A/N: I do not own Supernatural or any of its characters. All rights reserved.
There are no rows of polished granite markers, no well-manicured lawns or brightly coloured flowers marking where their loved ones rest. No wrought iron fences, or ostentatious monuments erected by grief stricken family members. Instead there is a simple wooden cross, unmarked, surrounded by birch and pine trees in a weed infested clearing. There is nothing but the damp smell of wet earth after a summer storm, the scent of rain lingering like a woman's perfume. It is remote, but peaceful, a few miles away from the busy highway. No flowers have been placed at the foot of the cross, as to do so would likely be referred to as a "chick flick moment", undoubtedly. In fact, if not for the simple marker, no one would know that anyone was buried here.
Sam has made the pilgrimage to Dean's grave on many different occasions since that May night when his brother had died. Always alone, always with a heavy heart, burdened with anger and sorrow. On other occasions, he was drunk, and would sit under the stars, downing quart after quart of whiskey. Sometimes he would talk to him, rambling on about how he was going to avenge his death, kill that bitch Lilith with his bare hands. Mostly he was quiet, thoughtful, gazing at the stars as the effects of the alcohol took over his body and brought him to merciful unconsciousness. But even then, his sleep was not peaceful, but haunted with nightmares, of him reliving his brother's agonizing death, or hearing his tortured screams as he suffered in Hell. In one particular nightmare, Lilith is laughing in menacing glee as she systematically slices and dices his brother, delighting in Dean's tortured cries.
But sometimes, Sam would have a completely different dream, one that was a relief from the nightmares, but heartbreaking nevertheless. In these dreams, Dean is alive and well, and they are reliving some of the happier moments in their miserable excuses for lives.
One particular dream seemed to recur frequently. Sam and Dean are sitting on the hood of the Impala, sipping cheap beer and watching the stars. It is a warm, mid spring night, and Sam relishes in the brief respite from hunting. And they talk. About music, the Impala, some of the happier moments from their childhood. Dean shares the story of when they were kids, when Sam was about 6 and Dean was 10; the boys are at Bobby's place. They play catch, fish in the small brook behind the junk yard, just act like kids for once. Sam had caught something, only to lose it back in the lake. The boy had been devastated, his big, hazel eyes brimming with tears. But Dean gave him his own, much bigger fish (though, of course, not before teasing his brother about being such a wussy) and Sam had smiled. His big brother had saved the day again. Of course, Dean embellishes the story, again teasing his brother about losing the fish and crying over it, but he smiles secretly, remembering the big hug the little boy had given him, smiling a gap toothed grin. "Thanks, Dean, you're the best!"
These dreams hurt Sam almost as much as the nightmares do. They torture him, remind him of the brother he lost, and can never get back, no matter how much he's tried. Remind him of the years that stretch ahead, lonely and dark, years of systematically hunting creatures, almost like a robot, without his pain in the ass older brother bitching about his taste in music, or his eating habits. He needed Dean. Without him he was nothing, a broken man with a vendetta. He knows that this is not what Dean would have wanted, but he can't help it. He can't live without his brother.
On this particular visit, Sam is sober, having promised Ruby that he would lay off the booze for a while. He carries in his hand a worn photograph, one taken when Sam was just a baby, weeks before the fire that changed their lives forever. Sam looks upset, as if he has just finished crying. In fact, Dean had admitted that the boy had been screaming his head off until John handed the baby to Dean. And, as soon as the baby was nestled in the four-year-old's arms, Sam had settled, taking comfort in the warmth of the little boy's flannel shirt and the warmth of his skin as Dean gently cradled the tiny form against his cheek. Written on the back, in faded black ink, Mary Winchester had written: The Winchesters – John, Mary, Dean (4 yrs.) and baby Sammy (5 ½ mos.). Sam had kept his picture like a lifeline, it being the only image he has of his brother. A single tear slips from beneath closed lids, plopping gently on the faded image in his trembling hand.
"I miss you, Dean," he chokes out, and finds himself collapsing to the ground before him, eye level with the cross marking Dean Winchester's grave. "So much it hurts. And I don't know if I can do this anymore. I'm so fucking messed up, man. For weeks I was a drunk, and now I'm working with Ruby. Shit, man, I'm working with a demon. How fucked up is that, huh?" Sam wipes the tears with the back of his hand, and subconsciously fingers the amulet that he now wears around his neck. Dean's amulet, the one he had given him for Christmas back in 1991, when he had first learned the truth about their father's job. He had learned something else that day, too. That as much as he had loved his big brother before, trusted him with his life, now Sam saw Dean as something else, as the father he had never really had growing up. He had intended to give his dad that amulet, but had instead given it to Dean, the brother who had busted his ass to at least try to make Christmas special for him, who had stayed up night after night nursing fevers or keeping vigil while John was on a hunt.
For several minutes Sam kneels there, crying, the tears almost therapeutic to his tortured soul. He remembers the day when Dean had first admitted his deal, and how Sam had sworn that he would be the one saving Dean for a change. He remembered how Dean had smiled faintly, as if he had never wanted that to happen. Seconds later, another memory: that final Christmas, the one Dean had so desperately wanted but Sam only wanted to forget. They had sat on the uncomfortable double beds, sipping scotch and eggnog, watching a football game. Sam had wanted so badly to talk to his brother, share how much he loved him and would miss him should this really be their last Christmas together, but instead had changed the subject, much to his brother's relief. God, he wished he could have ignored his instinct and just gone with it. Could have said just how much his brother meant to him, to thank him for all he did for him…
"Jesus, Dean, this is hard." Sam gently placed a hand on the cross, running his thumb across the rough wood. The sun was sinking beneath the horizon, and Sam knew that he would soon have to leave, but he felt frozen in place, unable to break the bond he was somehow feeling with his brother, despite the fact that they were no longer in the same realm. "I need you. I just can't take it anymore. The guilt. The drunkenness. The emptiness. It's just too much…"
And he sobs. For several minutes, his body shaking and heaving as he lets out the pain, emotions, grief, and frustrations of the past two months. He grieves the loss of his brother, his innocence, his sense of comfort and safety. He clutches the photograph so tightly that he feels it crumple beneath his hands, but he doesn't care. He doesn't want a picture of his brother, one that he doesn't even remember being taken. He wants his brother alive and with him. He wants Dean.
Overwhelmed by grief, he doesn't recognize the presence of a stranger watching in the evening shadows, blue eyes staring ahead and filled with purpose. The man in the trench coat stands there, witnessing the man's grief, wishing to provide some comfort. For the angel of the lord, Castiel, knows that the man Sam Winchester grieves for will be saved, raised from the dead by summer's end. The angel desperately wants to go over to the grief stricken man, tell him not to fear, for his brother will be with him before winter sets, but he cannot. Instead, he listens to the broken sobs, the pained cries for Dean, in silence. And as the man finally stands and head to the sleek Impala, the angel vanishes.
That night, the angel appears in Sam's motel room, listening as the man finally succumbs to the grief of the day's events and falls asleep. Quietly, so as not to wake him, Castiel gently places a finger on the exhausted man's forehead.
Sam Winchester will be having no nightmares tonight.