Chapter Fifteen

"Dead?" Dean asked slowly, warily, after nearly two minutes of stillness and silence, as if seeking confirmation that his ears weren't playing any cruel tricks with him while that one word echoed over and over in his head, a constant repetitive litany of dead, dead, dead, they're dead filling his head. The shock was still numbing his senses, his mind seemingly unwilling to comprehend the angel's sudden and blunt declaration.

But when the shock slowly began to wear off — it left in its place a bubbling lava-hot fury, waiting to be erupted like a volcano at even the slightest wrong move.

"Yes. I have found their bodies about five states away from here," Castiel replied, completely honest and straightforward this time.

For a moment, Dean said nothing, one hand clenching tight and hard due to the scalding hot fury that began rushing through his veins, the other one somehow managing to still remain loose and tender as they tangled in his brother's hair.

"They were supposed to be my kill," then Dean said quietly, though his voice oddly calm and low, it was still deadly and hard, rage brimming just underneath the surface.

Castiel sighed softly, which was quite a humanly gesture and it would have made Dean smile if he wasn't so enraged at the time. "I know you seeked vengeance, Dean. And..." His intense blue eyes slowly landed on the sleeping figure beside his friend, and there was a small hint of sadness seeping into his usually impassive features. "And maybe rightly so. But perhaps this was for the b — "

It was then Dean whipped up from where he sat. "No. Don't you dare say it, Cas," he snarled angrily, now both hands curled tightly at his sides, firm as stone. "They hurt Sammy. They hurt my brother. They tortured and beat and raped my brother. So, I think I was the one who reserved the right to do the mutilating of those bastards. And now they're fucking dead, and I can't..."

He stopped, closing his eyes and releasing a deep, shuddering breath. "...so don't you dare tell me this was for the best, because I don't believe it for a second."

"Even if you were the one to kill them, Dean, it would have never satisfied your anger or your hunger for vengeance," Castiel explained gravelly, his blue eyes fixed on his face. "They would have been dead. But Sam would have still remained the same. And in the end, I believe your true purpose is fulfilled. Sam is safe now, and they cannot come after him any more."

Dean breathed heavily to contain his anger, his shaking hands fisting and loosening at his sides. Castiel's words held truth, but he didn't understand. He didn't understand what it felt like, knowing about all the things they've done to him. He didn't understand the cruel guilt and remorse that haunted him every day, of knowing that if he had only been there, to protect him and keep him safe, simply made one choice differently, that he could have avoided all of this. He didn't understand what it felt like, knowing that in all those six months he spent trying to act carefree and happy and convincing himself that being without Sam was better than being with him, not even bothering to give a damn call every once in a while to check on him, that his brother was being hurt in ways unimaginable to him every single day. He didn't understand what it felt like, watching your brother get reduced to that just because he was too pigheaded and self-absorbed, because of his one stupid mistake. He didn't understand the feeling of knowing how they completely broke the person that mattered most to him. Didn't understand what it felt like to see all those scars on his body.

And not be the one to make the same ones on theirs.

His fist shot out swiftly and collided hard into the wall behind him.

He punched the barricade until his knuckles bled and there were cracks stretching over the paint (which would no doubt piss the hell out of Bobby), smoldering rage coursing through his body and burning his chest as he slammed his fist into the wall over and over, one hit after another, strangled cries of anger shredding out of him as he tried to release the fury that never truly went away since the first day, only suppressed in favor of focusing solely on his baby brother.

But the rage seemed to remain inside persistently, an endless and fiery burn that filled his chest and his entire body.

He pounded the wall until his muscles were sapped of all energy, weariness weighing deep into his bones, and he was left sliding down to his knees as he panted heavily and sucked in huge shuddering breaths, trying his hardest not to break down like he had been wanting to every time the full reality of his brother's state slammed into him.

He bit down on his lip against a harsh sob as he slowly brought his legs up to his chest, his elbows on his knees as he held his head wearily in his trembling hands. Heavy gasps ripped out of him as he tried not to fall apart in front of the angel, tried to be strong because that was what his baby brother needed right now (would need from now on). If he couldn't hold even himself together at times like these, how could he ever even hope to keep Sammy safe and protected from the world?

But sometimes it was all just so much.

And for a moment, he just sat there silently, shoulders and body quaking with restrained cries and emotions as he sunk his teeth into his quivering lip and squeezed his eyes against the incoming burn of tears, too drained to do anything but remain that way. The heavy ache of despair and grief remained relentlessly in his chest until it felt like he couldn't breathe.

But he clamped down on the wracking sobs threatening to rise up from his chest, grinding his jaw stubbornly as his nose twitched and his features began to screw slightly, the first signs of the inevitable break down that Dean had been trying to avoid with all his might and power.

And his damn body just wouldn't stop shaking.

The urge to give in was too intense, the need to just sob out all the pent-up frustration and rage and guilt and sorrow, to release all the suppressed emotions, to just let go and cry until he felt just as emotionally exhausted as he did physically at the moment.

But then he realized that no matter how much he would try, no how much he would weep or punch or scream or torture — he realized that this anguish would never really go away.

It would never go away because Sammy's condition would never go away.

Because the thing was, no matter how much he would do those things, Sam would still be the same. Sam would still be broken, still be hurt and scared and that would probably never be fixed. He would be like this forever, for the rest of their lives, and Dean couldn't do a damn thing to change that. No deals to sell his soul to, no amount of Castiel's angel mojo to magically fix him up, no faith healers and miraculous recoveries. Nothing.

Maybe there was a spell out there somewhere, but it would no doubt cost something special, an extreme price — a kidney, a life, a soul...

Dean would willingly give his own, all three of those and more, just so he could have his baby brother be okay again.

But then, there was also a chance that there wasn't.

He breathed out deeply, sniffing quietly, and then moved both his hands away from his head and pressed its heels painfully at his wetting eyes, clenching his jaw furiously and swallowing insistently against the obstinate lump in his throat. The damn tears and sobs just kept coming back, and he was frankly getting sick of it. How many times did this happen tonight?

He rubbed vigorously at his scratchy, watery eyes, trying to will the tears and sorrow away. Sammy needed him to take care of him. He couldn't afford to allow himself the time or luxury of vulnerability and emotional release.

He didn't deserve it.

He didn't deserve any relief, didn't deserve to feel better or to feel okay or —

He startled when he felt the weight of a large hand landing softly on the top of his head, his heart and body reacting with a surprised jolt at the sudden contact before he completely froze.

And when he lifted his head, slow and hesitant.

He saw Sammy.

Sammy staring at him with his large puppy eyes, bruised and dark, but with so much faith and trust and love in those hazel orbs. The same look he wore when he was merely a kid, gazing at him like he was the most amazing person he had ever known, the epitome of the hero that he himself always wanted to be, like he was the best big brother in this entire world and he was the one lucky enough to have him.

Dean swallowed the lump in his throat at those eyes, wondering if he was even worthy of that look.

And then he felt his shaking hand slide off from where it was buried underneath his dirty blonde hair and down to his cheek, his baby brother's touch gentle and tender as he held his face. Dean couldn't do anything but stare as the hand pressed a little more, his mind unable to grasp that Sam, his broken baby brother who bore the scars of half a year's worth of agonizing torture, both mental and physical, was here trying to comfort him.

And in the end, all it took were those two words from his little brother's lips, one consoling phrase — stuttered and broken and said with so much adoration and faith in his soft, trustful voice and his innocent hazel eyes — to make him crumble to pieces.

"S'...s'k-kay."

To make him shatter.

He got up from his place on the floor, climbed up on the bed with him and wrapped his arms around his waist, and then pulled his Sammy up and against his chest, burying his mouth into his hair as the tears fell free and his face crumpled completely.

And then he clung.

He clung hard to the one hope he had always had in this painful world, now damaged and wrecked and destroyed to bits and pieces and still managing to be everything he needed. That little ray of light in this dark thing called life, now dim and faint and weak, and yet, just enough to be the beacon that could guide him out from this void of blackness.

Dean twisted his fingers into his brother's hair loosely, and he whispered softly through a trembling smile, "I know, little brother."

He tightened his grip around him and pressed a small kiss into his head. "I know."


Author's Note: Well, I hope that was sweet and sad, because that was sort of what I was aiming for. *grins*

Thank you all so, so, so much for reviewing and tagging my stories and, most of all, for being patient with me and sticking with me throughout all of it, despite my not-so-well-timed updates. *hugs all of you* I tried to update as soon as I can this time, which, uh, basically meant two or three months. *sheepish* Yeah, I know. I just suck, don't I? I'd say sorry, but I've overused it so much, it's probably becoming trite to you readers. But I really am, and I feel awful. *sighs guiltily*

And also, I know Cas kind of just disappeared half-way through the story or something, but I'm planning on starting off the next chapter with a continual of this scene. I was thinking about just finishing it right in this chapter, but I thought this was a nice place to wrap the chapter up.

You are all awesome! And I'm just so grateful for every one of you! *awesomestacular tackle hug*

I'd love to hear what you thought about this chapter! That reminds me, I'm sure I've replied this time, but if I didn't, then please don't take it personally! I have the mind of a child, so I often forget to reply. Thank you very much for your reviews!