Just Press Reset
Summary: Season 8: Sometimes, Sam feels like he's regained Dean's trust; but deep down, he's scared that might be too much to ask for. Spoilers up to 8:19, "Taxi Driver". Written for the Jedi Sapphire/Scribble2Much fic exchange. Companion piece to "A Heart to Ache or Swell".
A/N: This all got started when me and my partner in crime, Jedi Sapphire were having a gushing discussion about how the brothers seemed so trusting and open with each other in the second half of Season 8. Following the finale we wanted to do a fic exchange and so we decided to do it about the revival of the brotherhood between the boys. I decided to write from Sam's perspective, while she took on Dean's point of view. What follows is my take on things and to get her side of the story, read "A Heart to Ache or Swell".
So, it goes without saying that this is for Jedi Sapphire, my favourite Supernatural writer.
A/N: Beta services provided by Ericka Jane. Thanks again for the rapid turn around.
The simple gesture was lost on Dean but it meant everything to Sam. He had walked into the bunker's map room to find Dean at the large dining table, hunkered down over the laptop. When Sam approached from behind, Dean had shifted slightly to his right so his little brother could look at the computer screen over his left shoulder.
"What are you up?" Sam asked idly.
"Going through email," Dean responded, clicking on a message and scanning it quickly. "We were on the road for what, three, maybe four days and now this stupid inbox is flooded."
Sam snickered. "That's why smart people check their mail every day."
Dean hit the delete button then returned to his extensive list of unread mail and valiantly carried on. "You mean techie nerds like you," he shot back.
The catty quip rolled right off Sam's back, but the implications of the interaction didn't. Standing over Dean's shoulder with a full view of his brother's inbox, it dawned on Sam that Dean hadn't clicked off any screens or closed down the laptop when Sam approached as he had done on previous occasions. Whatever correspondence his brother was getting these days, he obviously didn't feel there was anything he didn't want Sam to see.
Considering how cagey they had both been following Dean's unexpected return from Purgatory, the easiness of the exchange was like a breath a fresh air. Unobtrusively, he rested a hand on his brother's shoulder wanting some form of contact, however subtle. Standing there at Dean's side, Sam wondered if they'd turned the corner on all the distrust that had chipped away at their connection in recent years. Or maybe it was just that he'd caught his brother off guard and Dean wasn't being particularly vigilant.
When Dean suddenly shoved the laptop sideways Sam figured he'd hoped too soon. Obviously there were still things his brother wished to keep from him.
"I'll give you fifty bucks if you finish going through all these unread mails for me," Dean proposed. "I swear, Sam I'll shoot myself if I see even one more."
Knocked off balance by how badly he'd misjudged the situation, Sam swallowed hard. A faint blush crept over his features as he realized the full implications of the offer.
"You think I'm that cheap," he joked coolly, giving no indication of the warm emotion that was welling up inside.
"Alright," Dean rejoined, slipping over to the adjacent chair to vacate the seat in front of the laptop. "How about if I do breakfast runs for the next week?"
"We don't do breakfast runs anymore, remember?" Sam argued, even as he slid into the empty chair and pulled the computer towards him. "That's one advantage of having a home."
"True," Dean conceded getting to his feet and strolling off towards the kitchen. "Another advantage," he said when he returned a few moments later. "Is having a fridge stocked with beer."
Accepting the bottle his brother held out to him, Sam turned his attention to the cluttered inbox.
"How am I supposed to know what to do with all of these emails, Dean?"
After a long, satisfying, swallow of cold brew, Dean put both legs up on the table. "Simple; either file, reply, or delete. If you give me the gist of each of 'em, I'll tell you what to do."
Knowing he'd been suckered but too damn pleased to do anything about it, Sam shot Dean the obligatory disdainful stare and then got to work. Two hours and several beers later, Sam powered down the laptop and yawned loudly.
"Next time, you do your own dirty work," he chided, but he couldn't put any real threat into it.
It seemed that joking, bickering and laughing their way through ten thousand emails was just what the doctor ordered. The banter, squabbling and teasing left Sam feeling closer to his brother than he had in a long time.
"Hey," he called softly to his sibling before they turned into their respective bedrooms.
"What?" Dean asked, glancing at him sleepily.
Suddenly, Sam found himself at a loss for words. How could he tell Dean that in passing off the tiresome chore to him, Dean had managed to make him feel special? How did he say that he would have cleared Dean's mailbox everyday if it meant there were no secrets between them?
Realizing he couldn't express any of that without things getting awkward or cheesy, Sam bit his lip and glanced away.
"What?" Dean prodded, now looking a little concerned that Sam hadn't responded.
"Nothing," Sam muttered, suddenly feeling too self-conscious to continue the conversation. "You sleep tight," was the last thing he said before disappearing into his room.
Closing the door and leaning back against it, Sam concluded that another distinct advantage of a home was having a sanctum to slip into when you were unexpectedly overcome by weird feelings you didn't know how to express. But while he couldn't find the words to actually say it to his brother, Sam felt like he and Dean were closer than they had been in years.
It had been almost a decade since they'd been hunting together as adults and over the years their relationship had come under back-breaking strain. Between the demons and the deals, the angels, the apocalypse and every god-awful thing in-between, the greatest casualty had been trust.
Forever emblazoned in Sam's mind was the much-rehashed list of offenses he had committed which had both severed and eroded his brother's faith in him. Naturally, at ground zero, was the great Stanford betrayal. Throughout their childhood there had been very few boundaries between him and Dean. Growing up sharing everything from rooms, to clothes, to the backseat of the Impala, the lines between mutual territory and personal space were as permeable as a sieve.
All of that had changed once Sam decided he wanted to go to college. When his ambitions met with hostile opposition from both his father and Dean, Sam had taken off for Stanford, effectively severing all ties with his family.
Sure he and Dean had patched things up afterwards, but Sam knew that somewhere, in the back of his brother's mind, was the notion that Sam could cut and run at any moment. That lingering fear had always fostered a certain level of distrust between them.
While Stanford had stung, the real scorcher had been Sam's liaison with Ruby while Dean had been in hell and in the months following his return. To this day, the sultry demon was a haunting reminder to the brothers that jealousy, lust, and fear could fracture a bond as strong as theirs.
And now, Sam could add Purgatory to the list. He knew it had been a crushing blow to Dean that Sam hadn't tried to find him during his year of exile. Sam's failure to live up to the Winchesters' brotherly creed, that not even death should separate them, had left Dean more willing to rely on a vampire than on him.
When he considered all the murky water that was under the bridge, Sam knew it was a little naive to think that the unquestioning trust that had once been the norm between him and Dean had now been restored. One night of drinking beer and checking email didn't mean that all was forgotten.
Yet only a few days later, Sam found even more reason to hope. Dean spent an entire afternoon "slaving" in the kitchen and the result was a killer lasagna teamed with garlic bread, caesar salad and of course, beer. They'd devoured their dinner and were sprawled on the couch watching a movie when Dean got up to answer nature's call. He was a short distance from Sam when his cell started ringing and in one swift move he fished it out of his shirt pocket and tossed it to his little brother.
"Answer that for me," he said as he jogged off to the nearest bathroom.
A speechless Sam barely managed to catch the handset. He answered the call, spoke briefly and then sat staring at the phone.
Dean hadn't even checked to see who was calling before he threw the phone to him. This was a striking contrast to how things had been when his brother had just come back from purgatory and had been particularly cagey about his phone. If they were at a motel, he never left the handset where Sam could see it. If they were driving and it rang, sometimes he wouldn't even answer it in Sam's presence; he would just check the number and then sneak off later to return the call. So it didn't take a genius to realize that he was having conversations he didn't want Sam to overhear.
Much of Dean's secretiveness had been about Benny, but for Sam's part, he hadn't exactly been open either. He'd given Dean a plausible enough version of his year with Amelia but he didn't want his brother to know he'd kept in touch with her even after Dean had come back. As far as Dean was concerned Amelia was the reason Sam had left him to languish in Purgatory, and Sam knew any continued contact with her would be seen as a betrayal.
But these days they seemed to be putting most of their calls on speaker to have three-way conversations. Now that they had come clean with each other about Benny, Amelia, and the time they had spent apart, there was nothing to hide.
"Who was it?" Dean asked when he strolled back into the room armed with two plates of whipped-cream-covered apple pie.
"Who was what?" Sam muttered, snapping out his reverie.
"On the phone?" Dean prodded.
"Garth," Sam mumbled.
"What's up with him?" Dean queried, handing a plate to Sam.
"He was just checking in," Sam accepted the pie and dug in. "Wow," he commented, savoring the first mouthful. "You warmed it up."
"Yeah," Dean settled down on the couch beside Sam. "Nothing like hot pie and whipped cream."
It only took Sam a few forkfuls to polish off his dessert. "I have to tell you ," he said using his finger to scoop up the last of the filling and whipped cream. "I'm really enjoying the emergence of your domestic side."
Dean was silent for several moments.
"Well," he shrugged, but didn't quite manage to sound casual, "It's been thirty years since we've even had a kitchen so I guess I have a lot of pent up domestic energy."
Sensing an opening, Sam cleared his throat. "I wanted to tell you that I really appreciate all you've been doing while we've been 'nesting', as you put it."
"Naturally," Dean smiled nonchalantly. "Who wouldn't like having their own personal chef?"
"It's not just that," Sam corrected a little shyly.
"Then what is it?"
Sam had meant to tell his brother that it wasn't what he cooked, it was the two of them sitting down and pigging out on it. It was being together doing nothing except being brothers. But once again, he couldn't quite manage to translate his sentiments into spoken words.
What the hell was wrong with him anyway? He'd always been able to say anything to Dean, good, bad, or indifferent. Now he was feeling closer to his brother than he had in ages but since he couldn't bring himself to tell Dean without feeling like a clingy wuss, he decided to keep his mouth shut. Besides, his brother would probably just tease him about developing ovaries and with drippy, heartfelt confessions as evidence, Sam would have no defense.
"Sam?" Dean prodded, recognizing the signs that his brother was getting lost in thought.
"Nothing," Sam shook his head, effectively dismissing the argument. "If you're up for more pie, I'd definitely go for another slice."
"Your wish is my command," Dean made a sweeping gesture of picking up the plates.
He was in mid-stride heading for the kitchen when he glanced back over his shoulder.
"You O.K?" he asked.
Sam recognized Dean's 'trying not to make a big deal of it' tone.
"I'm fine," Sam assured. He was taking the coward's way out but under the circumstances he figured it was the safest path to proceed on.
Sam wasn't sure if Dean bought the line because when he returned with replenished plates of pie, his brother sat so close to him that their shoulders were touching. It was vintage Dean, Sam thought fondly. If he suspected something was up with Sam he never hovered but he'd stay close enough to reassure.
Although he couldn't manage to translate his feelings into words, for Sam, it was special that it seemed his big brother wanted to be close to him. Spending so much time in cramped quarters like the car or whatever motel room they were crashing in, sometimes they had both yearned to have their own space. Yet within the sprawling confines of the bunker they still kept each other in close proximity.
They may have joked that a pantry full of food and a fridge stocked with beer were the best things about having a home, but for Sam, the most amazing thing was that now that they finally had enough space to be apart, they were still sticking together.
Most significantly, it was like they had hit the reset button and the effects of many of the past hurts and betrayals between them had somehow been erased. The result was that Sam was now feeling a sense of camaraderie with his brother that was akin to the partnership they'd had before the deals, demons, and apocalypses.
Enjoying the gratifying fraternity as they watched a ridiculously corny horror movie, Sam drank more than his fair share beer and dozed off leaning against his brother. He had no idea how long he was asleep but it was a gentle shake from Dean that eventually woke him up.
"Bedtime, Sammy boy," his brother said pulling him to his feet. "If you sleep here you'll wake up feeling like a cripple."
Under the effects of too much alcohol and an overfull stomach Sam let Dean lead him to his room and deposit him in his bed.
"Lightweight," Dean snickered as he pulled off Sam's shoes.
Even in his haze, Sam could hear the fondness in his brother's voice.
"You may as well be ten again," Dean said softly as he pulled the blankets up to Sam's chin. "I always ended up having to tuck you in after a food binge."
Then Sam heard his brother sigh deeply. "It's a shame we can never go back."
The words had such an air of finality that not even Sam's state of quasi intoxication could stave off their effect. It had been infantile to assume that he and Dean had turned a corner on the past.
He had read too much into his brother's actions, taking every little gesture as a sign that Dean, like him, wanted to wipe the slate clean. But he'd been a fool to think that the crap that had gone down between them could ever truly be erased. This wasn't a damn video game where you could just press reset and go back to the beginning. This was life and family and love and betrayal and that meant there would always be deep-seated feelings that you could never wipe out.
When the trials were thrust upon them Sam wondered what toll another absolute war would take on his relationship with his brother. After everything he'd been through Sam wasn't afraid of heaven or hell anymore. but he knew he wouldn't be able to stand it if another life and death mission came between him and Dean.
They came through the first trial OK and then the second one called for Sam to make a roundtrip to hell. When he was back topside, he'd been so relieved to see his brother that he'd practically smothered Dean. It was while they were driving back to the bunker that Dean told him, without any prodding, that he hadn't burnt Benny's bones when he'd sent him back to Purgatory to get Sam out.
Sam had stared, wide-eyed at his brother when Dean made the revelation and then he sat back in his seat and remained silent for the rest of the drive. He wanted to thank Dean for taking him into his confidence like that. His brother had offered the information so easily that Sam instinctively wanted to reach out.
The admission was the strongest signal yet, that they were truly in a new realm of trust. Sam, however, was still prepared to quell his optimism rather than risk the crushing disappointment of being wrong.
Once they reached the bunker Sam immediately headed for the shower and Dean followed.
"You OK?" Dean asked, looking his brother over in the bright fluorescent light.
"I'm good," Sam said mechanically.
He cranked the faucets to full blast and then held his hand under the spray to check the water temperature.
"You sure?" Dean pressed. "You hardly said a word for the whole drive home."
"I'm fine, Dean. I just need a really hot shower and about 12 hours of sleep."
"I'll leave you to it."
Dean exited the bathroom but about twenty minutes later when Sam was in his bed, on his back staring up at the ceiling, there was a knock on his door.
"Can I talk to you for a minute?" Dean asked after he'd let himself in.
"Sure," Sam sat up against the headboard and made room on the side of the bed for his brother.
Dean took a seat and faced his sibling. "So did anything happen down there that I should know about?"
"Not at all," Sam replied honestly. "It was just like I said. I went in, I got Bobby out and now we've got two down and one to go."
"OK," Dean nodded, mulling over the response. "Did anything happen down there that you don't want me to know about?"
Sam wasn't in the mood for an interrogation even if Dean was being gentle about it.
"I've told you everything."
"Yeah but you seemed a little cagey in the car while we were driving back and ..."
"And you've been acting a little weird these past few days and I was wondering if something was up. I mean, I'd hate to think there was something going on and you didn't feel you could tell me. I know I've done a lot to break our trust but I felt like we'd gotten past that recently."
It occurred to Sam that he'd forgotten how well his brother could read him.
"Dean, it's nothing, OK?"
"No it's not or you'd just come out and say it."
"So then you shouldn't have any problem telling me."
"You're making a big deal out of nothing."
"Sam, we're about to go to war with hell, but this time it's different because it feels like we're totally united. You and I are on the same team and there's no one trying to manipulate us. So if there's something - and I mean anything - that you're keeping from me, you need to let me know right now."
"Dean, trust me, there isn't anything."
"O.K," Dean conceded, willing to take his brother at his word. "It's just that, since we found out about our grandfather and the Men of Letters and since we've moved in here, it's kinda like we've gotten a fresh start and I don't want anything to change that; even something as major as closing the gates of hell."
Sam looked at Dean and recognized all the symptoms: the sense that something really incredible was happening between them, tempered by the fear that you were hoping for too much, and the need to convey your feelings constantly being quelled by the failure to find just the right words.
Sometimes, he and Dean were more alike than different.
Now, seeing the uncertainty in his brother's eyes, Sam knew it was time to speak up.
"You know what's been up with me for the last few days, Dean. I've just been feeling a really weird mix of relief and insane joy because it seems like you finally trust me again, but I had no clue how to say any of that to you."
"Trust you again? Sam, I trust you with my life."
"That's not what I mean."
"Then what do you mean?"
"You trust me Dean."
"Yeah, you're my brother and my hunting partner, of course I trust you."
"No. I know you believe that I have your back but this is different. It seems like they're no more secrets between us. I feel like there's nothing going on that you don't want me to know about or that you feel you can't share with me."
"That's because there isn't," Dean said frankly. "For the first time in god knows how long, I don't think there's anything I've done or I've said that's hanging between the two of us."
"Same here. And I know I've done and said a lot. And when I think of all the things I did to hurt you like running off to college and not looking back, all that stuff with Ruby, and then not trying to find you when you were in Purgatory, more than anything I wish I could just press a rewind button and take it all back."
"None of that crap was all on you, Sammy. In all of those instances, if I'd handled things differently it probably wouldn't have been as bad as it was."
Surprise had Sam staring speechlessly at his brother.
"I should have told you this a long time ago," Dean continued soberly. "Sam, I never should have fought you on Stanford."
The silence was so loud Dean thought it would deafen him.
"Huh?" Sam mumbled wondering if being at a loss for words was now his default setting.
"I shouldn't have given you such a hard time over wanting to go to college, but I knew if you went, you'd give up hunting for good and at that time, hunting was the only thing that was keeping you, me and Dad together. I didn't want to lose my family and that's why I gave you grief about it. The worst part is that I'm the one who always likes to say that I'm the world's best big brother, but if I'd been thinking about what was best for you instead of what I wanted I would have supported you. Then even if Dad wanted to be an idiot about it, it wouldn't have come between you and me. When I think back on it, I figure that was when you stopped believing that I always had your best interest at heart."
Stunned by the admission, Sam shrugged helplessly. "I really don't know what to say."
"Just say that you'll stop thinking that everything that happened was your fault."
"I know it's not all my fault, but I've done some things that cut you deep. All my junk with the demon blood and Ruby, I know that hurt you a lot."
"I won't deny that it did but that wasn't all on you either. Think about it, would any of that stuff have happened if I hadn't made my crossroads deal?"
"Dean..." Sam pleaded.
"No, let me finish, Sammy. At Cold Oak, when I had to watch you die I know I wasn't prepared to live in a world that didn't have my brother in it, but when I brought you back, that was what I expected you to do. I didn't want to deal with all the pain of losing a brother so I passed it off to you. And when my time was up, not only did I leave you alone but I left you with the guilt of believing I was in hell because of you. No wonder you resorted to all that stuff to try to get me out."
Overwhelmed, Sam ran his hands over his face with a long and desperate sigh. If they kept this up he'd be sobbing like a newborn in a matter of seconds. For his part, Dean seemed to be working hard to hold strain on his own emotions but the quivering rasp in his voice was a dead giveaway.
"I think it's time we accept that we're both to blame for all the stuff that's come between us and we need to move past all of it."
Sam could only nod his agreement.
"And as for Purgatory," Dean paused, to choose his words carefully, "I still owe you a butt-kicking for that one, but any time we've climbed over heaven and hell to get each other back, there's always been consequences. I figure, we're gonna have to draw the line at some point because sooner or later, it's gonna be goodbye for good. But until that time comes, what we've got now, what we've somehow been able to get back between us, I wouldn't trade it for anything."
Sam took several moments to savor his brother's confession and everything those precious words implied.
"You know what I've been thinking for the last few days, Dean? Since we've moved in here, I feel like I finally have my brother back. And I wouldn't trade that for anything, not even my life."
When Dean closed his eyes for several moments, Sam figured it was now his brother's turn to savor.
"Well then," Dean cleared his throat loudly, "I think it's time you and I made a deal of our own."
"What do you have in mind?" Sam asked, curious if still a little apprehensive.
"From now on, whatever comes our way, we deal with it together. No matter what happens, we willalwaysfight on the same team and we will never, ever, take anyone or anything's word above each other's."
Without hesitation, Sam leaned forward and pulled his brother into a hug.
"Deal," he pledged, resting his head on Dean's shoulder.
"Thanks, Sammy," Dean whispered holding on tight.
Moments later, when they pulled apart; Sam, who was blinking hard to hold back his own tears, pretended not to see the quick swipe Dean took at his eyes.
"So how about some dinner?" Dean offered, clapping his hands and getting to his feet quickly. "After the day you've had it would be highly irresponsible for the World's Best Big Brother to send you to bed on an empty stomach."
Sam leaned back and sank down against his pillows.
"Can you make your killer burgers?" he asked, in the little brother voice he knew Dean was powerless to resist.
"Give me twenty minutes."
"And can you do those spicy potato wedges, like last time?"
"Sure," Dean smiled and shook his head. He knew he'd been suckered and he couldn't have cared less. "Anything else, Princess?"
"Can we watch a movie?"
"Yes, your majesty?"
"Can we pass on the horror stuff? After my little trip downstairs today, I think I'm due for something light."
"Oh I got your back on this one little brother," Dean flashed his patented, mischievous smile. "After all we've said and done today we may as well make it a chick flick."
A/N: If you liked this then you'll love Jedi Sapphire's story "A Heart to Ache or Swell". Happy Reading!