If you are reading this for the first time, welcome to the story. If you have read it before you may notice some changes. The most obvious of this is the change to past tense from present. When I sat down to write the continuation of this story I found I couldn't get into the present tense headspace without a lot of concentration. I prefer to let the words flow, so I changed to past tense and normal service was resumed. I hope you enjoy,
Sam threw his bags into the trunk of the Impala and slammed it closed. His head was starting to ache, and he knew that wasn't a good sign. A blinding pain crossed Sam's temple and he wavered on his feet. He could feel the rage building, and though he knew it wasn't appropriate to the situation, he embraced it. He was going to use it to finally say what needed to be said.
"For the record, the girl—her name's Amelia, Amelia Richardson," he said. "She and I had a place together in Kermit, Texas.
Dean looked awkward. "Look, man, I don't even remember what I said, but, uh–"
"But what? But you didn't mean it? Oh, please. You and I both know you didn't need that penny to say those things." The anger was rising within Sam, and he tried to control it before he found himself revealing too much.
"Come on, Sam," Dean said.
"Own up to your crap, Dean. I told you from the jump where I was coming from, why I didn't look for you. But you, you had secrets. You had Benny. And you got on your high and mighty, and you've been kicking me ever since you got back. But that's over. So move on, or I will. I haven't got time for this anymore."
Sam cursed inwardly. He had said too much.
"You haven't got time for this?" Dean questioned. "Since when do you not have time for me? Or is this a part of the new Sam? No time for his family now he's got a girl?"
Sam ran a hand through his hair in frustration. His head was pounding now, and he knew he needed to take something before it spiraled out of control and he was back to lying in the dark for days. It'd been a while since he'd had one this bad.
"Well, come on, out with it," Dean prompted. "Was it the girl? Am I some big inconvenience now, back from Purgatory, getting in the way of your nice normal life?"
Sam unlocked the trunk and grabbed his duffel. Turning his back on his brother, he unlocked the motel room door and stepped inside, throwing it closed behind him.
"Dammit, Sam!" Dean bellowed and rattled the closed door. "Let me in or so help me…"
"Or what?" Sam muttered. Like there was anything else Dean could do or say that could be worse than what he already knew. He'd let his brother down. He should have found a way to release Dean from Purgatory instead of lying around for days at a time. And Castiel too. What Sam wouldn't give to have Castiel here now, with his healing abilities.
"Open this damn door!" Dean ordered, slamming his fist against the wood.
Sam's head pounded in rhythm with the banging, sending scorching pain through his skull. He tossed his duffel on the bed and rooted through it, searching for the small trove of medication he had stashed inside a pair of balled up socks. He selected the right bottle and shook two pills out into his hands. He would have liked to take more, to stave off the pain faster, but he had learned his lesson in that respect. Having your stomach pumped for an overdose was not a pleasant experience.
"Sam, I'm coming in!" Dean bellowed, stepping back and preparing to kick down the door. "One… Two…"
Before he reached three, the door clicked open and Sam was illuminated by the motel room lamp.
Dean pushed past him and into the room. "Right, now you've finished hiding like a little bitch, we are going to talk about this once and for all," he said fiercely.
"Dean," Sam said in a whisper, fighting the urge to press his fingers against his temples. "Can't we do this another time?"
"Hell no we can't. We are doing this now!" Dean's anger towards his brother was growing by the second.
Sam sank down onto the edge of the bed and clasped his hands between his knees. It was taking everything he had not to moan aloud, and for once, he didn't care that his brother was mad at him. All he cared about was the crippling pain building in his head. He didn't get the meds in time; it was going to be a bad one. He glared balefully at the lamp in the corner, wishing he could turn it off.
"I do have time for you, Dean," he said in a tired voice. "But right now, I just want to sleep."
Dean snorted. "Sure, it sounds like you've got plenty of time for me, as long as you're not sleepy, or you know, I'm not rotting in Purgatory!"
Sam raised his head slowly to look at his brother. "Is that what you really think? That I didn't come look for you because I couldn't be bothered?"
"Yeah, that's exactly what I think. You had some nice apple pie life with your girl, and I screwed it all up by coming back."
Tears sprang to Sam's eyes. They were a combination of physical pain and emotional pain as he heard how low his brother opinion was of him. How had it all gone so wrong? How had they come to this?
Dean saw the tears but discounted them. Sam had no right to be upset. He was the one that caused this whole mess. He was the one that left Dean to rot in Purgatory. If anyone had a right to be upset, it was Dean.
"You're wrong," Sam said in a whisper. "You didn't screw it up by coming back. You coming back was the first thing that felt right in this whole disaster of a year."
"Doesn't seem like it to me. You honestly telling me you weren't happier without me?"
Sam groaned and fisted a handful of hair. He couldn't help it. He was trying so hard to resist the pain, but it was coming at him full force. Dean took it as a sign of weakness in his brother, and it irritated him.
Sam knew the time that if there ever was a time to come clean, it was now. If he didn't heal this breach between him and Dean now, it would never happen. He would lose his brother forever.
Making a supreme effort to hide his agony, he reached for his duffel.
"You running off again?" Dean said cruelly.
"No. That's what you are going to do," Sam said, knowing in his heart that was true. When Dean learned the truth, he was going to leave Sam behind. Soon, Sam wouldn't be capable of hunting, and the hunt was all Dean cared about those days.
"You're damn right I am," Dean said. "If I don't get some answers soon, I am going to pack up my shit and leave you to it. After all, that's what you want."
With trembling fingers, Sam unrolled the socks and allowed the four medicine bottles to roll out onto the bedspread.
Dean watched them roll out and cold fear gripped his heart. "Sam?" he said quietly. "What are those?"
"Drugs," Sam said, avoiding his eye.
"I can see that," Dean said, still in that same quiet tone; it was almost childlike. "Why do you have them?"
Sam sighed heavily and braced his hands on his knees. With supreme effort, he forced himself to look into his brother's eyes. "I'm sick, Dean."
It felt like all the air has been sucked from the room. Dean wavered on his feet and his knees touched against the second bed. He allowed himself to sink down onto the mattress as Sam's words reverberated around his mind. "I'm sick. I'm sick. I'm sick." But he can't be. It was Dean's job to look after Sam. How could he have missed this? He looked at his brother and saw the signs he had missed before. There were dark circles under Sam's eyes and his skin was pale. His forehead was creased, a sure sign of pain in Sam. How could Dean have missed all this for so long?
"What is it?" Dean asked in a hoarse whisper.
"Cancer," Sam said simply, and Dean's world imploded.
Sam, his Sammy, his little brother had cancer. It wasn't possible. There had to have been some kind of mistake.
Sam saw the moment his words impacted Dean's mind, and he knew the feeling well. He was sure Dean's expression mirrored the one he himself had been sporting the day he walked out of a doctor's office a year ago. It had been shortly after Dean and Castiel had disappeared. He was still deep in the depths of his grief, and nothing could have torn him from the search for his brother, not the fatigue, not the dizziness, not the crippling headaches, nothing except the seizure that gripped him in the middle of a busy diner, landing him in hospital. Things had moved fast after that. He had been diagnosed within a week and started treatment soon after.
That was then, this was now.
Dean's hands were shaking as he rolled the pill bottles in his hands. "What are these?" he asked. It was not the question he wanted to ask, but he was unable to ask that without risking his mind. He already felt like he was one step away from shattering into a thousand pieces.
"Painkillers mostly," Sam said in a tone of forced calm. "Those ones there are antidepressants. Evidently, dying is a sad business, and you need a little help getting through the days."
Dean's heart dropped to his stomach. He was certain he misheard, as there was no way on this earth Sam could be dying. It just wasn't possible. Sure, he had seen it happen before. He had held his brother in Cold Oak as the life seeped out of him, but that was different. That was then. They had paid their dues, both of them. They were supposed to be living on the flipside. Sure Purgatory had been a complication, but compared to this, it felt like a vacation in Hawaii. Dean would gladly spend a century in Purgatory if Sam would just take back the word that caused his heart to break.
"Dying?" he croaked.
Sam looked at him with sympathetic eyes and nods. "Yeah."
Sam shrugged. "Who knows?"
"Dammit, Sam, tell me!" Dean demanded.
Sam looked as if he would rather swallow a razorblade than answer the question, but dutiful brother that he was, he answered. "A couple of months, maybe."
"And there isn't anything they can do?"
Sam shook his head. "I've done it all already. Radiotherapy."
"But there has to be more," Dean said desperately. "Chemotherapy, drugs, surgery. They're doctors for crap's sake. Why aren't you in hospital now?"
Sam couldn't answer that. He couldn't tell his brother that he was in hospital, undergoing treatment, until a call came through on an old cell phone. A call that gave his life the first light it had seen in over a year. The call that said his brother was back.
"They've done all they can," Sam said simply. "Now is time to live."
Dean snorted. "Living! You call what we have been doing living?" Anger was now coming back to him, and he drew on it. Anything was better to feel than the crippling grief. "Dammit, Sam, when were you going to tell me about this? Or was I just going to wake up to find you dead in the bed next to me someday?"
"I was going to tell you, but I knew when I did, it would mean this. I didn't want this. I didn't want to see that look in your eyes. I was hoping we would get to the tablet and Kevin in time to close the gates of Hell once and for all. I wanted this time to mean something, for my life to be something other than that of the man that freed the devil."
Dean's heart sank. After all they had been through, after all Sam had done, he still couldn't forgive himself for that mistake. He had freed Lucifer, but he had also put him back in the cage.
"Don't look at me like that," Sam said. "I'm not looking for pity. I know what a fuck up I have been. It just feels like this is something I can finally do to make it right."
Dean wanted to argue with him, but it was not six hours ago that he was throwing all Sam's mistakes in his face. How could he make up for that? How could Sam ever forgive him for what he said?
"Sam, I'm so—"
"Don't, Dean," Sam said abruptly. "I know you meant what you said, and you were right. I am a royal screw up, always have been. But if we can find Kevin and the tablet, I can make this right before I go."
"You think we're still going after Kevin?" Dean asks incredulously. "Sammy, you're sick. We've got to get you to a hospital. We need a second opinion. Dammit, a third opinion. I don't care what it takes. We're going to fix you."
Sam smiled at Dean. The smile makes Dean want to cry. It speaks of too much understanding. Sam has already been there and done that.
Sam pushed himself to his feet and paced the length of the room. "Okay, I didn't want you to find out like this, but now you know. We need to talk about what happens next."
Dean's mind was already working far ahead of Sam's. Maybe medicine wasn't the answer, maybe the supernatural was, a faith healer or another angel. There had to be some way to save his brother. A deal even.
"No deals!" Sam said firmly, and for a moment, Dean thought Sam really had read his mind. "No healers, no angels. We aren't going down that road again. It always comes back to bite us on the ass. We are going to let nature takes its course and you are going to let me finish what should have been finished all those years ago in Cold Oak."
"Yes, Dean. We made a deal. No matter what happens to the other, we leave it alone. We don't go looking for trouble. You are going to keep that deal."
"You can't expect me to sit back and watch you die!" Dean growled.
"Of course, I don't," Sam said sympathetically. "You don't have to stay. I have time left. We can search for Kevin; maybe we'll find him. But when the time comes, I want to be alone."
"You can't seriously…"
"I can," Sam said firmly. "This is my choice to make. I don't want you to watch it happen, and if you are being honest with yourself, you know you don't want to watch it either. This way, we're both happy."
Dean closed his eyes. "Happy? Sam, do you honestly think anything about this can make me happy."
"Bad choice of words. What I meant was that this was the best solution for us both. We both get what we want."
"Dammit, Sam, don't think cancer gets you out of an ass kicking."
Sam laughed, and it felt so good he allowed it to buoy him up and take him from the situation for a moment. He knew he was becoming hysterical, but he couldn't help it. The laughter was so uplifting. He gave himself over to it completely until tears were streaming down his face.
It didn't last. A warm hand cupped his cheeks and raised his head so he was staring into Dean's eyes. Tears rained down Dean's face, and his eyes were filled with a desperate sadness.
"I'm sorry, Sammy. I'm so sorry." He was apologizing for so much, for the things he said, for the way he had treated Sam since he came back, for the fact his little brother had been damned by something Dean had no way of protecting him from.
Sam nodded. "I know you are."
"I'm not leaving you," Dean said with certainty.
"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it," Sam said. "For now, let's just focus on closing the gates to Hell."