Failing and Falling

Summary: 1-shot. Everything's changed and Dean's just trying to make sure his brother comes out of this in one piece. As the Winchester's struggle over the events of the 3rd Trial & Heaven's upheaval, Dean must face his own failures while hoping he'd pulled Sam out in time. *Angsty/worried/protective!Dean & Limp/worn out!Sam* SPOILERS!

Tags/Spoilers: 08x23 Sacrifice. There will be spoilers to come so if you haven't seen the Finale yet, maybe you better not read this yet.

Warnings: I'll warn for language as always.

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

Author Note: My first attempt to tag the Finale. Turned longer than what I planned. I think I have another one in mind as well so I hope you guys enjoyed the Finale and will like this piece. Thanks!


The last twelve hours of Dean Winchester's life sucked but as far as he was concerned the final five minutes had left him feeling as if he was either sinking in quicksand or teetering on a cliff, both on the verge of life and death and in some ways the final part would've been right.

Only it wasn't his life he was fighting for but his little brother's.

He'd felt like he'd been struggling to keep Sam going since they began these trials and it had been gut wrenching to watch his brother, a kid that he'd been watching over and had practically raised since he'd been six months old, fall apart slowly the longer this was drawn out.

They'd been on the final mile, the finish line within reach and sight but…as Dean should've known, they were Winchesters and that automatically meant fate would kick them in the teeth or the balls if she had the chance and damn it felt like she had.

Capturing Crowley had been risky but he was the only demon in town. Locking him down in an old church with the hopes of using the new demon curing exorcism had odds that Dean wasn't sure if he'd have taken on a bet but he knew Sam was running out of time and…it was the only thing to do.

That's when fate decided to starting screwing around in the form of Castiel asking for help. Dean knew Sam had taken his comment of needing a chaperone the wrong way but he didn't have any idea just how wrong his brother had taken it until just a little bit ago when he barely got back to Sam in time to stop him from completing the trial and…curing Crowley.

He hadn't wanted to help Castiel. Not because he was still pissed at the Angel but because something in his gut said not to leave Sam but his brother had gotten that stubborn look that he got from their father and insisted Dean should help Cas finish what Metatron had said would lock heaven up as well.

It just hadn't made sense to Dean why a centuries old Messenger of God would suddenly stick his head out after he'd spent so long hiding from Heaven.

It hadn't made sense and as he knew damn good and well if something didn't make sense then it was often not a good thing but again he'd had no clue just how far wrong this was going to go…until just a little while ago when it turned out that the sweater wearing Angel hadn't just been running from Heaven…he'd been plotting against it.

Castiel hadn't wanted to believe Naomi when she told them what the Scribe's true plan was but Dean had been a hunter long enough to know when he was being BS'd and he hadn't picked that up from the other Angel this time…especially when she dropped it on him what would happen to his brother if Sam completed the third trial.

Making Cas take him back to Sam had been one issue but it was then that the breaking cliff under Dean's feet had really started to give way because he sure hadn't been expecting his brother's reply to the simple fact that he'd die if he completed the trial to be 'So?'

He also hadn't been expecting Sam's logic or what his confession had been and that was when the cliff literally gave out and Dean felt like he was sinking because while he had a hard time arguing with Sam when he did the puppy eye look, he had zero chance of succeeding when Sam used the big three against him: puppy eyes, tears, and a heart breaking chick flick moment.

Dean knew that he and Sam had serious issues between them but he realized at that moment when it dawned on him just how much he'd hurt his brother without even seeing it that those issues were now all coming out in Sam and that Sam really didn't see the issue if he died because he'd be dying in order to do some good.

He thought that by dying in this trial that he wouldn't be failing Dean again, which as he just admitted was what he thought of as his biggest sin; all the times that he'd failed his big brother.

Failing and falling even more in Dean's eyes were Sam's biggest fears. Being replaced again in his brother's life as he felt he'd been replaced by Castiel and Benny because Dean felt he'd failed as a brother, as a hunter, was what Sam didn't want to see happen again.

It had been those final words that had snapped Dean's attention back, forcing him to understand all the pain, hurt and bitterness Sam had been burying for five years since Dean's return from Hell had started all the crap between them.

Dean had used logic to justify his actions of working with Castiel since the Angel had been the one who rescued him from Hell. Sam had turned from him to work with Ruby but it was as he watched those eyes fill with tears that all the inner hurt reflecting from Sam finally hit home and Dean realized it hadn't been his brother who had failed or fell but him.

He'd been the one to allow the damn Angels to get between him and Sam. He'd listened to Castiel more instead of listening to what Sam struggled to tell him and had allowed himself to be worn down by them to the point where he nearly gave up on Sam, on them and had broken Sam so much the day he'd tossed the amulet away.

Even today he'd tossed Ruby back in Sam's face. He'd brought up Lucifer, which was never a good topic, and had to get that little dig in about Purgatory but yet Sam's confession, his biggest sin, hadn't been those things. No, his little brother thought his greatest sin was all the times he'd failed Dean.

Sam had never thought he was good enough in their Dad's eyes and Dean had always struggled to make sure Sam knew that he was as good a hunter as he was but as the pain and loss spilled out with tears on Sam's pale and drawn face Dean was forced to face that by choosing Benny or Castiel so many times over Sam that he'd made a mockery out of telling Sam that he was as good as he was, that they were partners…brothers and he felt like the cliff had just given way.

"'What happens when you've decided that I can't be trusted…again? I mean, who are you gonna turn to next time instead of me? What, another Angel, another…another vampire? Do you have any idea what it feels like to watch your brother…'"

Dean knew if he hadn't stopped Sam there that he would've broke and this wasn't the time yet to let his already crashing and emotionally destroyed baby brother see him shatter so Dean the only other path open to him and hoped it worked.

He gave Sam the mother of all chick flick moments in return because as he knew well, the only way to counter one of Sam's emotional moments was to give him emotion right back and since Sam knew his brother only did pure emotion when being serious Dean prayed he'd believe him.

"'Hold on! You seriously think that? Because none of it, none of it, is true. Listen, man, I know we've had our disagreements, okay. I know I've said some junk that set you back on your heels, but Sammy, come on! I killed Benny to save you. I'm willing to let his bastard and all the sons of bitches that killed Mom walk…because of you.

"'Don't you dare think there is anything past or present that I would put in front of you. It's never been like that, ever! I need you to see that. I'm begging you…'"

Sam had looked so devastated that Dean wasn't sure what to do except hold on to him. He needed to make Sam understand that dying was not in the cards, not now and then hoped he could bring the kid off the ledge.

Dean had talked Sam off of some pretty high ones before but not anything like this one because he knew if he couldn't convince Sam to step back, to let this go, that he'd lose the only thing he had left that mattered to him.

He'd felt relief when Sam had finally gone limp, his body slowly relaxing even though neither of them knew exactly how to get whatever Sam insisted was in him out right then but to Dean that was another issue for another day and he'd almost been convinced that it had worked…until Sam had screamed and once again Fate had kicked them below the belt.

It had been less than five minutes since Dean had gotten Sam to stop the trials, had his emotional rug pulled out from under him when he realized how deeply he'd scarred his brother by doing what he thought was right too many times only to remember that whatever the hell was affecting Sam since the trials began wasn't taking his standing down all too well.

"'I've gotcha, little brother. You're gonna be just fine. I've gotcha.'"

Dean hadn't cared if Crowley was still locked in chains or not. Sam was in agony, gasping for breath and clinging to him as if his life depended on it and all Dean wanted was to get his little brother the hell out of here.

He'd half carried, half dragged Sam out of the church only to lose his balance and send them both crashing to the wet ground beside the Impala and that was when the night sky literally opened up.

Now Dean was watching as Angels fell from Heaven, wings burning off as they fell and he couldn't begin to describe what he was feeling except building panic as Sam trembled next to him and he could hear his brother struggling to breathe as the pain in his body increased.

His thoughts turn to Castiel briefly since he can't be sure if his friend did this or…if something else much more sinister is behind all the glowing, burning Angels falling to Earth but then Dean forgets that for the moment, needing to focus on what's important to him…his brother.

"Sam?" wanting to get Sam out of this place but not sure where in the hell he could take him for help since there was no way he could explain his brother's condition to a hospital. "Sammy? C'mon, man. Talk to me or… shit!"

Looking up to see one of the glowing forms getting closer and smashing into the nearby lake, Dean gritted his teeth. "I've gotta get you out of here, Sam," he pushed to his feet and tried to get Sam up but it took two tries and a lot of muttering under his breath before he managed to get Sam up and only managed to get him in the back door of the Impala with a grunt. "Sammy!"

Dean didn't like the shallow way Sam was breathing or how pale his already pale face looked in the odd light of the falling angels. "C'mon, baby brother, don't do this to me now," he eased Sam over so he could sit beside him in the cramped back seat while no longer watching the falling lights.

"You never failed me, Sammy. You only did the things you thought or were led to believe were right. I know I've said some crap to you that said otherwise but…if anyone failed here it'd be me," being gentle when he lifted the hand that Sam was cut earlier, Dean noticed the bleeding had stopped but he tightened the cloth to be sure while feeling for a pulse and biting his lip as it seemed too slow.

"I never meant for it to look like I'd replaced you because…Sammy, no one could replace you. With Cas, that was when you were with…her and it never hit me just how much it hurt me that you'd rather work with Ruby than me so maybe I tried to hurt back by keeping Castiel around but…dude…Cas isn't my baby brother and no one can work a case with me like you."

Feeling Sam shake more, Dean wasn't sure if it was from pain, shock, or pure exhaustion since his brother hadn't slept well in…weeks.

Slipping an arm around his shaking little brother, he pulled him over until Sam was leaning against his side much like Dean would hold him when they'd been kids in this very back seat, when Sam had still looked at him like his hero…before Dean had let him fall down a very dark hole.

Dean knew that Sam had chosen to stop the trials. He knew his brother had chosen to live and Dean could only hope it had been because he'd given him something to live for. That he'd convinced Sam that he hadn't failed him, that he had never put anyone before him…though as he sat there now as more lights lit the sky he certainly could see where his too smart for his own good brother had gotten that idea.

Both Heaven and Hell had come between them in so many forms but it had been Dean who had chosen to ignore his little brother's silent please too often. He'd held it against Sam for keeping secrets, for choosing others over their bond as brothers but…he'd done it too.

Only Sam had never accused him of failing him as a brother since Dean would not take what was said between them during the Siren mess or the final fight over Ruby as his brother talking.

Tightening his hold, Dean's shaking fingers carded back through Sam's dirty, sweat soaked hair while tucking his little brother closer to him like he would before and felt himself relax more as it seemed Sam's breathing was getting easier and not as labored.

"I never meant for it to get this bad, little brother. I never meant for you to think that you weren't the most important thing in my life because aside from Dad you're my family and…I…love you, Sammy," rushing those words out, Dean sighed and wished he could go back to when this nightmare started but didn't have a clue where to start to fix this except something in Sam's confession nagged him and he knew where to start.

"You know what I kept thinking in Purgatory, Sammy?" glancing down, he could see some color slowly coming back to Sam's face and let shaking fingers brush over his brother's cheek to wipe away some of the tears and dirt and didn't feel the fever like he had been. "I kept thinking that if Sammy was here, we'd mop the floor with these assholes because we're Winchesters and that's what we do."

Exhausted, worried and more scared than he'd ever admit, Dean wished Sam would just open his eyes once to let him know that he was alright because he couldn't see this life, he couldn't see dealing with Crowley or Hell without his pain in the ass little brother riding shotgun.

"I trust you more than I do anyone, baby boy. I've trusted you with my back since you were old enough to go out on a hunt with me. I didn't want anyone else at my back, now or then and no matter what this brings I will get you through this and…I'll make it right," he promised, determined that for once he'd keep that promise to protect his brother and he would find a way to help Sam through whatever came at them from this.

Dean lost track of time as he sat in the back of the Impala with Sam as lights still fell from the sky. It wasn't until he felt cold fingers trying to squeeze his hand that his eyes shot down to look directly into hazel eyes that still were wet from tears but he couldn't see all the shadows and pain that he had been in recent days. "Hey, Sammy…you back now?"

Sam wasn't sure since his last good memory was of falling against the car in pain worse than nearly anything he'd ever felt…except in the Cage.

He knew he'd been ready to do the trial and face his fate since he'd known by the last injection of his blood into Crowley that he might not be coming out of this and…that was alright with him.

He'd confessed his greatest sin and would make up for all of his wrongs, he wouldn't fail his brother again and maybe if he was lucky before he died he'd see pride in Dean's eyes again rather than disappointment.

Sam could hear his brother saying Metatron had lied but his mind was too locked in finishing this, of doing something right for a change. He hadn't meant to tell Dean what he did but it had felt right and he had to admit it felt like a weight had lifted to get that off his chest.

It had also felt like a huge weight of guilt and pain had lifted when Dean had told him what he had. Fear of failing his brother again had pushed Sam to finish the trials but it was the look of desperation in Dean's eyes that had finally made him step back from the edge and let his brother catch him.

His memories of the pain hitting, the fear of still dying since he hadn't completed the trials and the wonder that all of heaven seemed to be falling to Earth seemed like a dream as Sam slowly began coming around again.

Familiar sounds and smells surrounded him as Sam slowly began to understand the pain that had been searing through his body had stopped, at least for the moment, and while he kept his eyes closed for the moment it didn't take long for memories to tell him where he was and who was with him.

Sam could still remember sitting in the back of the Impala with his big brother as their Dad drove to another hunt or they'd wait for him to come back to one and it would be Dean who'd hold his little brother to both keep him warm and to offer support for a scared child.

The familiar sound under his ear was one he'd grown up listening to and he could tell by the way Dean's heart was beating that his brother was on edge because it had the same fast beat whenever Dean was on worried or upset.

The fact that he could hear Dean's heart told Sam that they'd broken every no chick flick rule in a major way since for his brother to hold him this way meant he was in bad shape and Dean was as close to panicking as he'd show.

The next familiar thing to Sam was the deep voice of his brother in the huskier tone that meant Dean was running on emotion, and then he felt the touch run through his hair in the same way his brother would when they were kids and any left-over strain seemed to leave him as he listened to what Dean was saying.

The Impala had always been a home to Sam and he could recognize its smells by heart. The leather, the smell of Dean's aftershave since when Sam thought of the Impala he thought of his brother and knew he was safe…finally when he slowly opened his eyes while trying to grasp Dean's hand.

"Did…did you mean it?" he asked, mouth dry and suddenly aware of how long it had been since he'd ate or drank anything, much less slept. "Back there…when you said…what you did…did you mean it?"

Thinking back to all the times when his innocent little brother had asked him if he meant something in that tone of hopefulness brought back Dean's memories of when Sam hadn't had doubts if his brother trusted him, when it had been just them against all the evil sons of bitches out there. Back when Dean wouldn't allow anything to come between them…something that he was going to start doing again.

Refusing to ruin the light of hope he could see in Sam now, Dean made certain his voice was level as he offered a true smile while reaching down to push back his brother's too long bangs. "Yeah, Sammy, I meant it. Nothing will ever come before you. Now…you good?"

"Seems like it, for now," Sam wasn't sure if he'd stay like that or not since he hadn't completed the trials but for the moment he was good with it.

He didn't feel any of the strain or tension with Dean as he had been feeling for the last few years and that meant for to him than nearly anything. "What about…this stuff?"

"Crowley can sit and wait until I come back for him and…we'll figure out what this angels falling from Heaven crap means later," Dean decided, seeing the slight frown coming and recognizing it as his little brother's tired form of his bitch face. "No. Right now it's you that I'm focusing on. I'm getting you back to the base and we're gonna see about getting some food in you before you crash…then I'll drag Crowley's ass back and make use of that dungeon until we see what's up with…shit."

The sound of his phone going off made Dean scowl but a look at the ID had him frowning more since he honestly thought Kevin would be long gone. "Bad time, kid."

"Are you freaking kidding me? Dean, you've got huge problems!" Kevin Tran nearly shouted, not sounding any more manic than he had been the last time Dean had talked to him. "Beyond huge."

Letting Sam sit up on his own, Dean didn't miss the way his brother's hand kept a light hold of his jacket sleeve, much like he would as a kid when scared. Rolling his eyes at Sam while motioning to the phone, he relaxed a little at Sam's small smile. "I know I have problems. What more can you add to them?" he figured the worst thing the Prophet could have done was broken something…then Dean would break him but he wasn't expecting what he heard next.

"Every damn light and machine in this place had lit up like the Fourth of July, Dean," Kevin wasn't sure what this place was but he didn't think when machines this old suddenly kicked on that it spelled good things. "I mean, every light and machine and that map thing on the table is flickering like crazy…"

Sam still felt like crap and could recall something about Angels falling from Heaven which he guessed is the same thing his brother was thinking since it would've taken something earth shattering to reactivate the old Men of Letters base dormant machines.

As much as he wanted to sleep and to try to hold on to this sense of peace that he and Dean had seemed to have regained, the hunter side of Sam told him that this was something they needed to look into. "Dean," he whispered, giving a harder tug to his brother's arm when Dean seemed to want to ignore it. "The family business."

"Hunting things, saving people…that's what we do. Not fix every little damn thing that…Sammy, don't do the bitch face with puppy eyes, huh?" Dean grumbled then sighed, running a hand over his face. "Kevin, don't touch anything. Sammy and I…we'll be there," he shot a dark look toward Sam. "Fine, but you're sleeping on the way there."

"Yes, sir," Sam knew it irked his brother when he agreed like that and held his breath to see what Dean's response would be.

"Get up front while I snag Crowley…bitch," Dean snorted, covering his smile as he got out of the Impala to go grab their current 'guest' for a brief ride.

The familiar joking insults nearly made Sam falter as he managed to get up into the front seat since it had been years since he and Dean had used them. He felt his eyes tear up but had wiped them away by the time his brother got back to toss a spray painted and unconscious Crowley, still in his demon cuffs, in the back seat.

"…Jerk," he murmured just as his brother was getting in and Sam saw Dean stop, look at him then grin with the grin he could usually only bring out on his brother if he bought him pie. "Are we good, Dean?"

Dean knew it would probably take a few more chick flick moments to get all of Sam's bottled emotions out but he couldn't deny that he felt good and he didn't feel the same tension that had been between them for so long. "Yeah," he looked beside him, seeing that while Sam still looked haggard his brother didn't look as strained or withdrawn and knew that some of those shadows were gone now. "Yeah, little brother…we're good," he agreed.

Slipping the Impala in gear, he felt Sam shifting next to him and knew when he looked his brother would be curled into the door like he'd always slept when riding shotgun and after turning on the radio to drown out the sounds of demon snoring in the back (he'd make Kevin scrub the car out later), Dean let his hand rest on the back of Sam's neck like he would years earlier and needing to let his brother know he was safe.

"We're gonna be good now, Sammy and I'll take care of you," he murmured to the open air as an old Kansas song came on and it all seemed to be getting back to normal which is what Dean would fight to keep because he was not losing his brother to Heaven, Hell or his own stupidity.

The End