Disclaimer: I don't own the boys.

Author's Note: This story is for my fic exchange with Scribble2Much (I hope you like it, girl!), and is the companion piece to her story Just Press Reset. Be sure to check that out! *g*

Thanks to Cheryl for the beta!

Summary: After the dust has settled, there's a heart-to-heart. Dean's always had questions. This time he'll get answers. Spoilers through to 8.23, Sacrifice. Written for the Jedi Sapphire/Scribble2Much fic exchange as a companion piece to Just Press Reset.


A Heart to Ache or Swell

We cannot build the future by avenging the past.
(TH White)

I have never been more relieved to see anyone than I am to see Charlie Bradbury now.

Well. That's not entirely true. I have never been more relieved to see anyone, except Sam, than I am to see Charlie Bradbury now. Sam's always my exception to everything. I thought that went without saying, but it turns out that sometimes you have to say these things.

Charlie pops her trunk, and I hurry to help her with the grocery bags.

"Thanks." I take the bags from her. "Really. Thank you. We're down to starvation rations and I didn't want to leave him."

"Always happy to help my boys," Charlie replies, smiling. "How is he?"

"He's…" I shake my head. "He's not getting worse." There aren't tears in my eyes. There are not tears in my eyes. "I've tried every doctor I know who deals with supernatural stuff, but none of them has any idea what to do for him. Cas is ignoring me. I just…"

"Dean," she says gently.

"I can't lose my brother, Charlie. I can't."

"Can I see him?"

"Yeah. He's awake now. Come on."

Charlie follows me into the bunker. Sam's in the library, but for once he isn't poring over a mediaeval bestiary or an old spellbook. He's leaning back in his chair reading La Morte d'Arthur, which wouldn't really be my idea of a good time but Sam's always liked it.

My gut does that weird clench-release-clench-release thing it's been doing ever since I realized Sam thought I would willingly sacrifice him to get revenge for Mom and call it a good trade.

"Hi, Sam!" Charlie says cheerfully.

Sam looks up to smile at her. "Charlie! Dean made you do the grocery run? I told him he didn't have to –"

"Please," Charlie interrupts, going over to him and perching on the table. "With you looking like this? I would've kicked his ass if he'd left you alone." She takes his book away, shuts it, and puts it aside. I knew there was a reason I liked her. "I abandoned my D&D group in the middle of a campaign to bring you food, Sam, so you'd better eat it."

"You want to stay for lunch?" I ask her. "I make a mean stew, and you can bully Sam into eating."

"What, you can't do that?"

"I wish I could." I come up behind Sam and drop my hands on his shoulders. Sam leans back, letting his head rest on my ribs. "Little bitch doesn't take my threats seriously. He knows I don't mean them."

Sam tilts his head back to smile up at me. He looks ridiculous, and I can't help smiling back.

"How about it, Sammy? You want to try eating some real food so your awesome big brother can sleep in peace tonight?"


"You know," Charlie tells me before she leaves, "you should talk to him."

"Oh, come on –"

"I mean it. You still don't know why Sam didn't look for you last year, do you?"

"Why? Do you?"

"I can guess," Charlie says simply. "And no, I'm not going to tell you. If you want to know, ask Sam."

"I have asked him. He won't talk about it."

"Because he thinks that's another thing he's done to disappoint you. And maybe because the last time you asked him, you were both pissed off at each other. Talk to him now."

"I don't… I can't. Not now."

"Why not?"

"Why not? Because the stupid kid almost killed himself because he thought I need revenge more than I need him! And you saw how sick he still is. I can't lose him. I'm not asking him anything that's going to have him thinking I haven't forgiven him or that things aren't good between us."

"Dean." Charlie pats my shoulder. "You're not going to lose Sam. Just talk to him… Oh, and I almost forgot." She slides a flat package out of her jacket and gives it to me. "You have no idea how much trouble I had to go to for that."

"Thanks, Charlie, I owe you one."

"Send me a picture of Sam asleep on your shoulder and we'll call it even."


The more I think about it, the more I think Charlie's right. So when I slip into Sam's room to wake him for dinner and find him awake and sitting at his desk reading La Morte d'Arthur again, I say, "We need to talk."

Sam looks up. "That sounds ominous. Are you breaking up with me?"

"Like you'd last a day without me." I pull up another chair next to his. "Sam, don't take this wrong, but… I need to know why you didn't look for me." Sam stiffens, and I go on quickly, "I'm not bringing it up to be a dick, Sam. So don't go moving on because you think I haven't. That's not what I mean. I just need to understand." I meet his eyes. "Help me understand, Sammy. I swear to you, I will never mention it again after today."

"I thought you were dead."

"That's never stopped us before."

"You don't understand, Dean. I had no idea you were in Purgatory – I had no idea the spell could even do that. I thought you were dead. In Heaven. And I was scared."

"Of what?"

"Of bringing you back and taking that away from you. I was afraid if I brought you back and something went wrong, you might end up in Hell or… or worse."

"Like Purgatory?"

"Like the Cage!"

I sober quickly at that reminder. "Sam."

"I was afraid of what I was becoming. I would have done it all again to bring you back. The demon blood, letting Lucifer out, everything, even if I had to go to Hell for it. I would have traded my soul, traded anything."

"Sam –"

"And if I'd known you were in Purgatory, or even if I'd thought you were dead and I'd had some sort of guarantee that you'd be happy if I brought you back, I would have done it. I would have done it all. I'd've called Death and offered myself to him for a trade. But I thought I'd be dragging you down from Heaven… to this."

"What, hanging out with my brother?"

"Yeah. Hanging out with a brother you don't trust –"

"Sam!"

"You wanted to know what I thought. Well, that's what I thought. I thought you were in Heaven and you'd be happier there than coming here and dealing with the crap that is our lives and… well, and a brother you seemed like you'd rather be without. I thought that if there was one thing I'd learned from everything that happened to us, it was that bringing you back would make you unhappier than anyone else. I was afraid I'd drag you down and something else would happen and you'd end up in Hell. I couldn't do that to you."

"Sam –"

"And, fine, I get it, you weren't dead, you were in Purgatory and I let you down again. I'm sorry."

I let out a breath. "You know, you could've saved us both a lot of grief if you'd just told me all this upfront. I felt like you'd just decided you were sick of me – no, I know that wasn't what happened. I know that now. I didn't earlier. Why didn't you say something, huh, Sam? You're the one who believes in talking everything out. How'd you turn from Dr. Phil to Sam the Silent?"

"Because I let you down. Again. And I didn't think you were going to listen to me and I didn't see any point going into reasons."

"You didn't let me down, Sammy. Not by not looking. You should've explained it to me, that's all."

"I didn't think you'd understand."

"Well, I do. And it's over, OK? I'm not mad, you didn't let me down, you're still my little brother, and we're not discussing this again."

Sam's hug is unexpected, but not unwelcome.


"Why did you drink demon blood?"

Sam drops the spoon back into his bowl of stew and scowls at me. "What is this, List Sam's Failings Day?"

"No, moron. We've been through this. You didn't let me down, I need you, I trust you, and if you even think it's OK for you to die to get revenge on anyone or anything then we're going to have a long hard talk about priorities. I'm just trying to understand."

"It was years ago. What do you need to understand?"

"Because it caused trouble between us. And I was pissed at you for not looking for me, yeah, but I'm not anymore. Not now that I understand. So if you help me understand… Maybe this can be Letting Things Go Day."

Sam's expression softens. "So we're moving on?"

"Yeah. We're saying everything we have to, and then we're moving on."

Sam returns his attention to his stew. He spends a couple of minutes toying with his spoon, and then he says, "I was up against a wall, Dean. You were depressed and nothing I could do seemed to help. I'm not saying it was your fault. I get it, Hell was hard. But… I just had no idea what to do. I'd turned Ruby down a few times, and the truth is the idea of drinking blood was revolting and I wanted nothing to do with it."

"Then why did you?"

"Because nothing I could do was making anything better. The world was going to pieces – our lives were going to pieces – and I was just watching everything collapse and I thought – I knew that if there was a God, I'd be going to Hell for it –"

"Sam."

Sam won't look at me. "But I thought if I didn't do something, I was going to have to watch you die all over again. If there was even a chance I could prevent that… And you – you should never have had to go to Hell in the first place. Jake stabbed me. I should have stayed dead. When I went after Lilith I was sure we were both going to go down. I didn't expect to get out of there alive. I figured you hated me anyway, so it didn't matter."

"I was depressed," I admit. "And I was hurt when you kept running off with the demon skank. And I was terrified the Angels would do something horrible to you if you didn't lay off the demon blood."

"It was the only way I could think of to do something useful and maybe save you. I shouldn't have done it, I get it, but… God, Dean, it was for you."

"Everything was for me, huh?" I pat Sam's head when I get up to take my bowl to the sink. "And Lilith?" I ask, when I go back to the table. I frown over Sam's still half-full bowl. "Sammy, we've discussed this. You're going to start putting on some weight again. So eat or I'm going to force-feed you."

Sam obediently shovels a spoonful of stew into his mouth before he asks, "What about Lilith?"

"Why'd you go after her?"

Sam gives me an odd look. "I thought it would stop the Apocalypse. That's what they told us, remember? Cas and Ruby?"

"I know that. I was going to go after her myself. I mean… I just thought, after I called you, and left that message, that maybe you'd wait for me."

"You… Wait, what?"

"The voicemail, Sam," I say impatiently. "I know we weren't on the best of terms then, but I thought, when you heard that… That hurt, Sam, that you'd just throw everything away after what I told you."

"What did you tell me?"

"The voicemail. I thought you'd wait for me."

"You thought I'd wait for you to come and kill me?"

I roll my eyes, and then I realize that Sam's serious. "You thought I was going to kill you? I had a chick flick moment with your voicemail and that was what you inferred from it?"

"Inferred? You practically said it outright!"

For a moment, Sam and I stare at each other. Then I say, "Are we talking about the same voicemail?"

"The one you left me right before I went after Lilith –"

"Where I said I was sorry and we were brothers and that would never change."

Sam ducks his head. "Where you said I was a vampire and you were done trying to save me."

It takes me a moment to put the pieces together. When I do, I haul Sam up out of the chair and into my arms.

I can hardly believe it. All that resentment between us, for years, over that stupid voicemail. I didn't say a lot in that message, true, but it was more than I'd ever said to anyone before that, and it hurt, it hurt more than anything else, that Sam could ignore it. And Sammy, thinking I really was done with him and I was going to hunt him…

I slide my hand into his hair.

"Who switched the message?" Sam asks.

"Maybe Zach. Maybe Cas. Doesn't matter. Well, it does, because if it's Cas I can kick his ass when we find him, but… God, Sam."

"That's why you didn't trust me?" Sam whispers. "All this time, you thought… That's why you turned to Cas. And to Benny."

Something clicks in my head. "You're jealous."

"I am not!" Sam snaps, pulling away.

"Sam."

"It's always easier for you to trust other people," Sam mutters, and I know that's as much as I'm going to get out of him. "I know I screwed up, Dean, but I tried. And you didn't trust me, and you trusted Cas and Benny and –"

"Hey." I turn Sam to face me. "Yeah, you did screw up." Sam flinches. "No, wait, listen, I'm not being a dick. You screwed up. You're not the only one. You think I only had a list of things for you to confess? Sam, if I ever go into a confessional it's going to be hours before I'm done."

"What's your point?" Sam asks, shrugging off my hands and sitting down again.

"My point is that I know I expect things from you that I don't expect from anyone else. And I'm harder on you, and I get that that hurts. But, Sam. Don't you know why?"

"Why?"

"Because you matter more, you moron. Cas can make a gazillion bad decisions – hell, he has made a gazillion bad decisions, but it's OK. He's just Cas. You… Sammy, I wasn't lying when I said you being happy is my happy ending. You're the one who has faith, Sammy. I just have you."

"I'm not perfect, Dean." Something bitter twists Sam's lips. "I'm not Sir Galahad, remember?"

"Come with me."


I settle us down on the couch in the TV room. The coffee table's close enough for us to put our feet up on it. Sam comes willingly when I pull him closer, snuggling up to me with his head on my chest, just like when he was a kid and I read to him before bed.

I take out the package Charlie left, which I'd hidden under the couch.

"This is for you."

Sam rips it open, smiling when he sees the cover of the Illustrated Classic.

"Knights of the Round Table?"

"Yeah."

I flip the book open to the picture of Galahad, down on one knee bathed in divine radiance. Sam makes a face.

"You were right," I tell him. "You were never meant to be Galahad. You could never have been pure enough. No, listen to me. Galahad might have been chosen by Angels, but we both know what that means. Galahad was pure because he didn't care enough about anything to let it touch him. He was purebecause there was nobody he loved so much that he would do anything for them. He was pure because he was a self-righteous judgemental dick."

Sam rolls his eyes. "Come on, Dean."

"Hey. You know the lore better than I do. What happened with Lancelot? Who was right at the front of the line demanding Lancelot should be put to death for one mistake? Arthur was willing to forgive him for it, if he could find a reason, but Lancelot's own son hung him out to dry. Galahad cared about his purity more than he cared about his father." I slide my arm around him. "You think I would've wanted Galahad for a brother?"

"So who am I?" Sam mutters. "Mordred?"

"Idiot." I close the book, letting Sam see the cover. King Arthur's standing on the battlefield, helmet off, banners fluttering behind him. "Arthur made some serious mistakes," I point out. "Not least banging that double-crossing witch Morgause. But he was still the greatest of them all. He cared about bringing peace to the world enough that he fought a lifetime of wars for it. When he loved someone, it was with everything he had. And every mistake he made was because he was willing to put his soul on the line when he cared about someone." I give Sam a light squeeze. "Arthur was always my favourite."

Sam turns his face into my chest to hide his scarlet cheeks, and for a moment I think he isn't going to say anything.

He does, though, mumbling into my shirt, "What does that make you?"

"Isn't it obvious, kiddo?" I ask lightly. "I'm older and smarter and I keep your ass out of trouble." Sam looks up at me. "I'm Merlin."

Sam's helpless laughter is worth the trauma of comparing myself to a white-bearded dude in a pointy hat.


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