Two hours later, Sam was sitting in his motel room. He couldn't figure out how his relationship with Dean had gone so bad nor why Dean didn't seem concerned with fixing it. All his life Dean had been his protector, his big brother. Now, now it was all gone. Dean seemed to prefer Benny to him and constantly reminded Sam that Benny was a better brother than Sam was. How Benny had never let him down. I guess that's what I've done my whole life, Sam thought. I've let him down. I'm the reason he never had a choice. I'm the reason he's lost his entire family. No wonder he picks Benny over me.
Elsewhere, Dean was driving the Impala and it occurred to him that he hadn't asked Sam where he was. He realized with a start that he didn't care. He missed Benny and idly wondered what kind of hunting partner Benny would make.
Sam had given up on sleeping and was sitting in the rock hard chair the hotel provided lost in thought. He was sure that Benny would be better for Dean than he was. There was a knock on the door and for a split second Sam's hope rose. Soon as he opened the door, however, it vanished. Castiel stood before him in his usual dress. "May I come in?" he asked.
Sam wordlessly moved out of the way and Cas strode inside. He looked around at the disheveled room then back at Sam. "What are you doing?" Cas asked.
"Nothing." Cas looked at him. Something was wrong. He didn't know how he knew but he did. Sam seemed...sad. Depressed. He looked around again and noticed Dean's bed still made and covered with Sam's duffel.
"Where is Dean?"
"I don't know. We split up during the last hunt. He called but he didn't ask me where I was. I guess he wants to be alone for a while. Can't say I blame him."
Cas looked at Sam quizzically. "I am confused," he admitted.
Sam looked at Cas and said, "Benny is a better brother to Dean than I ever was. Dean'd be better off without me. Benny would be a better partner for Dean. Or you. Not me."
"Why do you think this?"
"Dean told me. He said Benny was a better brother than I've ever been. Benny has never let him down. I have."
Cas looked at Sam. Sam's eyes seemed full and a tear fell. Sam ducked his head then stood abruptly. "Go away, Cas. Please, just go away."
Cas looked at Sam and disappeared. He knew where his next stop had to be.
In the Impala, Dean was startled when Cas suddenly appeared in the passenger seat. "Cas! What have I told you?!"
"I apologize, Dean, but we must speak."
"Your brother is not well."
Dean looked at Cas. "Is that it?" he asked.
Cas stared at Dean. "Yes," he replied uncertainly.
"You don't want to know where he is?"
"Not really, no."
"I do not understand."
"Sam and I need a break. I'm going to keep tabs on Benny for a while. A hunter tried to gank him; one that Sam put on his tail. I'm going to make sure he's safe."
"I see. Sam was right."
"Right about what?"
"You are going to partner with Benny."
Dean looked at Cas, startled. "How'd he know that?"
"You told him. You told him that Benny was a better brother than Sam was. That Benny had never let you down. Sam said that Benny would be a better partner for you. Or me. Not him."
Dean looked at Cas in disbelief. "Sam said that?"
"Yes. I told you; Sam is not well."
Dean looked at Cas and smiled. Cas was taken aback. Of all the human emotions he expected to see, this was not one of them.
"You are smiling."
Dean nodded, his smile growing larger. "He's letting me go. He's figured out that he's not who's best for me. He's never needed me in the first place."
Cas looked at Dean and said, "I think you are wrong. I think you are making a mistake. Sam does need you. It is you who does not need him, or so he thinks."
Dean slammed on the brakes and the car skidded to a halt. "He left me in Purgatory for a year!" he shouted suddenly. "A year, Cas! He didn't even try to come looking for me! How can I forgive him for that? He abandoned me for Ruby! He started the freaking Apocalypse! And I'm supposed to act like everything's just hunky-dory? Well it's not!"
"He is aware of this. Yet are you not doing the same thing? Abandoning him for Benny?"
"It's different, Cas."
"I can't explain it. Now, do you want to come with me to find Benny?"
"No. I think you need to go to Sam."
"Sam is fine by himself. It's what he's wanted since I got back from Hell. He's made his bed; let him lie in it."
With a whoosh of wings, Cas was gone. Good, Dean thought. Yet something was niggling at him. His radar was going off. Not full tilt, but he knew something was wrong. Pushing the feeling aside, he put the car in drive and got back on the road.
Cas reappeared in Sam's motel room. Sam was sitting on the floor, his head buried in his knees. Most alarming to Cas was the gun at his side. "Sam?"
Sam jumped and looked up. In the short time Cas had been gone, Sam looked ten years older and much, much worse. "Cas," he said with a weak smile. "Didn't hear you come in."
"I saw Dean."
"He's going to keep tabs on Benny for a while."
Sam swore he not only heard his heart break but felt it, too. "Good. I'm glad. Benny will keep him safe. Please keep an eye on him for me, Cas."
"Sam, I don't know what your intentions are but I am concerned."
"Don't be, Cas. I'll be fine. More importantly, Dean will be better off."
Cas looked at Sam and knew he had to intervene. "Sam..."
"Just go, Cas. Don't worry about me."
Cas hesitated, then left. He reappeared at Dean's side. Dean jumped a foot and slammed his hand on the steering wheel. "What the hell, Cas?!"
"Sam needs you," Cas replied.
"No he doesn't."
This time, Cas wasn't taking no for an answer. "Yes he does, Dean." With that, Cas put two fingers on Dean's forehead and suddenly they were standing in Sam's hotel room.
Dean looked around. "Where are we?"
Cas was walking around the room nervously. "Sam's room." Cas walked to the bathroom and stopped short. Sam was on the floor, blood dripping slowly from each wrist. A note was scrawled on the bathroom mirror: "goodbye, Dean."
Dean saw Cas stop and walked over. "Cas, I told you..." then he looked down. His eyes grew wide and he felt panic grip him. "Sam?" He knelt down beside Sam and his shaking fingers were on Sam's neck. He felt a weak pulse. He stood up and looked frantically for some towels. As he did, he caught sight of the note scrawled on the bathroom mirror. His eyes widened even more as he took in the words and their meaning. "Oh my God," Dean said under his breath.
Cas looked at Dean and said quietly, "I told you; Sam is not well."
Dean grabbed two towels and wrapped them tightly around his brother's wrists. "Help me get him to the bed, Cas."
Cas obediently picked up Sam's feet as Dean grabbed his arms and they carried Sam out and lay him on the unmade bed. Dean immediately said, "keep pressure on those towels. I've got to get the first aid kit." He rushed out and opened the trunk. Grabbing the first aid kit, he raced back inside. Cas moved out of the way as Dean gently removed one of the towels. A deep cut ran from Sam's elbow to his wrist. "Dammit, Sammy," he muttered. He opened the first aid kit and grabbed a needle and thread. He quickly began to clean and stitch the wound. Fortunately, Sam's blood loss kept him unconscious as Dean cleaned and sutured first one arm then the other. When that was done he pulled the blankets over his brother and stood up.
Cas looked Sam over and said, "he will recover."
"No thanks to me," Dean replied sadly. "I did this to him. I pushed him away and pushed him away and pushed him away. I told him that Benny was a better brother than he was. I actually said that to him. I couldn't let it go. I kept harping on the fact that he'd let me down and Benny hadn't. I couldn't forgive him and look what happened. I could have lost him tonight, Cas. I mean really lost him."
Cas nodded just as Dean's phone rang. Dean pulled the phone out and answered it. "Hello?"
"Brother. Just wanted to tell you where I was so we could meet up."
"Yeah, about that, Benny, listen, I, um, I can't get away right now."
"Why not?" Benny drawled in his Louisiana twang.
"Sam, um, Sam's sick."
"Sorry to hear that. How soon can you be here?"
Dean looked at Cas then at Sam. Asleep, Sam looked like the innocent little brother he'd always known. The one he'd sworn to protect. The one he'd given his life for. The one he'd still give his life for.
"I don't know, Benny. You better lay low for a while and I'll contact you when I can."
"Alright, brother." Benny hung up and smiled. While he was sad that Dean wouldn't be meeting up with him, he knew that Sam was more important to Dean than even Dean realized. "Bout time you started takin care a'him," he drawled under his breath.
Dean hung up the phone and put it back in his pocket. He looked at Sam again, then at Cas. "Thanks, Cas."
Cas nodded. "Do you need anything?"
Dean looked at Sam again and smiled softly. "No. I've got everything I need right here."
Cas put a hand on Dean's arm and said again, "he'll recover, Dean."
"Physically, sure. How do I help him recover mentally?"
Cas looked at Dean and said quietly, "be his brother."
Dean looked at Cas and whispered, "I wish it was that simple."
"It is, Dean. It's all Sam needs. Be his brother." Cas then vanished leaving Dean alone with Sam.
Hours later Sam's eyes fluttered open. He looked around, confused. His arms hurt and he raised one and saw a gauze bandage and felt the familiar tug of stitches. "Morning," said a voice to his right. Sam's head whipped around and he felt a familiar weight on his shoulder. "Easy, tiger. You don't want to rip out my sewing."
"Dean? What are you doing here?"
"Cas zapped me here which means either no pooping for a week or a ton of bran, not sure which yet."
Dean watched Sam's eyes close. When he opened them the despair he saw took his breath away. "I wish he hadn't," Sam said quietly. "All I am is a burden to you, Dean. This way you'd be free."
Dean stood up and Sam's heart broke a bit more. Dean was leaving, he was sure of it. He closed his eyes and turned his head away, unable to watch Dean open the door and walk away. He was startled when he felt the bed dip and arms gently lift him. Then he was lying against a strong chest. A heart beat strong in his ear and arms folded around him, keeping him in place.
"I am so sorry, Sammy. I never meant to make you feel this way."
"It's okay, Dean. I know what I am. I know you prefer Benny to me and I can't blame you. Go be with him. I'm just a burden. A no good brother. You said it yourself. Just go."
Instead of releasing him, the arms tightened. Sam's eyes welled with tears. "I'll only go if you're with me. I've been an ass and I've been treating you horribly and I'm sorry. All that ends now. You are my brother. You are the only brother I want. You're the best brother I could ever have."
"Benny's the best brother you could ever have," Sam replied sadly. "He's never let you down."
"Do you know why I feel like you let me down?"
"Because I raised you. Because I wanted the best for you. Because I didn't want to see you make mistakes. But we all make mistakes, Sammy. You've owned up to them and apologized for them. This is on me, little brother. I wouldn't forgive you and I wouldn't let you forget, either. I couldn't move on; I couldn't find a way past it. When Cas appeared and said you were sick, I didn't care. When he came back I still didn't care. Then he zapped me here. I should have realized what I was doing to you; how badly I was hurting you but I didn't. I wanted to hurt you. I wanted you to feel guilty. I just didn't know when to stop. I didn't realize how close you were to the edge. I took it too far, Sammy. It's time we start over, kiddo. We're brothers. You're my little brother and that doesn't change. I said that to you years ago, remember? I meant it then and I mean it now. You are my family. You're all I have, Sam. I can't lose you."
Sam listened to his brother and felt something inside him release. The hope he'd locked way down deep inside sprang out and the tears he'd been trying to stop came in a torrent. Turning slightly, he buried his face in his brother's chest and sobbed. He clutched Dean's shirt tightly, afraid of letting go. Afraid of waking up and discovering this was all a dream. Dean's arms tightened further, grounding Sam in the here and now. Reassuring him that this was no dream. This was real. Dean was really there and wasn't going anywhere without him.
At last the flood of tears slowed to a trickle then stopped altogether. Sam's breathing evened out and his grip on Dean's shirt loosened. Dean kept his arms tight around Sam and shed a few tears of his own as he sent up a silent prayer to Cas for getting him there in time to save his brother. Getting him there in time to save himself for without Sam, Dean was nothing. He remembered that now. "Be his brother, Dean." Cas had said. Dean planned on doing just that.