Never Give Up

Summary: 1-shot. Dean's POV as he ponders his answer to Charlie's question while also considering how things are going for him and Sam with the trials and what may come next. *Pensive/pondering/concerned!Dean* Spoilers for 08x20 Pac-Man Fever!

Warnings/Spoilers: A little warning for language and there are spoilers for 08x20 Pac-Man Fever and from the last couple episodes so be warned.

Tags: 08x20 Pac-Man Fever

Disclaimer: I don't own anything. This is written for entertainment.

SPN SPN SPN SPN

Charlie's question if I'll ever give it up got me to thinking after I watch her walk away. I meant the answer. I could no more give up than I could stop breathing.

I also understood the deeper meaning behind the question and that's what got me to start thinking long and hard about things.

By going into Charlie's dream after the new type of Djinn, not that we needed to discover a new form of monster, had attacked her I got to see a different side of the Charlie Bradford than Sam and I'd known before.

Charlie's deepest fears were driving her and she would've kept playing that mental game over and over because she was holding onto the fear and guilt of letting go of her Mom, both in that mindscape and in the real world.

I understood those fears better than anyone possibly could have and I think she knew that too. Of course she knows a lot more than Sam or I like since she got her hands on those damn books of Chuck's.

For Charlie to survive she needed to let go of that guilt and she finally needed to let go and that's where the hidden meaning of her question comes in because she knows that while I'll never quit what I do, there's the little matter of whether or not I know when it's time to let go.

Giving up or letting go were not things that I'd been taught how to do but something about this time has really got me thinking about it. Of course Sam is probably convinced I've lost my mind.

Sammy had gone back inside the Men of Letters base we've been using since finding out about it to give me and Charlie some space…not that he needed to but I also think he did it to give himself time to work on that speech he started to give me when I went inside.

The second trial has really been playing hell on my little brother. I know it, he knows it and he knows that I know it which is why he's trying so damn hard not to let on. Yeah, like that works since I've known that kid since the night he was born and I can tell the second something's either bothering him or he's hurting.

I'd given Sam orders to stay put until he'd gotten some strength back and until he could hit that paper target with his gun. Well, I forgot that when my little brother wants to be annoying he can also tend to be quite literal and I forgot to add that he needed to actually hit the target on the paper target before he could go into the field again.

I've been trying to look out for Sam since he was a baby and more often than not I'm not as good at that job as I used to, especially when he decides that he doesn't want to be coddled…not that it's easy to coddle a little brother who's four inches taller than I am.

Slamming the gates of Hell for good had been my idea once Kevin, out MIA prophet, told us about what he'd read on that tablet. It was my idea for me to be the one to start the trials and take the punches. I'd take it all and Sam would reap the rewards of maybe going back into that nice normal life he's always wanted…the one he almost had twice.

Twice in his life Sam nearly had the normal world that he's wanted since we were kids. The first would've been with Jessica if I hadn't showed up on his door, well broke into his apartment actually, to drag him back into this life to look for Dad. Jessica was dead by the end of the weekend. She died on the ceiling in front of Sam, just like our Mom had died.

His second chance at normal wasn't all that long ago and at least the girl hadn't ended up dead…yet but he finally walked away from Amelia, from that chance, because I'd come back from Purgatory and we started hunting again.

Twice my brother almost had the life he wanted, the life I wanted for him and twice he lost it…because of me, though neither of us has ever said that. I'm not sure Sam would think that but I have a few times, which is why I'd planned to do the trials myself.

I'm not stupid. I know how these things normally play out for us and I knew going in that this probably won't end well. If it did require the ultimate sacrifice then I planned on it being me since I knew that this life, the life Dad brought us into, would eventually take mine.

Dying, sacrificing those were things I knew. Hell, those were things I've been doing for a good chunk of my life so this wouldn't have been any different.

I'd do the sacrificing, Hell would get closed, Garth and other hunters could keep on hunting the mundane side of the supernatural and Sammy, my pain in the ass baby brother, could finally settle down to normal. Maybe even put that LSAT score he'd gotten back at Stanford to some good use.

That had been my plan…until Sam decided to get between me and the Hellhound that was about me make me its dinner again.

Sammy had killed Clifford the big dead dog and after giving me his best lollipop and candy cane, all things are rainbows and unicorns speech. After he gave me those damn puppy dog eyes with the 'trust me' line I lost my reasoning long enough to let him do the spell that would complete the first trial and send my baby brother down the road he's on now.

At first Sam could hide the effects. He hid how much pain his right hand and arm were in, how shaky it was. He hid the nightmares and bloody cough.

I still had my doubts but the more I pushed for him to quit, the more determined he became because it was so vital to Sam to be able to do this. To be able to do this one thing to prove himself, but I'm not sure who he's proving it to…me or himself.

I had already sworn to stand by him through this crap, to even carry him if I couldn't do the trials…fine, I watched the damn Lord of the Rings a few times, but it wasn't until Castiel in his own unique and brusque way said that Sam was being affected in a way that not even the Angel could heal that I began to see just how badly I'd underestimated this thing.

I think that was also when it finally began to hit Sam too because shortly after that was when his nightmares started hitting him hard, though he thinks being in separate rooms now that I don't know he's waking up in cold sweats. Right, he thinks that and I'm the Easter Bunny.

The second trial is what really pushed him down though. Going to Hell via Purgatory, saving Bobby's soul, nearly getting trapped there and so forth would've pushed anyone to their limit but it was when he did the spell to finish the trial that I saw it.

Sam's the original human emotion machine. While I learned how to shield mine, to bury them, Sammy always wore his heart on his sleeve…except for that time when he was running around without a soul then that was another issue.

A wrong word, a fight between us that crosses certain lines or any number of things would be tears to those big hazel eyes. Emotions I knew could break Sam but that night in the woods in Maine was the first time I saw him fighting back tears do to pain.

Sam and I were raised by a tough ex-Marine for a father and Dad frowned on showing emotions usually but especially over pain. So despite hating it all, despite hating to hunt, Sam learned not to let pain due to wounds or injuries make him cry.

Since the night Sam was eight, I can't really recall seeing him tear up over an injury unless it was really bad…or unless the injury was mine. If I was hurt then forget it, Sammy was all emotion but I'd seen him get shot, cut, nearly bled out by damn ghouls or worse and he never shed a tear…until then.

He started to get weaker after that. I noticed he was either sleeping like the dead or not sleeping at all. The bloody cough is still there but now he can barely lift his piece to shoot at a paper target and his legs don't want to hold him.

I'm watching my little brother fall apart and I don't know what to do about it except try to buffer him…which doesn't always work like this time.

I'd benched Sam for the case that Charlie showed up with. I didn't like taking the tiny little firecracker with a fondness for hacking…and an incredible aim with a gun, with me but I needed someone and she was it.

Of course she was almost as bad as the time I took Cas in undercover with me. What is so hard with pulling a fake FBI badge out and holding it the right way? I'll never get what is so hard with that.

But Sam didn't listen and ended up on the case, which ended up with him getting hit by the Mama Djinn even though it had been Sam who saved my bacon by killing the kid. I think it was being so weak that he couldn't defend himself against the first Djinn that finally scared him because he was quiet all the way back here.

Getting Sam to admit that I was right about something, especially if I was right about him needing to lay low, is usually like pulling the teeth off of a werewolf but he was standing up as I got back into the base and starting to lay his half apology/half speech thing on me when I did something that floored my little brother: I hugged him.

Now hugging normally falls under the no emotion, no chick flick moments rule and is usually reserved for either times of extreme duress like impending death or return from death or moments like that, not for just coming off of a job in which Sam could've gotten himself or Charlie killed.

I know that and Sam knew it which is why it took him so off guard that it was a few heartbeats before I felt him hug back with as much strength as he had and that wasn't much, another issue I have to learn to watch.

Sam's belief that we were both coming out of this whole has begun to fade and he's getting more scared. Showing pain or emotion is one thing but Sam will still try to hide if he's scared because he thinks I'll tease him about it and once upon a time I probably would have.

Charlie's question about ever getting it up got me to thinking about my life now and back even a few years and I suddenly realize why Sam hides so much, why he resists being helped and if I'm honest with myself I'd say that I don't blame him.

I wasn't a great guy with work with, live with, or have as a big brother some of those times. I've been ragging Sam since I got back from Hell and there are still issues that we haven't worked out and now I wonder if we ever will.

I told Charlie that I'd never quit, that I'd never give up but I still recall a time that I nearly did. Another time we were under the gun to save the world but then it involved me saying yes to Michael and becoming a meatsuit for an Archangel who would next choose to kill my little brother.

Back then everyone seemed to be pulling or pushing Sam and me apart and it very nearly worked. I'd lost hope in myself and I'd lost faith in Sammy.

I'd been worn down enough to toss away the amulet that had been a symbol of our bond as brothers and I was so very close to giving in. I might have if that douchebag Angel Zachariah hadn't tipped his hand.

Bringing the half-brother that Sam and I hadn't even known we'd had until recently back from the dead to use him was one thing since it was just basically a lure to get to me and I'm not saying that I wouldn't have done the same thing I ended up doing for Sam to save Adam since I did try to save him but…by the time I got Sam out it had been too late.

I backed out of the deal at the last minute because of Sam. No matter the trouble, or anything he'd been hurt and was giving me the huge innocent look that had always meant he still trusted me to do what was right, to know all the answers and to this day I'm not sure if I did or not.

Adam's body still stuck in the Cage with Lucifer and Michael and while I hate myself for it I have to be honest when I say I've had other issues to worry about than figuring out a way to get back a half-brother that got to see a side of my Dad that Sammy and I never did.

It may seem petty but that's how it is and one day, assuming this whole trial mess doesn't blow up in my face I may find a way to get him out but right now it's the little brother I raised that has my attention and brings me back to the never giving up thing I told Charlie and why I hugged him without a logical reason.

I hugged my brother because it was hitting me like a brick that in the life we live the next time we walk out the door one of us might not be walking back in it and every day that it takes us to do this third and final trial I'm getting more worried that it just might be the boy I've always promised to look after.

Giving up the fight now would mean giving up on Sam. Giving up now would mean leaving him to face this on his own. Giving up now would also mean possibly facing my own worst fear, the fear of losing my brother and being alone.

A lot of people have always made comments about how close Sam and I are. Hell, when I was with Lisa the time Sam was supposed to be in the Cage she pointed out more than once that Sammy and I were unhealthily co-dependent on one another but that's not quite true.

Sammy's my brother and I'd die for him. In fact I'd rather be the one doing the dying because while Sam could go back to normal, leave this life behind and he'd hurt a lot, I know for damn sure that I couldn't do anything but this and I'd be damned if I'd make it without Sam.

Knowing he's settled down someplace safe with a life and a pretty girl…wonder where Sarah's at these days, that I could live with. Hunting solo would be weird since it's been the two of us pretty much all his life but if I knew he was safe then I'd be okay.

I wouldn't be okay with going on if my little brother was dead or worse. I've sold my soul, gone to Hell and Purgatory to keep him safe so I can't see myself letting this last trial happen without doing something to safeguard Sam.

I can't do it for him even though I wish I could and it's too late to back up because something is seriously wrong with Sammy. So all I can hope for is to find Kevin, figure out the last trial, hope Cas doesn't go off the rails with the Angel WMD he's carrying and pull Sam through this regardless of what is supposed to happen.

He's fallen to sleep with his head pillowed on his arms at the table in the middle room. He's shivering again even though I've got the heat turned up so much I'll probably lose twenty pounds through sweat before we head out again.

I want to bundle him up in the Impala and just ride this out but I know he's just going to get worse until this is over so the only thing I can do to help him, aside from making sure he doesn't faceplant or starve, is to find Kevin and get this damn show over with.

Sam's hair is in his face…again but I can tell by the way he's tensing that he's dreaming again. He won't tell me what the dreams are about which worries me but I don't push for that, at least not yet.

I lay a hand on the back of his neck like I always did when trying to reassure him or offer support without Dean bitching that I was coddling him and I can't help but smile when Sam seems to calm down. He knows he's not alone and so the dreams go away.

"I'm not giving up on you, Sammy," I tell him quietly, willing to lower the no chick flick moments rule a little more since he's sleeping. "Don't give up on yourself."

Giving his neck another squeeze, I ease his laptop away so I can sit down a couple chairs away and see about locating Kevin when I feel his eyes on me and look up to see what I expected to; half asleep puppy eyes watching me.

"Thanks, De'n," he murmurs before laying his head back down to sleep fully since he knows I'll sit in here until he wakes up or until I figure I can move him back to his room.

It's the honest belief in those eyes, the trust that he still has in me that will always get to me before nearly anything else and I have to swallow a couple times before I can nod. "That's what awesome big brothers are for, Sammy."

Never giving up the hunt was ingrained in me since my Dad trained me to hunt but never giving up on my little brother? That was burned into my brain since the night he came into my life and it'll stay there until I die, which I'm willing to do if it means Sam survives this.

Now all I have to do is avoid the King of Hell, the new Queen Bitch in Heaven, find Cas before the Angels do and find that damn geeky Prophet. Sounds like fun.

The End

Author Note: Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed this little tag.