Thank you to everybody who has been reading this story, my first Supernatural fic. I appreciate all of your kind words and all of you who followed/favorited.
Sitting heavily in his chair, Dean leaned forward to run his hands wearily over his short hair. Just having a moment to catch his breath after the events of the last few hours should have been welcome, but with Sam unconscious on the couch after another fight with an angel, relaxation was out of the question.
What should he say to his brother when he woke up? As relieved as he was that the younger man was still in one piece, Dean couldn't help the anger that still simmered. And he realized the anger was at himself as much as Sam. Anger seemed to be his MO these days.
A white blur out of the corner of his eye caught his attention. Sam's letter was sitting on the floor where he'd dropped it when Castiel had showed up, but before he could even process the thought of getting up to get it, a noise from Sam's direction drew Dean's attention, and he quickly moved to crouch beside the couch.
"Sam….you with me?" Dean urged as the disoriented gaze roamed for a moment before zeroing in on his face.
"Dean…." Sam's voice was a hoarse whisper as he answered back almost automatically, but as his eyes strayed around the room again, Dean saw the reality of the situation sink in. His kamikaze plan hadn't worked.
Watching the devastation register on his younger brother's face, Dean managed to keep his irritation in check as he helped Sam push himself up on the couch when it became clear that he was too weak to do it himself. He handed over a water bottle, keeping an eye on it as Sam shakily brought it to his mouth for a few small swallows before he had to let it drop to his lap.
"What…happened?" Sam finally asked, his stricken gaze more or less in his lap. "Did Lucifer….?"
"According to Cas, it was Michael who stopped it."
"Michael? But Cas…."
"Cas is fine," Dean replied shortly, getting up from his crouched position. "For now," he added, his tone making it clear that it might not be the case for long.
Sam finally ventured a look at his brother's face and saw the anger Dean was not really bothering to mask even as he'd helped him settle, and was just too tired and nauseous to even try and defend himself.
"Go ahead," he rasped. "I know you're dying to lay into me, so go for it."
Dean stared at him for a second before abruptly turning away.
"You really want to take that tone with me after the stunt you just pulled?" he growled. "You really wanna push my buttons after I sat here waiting for you to wake up after you tried to have an angel pull you apart and scatter your carcass all over the galaxy without telling me?"
Sam had the grace to wince a little at his brother's rising tone, but he didn't back down. For some reason…maybe it was his exhaustion… maybe it was just finally having given up himself….. Sam was through being on the defensive.
"I'm not trying to push your buttons. And you can be as mad at me as you want, but I'm not going to pretend to be sorry, Dean."
"What?" Dean frowned at him in furious disbelief. "You lock me in the panic room and give me a lecture about sacrificing myself and working together and you're gonna sit there and…."
"This from the guy who was trying to become an angel condom…."
"At least I wasn't trying to kill myself….."
"No just half the planet," Sam replied tiredly. "And what do you think Lucifer was going to do once you bent over for Michael? Don't you think he might have stepped up his campaign to get me to say yes? You think anyone would have been safe from that?" Their heated conversation was sapping what little strength he had left.
"That's exactly what I was trying to prevent…."
"Did you read my letter?"
Sam's quiet question stopped Dean's words abruptly. He stared at his brother's pale, drawn face and sighed before sitting down on the coffee table in front of him to rub a tired hand over his jaw.
"Yeah, Sam, I read your letter."
"Then you know why I did it."
Dean watched his brother pull the blanket closer around him, apparently still feeling the effects of his ordeal. But what got him was the tone in his voice. It struck Dean that he'd never heard it before. He'd lived with Sam most of his life, and he thought he'd heard his brother in every possible manifestation, but really hadn't heard this Sam before.
The one who had given up.
His anger gone for the moment, Dean tried. "Look, Sam, I owe you an apology for…
"You don't owe me anything, Dean."
"But I shouldn't have said….."
"You said how you felt. I don't blame you."
"Well you should!" Dean rose abruptly from the coffee table. "Get mad, Sam. I deserve it! Don't just sit there like….." he gestured helplessly as the younger man continued to lie on the couch in silence instead of giving him the fight he wanted. He wanted his brother to be angry so he could be angry back.
"What do you want from me, Dean?" Sam suddenly asked him, for the first time looking him full in the face with damp, hazel eyes…the eyes of someone who had endured too much.
"Do you want me to say I'm sorry? Well, I am. But only for making you feel guilty. I'm not sorry for trying to end this. And you know why? Because I had to. Because I caused it and I need to be the one to end it." Sam swallowed at the lump in his throat but it was futile. "And because…..because…I'm tired too. I'm tired of being who I am, okay? The "one with the Demon blood", the black sheep who didn't love his family enough….the screw up who trusted a demon. And I get that I deserve it, okay, I get it. I deserve it…..but …."
His abused vocal cords finally gave out and Sam dropped his gaze from Dean's, but not before the older brother saw the tears in his eyes finally break free. It had been quite a while since Dean had seen his brother lose control like this, but it seemed the combination of his ordeal and exhaustion were the last straw.
And in that moment, Dean suddenly got it.
Sam hated himself.
Maybe it shouldn't have come as such a shock to him. Dean had some pretty deep rooted self esteem issues as well. Okay, understatement, but he'd always thought , in spite of the fact that Sam was ashamed of the demon blood inside him and afraid of the dormant power it provided, that his brother was a proud man. After all, he'd had the fortitude and confidence to leave his family and strike out on his own at an early age, and God knows he'd told Dean how much better of a hunter he was a few times during the whole Ruby fiasco. Of course, now he knew it had been the demon blood talking, but still…
You're self righteous…..you're arrogant…..
Dean recalled the words he'd leveled at him. He'd believed them then, but now as he contemplated his brother, he realized that he'd been blind to what was going on right in front of him.
Dean remembered his trip to the future and how he'd come back determined to start over with Sam. He'd told his brother more than once that starting the apocalypse had not been his fault. He'd even realized and told him that he'd been so busy worrying about what he was doing, that he hadn't realized what it was doing to him. And at the time, Dean meant those words.
But so much had happened since then. Their trip into the past …Ellen and Jo….the mental institution …famine…..the disastrous trip to heaven… so much crap.
Dean had felt the weight of those things on top of his trip to hell, and knew that he had let them bog him down to the point of no return. His decision to give into Michael had been a selfish one and he knew that he was letting the angels win but, at the time, he hadn't cared. He didn't want to have one more failure on his head. He just wanted it over.
But what he hadn't done, once again, was take into account what those same things were doing to Sam.
Sam, who had lived through all of the same crap, hell notwithstanding, and endured not only his brother's condemnation, but angels, demons and hunters all trying to use him for their own ends. Sam, who had begged him not to give up, all the while living with this apparently crippling self hatred without a single word of self pity, and who had been working to try and make up for what he'd done, only to have his efforts thrown back in his face by the brother who was supposedly the one who valued family in their relationship.
I just…I—I don't believe.
Swallowing guiltily, Dean felt a prickling behind his eyes. He'd really fucked this up. He'd let his anger and his own issues rule his head. He'd told himself that he was the one taking the high road in letting his brother back in after what he'd done, when what he'd really been doing was lying to himself and to Sam.
He hadn't forgiven him and he hadn't trusted him and Sam knew it and had been trying to live with it anyway….until he couldn't. Until he had finally taken drastic measures to try and fix things. Things that he wasn't the only one responsible for breaking.
If this works, then maybe you can finally stop fighting for everyone else and start living for yourself. I want that for you, Dean. You deserve it. You've earned it. Please do it. Consider it a dying wish.
God. The fact that Sam had tried killing himself to save the world was bad enough, but the worst thing …..Dean almost laughed at the notion…..the worst thing was that throughout Sam's letter, it was obvious that the most important thing to Sam was for Dean to be happy. To have the things neither one of them had ever really had. A home, a Mom and Dad who put them first….
A life he thought would be better without his little brother.
Shit. Dean rubbed at sudden wetness in his eyes. He looked down at Sam who still sat dejectedly on the couch in front of him and it suddenly galled him to see his strong, willful brother looking so defeated. He couldn't stand it a moment longer.
"Sam….." Dean began but when his brother didn't look up, he tried again.
"Sammy…..look at me."
When the wet gaze finally lifted Dean was struck anew at the ability of his grown up brother to look like a five year old when he was at the end of his rope. He needed to fix this.
"I need to apolo…."
"I told you, you don't….."
"Just shut up and let me say this," Dean interrupted, determined not to let this conversation get away from him again. "I need to say this."
Sam subsided, his gaze warily fixed somewhere other than his brother's eyes.
"I've been a dick, okay? A lot has happened…to both of us….and I let it get to me. I know it doesn't seem like it, but I know how hard you've been trying. I know you've been working your ass off to make things up to….all of us….but Dude, it's time to stop." Dean sat down tiredly on the edge of the coffee table. "You screwed up…..but so did I."
Sam opened his mouth to protest, but Dean held up a hand to stop him. "I did, Sam. I screwed up by not listening to you when I should have. I screwed up by letting angels and demons come between me and what I've always done. Take care of my little brother."
"Dean," Sam said hoarsely. "All you've ever done is try and take care of me. I'm the one who didn't listen….."
"You were being manipulated, Sam. We both were and we both forgot Dad's cardinal rules." Dean wiped a hand over his face and looked directly into his brother's eyes. "Only trust each other, watch each other's backs and never let them separate you."
Sam gazed back at him and finally nodded. "Yeah, we sort of let that one get away from us."
At Sam's quiet acknowledgment, Dean felt the first sliver of hope he'd had since his brother woke up.
"Sam….you were wrong about what you said…..in your letter," Dean clarified when Sam's brow furrowed. "My life would not have been better without you in it." Dean rolled his eyes. "That sounded less "chick-lit" in my head."
One side of Sam's expressive mouth actually lifted at that as Dean continued, "I mean it, alright? Stow this crap about my childhood being all Dickensian because you were born."
"Dickensian? Seriously?" Sam's raised a skeptical eyebrow.
"I heard it in a movie. Anyway, you get my point." Dean looked at him seriously. "I never wanted a life without my brother in it, even when I thought for a stupid minute that we should try different hemispheres. Even before when….. " Dean saw Sam's eyes darken at the implication of those horrible days before Lucifer had risen. "Even when you were high and fighting me okay?"
"You say that, Dean," Sam uttered thickly, "but it had to cross your mind that it wasn't worth it. That hell….wasn't worth….me."
Dean stared at his brother and abruptly decided on honesty. "Hell was…hell, Sam. It wasn't worth it." When Sam's swimming gaze lowered as he nodded, Dean unconsciously reached out a hand to grasp his brother's forearm. "It wasn't worth what you ended up going through because of it."
Looking down at the hand touching him, Sam was suddenly overwhelmed with emotion. It had been forever since his brother had touched him in affection. He shook his head as he lifted his eyes to Dean's. "It wasn't worth what either of us went through, Dean."
"There weren't this many hormones floatin' around when my wife lived here."
Bobby's gruff voice from the doorway brought their heads around in unison to look at him. He wheeled towards the couch, seeing that his comment had had the desired effect. The intense emotions in the room dissipated, but the tension from before was gone as well.
"How you doin' boy?" Bobby came as close to the couch as he could manage in his chair.
"I'm okay, Bobby," Sam replied, attempting to look it, but neither of the other hunters was fooled.
"Yeah, if you didn't look so much like road kill, I'd give you the talking to you deserve for putting us through that."
The words were gentle in tone and Sam looked apologetically at the older man, but Bobby shook his head. "You can make it up to us by gettin' better and helping us when Cas comes back with info on Adam."
"Adam?" Sam looked around, realizing abruptly that he'd forgotten about his half brother. "What happened?"
Bobby frowned at Dean who answered, "He disappeared not too long after you did. Cas thinks the angels came to him in a dream and he told them where he was. He's gone to try and find out."
"We've got to find him, Dean. He doesn't know what they're really like," Sam said urgently, trying to get up from the couch, but even sitting up straighter caused his already pale face to turn even more ashy and he sat back abruptly as the room spun around him.
"Woah there cowboy." Dean put his hands on his brother's shoulders when it looked like he was going to topple off the couch. "Nobody's going anywhere until Cas gets back, so cool your jets until you can stand without hitting the floor with your face. You got ripped apart and put back together all within a few hours. I'm pretty sure it's going to take a while for you to be fully up to being vertical."
'No buts, boy. You're officially on bed rest until we're satisfied you can be up and about without taking out the furniture." Bobby wheeled around and headed for the kitchen. "You can start with eating something."
Sam looked a little green at the thought and Dean shook his head. "You better try and eat whatever he brings or your ass is going to be stuck to this couch for the duration."
"What do think the angels are going to do to Adam?"Sam asked shakily, thankful that his vision had settled, but still feeling the effects of trying to rise. He sincerely hoped whatever Bobby brought was light because just the thought of food was making him want to hurl.
"Lie to him. Tell him what he wants to hear so he'll do whatever they want. You know the drill." Dean pulled the blanket up from where it had dropped when he saw that Sam was trembling faintly. "Or they'll threaten him until he does it. Either way, he's screwed." Dean frowned at the worried expression on Sam's face. "We'll find him, Sam. We will."
Sam looked at him with relief and so much faith that Dean was humbled anew and he leaned forward to promise succinctly "I won't say yes, Sam. I promise. We're in this together."
"Yeah. So screw destiny, right in the face. I say we take the fight to them, and do it our way."
Sam smiled. "Sounds good." He sat back, finally able to relax as an unfamiliar feeling washed over him.
Hope. The apocalypse still loomed, Lucifer was free, and Adam was at the mercy of Zachariah…but Sam felt hope for the first time in longer than he could remember. And all because Dean was back in the game.
Closing his eyes, Sam smiled slightly when he felt Dean tuck the blanket more securely around him. Yeah, screw destiny. The Winchester brothers were back.