To Face Goodbye

A/N & Warning: Just to be safe, there is mention of some minor abuse Sam suffered at the hands of others when he was younger. Nothing is shown, nothing really mentioned but it is there so I wanted to toss in an FYI. Thanks.

Chapter Three

Blaring loud drums seemed to pounding through Sam Winchester's groggy, tired, and sore head as he tried to move to cover his ears only to discover the drums appeared to be his own rapidly beating heart and he fought to claw his way to the surface of the nightmare he was trapped in…a nightmare in which he's forced to watch his brother die.

"No…De'n…don't…go…" trying to reach out, to stop what he could see, Sam jerked at the firm hands that gripped his shoulders to stop him from lunging up.

"Sammy, hey, settle down," the voice speaking sounded dim to Sam but he wasn't sure if that was because he could still hear his heart or if its speaker really did sound that tired when something registered and his tried to open eyes as one of the hands moved to grip his wrist. "Little brother, I swear if you rip these stitches out one more time I will so end you."

That threat, the tone brought Sam back and his eyes opened to find himself staring into the concerned green gaze of his older brother as Dean sat beside him on the hastily put back together bed in the bedroom of their motel room.

"…De'n?" Sam knew his head felt like busting and his mouth tasted like crap as Dean reached beside him to grab a bottle of water and held it up.

"Drink, rinse, and spit cause between the booze you've consumed, the way you've been throwing up since I got back here and from what I could see in the bathroom your mouth probably tastes like something in a dump," Dean was really proud that he'd stopped his hands from shaking as badly as they had been from the moment his brother had passed out four hours earlier until a little bit ago.

Confused, Sam winced as he eased up to an elbow to drink the cold water then spit it into the trashcan Dean held ready before slumping back to the pillows and looking around the room. "Dean?"

"Yeah, we are so not getting the security deposit back on this room," his brother sighed while shifting to begin repacking the medical kit. "You did a number on it…and yourself."

Thinking back to what he did recall, Sam noticed his hand and wrist and saw flashes of blood as glass shattered and he began to remember the night after Dean had left for the bar.

Looking more closely he noticed the stains of blood still on Dean's shirt but more importantly he caught the slight tremble to hands that Sam had rarely ever seen shake. "I'll…clean it up after…Dean?"

"You move and I'll put you in a damn hospital for this next fight," the tone was clipped which told Sam his brother was pissed but there was also something else there, concern or confusion. "What the hell were you doing, Sam?" Dean demanded, glancing back but still could see the smeared blood traced on the floor in the bathroom that he hadn't cleaned up yet.

"Trying to save you," Sam replied softly, dropping his eyes to his bandaged hand to avoid seeing the anger or disapproval glaring back at him but felt the hand on his good wrist squeeze carefully. Looking back up he was startled not to see that but understanding and a tiredness that he hadn't seen in Dean before. "I promised that I'd find a way to…"

Dean grunted softly to himself, nodding. 'So that's what this is about' he thought to himself, recalling their conversation in the car after helping Bobby when he'd been in a coma.

He had told Sam that he didn't want to die…that he didn't want to go to Hell and his little brother had promised to find a way to help him. If Sam was anything like their Dad then it was in his stubborn nature to do what he set his mind on and what Sam wanted more than anything was to save Dean from Hell, from a deal he made to save Sam.

"Sammy, I know what you want…I know that you will try until the very goddamn end but…little brother, you need to start facing that in less than three days my deal comes due and…" struggling to bury the pain and emotion that wanted to come out, Dean stood up to go over and pick up the fallen laptop and reset the table while trying not to look back into too huge puppy dog eyes that he knew would be wet with unshed tears.

"We find Lillith and we can make her cancel it," Sam had hoped they wouldn't have to resort to that option but since this last trick of his had backfired he guessed they didn't have any further choice. "You taught me to never give up. You taught me that there was always a way out if you looked hard enough and…"

Wondering when the hell his baby brother had decided to start remembering the things he'd been taught, Dean felt like slamming his head into a wall in bitter frustration but hearing the next soft comment stopped him.

"You…promised that you'd never leave me."

There it was. The oh-so quiet hurt, lost little brother tone that Dean only heard from Sam when things were at the breaking point…or the time when Sam had been thirteen and his big brother had originally made that promise.

Taking a deep breath, Dean let it out slowly and by the time he had some of his emotions had settled back into the normal 'protect Sam, never let him see you falter' mode. Looking back toward Sam who had decided the bandage on his hand and wrist was very interesting; Dean recalled the night he made that promise.

He'd been seventeen and striving for a bit more independence than his Father had been comfortable with until finally weeks of badgering, of fighting and outright sulking had made John give in and he allowed his older son to go on a hunt with only Caleb as backup.

The hunt had been simple, a vengeful spirit of an old Civil War soldier who hadn't quite gotten the idea that the war was over. It took less than a week but it was a time that had taken the young hunters into areas of the south that also hadn't gotten cell phone service so the second they hit a zone that did both Dean and Caleb's cell phones were exploding with voicemails from several anxious people.

Figuring that probably Bobby, Pastor Jim and Jefferson were just a little wary about what he and Caleb could get into on their own, Dean wasn't too concerned about checking them until he caught the way his friend's face was changing as he listened to his and said three words that Dean still recalled. 'It's about Sam'.

Forgetting the need for a shower or food, Dean had scrolled through his many messages to find the first one and held his breath at his father's unusually anxious and concerned voice as he explained that Sam was missing and he needed to get back.

Five days separated the first call to the last and when Dean was unable to get his Dad by phone his concern tripled and he and Caleb were halfway back to Bobby's when he got the call from Jim Murphy that he hadn't wanted to get.

John had been hunting with Jim and Bobby, it was a simple hunt or so the men had thought and hadn't considered leaving Sam at the motel for the short amount of time. Nor had their Dad thought anything about asking his thirteen year old son to walk the few blocks to the town's small library to check into something and that had been his mistake because this town had a secret that didn't include the little girl ghost that had brought them to Virginia.

A couple had lost a child years earlier to a freak accident and since then they'd been surviving that loss by kidnapping children from surrounding areas but the couple hadn't been right mentally before that as Dean would learn and his brother suffered greatly in the three days he'd been held until finally John had gotten a local to talk to them and they'd rescued the younger boy.

Hurt, frightened, starved, Sam had been in shock and hurt so bad that he had to stay in the hospital and that was where Dean found him. It was one of the few times that Dean could recall seeing his Father, the picture of no emotion usually, pacing restlessly in the hall and looking both sick at heart and furious at the same time.

Bobby had told him later that John hadn't killed the couple despite wanting to because he'd been in too big of a hurry to get Sam out of their hands and away from the tiny little box they'd locked him in when not hurting him. That had been fine with Dean since he figured he could handle that leftover detail once he'd checked on his brother…then he'd stepped into the hospital room and could still recall what he'd saw.

Sam, at thirteen, hadn't hit his growth spurt yet and when he was sick or hurt could still remind Dean of the small boy who would always follow after him. That day, his little brother looked whiter than the hospital bed sheets as he laid curled up and clutching an old flannel shirt that Dean knew by one look was one of his.

He'd only sat on the edge of the bed and spoke his brother's name when those same huge, glassy puppy dog eyes locked on his and then he was holding his frightened, still hurt little brother in his arms as he finally let out the locked up emotions and fears he'd been trying to hide from their Dad and the others.

Sam had survived that ordeal by telling himself that Dean would come, that he'd be back and had locked down all the badness, the pain, the fears until he heard his brother's strong voice then just clung to him the rest of the night while Dean talked, soothed, and listened until finally he made one promise that Sam had never forgotten…

"'Hey, it's over. Those assholes will never hurt you again and I will never leave you alone like this again.'"

"Yeah, I know I did, Sammy," he murmured, going back to sit on the edge of Sam's bed but made no move to touch his still upset brother yet. "I've made you a lot of promises since you were a baby and I've probably managed to only keep 40% of 'em."

Staring at his hands, it took Dean a long while before he could bring himself to look fully at Sam then he carefully lifted his brother's head so their eyes would meet. "I promised that I'd always look after you, I promised that I'd keep you as out of this life as I could when you found out, I promised you as normal a life as I could swing when you were growing up…and I promised that nothing bad would ever happen to you when I was around…I didn't do so good at those, Sammy. I tried, but I…just couldn't keep 'em as much as I wanted to."

Giving a tired smile that was part Dean's usual smirk when trying to ease his brother's tension, he knew the second Sam was paying attention fully. "I know what I taught you, I know what I've promised you and if I could keep that promise I would but…Sammy…this time…this time there is no way out for me and no amount of deals, spells, or crap will change that but this…what happened here tonight is not going to help me because the last thing I need or want before it's over is to worry about you doing this because I…won't be here to pull you back," he hated to say that, knew it would hurt both of them but also knew he needed Sam to understand.

"You made that damn deal for me," Sam snapped, refusing to face this yet. He wasn't ready to hear what Dean was saying so he struggled to push to his feet only to fall into the wall by the bed when his legs wobbled. "No, don't touch me!"

He shoved away Dean's hand that had gone to grab for his, not wanting the support, not wanting anything but to crawl back into that same damn tiny box he remembered from his youth and pray this was a nightmare that his brother wasn't dying, wasn't leaving him.

"You should've let me die," the words were gritted, the pain obvious as Sam looked back, the tears clear now as he met Dean's gaze. "What the hell was the sense of saving me if it meant you'd die?" he demanded, knowing he was still more than a little drunk and in shock and that he should go back to sleep but couldn't. The sense of loss and failure was too deep right then. "You're my big brother, Dean. You're supposed to know what's best for me. Is this it? Is making a damn deal to save me what was best for me when we both know what Dad told you I could turn into?"

Dean listened to the breaking voice, the tears that choked his little brother's words and knew that everything or mostly everything he said was true but waited for Sam to wind down some before speaking. He waited until the first fist went into the wall and felt his chest tighten because every reaction in Sam now was reminding him so much of his own the night Sam had been killed by Jake.

"Sam," Dean knew his brother was hurting but he just realized he might have underestimated just how scared Sam was about the facing things alone, without his big brother. "Sammy, stop," seeing the bandaged fist draw back for a fourth time, Dean reached out to grab his brother's bicep then held on tightly as he turned Sam to face him while falling back to his tried and true method of controlling his upset little brother when he'd been trying to lash out at the world.

When Sam had been young and upset, when he'd been angry with John or even Dean and trying to lash out, Dean had figured out quickly the one way to stop it. Times might have changed, they might've changed but some things didn't change as he firmly pulled the no longer struggling younger Winchester forward and felt him latch on in a tight hug much like he had when Sam had been thirteen.

Dean just wished he had the right answers this time but knew nothing he said would or could stop the pain his little brother had right then. "Big brother doesn't always know what's best, Sammy," he spoke quietly, tightening his grip only when he felt his brother shake and heard the buried sobs that Sam still tried to hide. "If I did, I probably would've known to leave you alone in school but I was selfish and wanted my pain in the ass little brother back. If I had known best I would've went into that goddamn diner for my own stuff that night instead of sending you…but I didn't.

"As for why I made the deal to save you knowing I'd die? I wasn't counting on the demon cutting the usual ten years down to one which makes me wonder who I pissed off downstairs that they want me so bad…Sam, listen to me," Dean closed his eyes as he struggled to say the right things while not breaking the hold like he normally would have since he was breaking his own no chick flick rule but knowing his brother needed to have some form of contact if either of them were to get through this.

"I made the deal because I couldn't have went on with you dead. Yeah, another selfish moment but I didn't want my baby brother dead because I couldn't protect him," he went on, laughing bitterly. "Maybe I had some notion that we could find a way out but we can't and that brings me to now and you…"

Gently pushing Sam back to arms length, Dean fully met wet hazel eyes and gave a smile. "Is my dying what's best for you? No, but I can't change that no matter how much I wish I could. Do I regret losing so many months of playing it cool and tough when I should've been paying more attention to you and helping you face this? Yeah, but I can't change that either.

"I can't change a damn thing, Sam. All I can do is watch after my pain in the ass little brother for the last few days I have left and know that I taught you everything you know," not bothering to hide the tears like he would have any other time, Dean gave a little shake to make Sam look back up at him and again gave the tiny little smile that had always meant it would be okay. "I know you'll be scared but I also know you'll be okay. You'll wipe those pesky Wendigos off the map and you'll make your big brother proud but doing what you did tonight will never stop it from happening or change it, okay?"

"I…I don't want you to…" Sam had grown up learning to bury the emotions, to not show them but Dean had been the one who had never made him do that. Now as he watched his brother's face and saw the feelings that he finally did allow to appear Sam finally felt the break and let the wall blocking his fall since he knew Dean would just call do-over in the morning anyway. "I'm sorry that I…"

Supposing he should've seen this coming, Dean caught his brother by the shoulders to more physically direct him back to the bed but kept a hold so when he fell onto the mattress he didn't do himself more damage. "You didn't fail me, Sammy," he assured the over emotional boy. "It was my choice. I knew the risks, I knew the outcome and…I'll…be alright."

"You really believe that?" Sam asked, rubbing his eyes tiredly then shooting his brother a full on bitch face when he carded his fingers through Sam's hair only to pull it into his eyes rather than out of them. "Or are you just saying that for my sake?"

Sitting down next to his brother, Dean let his hand rest gently on the back of Sam's neck before squeezing it like he would when offering comfort or support without having to speak it. "That's what awesome big brothers are for, Sammy," he replied, not giving another answer since he knew Sam was already upset without needing to see or know how scared Dean really was of going to Hell. "Go to sleep and then I'll see about that hangover cure."

"God," Sam groaned, keeping his bad hand close to him while using his good one to pull the pillow from Dean's bed tighter to his face in efforts to smother even the thought that so-called cure. "De'n?" he called sleepily when he felt the bed shift. "Don't go…"

"I'm not going anywhere, Sam," Dean promised, picking the other comforter up from the floor to lay over his now shivering brother then gently laid his battered leather jacket over him too. "I'll just be cleaning up your little mess," he threw in lightly but saw the way Sam had latched onto his jacket that his brother was out for the night…or so he hoped because by this point Dean needed the time to clear his own head.

Stepping into the bathroom, he pulled the door closed to cover the sounds of the water running as he decided the best way to get the blood up from the floor.

Kneeling down with a rag soaked with hot water, Dean sighed as his brother's blood merely smeared more then he saw the tiny little book. "Sonuvabitch," he whispered, staring at the page that Sam had been studying.

He knew this book. He'd known it was in Bobby's library. He knew because he'd been through it nearly a dozen times and had seen this very same spell every time. He also knew if that last word in the spell hadn't been marred how close his brother would have been to not only succeeding in saving Dean but in sending himself straight to Hell in his place.

Dean knew all this because he'd been the one to mar the final word the moment an old Professor friend of his Dad's had explained just what this blood spell could and would do. This spell would've broken Dean free of the deal but it also would've resulted in sending who ever cast it straight there in his place and no matter how much Dean feared his fate he was not willing to risk his brother.

"I'm sorry, Sammy," he tossed the book into the sink, grabbed a bottle of alcohol to douse it with, lit it with his lighter then slid down the wall to watch it burn. "I can't let you ever use this spell."

Hours later once the blood was cleaned up, he'd taken a long shower, and the room was set back to rights as best as he could, Dean checked to be sure Sam was still sleeping before stepping outside the motel to stare up at the sky as the sun began to rise on his dwindling days.

Opening the trunk of the Impala to toss John's journal and Sam's repacked duffel back in, he paused to take a slip of paper out of his pocket to give it one final look over then slipped it into his brother's bag. Then he reached into his wallet for a worn out photo of him and Sam with John to also lay it inside with the note.

Gazing at a small bottle of whiskey that he kept for emergencies he considered it before blowing out a breath, shutting the trunk to run a shaking hand over the car. "Be good for him, baby," he spoke quietly, letting his head rest on the roof and felt a single tear fall as he thought of the next twenty-four hours.

In his life, Dean had faced a lot of goodbyes. He just wished there was a way to face this one without hurting his brother and knowing he'd never be able to say those words to the kid the moment it was time to. "Goodbye…Sammy," he whispered, seeing the sun begin to shine fully and knowing they needed to hit the road for Bobby's.

Wiping his face dry, taking a couple breaths to steady himself, Dean walked back into the motel room while turning his cell phone to play a song he knew his brother hated. "Rise and shine, Sammy! Time to go…"

The End

Author Note: Well…not too much of it was tear jerking…maybe. I hope everyone who had read this one enjoyed it. I think I have two others planned for around this time so we'll see. This was one of the more emotional times for me since I still can't watch the last episode from Season 3 without crying. Read and enjoy.