The Wounds You Can't See
Summary: Testing a theory, Sam learns more about Dean's time in Hell than he ever wanted to know when he sees the things that his brother has managed to keep hidden. Dean must then face a time he'd rather forget or lie to Sam to keep his brother from learning anymore. /Angst/guilty!Sam & Upset/angsty/big brother!Dean. Set after 08x17 Goodbye Stranger so spoilers be warned!
Warning: I'll set a warning for language, mention of violence & mention of suicide. Nothing too graphic I don't think.
Spoiler: This is set after 08x17 Goodbye Stranger so there may be some slight spoilers but nothing too major though if you haven't seen the episode then you may want to wait.
Tag: This isn't exactly a tag to the episode even though it does happen right after the episode.
Disclaimer: I don't own the boys or anything to do with the show. All of that belongs to the CW and Kripke. This is written for fun and enjoyment.
SPN SPN SPN SPN
"Kevin, are you sure?"
"Uhh, no, I'm not. It's not like I have a PhD in ancient hell lore, Sam," Kevin Tran rolled his eyes and wondered why not translating the half of the demon tablet was enough for these two. "My best guess is if that trick with the glasses worked enough for you to see a hellhound then it, in theory, should work to let someone see other things that are invisible from hell that normal people can't see."
Sam Winchester considered the pair of black wire rimmed glasses he'd recently run through a small flame of Holy Oil while listening to the prophet who he'd called for advice.
Ever since Kevin had revealed a way to possibly see things from Hell that are normally unable to be seen normally, the hunter had been brooding over something that had been bothering him for a long while.
"So, if they worked to see Crowley's hound then…something similar should work to see…other things?" he questioned, pretty sure he heard what was probably Kevin's head pounding off the hull of Garth's houseboat.
"Yes, Sam," Kevin replied patiently, silently fearing that everything recently had damaged the younger Winchester's head. "From what I've read and translated you need either glasses, a mirror, bathed in Holy fire or you need to have experienced and accepted Hell's torments to see things from there."
Still staring at the glasses while listening closely for the shower to turn off, Sam frowned at the last part. "Wait, are you saying that someone who has been to Hell can see this stuff? I couldn't without the glasses so…"
"Technically you weren't in Hell though. You were locked in Lucifer's Cage with Lucifer and Michael which while down below would be considered more like a suburb of Hell and not Hell proper," Garth piped up from behind Kevin where he was listening in. "Now, Dean on the other hand…"
"Dean could see stuff," Sam whispered, the realization of that making his stomach tighter than it already felt. "If that was true, why would he have used the glasses when we were tracking that hellhound?" he challenged, hearing a long suffering sigh.
"Has Dean told you that he could see stuff from Hell?" Garth offered back, shrugging as if Sam could see him over the phone. "If he hasn't then he probably either doesn't know it himself or he doesn't want you to know. Why do you want to know all this stuff, Sam?"
Ignoring the question because he knew about how long his brother normally took in the shower and knew if he wanted to test this theory then he needed to hurry.
"No reason, Garth," he replied, adding quickly before hanging. "Thanks, Kevin."
Laying his phone aside, Sam slowly picked up the glasses that he'd carefully fixed with the hope that this worked and also hoping he didn't make a situation that had been improving worse.
Curiosity had always been on of Sam's worst traits or so his Father and Bobby had always said. Sam accepted that since he knew that even from a young age if something intrigued him or didn't make sense to him then he would go out of his way to learn the right answer.
The answer to this particular mystery had been bothering him ever since his older brother returned from Hell four years earlier.
That time itself was still a touchy one for them both since Dean was still closemouthed about the four months or forty years Hell-time that he spent in the Pits or what happened to him there except for the little bit that he did reveal one time.
Sam understood that a piece of his brother didn't return from that horrendous time and he knew that Dean had never gotten over it or what he was forced to do once he'd given in to Alastair and had gotten off the rack.
For himself, the time still reminded Sam that it had been his fault that his brother had gone to Hell in the first place since Dean had sacrificed his soul in order for Sam to live after he'd been stabbed by another so-called recruit in Yellow Eyes Children's Crusade.
Dean had been given a year and Sam had been powerless to save his brother or help him and when his brother had returned that had been when the tension between them started.
The tension had increased and was only now starting to go away so Sam knew he was risking a lot by what he was about to do but things that he could recall from those first few months after his brother got back plagued him.
The nightmares that would send his normally calm and cool brother screaming, the way Dean would avoid contact with nearly everyone and finally things that Sam had heard being said by Ruby and also a few Angels or demons they'd encountered.
Sam had always wondered why or how except for the handprint on his brother's shoulder that Dean appeared to have come back from those tortured months with no visible wounds or scars.
After learning from Kevin that there was a way to see hellhounds and other creatures of Hell, Sam began to wonder if maybe his brother hadn't been so free of wounds or scars as he'd been led to believe.
This is why Sam had decided to take the risk of doing his experiment and see if he could find out for himself and maybe close another gap.
Slipping the glasses on, it took him a couple of seconds to focus out of the clear glass lenses then he stepped into the shower room that was in the Men of Letters home base…or what Dean had taken to calling their new Batcave.
Waving the leftover steam away from his brother's shower, he blinked again to clear his vision. "Dean?" he called, knowing he hadn't missed him since Dean's usual morning routine hardly changed. It had been shower, shave, food for as long as Sam could recall.
"Remind me to see about putting a door on this room," Dean complained but the tone was teasing as he stepped from the shower with a towel wrapped around his waist to head for the sink to shave. "What's up, Geek Boy?" he asked, not looking up yet as he found his shaver.
"Umm, Garth and Kevin say 'Hi'," Sam hedged as he waited for the lenses to clear and hoped that the steam hadn't hurt them.
"Kevin call with news on the second trial or did Garth call just to bug us?" Dean asked curiously, frowning that he could never find the razor in this drawer and swearing his little brother was moving it. "Sam, are you moving my razor around or should I scan this place for ghosts?"
"No…No, of course not," Sam coughed, no way intending to admit that he had been moving the razor then the lenses cleared enough for him to see Dean and all other thoughts fled his mind as he felt his stomach drop.
Dean had been hunting since he was old enough that John Winchester had thought it safe enough and so he had quite a few little scars all over his body. From knife cuts, to wounds received in fights with various supernatural bad guys to the scar on his shoulder from the Benders to some that not even Sam had ever been able to get his brother to reveal their sources.
Knowing this Sam figured he wouldn't be surprised to see a few more that his brother might've gotten while in Hell. As he now looked at Dean's bare back as well as the reflection in the mirror of his brother's chest he realized how badly he'd underestimated both what he'd been expecting and his reaction.
Dean's chest and stomach as Sam looked through the lenses cleansed with Holy oil and fire now looked like a tic-tac-tow board with various jagged white scars either in shapes or what Sam assumed might be letters in some dead language. Nothing marred the anti-possession tattoo Dean wore but around it there were more tiny scars that not even Sam's imagination could define their source.
The worst, however, was his brother's back which seemed to be a mass of scars from cuts, a few that Sam knew had to be burns of some sort. Thick scar tissue in massive lines from what could've been from a whip or some type of tool covered it along with some type of mark on his left shoulder that at this distance Sam couldn't make out but what made Sam cringe was the brand at the small of Dean's back.
Sam's detailed investigation into both demons and angels had allowed him to learn that both kinds had their own type of branding methods and they would brand for various reasons and none of them were good, especially if Alastair had done it.
Realizing that his brother hadn't spoken in a few minutes, Dean shifted to look over his shoulder and immediately noticed how pale Sam looked. "Hey, you okay?" he wanted to know, fearing that whatever Castiel had said was wrong with his brother from just doing the first trial was affecting him more today. "Sammy? What's wrong?"
"Huh?" jerking back to attention at the sharper use of his name, Sam blinked and tried to focus on coming up with an answer but could only see those scars and imaging in his mind how they'd been inflicted. "Umm, no…I'm…fine," he stammered, backing up only to bump into the door. "No, Dean…I'm…I'm…sorry."
Needing to stop seeing those scars, Sam jerked the glasses off and let them drop as he practically ran from the shower room and his now suddenly very confused brother.
"What the hell?" Dean was staring at the now empty doorway when his gaze went to what his younger brother had dropped in his haste to leave and frowned.
Picking up the glasses, Dean frowned. Looking through them, he saw plain glass that was blurry but on a hunch he glanced down at his arm and while he didn't need the glasses to see the scars he suddenly feared he knew what had just caused his brother to flee the shower room and him.
"Sonuvabitch," he cursed, deciding that shaving could wait while he quickly dressed before going in search of Sam and what was probably going to turn into one huge moment if Dean didn't get a handle on it.
There had always been reasons that Dean had kept his time in Hell, both what he'd done and what had been done to him, a secret from everyone. Not only because he didn't want to face it or remember it since it was hard for him to forget when everytime he looked closely he could see the leftover effects of that time.
No, he'd kept it from Sam because he knew his brother and if Dean knew one thing it was that Sam still blamed himself for Dean going to Hell in the first place and if his brother would ever have learned the exact reason that Dean gave in or the exact extent of the wounds that had been so bad they had scarred rather than heal fully then Sam's guilt and emotions would have destroyed him and back then Sam had other things to worry about then knowing about that.
Dean had thought that in the four years since his return that his brother had either forgotten those questions or they had stopped being so important to know but he supposed he should've expected that his big brained little brother would start to think on it again after he'd killed that hellhound and learned there was a way to see things from Hell.
"I am so grounding his ass," he muttered, finishing tying his boots to grab the glasses and go look for Sam in what he was suddenly discovering was a very large place. "Sammy, I do not plan on searching every room for you."
After not finding his brother in either bedroom or the main room, Dean decided to take a shortcut by pulling out his phone and speed dialing Sam's phone, then listened to see if he could hear the ring tone.
Walking through the Men of Letters base and not hearing anything right away, Dean's concern began to grow. Normally when upset his brother would go someplace to settle down, sulk, or wait for Dean to settle down depending on what had caused him to run.
A quick peek out the main door told Dean that the Impala was still there so Sam hadn't taken the car which relieved one concern but increased others since there were still so many places in this huge underground base that they hadn't been through yet.
"Sam!" he called out in a louder tone, scowling when he got no response and tried the phone again, this time hearing the quiet ring tone from one of the rooms that he knew housed some old storage boxes that they hadn't gone through yet.
Ever since Castiel had told him that there was something wrong with Sam that not even the Angel could heal, Dean had been watching his little brother more closely.
He'd known from the night that Sam had killed that damn hellhound in his place that something had been wrong with his brother. Finding out that Sam was coughing up blood hadn't done much to help Dean's anxiety or the guilt that he hadn't done what he'd set out to do.
Now all he could do was support and protect Sam as much as he could and in his gut Dean knew that if Sam had seen what he thought he had that this wasn't going to help either of them.
Stepping into the room, it took Dean a couple minutes to bypass a few hundred boxes and chests to locate his brother way back in a dark corner of the room and other times came back to him that Sam would run after a fight with their Dad or during the year before Dean went to Hell he'd find his brother locked in the bathroom or just sitting in a corner at night.
While a piece of Dean knew and reluctantly accepted that his little brother wasn't the same chubby little boy that had once followed him everywhere and would come running to him after a bad dream. That side knew Sam was an adult who didn't need his big brother to hover or soothe the bad times anymore.
Another part, a much larger part of him, also knew that nothing would probably ever make him stop seeing Sam as his little brother and that part would always know when Sam needed to be left alone or when he needed Dean to be the big brother that he hasn't always been in the last few years.
"Hey," speaking before approaching, Dean didn't miss the way his brother tensed or the way he shifted so his face was more turned to the corner. "You wanna talk about this now or brood about it?"
Sam was surprised that Dean had sought him out. He'd assumed his brother either wouldn't have noticed his hasty retreat or would've just figured it was due to the stress of the trials and knowing there was something wrong with him.
He'd come down to one of the smaller storage rooms because he needed to be alone to try to level the emotions brought on by what he'd seen and how seeing those had made him feel.
The guilt of knowing his brother had made that Crossroads deal that had cost him his soul in exchange for Sam's life had never left the younger Winchester.
Sam had felt it the entire year before Dean's final night had come and he'd certainly felt it after his brother's return because Sam could feel the rift between them growing with every lie he told and every time Dean pushed away his attempts to help him.
Now that guilt was coming back in painful heaps as he couldn't help but think about the pain his brother must have suffered to have those. He could also recall in his own time in the Cage where a furious Michael had only been too happy to throw it in Sam's face about the things Dean had suffered through in Hell and why.
"No, there's…nothing to…talk about," Sam didn't want to bring this back to his brother. He hated himself and his own curiosity for causing this to happen and now just wished he could take it back. "I just came down here to sort through some boxes and got…dizzy."
"Really?" Dean sounded doubtful as he knelt down beside Sam to hold out the glasses. "You suddenly start wearing glasses or were you looking for something?"
Resisting the urge to snatch the glasses out of his brother's hand and smash them against the wall, Sam made a restless move with his hand over his face that could've been seen as a way to brush away cobwebs in the corner or, if you were someone who knew Sam well, was more likely his way of brushing away tears that he didn't want Dean to see.
"I…found 'em in a box and…was thinking it might be a good idea to keep 'em around…just in case," Sam shrugged, going to push himself to his feet in order to put some space between himself and his brother until he could get a handle on feelings that were very close to spilling out.
Once upon a time, Sam knew he'd be able to share his feelings with his 'no chick flick moments' brother and while Dean would complain and gripe he'd listen and offer support.
These days, Sam was more leery and had learned how to shut those emotions down rather than embarrass his brother or increase the rift between them.
This was one of those times that he knew he needed time alone to face and level those emotions off before dealing with Dean because even without the glasses Sam could still see those scars in his mind and just wanted to ask his brother one question that was now bothering him but knew he couldn't.
"I guess I need to eat something…" Sam tried to sound alright and was nearly convinced he'd pulled it off until Dean's arm shot across his chest to effectively block him from moving. "Dean?"
"How much did you see, Sam?" Dean asked quietly, surprised that despite the tension he felt at the mere thought of his brother having seen anything that he could still use the quiet tone he only seemed to use when dealing with Sam when he was upset.
Big hazel eyes there were one step away from going into full on puppy power met his and the depth of pain and fear reflected in those eyes told Dean that his brother had seen what he'd always tried to keep Sam from knowing existed.
"Alright, so you know," he sighed, torn between walking away to avoid this moment or finally facing it and dealing with the aftermath. "You saw them."
"I…I didn't see anything, Dean," Sam's eyes were glued to the wall to avoid seeing the anger he knew would be in his brother's gaze since Dean had always gotten angry when his time in Hell was brought up. "I…hey!" he didn't have time to tense when he was suddenly turned and a firm hand forced his chin up so their eyes met.
"We agreed, no more lies, Sam," Dean reminded him, accepting that he hadn't meant this when he'd told Sam in the car the other night that he couldn't handle anymore lies from anyone. "I know what you've seen, Sammy and knowing you I can guess you're bursting with questions or something so…give."
Moving some boxes so he could sit on a few, Dean waited to see what Sam would do. He could see the inner battle on Sam's face and could guess his brother was remembering the other times he'd tried to bring this subject up only to be shot down.
"I didn't mention them or say anything about them because I knew you couldn't see them, Sam," he began quietly, turning his right one over to look and choosing to be honest. "Marks from Heaven or Hell can be seen if when they're inflicted the proper spells are included. That's why those few scars Zachariah gave you that one time Bobby and I could see. Though I'm pretty sure you had a few that I couldn't see, right?"
Sam shifted uneasily at the mention of those wounds he'd gotten from one attack by the angry bald Angel. Looking over to where Dean was sitting, he slowly leaned against the wall. "Why…why didn't you tell me?" he finally asked. "You knew I would've been there for you. I tried to be there for you but you were so angry with me and ashamed that you just pushed me away."
Anger filtered in but Dean pushed it aside, knowing that Sam would mistake it as being towards him and not for what it was really aimed at. "Sam, I told you that I would never tell you about Hell. About what happened to me there or what I did other than the stuff I did mention and I still won't," he replied carefully, closing his eyes to try and ignore the flashes of that time.
"Michael said that Alastair had you ripped to shreds every day for three months and that even after you'd…given in that he still had you tortured and…" Sam hesitated at the sound of Dean's fist clenching but chose to go on or he'd never feel right. "He said that they'd branded you to make you more…Dean!"
Pushing off the box because he needed space, it took a lot to keep Dean from slamming his fist into a wall. He'd guessed that during Sam's time in the Pit with Lucifer and Michael that either one or both of them had probably said something to his little brother.
The pissed off Archangel had been furious that Sam's interference had changed the game rules and so would've been only too thrilled to share some of the details of Dean's time in Hell with Sam, especially the more brutal parts that Dean would have fought to keep Sam from ever knowing.
"The brand is nothing more than any of the other scars, Sam," he forced his voice to be steady while slipping his shaking hands into the pockets of his jeans. "Even off the rack, I was a pain in the ass to Alastair so yeah, he still enjoyed hurting me and…"
"Is it true?" Sam interrupted suddenly, not missing the change in Dean's body language and knowing his brother was still hiding things. "Lucifer said the brand they used on you was for control and if it's active no one who has one can fight back or resist or…is it true?"
Silently promising to one day burn that asshole Archangel to dust, Dean gritted his teeth and struggled to think of an answer that would settle Sam's question but not come close to the truth.
The memories of those four months or forty years, depending on how he looked at it, were still horrors for Dean. Especially if he let himself think about those images that he'd deliberately buried and glad that Sam hadn't seen the few other marks he had that the towel had hidden.
"Dean?" Sam pushed for an answer, hesitating before placing a careful hand on his brother's shoulder and was surprised to feel it shaking. "If that's true then when he said you only gave in after so long because Alastair threatened me is true too, isn't it?"
The low curse told Sam that it was true and he began to pull back only to have Dean's hand reach up quickly to snatch his.
"Alright, listen to me," this time his voice was tight and much more gruff than Dean normally used but Sam understood that it was only because his brother was fighting not to show the emotions he was feeling. "I will do this one time and only one time and afterwards this topic is closed. But we do it somewhere else."
Nudging his stunned and wary brother out of the storage room, Dean paused before making his final choice. "I need to grab something outta my room so you go get the bottle of whiskey and some coffee and I'll meet you in the main room in a second."
Wondering how the Hell he'd stepped into this, a part of Dean knew he should've been expecting this one day since he knew how his brother's mind worked and knew that Sam had never truly gotten over that time.
Pulling a thin red journal out of the bottom of a drawer, Dean stared at his own writing as if he were just seeing it and hoping he wasn't making a mistake but knowing this would be the easiest way for both of them.
"I wasn't sure what you'd want so I pulled whatever was in the liquor cabinet out," Sam had just finished setting out a clear tumbler and a couple coffee cups when he blinked as the tumbler was filled with amber colored whiskey and set by his hand while the coffee he'd just poured for himself was taken by Dean.
"The whiskey's for you, Sam," Dean told him, while sitting the cup of aside near him as he slid the journal across the table. "Before you read that I need you to understand something. I didn't tell you because I was angry at you or ashamed of you. I didn't tell you, I didn't want you to know about the scars or about Hell because…I was angry and ashamed at myself.
"I grew up always knowing I had to look out for you, to be the tough one, the one who had all the answers and the one nothing or no one ever got to and I thought I pulled that act off pretty well…until Hell. Then I realized how wrong I was," he nodded to the journal. "I started this when you were probably thirteen and I've added more to it over the years but the most of it…I wrote after I got back. That's what you want to read."
Sam honestly wasn't so sure he did want to read it once he looked into his brother's eyes and seen the grimness, the finality in them but as Dean sat down across from him and he understood that his brother wasn't just handing this over and walking out, that he was willing to sit and wait for Sam's reaction, the younger hunter opened the journal to a page that had been marked.
A single look told him that by the end he'd be needing the whiskey and probably a lot more.
"'My name is Dean Winchester. I'm an Aquarius and I just got back from Hell. No, not a figure of speech for a bad day but the literal Hell people read about…though reading is nowhere close to actually experiencing just a few of those levels.
"'Sam, if you're reading this then I've finally had enough of all this crap and I've decided that since it's pretty clear you're doing better without me that it's time I put a stop to it and followed the plan that I haven't had the guts to try.
"'It's been about two months since I came back, since we found out about the Angels…since I found out about you and Ruby and just how screwed up we are. I don't think there's been a day that we haven't ended up in a fight over something and it hasn't been all your fault. You try to help me even if you don't know what's wrong and I just shove you away.
"'It isn't because of Ruby…well, not all of it, or what you've been doing or anything. It's because of me, Sammy and that's what this will hopefully let you understand because while I will never tell you about those years in hell I don't want you thinking that what I've done now is your fault because it isn't.'"
Taking a shaky breath, Sam lifted stinging eyes to see that Dean's gaze was watching him intently but his brother stayed silent even as Sam took a small sip of whiskey that burned all the way down his throat before going back to the journal.
"'I made the deal that sent me to Hell and I never regretted that. Not even down there, no amount of pain or torture could make me regret saving you, little brother. It was always more than just a promise to Mom and Dad. I looked after you because you were my little brother and I wish I could still look out for you but in those four months…or forty years, you reached the point where you don't need your big brother. I guess that might be a good thing since I'm not sure if all of me came back from Hell.
"'I told you that it was more like forty years for me and I told you that I told them where to stick their offers for thirty of those but then I broke. Your tough, nothing could ever faze me, never let 'em see you sweat big brother finally broke and I did whatever Alastair said once I'd gotten off that rack.
"'What I never told you and what I never planned to tell you, Sammy is why I broke. What tool or cruel device Alastair used to finally break me. I'd taken all the pain, all the abuse, I'd taken everything he and others could do to me everyday until the day came that he used the one weapon that I had no defense against…you.
"'After thirty years he finally picked the one thing that I couldn't fight against. He threatened you, Sam and once he explained in vivid detail how easy it would be to get to you, to hurt you then I didn't care anymore. I would've sold my soul again and I did everything including beg to get off the rack if he'd never touch you.
"'Of course what he didn't bother to mention was that even off the rack he'd still be ripping me apart, only in different ways. The time I realized that being off the rack might be worse than being on was when he had his damn trainers put the brand on me.
"'At first I thought it was just another way to hurt or scar me even though Alastair himself had put it on. It hurt almost as bad as when those damn crazy rednecks used that hot poker on my shoulder but it was when he said the spell that the agony hit and I knew it was a lot more. Figured out just how much more when he told me to stand still, no chains on, no nothing, but he said to stay still and…I had to stand there while this goddamn demon bit into my shoulder. No matter if I wanted to move or fight I couldn't.
"'You can't see the scars or the wounds I came out with and for that I'm thankful because if you freaked out over a few that I've gotten over the years then I know how you'd be over these. It took me about three days off the rack to realize that the more I fought the worse Alastair would make it. So between that and the self-hate I felt for doing what I did to those other souls…I had to block off the emotion. I had to change or else I knew I'd never survive. I'm still not sure I did.
"'When I came back and saw how much else had changed, how much she'd changed you, it broke my heart because I knew, I just knew that in some way Alastair had won. He'd broken me when he couldn't break Dad and he'd still managed to hurt you.
"'Now between the fights, the lies, the misunderstandings on top of the pain I'm still in for things that you can't see, the urge to just stop it, to end it all is getting really too strong. So I'm writing this for you, so you'll understand that what happens now is my choice and that no matter what I've said to you I am not ashamed of you, Sammy. You are now and will always be my little brother and it's you who would probably be ashamed of me.
"'You're sleeping now and I woke up with another one of those nightmares that make me just want to use my Colt on myself but that would wake you up so if I choose to do this it won't be here. I know you won't understand so I'll try to explain it.
"'I'm not as strong as I was, Sam. I broke when Dad didn't. Even though I gave in to shield you, they broke me in ways that I pray you will never have to know. I can see the scars that are left over. Every damn time I look in the mirror I see them and I can remember every moment, every agonizing moment that they were inflicted. I wake up with the nightmares not only cause of the scars but I can still feel the brand and remember every time they triggered it.
"'I love you, Sam. I know neither Dad nor I said that enough to you and despite what it looks like now I do. I'm proud of you, Sammy and I hope you don't follow Ruby too far down the rabbit hole because I won't be there to pull you back. I can't handle both these memories and knowing how badly I failed you so if one morning you wake up and I'm gone…look after my baby for me…do not douche her up again or I will so haunt your ass.
"'Go see Bobby, let him help with whatever happens and no matter what else, remember what I taught you. Remember that you are a Winchester and that no matter what that demon skank says you don't need to use those powers to make a difference. Remember that this isn't your fault. You're probably better off without me anyway, kid. Watch your back, Sammy…'"
His eyes stinging from tears that he knew were falling, Sam reached up to slash them away before reading those shakily written passages for the second time and understanding with a new horror those one marks on Dean's shoulder that he hadn't been able to see clearly or figure out before.
Upon feeling the glass of whiskey being nudged into his clenching fingers, Sam downed the almost full glass without caring and didn't even hiss or wince as the burning liquid slid down his raw throat.
"You were thinking of…" looking up when the journal was moved out from under his fist, Sam seen that his too quiet brother had moved from the chair across from him to the one right beside him. "Why? When I wanted to give in, to quit, you gave me the speech that Winchesters weren't quitters and that I could face whatever came. Didn't that same speech apply to you too, Dean?"
"Do what I say and not what I do, Sammy," Dean replied quietly, knowing his brother was not in the mood for jokes when he was given the full on bitch face that Sam was prone to when upset or mad. "Between what I'd seen and done in Hell to what was done to me to coming back and learning about the Angels, demons and what Ruby was using you for…I felt too weak to even try to go on, Sam. I thought I was more a hindrance to you than a help.
"Every fight we had, every lie we told was just like another knife going between us and I knew that one night would come that I'd wake up screaming and you'd've snuck out with her and that would've been it," he shrugged, tapping a finger on the journal. "You read it all so you know it all and…Sam."
Pushing up out of the chair, Sam shoved the chair away from the table in a restless fit of emotion before whirling back to face Dean. "You're my brother! I have grown up idolizing you since before I even knew what the word meant. I tried to do everything I could to make you proud of me and the day I finally realized you were dying and I couldn't save you was the second worst day of my life. The worst being the day I had to bury you and I just prayed to God to protect you until I could find a way to get you back.
"You never understood that everything I did with Ruby I hated. The first time after I worked with her, I went back to the motel, threw up and cried because in my heart I could hear you and knew what you'd be saying to me but by then I thought it was my only way to help," he couldn't recall the last time he'd let tears openly show in front of his brother but between seeing the scars to reading what he had and reading between the lines, it was all too much.
"Nothing would ever make me be ashamed of you, Dean. Hell, you gave in for me. Why the hell didn't you just walk on me when you realized what I'd done?" he demanded, knowing he'd given his brother plenty of times to do just that. "I'd disappointed you so much. I made a mockery of what you'd let happen in Hell, why didn't you leave or just save everyone the trouble and kill me?"
The breaking voice, the open tears and pure 100% puppy dog look was reminding Dean how easy it was to hurt Sam. "Because you were, are, and will always be my little brother," he replied, feeling it was safe enough to take a step toward Sam. "I knew it wasn't all your fault, Sam. That Ruby had used me to get to you and I tried to shield you from her but you needed to see that for yourself.
"We both said a lot to hurt each other back then and I know I still have a lot to make up for because I should've trusted you more and I should've fought more when it became plain that something just wasn't right after we had that fight in the motel and you didn't call me back when I left a message," Dean's eyes were right on Sam and so was able to catch the way his brother tensed. "You did get my message, right?"
The memory of that message was still etched in Sam's memory since it had been that message that had told him how badly he'd messed things up with his brother. "Yeah…I…um got it," he murmured, his hand moving to the phone he had in his pocket that he still made certain to transfer the message with every new phone. "Guess that's how I knew you hated me."
"Hated you?" Dean blinked, not sure how this conversation had gotten off track but very certain that he didn't care for the way Sam was tensing or the pain in those huge hazel eyes. "Sam, what the hell did you hear in my message that made you think I hated you?" he asked, trying to think back to what he'd said. "Aside from the butt kicking I owed you, that is."
Suddenly tired and emotionally drawn, Sam wasn't being as cautious as he normally would be when he shrugged and gave a weak smirk. "The whole I'm a vampire and you were done with me line probably. Dean?"
"You heard that from me?" he frowned more at the jerky nod then noticing that Sam's hand was in the pocket that normally carried his phone Dean held out his hand. "Phone, now."
Wanting to stay on this topic and away from the message that still could make him sick it was the deeper, sharper tone his brother used that made Sam slowly hand his cellphone over then held his breath as Dean scrolled down until he found the one marked with the date of the night Lucifer's crypt in Maryland was opened and held his breath.
"'Listen to me you blood sucking freak. Dad always said I'd either have to save you or kill you. Well, I'm giving you fair warning. I'm done trying to save you. You're a monster, Sam. A vampire. You're not you anymore and there's no going back.'"
"Huh," listening to his own voice deliver a message that was no way close to what he'd originally said, Dean felt his blood run cold then hot as he ran his tongue over his teeth while debating on breaking the phone when he held it back out to Sam. "Erase it."
Staring at Dean and surprised to see a mixture of anger and hurt on his face, Sam took the phone with shaking fingers and tensed when a hand gripped his wrist with just enough strength to make him look up but not enough to hurt.
"That isn't the message I left, Sam," Dean told him, now understanding something Zachariah had said that night in the Green Room. I know it sounds like me and even I'd probably think it was me if I didn't know what I said and that sure as hell wasn't it. You thought I'd say that crap to you?"
"We'd been fighting, we had just had a fight where I pretty much chose Ruby over you even though in my heart I didn't want to so…it wasn't hard to think that you had enough of me," Sam shrugged, staring at the phone as he remembered the pain that message had caused when he looked up with a tiny bit of hope. "It…wasn't you?"
Wishing he could kill that bald sadistic Angel again, Dean reached up to grip the back of Sam's neck like he would when they'd been younger and his brother needed support or reassurance. "You're my brother and while I can kick your ass I would never think of you as a monster, Sammy. Now, erase that damn thing or you will be needing a new phone."
Finger hesitating over the delete button, another look at his brother and Sam deleted the message that had been haunting him for four years and was surprised at the relief that he felt. "Dean, the way you wrote in that journal…what stopped you from killing yourself?" he asked quietly, slipping the phone away and not feeling the urge to tense as the fingers on his neck squeezed lightly.
"You did," Dean answered simply, offering a rare smile at Sam's look of confusion. "The night I was going to do it…it was a bad night. One of those dreams where everything still felt real. I could feel Hell, smell it even and I was this close to slitting my wrists," he held his thumb and forefinger almost together. "Then you woke up coughing and hacking like no tomorrow and I was too busy handling your sick ass for the next three days to think about it."
"The time I'd gotten a cold," Sam nodded as he recalled waking up one night with a cough and the next time he woke up fully nearly four days had passed and his brother had been sitting on the floor beside the bed complaining into the phone to Bobby about the smell of mustard packs.
"You had bronchitis mixed with pneumonia on top of a concussion and three cracked ribs," Dean corrected with a sigh only an older brother who had dealt with a sick sibling could give. "By the time the fever broke I'd forgotten what I'd been about to do and figured that even if you didn't need me covering your back while hunting, you still needed someone to watch out for you."
"I'll always need you to have me back, Dean," Sam replied, moving his hand slowly to reach out to place it on his brother's shoulder. "Now more than ever."
This was usually the moment when Dean complained about chick flick moments and a huge part of him felt like doing that but considering what Sam had been through recently and would be going through in the weeks and months to come, he decided to break his own rule and call a do-over tomorrow.
"I will have your back, Sammy and I will be with you through these trials no matter what happens or who I have to kill," he promised, then coughed awkwardly and gave in to the urge to use the hold he still had on Sam's neck to pull him off balance just enough to offer a hug that he knew would shock his brother. "Do over tomorrow, Geek Boy."
Sam had been startled by the move since it took a lot to have Dean initiate a hug of any kind, much less a full one that required the chick flick rule to be discontinued for any amount of time. Though he thought he understood why and returned it with more strength when his eyes went to the journal on the table and once again he considered everything his brother had been through and was still willing to go through.
"Do you…still have the nightmares, Dean?" he asked quietly, guessing the answer when he felt his brother tense and started to ease back when he felt the grip on his neck shift up to lightly mess his hair up like Dean used to do to him when he was a kid.
"Not as often but sometimes," Dean admitted, breaking the hug to look between the journal and Sam as he added. "I have plenty of nightmares, Sam. I still have 'em about the night you got stabbed in Cold Oak or when those damn rednecks had you. Hell is just another part of them."
Understanding that Dean would never admit to having them or if they still bothered him, Sam decided to let that go. "Can we burn that?"
Not expecting that one, Dean hesitated. He'd been keeping the journal for awhile and it contained more than just his time in Hell but it was the way Sam kept looking at the book that made him understand.
The journal to Sam represented pain and memories that he feared his brother would dwell on so long as he kept it. Plus, he knew that eventually Sam would get curious about what else was written and there were things written in it from when Sam was a kid that Dean flat out refused to ever let his brother learn.
"You break those glasses and promise never to make another pair unless we need them for a case and I'll burn that," he offered the compromise, grinning as he watched Sam crack the glasses under his heel then waited. "Fine, I'll burn it while you burn breakfast…or on second thought, screw that. We'll go out for breakfast and I'll even let you pick the place."
Waiting to see the red covered journal catch fire in the sink, Sam watched it burn before turning to eye his brother warily. "You never let me pick where we eat," he pointed out. "You hate it when I pick."
"Yeah, I know," Dean offered a deep and shuddering sigh before grinning at Sam. "That's what awesome big brothers do for their little brothers. Now go grab a coat before I change my mind."
Hesitating by the door, Sam looked back with a full smile that showed the dimples that hardly ever showed these days. "Thanks, Dean," he said then ducked out to grab his jacket and figure out a place they could eat that Dean wouldn't complain too much.
The smile faded a little as he watched the journal finish burning and he turned the water on to make sure it was done burning while deciding it best that Sam didn't know that as of late the brand on his back had begun to burn again and that it had been on fire the night in the crypt with Castiel for some reason.
Dean wasn't sure what they'd face in doing these last two trials or even in their everyday lives but the one thing he was certain of if what he was not losing his brother again. He'd meant it when he'd told Sam that while he couldn't carry the weight of the trials but he could carry him and he planned to, even if he had to face off with both the hordes of Heaven and Hell again to do it.
"Hey, how does tofu sound?" Sam called from the hall.
Hearing the laugh in his brother's voice assured Dean that they'd come through this emotional minefield in one piece and he could only hope they would any more down the road…assuming he didn't drop the kid in a sinkhole for that last question.
"Do I look like Kevin to you?" he countered, snatching his jacket as Sam tossed it to him while giving the keys to the Impala an underhanded toss toward his brother. "Actually, I don't even think Kevin eats that crap anymore so you can forget that plan, Sammy."
Sam was still laughing as he headed for the Impala and missed the fond smile Dean had as he followed him out with a look up at the clear blue sky and offered the same promise he always did when knowing that he and Sam were heading into the unknown. "I'll look out for him, Mom," he whispered then wondered how his overly nosy brother would handle it if he knew that Dean could see a few wounds of his that the kid believed no one else could.
"Nah, that's a minefield for when he's eighty and I need leverage for something," he decided, hearing the music from inside the car and swearing not to slap him as the sounds of some light rock song came on but knew it was just to annoy him and that once they were on the road that Sam would put in one of the older cassette tapes.
The sound of AC/DC blared through the speakers as Dean was closing the passenger door and even as he was smirking, his eyes landed on the radio and he knew Sam was hiding his smirk. "Sammy, get that damn I-Pod thing outta my car or you and it are riding in the trunk."
Author Note: Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed it.