorched skin, their eyes cruel and somber with hatred and rage and their smiles sick and vicious and dark with malicious intent.
"So you don't forget, you pathetic retard."
"Because it's what you deserve."
"Worthless piece of shit."
He screamed again so that he could drown them out.
Dean jerked awake to his thrashing little brother at his side, making distressed noises as he shook his head back and forth against his shoulder and the pillow as he was caught in the thralls of another merciless nightmare, a nightly reminder of the broken months he had spent in that room with those monsters. Of the months, the monsters that broke him.
His weary eyes urged to slip shut into another dreamless slumber, but he tried to ignore it in favor of aiding to his brother as he tried to blink at the stubborn, tempting sleepiness tugging at him out of his groggy eyes and turned his head until his mouth was pressing lightly against his brother's creased forehead, the hand on his back reaching up to tangle itself in his soft brown locks. "Sammy?" he murmured tiredly, gently carding his fingers down his hair.
It was when he started screaming, loud and broken and soul-wrenching, that all the remnants of his exhaustion were completely chased away and he was sobered up immediately, his eyes widening as he suddenly jumped up and grabbed for Sam's trembling (and heartbreakingly thinner) shoulders and pulled him until he was sitting up with him. He shook him hard, yelling his brother's name with panic and desperation taking over his rough voice.
It took a good five minutes to get through to Sam, but soon enough, he saw him startle awake, sobs still wrenching out of his throat and tears still streaming down his brother's twisted face. Dean swallowed and wiped the tears off his cheeks with his fingers. Even after all these years of being the one to wake his brother up from a cruel dream ond console him through all his tears as a child, he still never got used to seeing him like this, especially after watching him get so brutally abused and knowing how wrecked his baby brother already was. Things were hard enough for Sammy as it was, and then to see that he couldn't even do something as simple as sleep without having any trouble made Dean's heart clench tightly with sorrow.
"Shh... it's okay, Sammy," Dean soothed, his voice a tender and comforting whisper as he gently stroked his hair away from his sweaty forehead. "You're safe now. You're safe."
His little brother's harsh sobs felt like a bullet shot through his chest, the ache of it embedded and lingering in his heart and making it bleed and squeeze painfully, leaving it almost hard to breathe.
Sam's hands scrabbled frantically against him until they caught a handful of his shirt, curled fingers clutching tightly at his front as he sobbed hard.
Then he uttered the word that made his blood run cold.
"M-mons'er..." he whimpered, shaky and strained.
He didn't know why it did so if he wasn't even sure what Sam meant by it.
Sam seemed to sense his confusion because Dean could feel him grow even more desperate, his hands tightening even more on him.
And then he paused for a moment, his crumpled features easing slowly and his eyebrows furrowing instead, tearful hazel eyes darting wildly as if he was remembering something.
His shaky, fisted hands then left Dean's shirt and clambered up for his own, clumsily trying to tug the clothing off but unable to, the movement of his limbs uncoordinated and awkward. After a few seconds of uselessly yanking, his hands grew more frustrated and anxious.
Until Dean gently shoved his hands out of the way and helped him with it, pulling his white T-shirt over his head. His heart pounded against his chest until he could hear every beat in his ears, swallowing as his throat dried up and his own hands shook. He was terrified of what he would see on his brother's body; all the whip lashes, wounds and bruises. Even after they escaped from that room and returned to Bobby's house, he left it to Cas to heal his brother's physical wounds because he knew he wouldn't be able to take the sight of them all. Cas told him that he had recovered most of the serious ones, but he wasn't strong enough to remove the resulted scars after being cut off from heaven.
He had expected it to be bad. Really bad.
It was worse than that. It was horrendous.
Maybe it was because he was seeing it on his own brother's body, but that was the only word he could think of.
His heart jolted vehemently in his chest, his fist shooting up to his mouth before the gasp could escape and he sucked in deep, shuddering breaths through his nose, his eyes squeezing shut as they burned with tears. His stomach churned, nausea swirling in his gut at the sight of brother's tortured body.
Scars everywhere, half a year's worth of wounds all painted over his brother's emaciated body, of whip lashes stretching from one place to another, criss-crossing and overlapping on top of each other, large burn marks, knife wounds and whatnot. Many of them he couldn't even identify.
But it were the words, large and made of deep pinkish scars, that caught his eye, its pencil most likely a knife.
"God, Sammy..." he whispered, swallowing as his fingers reached out and lightly brushed over them.
They were deep enough to be permanent, deep enough to remain engraved in his brother's skin forever. They'll fade over time, but never completely.
He imagined all these wounds, fresh and red, and felt his stomach lurch violently. But he managed to push it down on time as he breathed heavily.
"M' a mon-mons'er," he heard his brother sob again.
He pushed down the rising abhorrence and rage burning in his chest and tried to focus on Sam.
Sam, who thought he was a monster because it's what those fucking monsters told him over and over until he didn't know what else to believe. Beaten and tortured it into him and told him he deserved everything they ever did to him. Hell, who knows? Maybe they didn't even have to.
Sam probably believed it all along.
"It means you're a monster."
He needed to make it right.
"Sammy..." he whispered softly, swallowing hard and taking his little brother's wet face into his hands. "Sammy, hey. Look at me."
He leaned forward and tried to meet his eyes, but his brother's eyes remained down as he cried.
"Sammy, you're not... you're not a monster, okay?" he went on, swallowing again when his voice cracked. "You're not a monster. They were wrong. God, Sammy, they were so damn wrong."
He hauled him in and held him tight, rocking back and forth and burying his nose into his hair as his face twisted and his eyes filled with a thick line of unshed tears. "You're... you're my baby brother. You're not a monster."
He didn't know if Sam was even understanding any of it, and that only made him want to break down into tears even more. But he forced himself to be strong and kept up the litany repetitively, soft and soothing and reassuring, until his broken little brother cried himself to sleep once more.
He didn't sleep that night.
The soft rustle of fluttering wings alerted Dean to the angel's arrival. He didn't even twitch.
Silence filled the dark for a moment.
"I found them," Castiel's gravel deep voice cut through it.
Dean didn't move for a few seconds, just sat silently against the headboard and stared at a spot on the wall, his green orbs icy and impassive.
But then he slowly lifted his chin, nodded slightly and glanced down at Sam beside him, his nose nuzzled against Dean's hip, and he ran the hand on his brother's head tenderly through his hair.
"Then we'll leave tomorrow, first thing in the morning," he said quietly, the tone of his voice unreadable.
Castiel saw his throat bob slightly, his jaw clenching hard and his eyes still vacant, before his voice turned cold and dead. "They'll pay for what they did."
The angel hesitated for a second, but then stepped forward. "I don't think they can," he stated.
That was when Dean finally looked at him, for the first time since his visit, and his blonde eyebrows furrowed in puzzlement, the very first emotion that seeped into his features throughout their entire conversation. "What's that supposed to mean?"
Castiel fell silent.
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