A/N: Thanks to everyone for the reviews and all the great feedback. Enjoy the next chapter.
Just before twilight, on the evening following his drinking binge, Sam broke down.
He had spent most of the day sleeping off the previous night's indulgence and it was pretty late in the afternoon when he and Dean got back on the road again. They were heading to Bobby's place, driving in a dreadful silence that seemed to grow more unbearable by the second.
Just before sunset they drove by a beautifully tranquil lake on a lonely stretch of back road. At the sight of the peaceful water, glistening in the fading light, Sam lost control.
"Pull over," he commanded suddenly.
The unexpected request caught Dean off guard.
"Pull over," Sam repeated. "I need to get out."
Dean did as he was told and as soon as he brought the impala to a halt Sam made a brisk exit. He walked away from the car and towards the lake, staring at the water.
Opening the driver's door, Dean rounded the bonnet and approached his brother.
"Sam, come on. I told Bobby we'd be there before midnight and we're running way behind time."
Sam remained transfixed by the still water. He breathed in deeply, willing the peaceful lake to calm the tumult in his soul.
"Hey, Sam," Dean pressed, trying to draw him out of the reverie. "We gotta go."
"I have something I wanna tell you," Sam confessed, his tired voice reflecting his tortured soul.
Hearing the distress, Dean immediately decided to put his sibling out of his misery.
"It's O.K. Sam," Dean tried to keep his tone reasonable. "If you want to go, it's alright."
"Go?" Sam's eyes finally moved from the water to his brother. "Go where?"
"Back to college, back to California, back to normal."
"What are you saying?
"I'm saying it's O.K. if you wanna go."
"And just leave you?"
"If that's what you want; yes. You aren't the only one who can take care of yourself."
"That's not what I want," Sam insisted.
"Of course it is," Dean countered. "Ever since you met up with Kylie you've been losing your grip. I know you went to California to escape from the family business and I know it must be killing you that you ended up right back in; and I don't want you to feel like you have to stick around for me."
"Dean," Sam's voice broke as he said his brother's name. "You don't understand."
"No, I do," Dean assured him. "What did Kylie say? That you should come back to California? That Jess would have wanted you to go to law school."
"No," Sam said as if the very idea was outrageous. "That's not what she said."
"So did she give you the time heals all wounds pep talk? Did she say that in time you'll meet someone else, settle down and live the picket fence life?"
"No!" Sam shouted, running his hands through his hair in frustration. "That's not what she said."
"Then what did she say? Cause whatever it is, it's tearing you apart."
"She told me that Jess was pregnant!"
Dean felt as if the air had been sucked out of his lungs.
Sam covered his face and turned away, as if he couldn't believe he had uttered the words. Saying it aloud, saying it to Dean, meant he was finally admitting it was real.
Wanting to prolong his denial he tried to walk away from his brother. But then he felt a restraining hand on his shoulder as Dean stopped him and gently spun him around so they were face to face.
"Talk to me," Dean urged, his voice trembling.
Sam looked into his brother's eyes, saw the concern and the compassion and abandoned all restraint.
"Jess was pregnant Dean," Sam wailed. "I was going to be a father. The woman I loved was going to have my baby and now they're both dead."
Physically weakened by the revelation, Sam fell to the ground as his knees gave way. Covering his face as he crumpled, he broke down and wept. Just when he thought he was coming to terms to with his heartbreak, the cruel tentacles of the tragedy reached out to claw him again. Dean's heart broke as he watched his little brother's emotional disintegration. Instantly he was down on the ground reaching for Sam. Knowing that the six foot, five inch dense mass of muscle he was holding was as fragile as a new born, Dean pulled his sibling into a protective embrace.
Anchoring Sam in his arms, Dean leaned back against the Impala, the only thing he would trust to bolster him while he supported his brother. Sam buried his face in Dean's neck and cried with shuddering sobs.
It was hardly a safe place for them to be as the sun began its decent behind the trees just beyond the lake; but Dean didn't care. They weren't leaving until he somehow managed to put his brother's shattered heart back together.
He kept Sam close until it seemed like the bout of crying was subsiding, then he eased him back gently.
"Tell me what happened."
Sighing, Sam shifted so his back was against the car but stayed huddled close to his brother. Slipping an arm around Sam, Dean squeezed his shoulder reassuringly.
"I had bad feeling from the moment Kylie asked me to meet her at Santa Cruz Beach."
"Is that where you went after the funeral to lay flowers for Jess?"
"Yeah. Jess and I considered it our place. We went there all the time. And the moment I got there I could feel her everywhere. She still seemed so real to me. I guess having been away from all the places we used to hang out has made me feel her presence less. But being there made it all come back to me."
Sam paused, taking a deep, sobbing breath.
"Go on," Dean urged softly, rubbing his shoulder encouragingly.
"It was good to see Kylie, but that was hard as well. She and Jess were always inseparable and it was so weird to see her by herself. She looked so alone."
"She's lost her best friend Sammy. That's gonna hurt for a long time."
"I know but it just made feel bad for her on top of everything else. Then after we exchanged small talk, she just cut to chase and said she'd thought long and hard about what she was going to say to me because she'd kept it to herself for so long. But she thought I had a right to know that Jessica was about ten weeks pregnant when she died."
Feeling Sam shiver as he reiterated the tragic news, Dean pulled him closer.
"It's O.K. Sammy."
The words that were meant to reassure fell way short of the mark. Sam didn't think that anything would ever be O.K. again.
"Jess had found out the week before you came to see me but Kylie said she was scared. We were being very careful because we both had so many plans and so many things we wanted to achieve before we even thought about starting a family. She wanted to do postgrad and you know I wanted to go to law school, but the one thing we both knew is that we wanted to be together. But Kylie said Jess didn't want me to feel like I had to make a commitment I wasn't ready for. She didn't want me to feel like I had to take our relationship to the next level just because she was pregnant, so she was confused.
Kylie said she didn't want to tell me until I'd finished finals because she didn't want anything to distract me. But Kylie was worried that Jess would keep putting it off. Eventually Kylie told her to trust that I would be OK because she knew I loved her and I wanted to be with her. She said while I was away with you, she and Jess talked it over and Jess decided she was going to tell me as soon as I got back."
"Wow," Dean whispered.
"When I got back, I was so happy to be home, Dean. I was dying to see her. She obviously wanted to make me feel special because she'd baked my favourite cookies and left me a really sweet note. Then when I got upstairs ..."
Sam couldn't go on. His soft speech gave way to deep, painful gasps as he recalled the horror of seeing his girlfriend on the ceiling. The woman he loved and wanted to spend the rest of his life with was dying a brutal, terrifying death and there was nothing he could do to stop it. Jessica, who'd once confessed that she knew she loved him from the first time they met, had paid the ultimate price for following her heart. And as if it wasn't hard enough to think of them being painfully and permanently separated, now his agony was compounded by the knowledge that she died carrying his child.
"Dean it kills me to think she died wondering if I would have been happy that she was going to have my baby. I'd already decided that I wanted to marry her. I was going to propose after graduation. I wanted a life with her, I wanted a family."
"Sammy, come on, don't do this to yourself. It was only natural for her to feel a little insecure about telling you she was pregnant. But deep down she knew you'd be O.K."
"When Kylie told me, right there in that place where I have my most precious memories of Jessica, I felt like I was losing her all over again."
"I'm sorry Sammy."
"Don't be," Sam sniffed bitterly. "I probably just got what I deserved."
"What the hell do you mean by that?"
"Think about it Dean. I wanted a life with Jess and a family but the whole time I was planning my future, I forgot to appreciate the family I already had. Maybe that's why I lost Jess and the baby. I took you and Dad for granted and I thought I could just walk away and have my own family when I was good and ready. But it doesn't work like. Maybe if I had been grateful for you and Dad I wouldn't have had everything yanked away from me like this."
The admission brought on a fresh wave of tears. Quickly, Dean pulled Sam back against him and held on tight, telling him repeatedly that it was going to be alright. Sam had no idea how long the two of them sat there in the fading light. He only knew that he felt like his brother's arms were the only thing preventing him from going totally over the edge and so he held on to Dean like his grip meant the difference between death and life.
Sam felt as if the sorrow would overwhelm him and drag him down into a dark abyss. But the sound of the soft voice telling him it was going to be OK was like a beacon in the dead of night. Dean waited until the shuddering and the sobbing ebbed before shifting and pulling his brother up to face him.
"O.K. you listen to me, you don't need to be thinking any of these things. You did not deserve to lose Jess and you certainly did not deserve to not even get a chance to know your child. You lost them because life sucks. It's nothing you did or didn't do Sammy. You got dealt a crap hand, because that's just what happens sometimes."
Hearing Dean say the words gave the notion credence in Sam's book. And when Sam didn't immediately offer a counter argument, Dean knew he was getting through.
"You don't deserve any of this Sammy and it really kills me that all of this is happening to you."
Exhausted, Sam exhaled loudly, gently pulled away from Dean and wiped his eyes.
"I'm really sorry Dean," he sniffed.
"Sorry for what?"
"For constantly falling apart on you like this."
"What the hell do you mean by that? Is this why you've been keeping all of this to yourself?" Dean asked incredulously.
"I think I've put you through enough Dean." Sam insisted. "Ever since we got back together all you've done is babysit me from one meltdown to the next. How many times can I fall apart on you before you decide you're tired of my crap?"
"As many times as you need to Sam, you should know that."
"Oh come on Dean. I know you must be sick and tired of me crying."
"No. I'm tired of you hurting and if you don't know the difference then I can't help you with this one."
"Come on Sam. This is me you're dealing with not Dad. I never asked you to be a brave little soldier, I never told you that men don't cry. I think I deserve the benefit of the doubt."
"You do Dean and I'm sorry," Sam said. "I'm just trying to keep it together."
"And I'm saying you don't have to. You've been through hell Sammy. Nobody knows that more than me and I don't expect you to grin and bear it."
Dean raised Sam's head so he could look him straight in the eye. "Don't you get it yet? I'm your big brother; I'm always going to be here to pick up the pieces when you fall apart."
"It's not fair to you Dean," Sam reasoned. "I can't keep doing this."
"Sam I had four years of not being a big brother, four years of no one needing me, four years of being by myself and it damn near killed me. Trust me, I can handle a few meltdowns."
"I'm going to pull it together," Sam promised tearfully.
"I know you are Sammy," Dean said settling his little brother back down in his embrace. "But what I'm trying to say is that there's no hurry."
Relieved Sam sagged back against his brother. For a long time there was only the sound of his laboured breathing as he contemplated Dean's words. Every day since he lost Jess, Sam had to fight the feeling that he would have been better off if he'd died with her. The losses caused by the great Palo Alto fire were irrecoverable and sometimes the damage to his heart and soul felt irreparable. But as he leaned against Dean and drew strength from his brother, Sam realised that if he had any reason to keep holding on, it was the person holding on to him.
A/N: Honestly, I think Sam needs some more closure. Stay tuned for a companion piece.