A/N: I suck. I know. Now that we established that, I really apologize for the too late update. I got really sick, then I had the end of semester exams, then I got sick again! (I know, right?) Then you all know about the lovely spirit of season 9 and all, so not helping with writing this kind of fictions, I'm telling you.
So anyway, I'm glad I was finally able to finish this chapter, as well as the story. Yep, this is where our journey comes to an end, guys. This is the last chapter yaaay! I get that it's too long for some of you, but believe me I couldn't find any good way to divide it into was my first multi-chapters fiction -hopefully not the last- and this moment is really overwhelming, I can't describe it. Just thanks A LOT for joining me all along, y'all!
I really do hope you like it ! :)
Summary & Disclaimer: See previous chapters.
Warning: Maybe for a little language.
Spoilers: 8x03 - Heartache.
I hit you and you hit me back
We fall to the floor, the rest of the day stands still
Fine line between this and that
When things go wrong I pretend that the past isn't real
Now I'm trapped in this memory
And I'm left in the wake of the mistake, slow to react
So even though you're close to me
You're still so distant and I can't bring you back
"Why isn't he awake till now?"
His mind was hovering close to the surface of awareness, picking up words and shouts from the world outside his body where he wasn't welcomed in yet. The misty cloud wrapped stubbornly around his mind and didn't seem ready to give out yet, still insisting on holding him captive and trying to pull him back to the blank blackness.
Dean didn't understand what was going on, or where he even was. All he knew was that he had to fight to stay awake—or as awake as he could be at the moment—if he was going to find out what was going on around him.
"Give it some time." A strained female voice which he didn't recognize answered to the first one.
"We already gave it two hours! You said he should be waking up sooner." He heard the frantic voice shout again. Something about the voice was troubling him. It felt to him that he was somehow supposed to know whom that voice belonged to, but he still couldn't quite grasp it.
"I also said that it's not gonna be easy!" The other voice shouted back. Dean heard some words float from his left but they were quieter than they were seconds ago. Or maybe he was losing focus. He mentally tightened his eyes, trying so hard to block out everything except the voices around him and to not let go of them. Maybe they were his only chance to come to the surface. If he was meant to come to the surface.
"Look, Sam, we just gonna have to be patient. If you want to help Dean then this is not the good time to freak out!"
Holly Shit! Sam. The male, frantic voice was Sam's. How couldn't he place it once he heard the voice? He wasn't sure how he was supposed to feel about this, but the only thing Dean was sure of was that, the person Sam and the other chick were talking about was apparently him. He finally gathered.
"Then what's the good thing to do now?" Dean heard his little brother choke out. Something was wrong. No, something was terribly wrong, he knew. It was the only explanation for the obvious emotions Sam's words carried.
The young man tried to call for his brother, but he only heard his voice echo inside his own head.
Sammy, can you hear me? Are you okay? What's going on?
He tried. He really tried, over and over again. His frustration was building up inside him each time he tried to force his uncooperative lips to move around the words, or his heavy eyelids to at least flutter. But his body didn't want to listen to him, no matter how much he begged it to make just one single freaking move. It felt like it was moving of its own accord.
Whatever little power he had to stay focused was leaking out in the sake of his unsuccessful attempts to reach out to his brother, which left him drained and shaking. His thoughts drifted to Sam who, according to the female voice, was freaking out and mentally apologized for not being around to help him to solve whatever he was dealing with. One last promise kept going back and forth in his mind before he gave up trying to hold onto the fading voices, losing the strength to fight off the growing darkness anymore,
It's okay, Sammy. It's gonna be okay.
"The shot you gave him an hour ago, shouldn't it be waking him up by now?" Sam paced the narrow space between Dean's bed and his, trying to find a logical explanation for his brother's semi-coma.
"Technically, yes." Laureen answered from her seat on the other side of the oldest Winchester's bed. They have been waiting for Dean to wake up for more than two hours now. Her worry started to increase after she had administrated the shot of adrenaline into the sleeping hunter's IV and he still wasn't showing any signs of waking up, but unlike Sam, she was keeping it successfully hidden.
"Technically how?" Sam stopped in his track, looking doubtfully at Laureen.
"Sam," The mid-aged woman sighed. "You get that this isn't a normal situation, right? We're dealing with a curse here."
"Yes, I know that, Laureen! If you failed to notice, it's my brother who's cursed!" The young man snapped; his voice cracking a little as he spoke the words out loud. "But you also said that you know how to break it!"
"And I have no other choice but to wait!" She snapped back. Laureen was trying her best to hold her temper but Sam's frustration and distress were getting to her. She knew exactly how the young man in the room with her was feeling and she didn't want to make it any harder for him. Sam said nothing, his jaw bobbing as he tightened it in reply and continued pacing.
After a few moments, he asked more calmly, "Can't you give him another shot?"
"No. If we give him more his heart might stop." Laureen answered gently and Sam nodded, new tears pooling in his bloodshot eyes.
"Well then, maybe it's time to improvise." The witch moved her eyes from where they were resting on the older brother, watching for any twitch, to the younger one and said nothing, waiting out for Sam to continue.
"You said that this curse will make him able to hear us but not able to interact with us, right?" He waited until he saw her nod. "Okay. What if he is already awake? What if he's awake and is hearing all of this but he can't let us know? We're sitting on our thumbs, waiting for him to wake up when he may've been awake even before you gave him the shot. Maybe—"
"Alright, alright. Easy, Sam, I get it." Laureen said quickly, cutting the young man from saying more, seeing how much it was taking out of him to form such conclusion. "I get it." She repeated as she watched him tighten his jaw again, and unsuccessfully try his best to stop the tears from falling and the growing swell of emotions in his chest from expanding even more.
Sam's vision tunneled out a little as he saw Laureen get up from her chair, round the bed and stand next to him. He swayed on his feet and a second after he heard the witch talking to him like they were standing under water. Her small hands were strangely strong when he felt them support him and force him to sit down on his bed and lower his head between his knees.
"Deep breaths, Sam," He heard her saying and did as he was told even though his lunges weren't so keen on the idea of pulling too much air at the moment. "Good, that's good. Now, keep doing this for a little more."
Ten minutes later, Sam felt her small hand on his shoulder and it was oddly comforting. For a moment, he forgot what was going on and tried to remember why he wasn't supposed to lie down and put his taxed body out of its misery and go to sleep.
The memories came back like a tornado. His upper body snapped up from its lowered position too fast for his exhausted body to handle, causing his vision to go white and his breath to catch in his throat again.
"It's okay. You're okay." He heard Laureen's soft tone, clearer and closer now. "Come on, drink this." A cool glass was gently placed in his hand. Carefully opening his eyes, Sam looked at the glass's orange contents before he took a cautious sip which didn't go missing by Laureen.
"It's just an orange juice, which I found in your fridge." She said with a roll of her eyes, making Sam chuckle emptily despite the situation.
The youngest Winchester took a couple more sips of the juice, downing half the glass before putting it on the nightstand between the beds.
"You should drink all of it, Sam. You'll do your brother no good if you collapse, too."
"I'm okay now." Sam replayed honestly, feeling way better than he was ten minutes ago. "Thanks," He added softly.
"If you say so. At least we have something ready for Dean to drink when he wakes up." Laureen said, trying to assure the man a little. She glanced at Sam, making sure he was alright before she got up and walked back to her seat.
"So, what do you think?" The tired hunter asked, needing to regain focus on their main issue.
"I think you just had a small meltdown," Laureen's tone was laced with sarcasm and Sam couldn't help the small smile that tugged at the corner of his lips at how much this woman's attitude was similar to his stubborn brother. Except he wasn't being his stubborn sarcastic self at the moment and he wouldn't break free from his curse-induced sleep. His tiny smile was replaced by a frown again at the thought.
"Well, honestly, Sam I don't know. I mean, I have always heard about such cases but I've never dealt with as powerful one before," She looked at Sam before she continued. "But, I think there's a big chance that it's possible for Dean to be already awake, which would be awful for him but the best option we could have."
Sam swallowed and nodded tightly. He couldn't imagine how it would be for Dean to be present but absent at the same time. How hard it was for him to listen to all of this and not having a say about any of it. Being just an audience in a very critical and serious situation—which was all about him.
"So, what do we do now?" He sighed. "You… you try to call him like you said you'd do before?"
"We can do that based on the assumption that he's awake, but if he's not…" She trailed off, shaking her head.
"What?" Sam asked; his breath hitching.
"It's a big risk. If he's not awake and I try to do that, he won't welcome me inside his mind because he won't understand what's going on and his mind will resist me. He'll shove me out, and considering everything going on, the strain the curse might put him through during the process might kill him."
God! Why everything in their life had to be so fucking complicated! Sam got up, aching to move, to pace, to think. He wanted to hit something—kill something. What choice did he have? What was he supposed to do? He could kill Dean either ways. He wanted—no, needed Dean to wake up. Now!
He couldn't do this alone.
Closing his eyes tightly and forcing a couple of deep breaths into his lunges, Sam prayed for the right choice to miraculously bob up in his head, fully aware of the witch's eyes on him watching his struggle to make a decision.
"Can you do anything to make sure if he's awake or not, try any of your witch stuff?" He asked, defeat showing in his tone.
"I don't know about witch stuff." Laureen hesitated. "But there's the responding reflexes tests, and we've already tried them."
"Okay, try again," Sam said, Laureen nodded and proceeded to work.
"He's not responding." She said after a couple of minutes. "And his condition is getting worse." The witch added matter-of-factly.
As a last act of desperation, Sam crouched to his knees next to Dean's bed, one hand on his brother's forehead, the other on his shoulder and shook him gently, mindful not to jar Dean's broken rib.
"Dean, if there's any good time for your stubborn ass to wake up, it's now!" The younger brother said after he found his voice, swallowing thickly around the ever-present lump in his throat. "C'mon, man. Give me something." He shook him again.
Lowering his head and allowing yet another stream of hot tears to fall down his face, Sam—against every fiber he had, bit his bottom lips so hard, and through gritted teeth, he made one of the hardest decisions in his entire life.
They were both sitting at the bed where Dean was laying, each at either side of the bed. After Laureen explained to Sam how exactly the process would work, she claimed her seat beside Dean's hip like she did about three or four hours ago when she first examined the older sibling. Sam was chewing at his bottom lip as he watched her place one hand on his brother's forehead and the other on his chest and close her eyes.
Taking a deep breath and unconsciously holding it in, the younger sibling's whole body tensed as Laureen started her Latin chanting. He saw Dean's shaking increase the longer the woman on Dean's other side kept going, and as much as he wanted to do any simple physical contact with his brother, to hold his forearm or his shoulder, to ground him and let him know that he wasn't alone, he couldn't do it. He wasn't allowed to.
Before they had started, Laureen had warned him not to do anything unless she told him so, that included even touching Dean. He sighed warily, his eyes shifting from Dean's gray, lax face to the witch's calm and relaxed one. Few minutes later, a frown took over her features, replacing that calm relaxed look of earlier.
Sam watched in utter helplessness as his brother shook harder, his breath coming out in strangled short gasps, and a bead of sweat started to break out on his forehead. His attention was drawn back to Laureen when he heard her gasp and withdraw her hands away.
"What happened?" The young hunter asked, looking anxiously at the witch who had yet to open her eyes.
"I couldn't reach him." She answered between deep exhalations of air. "He wouldn't let me in."
"He isn't awake?" His voice sounded too scared to his ears but he didn't have the luxury to care at the moment. The thought of losing Dean because he made the wrong choice was enough to block everything else out.
Laureen shook her head. "He is awake. In a way at least,"
He's awake. Oh, God, Dean! Sam turned horrified eyes to Dean before turning them to stare at her once again, not daring to ask for an answer to the question swirling in his mind. Then why it didn't work? For Sam's relief, Laureen answered his unspoken question as if on cue.
"The reason why I needed Dean to be as much aware as possible is to explain to him what's going on one way or another so he can let me in. His mind doesn't recognize me; it's like…his mind is protecting itself from a foreign object." She finished with a sigh of defeat, unable to look at Sam's eyes.
"Well, there's gotta be another way, right?" He spoke his mind hoarsely, his panic rising to the ceiling. "There's something else you could do to call him from inside."
"It's not how it works, Sam." He could hear the unspoken apology in her tone, the unspoken request for him to brace himself for what was to come.
"No!" It was a sob. Shaking his head in denial, Sam got up from the bed and started to pace almost hysterically. "No, we didn't wait all this time for nothing. You didn't come here for nothing—"
"—you have to do something! Anything," He finally stopped, looking at her tears-leaking eyes that mirrored his.
"I just got him back. I can't lose him again." The youngest Winchester whispered, knowing it was his last chance if he wanted to get his brother back. "Help him. Help me, please."
Sam could do nothing but wait for the woman's reply. He fixed his eyes on hers; heavy emotions that hit close to home for Latureen flowed from his pleading gaze to hers.
A long agonizing moment passed, each pair of eyes staring at the other, the only sound in the room was the heavy breathing of the two of them and the sprawled Winchester on the bed.
"Okay," Laureen nodded, finally. Sam let himself drop on his bed with a heavy sigh. "Okay." She repeated, more confidently this time.
"Thank you." Sam whispered, scared enough to let relief overwhelm him. Not yet.
"Maybe there's another way after all." She told him and Sam could only nod, trying his best not to dwell on the dark ideas of losing Dean if it didn't work this time either.
"He didn't allow me in because he doesn't know me, but I'm sure there's someone else he recognizes and trusts." That held Sam's attention. He looked up from his brother to the woman's face.
"If there's anybody else you can think of, I'm listening."
"But how?" He ignored her smartass comeback.
"In normal situations, and I mean like a coma-for-a-medical-reason normal situation, I can connect two people together. Maybe if I connect you both, you can call him," She paused, afraid to give the man false hopes. "I don't know if it'll work, though. But it's worth a shot, right?"
"Yes. It is." Sam nodded nervously a couple of times. It scared him like hell to do this, to go and wander in his brother's head. What if he did something wrong? What if he messed it all up?
"You don't need to worry, okay?" Something on his face must have given him away. "I'll walk you through it, you won't be alone, and I'll tell you exactly what you'll have to do."
"Okay," He breathed. "What do I need to do?"
Laureen eyed him sympathetically before she spoke. "Alright. If we gonna do this, you have to sit down and breathe, for a starter."
Doing as he was told, Sam nodded and sat back beside his brother on the bed.
"Now, listen to me carefully." She waited until she grabbed Sam's full focus before she continued. "Dean knows and trusts you and all, but you still might find some kind of resistance. I don't know what exactly it's gonna be because it varies from a person to another, same works for the curse. But we already know where Dean is and that should make things a bit easier."
Sam scoffed. Laureen ignored him.
"All you have to do once you get there and find Dean is to show him how to get back—"
"How am I gonna do that?"
"Just talk to him, let him know what's going on outside and help him break free from the curse. Part of him will know that he's being trapped in his own mind, but he won't be able to do it alone. And that's where your role comes."
"Okay, I get it." Sam answered confidently, willing to do whatever it took to save his brother.
"One more thing, you get the idea that you'll be in Dean's subconscious; whatever you see, they're just memories, they can't affect your brother anyway but maybe emotionally and you cannot change any of them. Also in this place, one's emotions are raw and heightened, it's where we bury the things we can't handle to be able to wake up every day. So, you sure you wanna do this?"
It was a lot to take in but he was going to do it. He rarely dealt with the vulnerable version of his brother, and when he did, it hurt like hell each time to see how actually broken Dean was beneath his stoic façade. But right now, all that mattered was to save him, and if that meant he'd be forced to deal with all the versions possible of his brother, he'd do it in a heartbeat.
"I am sure."
It all went too fast.
The last thing he could remember other than the feeling of falling off the top of a mountain and the blinding flashes of white assaulted him, was holding his brother's forearm and the witch's hand before she told him to close his eyes and started a different intonation than the one she used when she was trying to enter Dean's mind.
As fast as it happened, the feeling was gone. Instead, an unnerving blackness and quietness took hold of Sam who could still hear the blood rushing in his ears. Feeling a strange sensation of floating, the young man blinked, trying to bring the world back into focus but there was still nothing but darkness around him. Just when he was about to wonder about the connection and what if that meant it didn't work, a thin thread of light broke along the darkness which seemed to have its own shape and surface in this place—probably Dean's mind, Sam hopefully thought. Like an ink falling fluidly into water, the light continued to spread slowly then what looked like photos—more like scenes—started to fulfill that light.
Transfixed, Sam stood, or floated—he had no idea how the feeling of standing on nothing should be described. All he could do was to watch. He felt an odd, light weight settle in his arms as he watched their father place him as a baby in the little arms of a four-year old Dean, but when he dared to take his eyes off of the scene playing out in front of his eyes, he found his arms empty. Then he felt the push and pull of something—or someone—pushing and struggling against him as he watched himself being dragged out of a room that was being consumed by fire, the room where Jessica had died.
Sam gaped at the scenery, his heartbeat fastening as well as his breathing as the realization of what he was seeing began to sink. They were pieces and moments he had experienced himself with his brother, others he couldn't remember even witnessing. They were Dean's memories. He was experiencing Dean's memories—seeing the world through his brother's eyes.
Feelings, images, words, orders… they were all blended together, hard to separate or be defined. The emotions that came along hit him like a physical blow, stealing his breath away and unsettling him.
The film of his brother's memories picked up a faster pace and grew in intensity. He was no longer watching. The tangled, messy stream of memories washed over him, sucking him deep inside, forcing him to feel every second and making it even harder for the hunter to take it all in. But he still felt them all the same. Every single one.
He was startled to suddenly feel a dead weight falling into his arms, his jeans got soaked from the wet mud underneath him where he had got to his knees to catch his own falling body—when Dean had to go down to catch him as he limply fell forward, towards his brother's arms. He felt the unbearable ache spread wide in his chest as his own heart stopped beating against Dean's chest. He felt the world crumbling and falling apart around the edges, dragging him down as he held tight to the uncooperative body against him and let his misery loose in tears and an agonized scream of his own name.
He felt a massive bang of loss hit his heart—Dean's heart—as he watched himself as a teenager angrily pack his few belongings, throw the back bag on his shoulders with teary eyes and flaring nostrils and stepping outside the door before a strong mix of anger and shock and hurt exploded inside Dean's chest at John's words as they echoed between the walls of the small room. "If you go out that door, don't you ever dare to come back!"
He was thrown and dragged to the floor. A second after, his body was being ripped to shreds, making him scream from both the incredible pain of the teeth and claws tearing and digging in his skin and bones, and the memory of helplessly watching his brother as hellhounds chewed at him to death. The same unbearable scream of his name echoed back at him as it, yet again, tore from inside his brother's chest, chains and sharp hooks viciously holding him in place and tearing through his skin.
Raising his hands to his head, Sam tried in vain to stop the memories that didn't belong to him from invading his mind—from inflecting worse than just pain. Still, the only thing he could do was trying to breathe before the devastating amount of emotions chock him.
Sam went to his knees at the flash of agony that only accompanied with Hell that he knew too well, and felt himself break, surrender, felt the humiliation and weakness after he said yes to the demon that had him on a leash. He felt his skin burn and his bones break as he was ripped away from the rack and was shoved back into his own coffin by magical force, gasping wildly and fighting for a breath when finally reached the surface.
A rough tug shook his system and Bobby's voice increased into volume inside his head, "Dammit, Dean!"
"Dad brought me back, Bobby. I'm not even supposed to be here. At least this way something good could come out of it—that my life could mean something!" He felt the disgust Dean felt towards himself, the anger, the pain… the desperation.
He watched himself from his brother's eyes, feeling every bone in his face break as Lucifer beat Dean senseless in Stull. Watched as he fell with Adam into the cage and felt big brother's profound loss and denial hit him square in the heart, tearing him apart from the inside out.
He felt his own strong fingers as they wrapped around Dean's throat and violently squeezed, high on demon blood, eyes dangerously dark and unrecognizable. A jolt of confusion and betrayal threw his system into a world of hurt as the strong hands managed to momentary cut his air supply.
He felt the ache inside his chest, the hollowness that never seemed to be filled, only getting wider each time he stood on the sidewalk and watched himself leave Dean, walk away from him.
He saw their mom, their dad, Bobby, Ellen, Jo, Lisa, Adam, Kevin… everyone that Dean has ever cared about, either dying or getting hurt, because of him—because of Dean.
He saw Castiel. He felt the heat of the burning hole that was consuming him and trying to skin him alive, his self-loathing reaching an even extra high level as Castiel's hand slipped from Dean's.
He saw Purgatory.
"Aaannnnngghh!" Sam cried out, begging silently for the memories to stop, he couldn't take any more. He couldn't handle feeling any more.
As if granted his wishes, everything finally stopped.
Sam gasped for air, bringing his hands from his head and dragged them over his face, wiping tears and sweat and rubbed at his eyes and the bridge of his nose before repeating the motion in reverse and grapping at his head once again.
It's okay, Sam. You can open your eyes now. Sam heard Luareen's soft words, so close, yet so far. He breathed deeply and tried to follow her order, not spending too much thought to wonder how she knew what was going on and what she saw.
Finally having the ability to open his eyes, the hunter didn't find what he had been expecting. There was no more darkness or light. No more pain. Instead, he found himself crouching in some kind of woods, surrounded by huge lines of trees that blocked the intense light of the sun, which Sam was grateful for.
He stood up on shaky legs, taking a moment to gain his balance then started to wander through where he had landed in his brother's mind. It didn't take him long, though, to find Dean who was standing on the edge of what looked like a cliff, his hands tucked into the pocket of his favorite leather jacket—dad's jacket, Sam observed—and giving his back to Sam, and what could be the whole world. The latter was overwhelmed to see this version of his brother, upright and looking much more alive than the other one lying limply on the bed in the outside world.
Before he took another step of the several ones separating him and the older man, Dean spoke without turning around, startling him.
"What are you doing here?" His voice was low and hoarse as if he has been screaming for days, blank and emotionless.
"Dean." It was all Sam could say at the moment. His emotions were threatening to chock him and he was forced to swallow several times. How was he supposed to bring Dean back if he couldn't even speak?
"What are you doing here, Sam?" Dean asked again, this time turning around and looking at his little brother. The trees that blocked the sunlight were somehow no longer there. Their absence allowed the rays of the sun to caress Dean's face and define each curve and details of his features. The weight of the life he led was more visible on Dean's stance in this place, and Sam couldn't help but stare. Dean's eyes were bloodshot and hollow, yet loaded with so much pain and misery. His cheekbones and the freckles that were scattered on Dean's face were standing out clearly, giving him a strange mask of innocence that didn't fit him any longer. His face was as pale and grey as it was in the real world, Sam noticed.
His big brother stood in front of him, his hands still tucked inside the jacket pockets, shoulder slumped forward, and for a second Sam thought he could see the weight bending his brother down.
Even after the countable times Sam got to see glimpses from beneath the surface and look, really look, at his brother, none of these glimpses was able to rattle him so much. Not like this time. The larger than life Dean Winchester Sam had been looking up to since he was a kid, relying on his protection as he grew up, looked totally different in this place. A castle of glass that only one more crack would bring apart. Shatter it.
This version of Dean looked like it could be easily defeated and broken beyond repair.
He looked vulnerable.
Maybe this version of Dean didn't look much more alive after all. If anything, it may have even looked more dead. Sam thought with a bang to his heart.
Finally finding his voice, Sam answered his brother's question, or rather asked. "Dean, do you know where we are?" His voice was laced with fear and he hated how weak he sounded like. He needed to be strong to do this. Dean nodded absently, his eyes never leaving Sam's, which was for some reason making his mission even harder.
"And you know why we are here?" Sam pressed.
Dean let a deep, heavy sigh as if he has been dreading the question, before he answered in a low tone. "I know why I am here." He paused, his eyes throwing daggers at Sam who couldn't remember when those eyes got so angry. "What I don't know is why you are here."
Sam swallowed; but the stubborn lump in his throat didn't go away. He honestly didn't see that coming. Then he remembered Laureen's words, that no one could pass through his brother's mind barriers unless he allowed them to.
"You let me in." The little brother stated matter-of-factly. Dean flinched, looking like he couldn't remember inviting anybody in.
"And why'd I let you in here?" Dean threw at him defensively, a faint sparkle of the stubborn Dean showing in his tone.
Raising his hand in the air in a manner of offering peace, Sam took a step towards his brother, glad when Dean didn't take a step back.
"Dean," He began calmly, holding his brother's confused and angry gaze. "What's the last thing you remember?"
The question obliviously caught Dean off guard; Sam could see it in the way his eyes darted to left and right, the twitch of his lips before Dean caught his bottom lip between his teeth and worried it distractedly.
After a long moment without getting an answer from his brother, Sam was about to push but the whisper that came from Dean's direction stopped him dead before he could say anything.
"Pain." Dean said with a wince, surprising his little brother and obviously himself with his honesty as a frown appeared on his forehead. "Too much pain." The older Winchester added; his eyes distant and his arms coming to cross against his chest in an apparent protective stance.
The younger Winchester gaped at him before he closed his mouth with a click of his tongue.
"I remember us arguing, and the world just... went blank. Then all that followed was one of the worst kinds of pain I've ever known." Dean finished, looking back at his little brother's eyes while his echoed the mix of confusion and helplessness that he felt inside. His eyes locked with Sam's, seeking answers, any explanation for what was going on. What was happening to him. Why Sam was here.
Suddenly one of the many things that the witch had told Sam clicked in place. This was the raw version of Dean. Without any filters. Without any masks. And from the way it looked, it seemed that it was going to be like hell to deal with this Dean and convince him to snap out of it. To come back.
Taking another step forward, Sam used his brother's momentary confusion to his advantage and began to describe the situation for him.
"Back at the nightclub, when our hunt tried to rip your heart outta your chest to complete the ritual, it wasn't the only thing she tried to do." He paused. Dean nodded tightly, a grimace washing over his face as if he was reliving the pain of the memory. "She put a curse on you, something the old Mayan tended to do in cases such as dealing with warriors and heroes," Dean scoffed at that but Sam pretended not to hear him. "And I am here to help you break that curse, Dean." He finished, taking a deep breath, and another step forward. Only few feet were separating the brothers now.
"Why?" Dean asked in utter confusion.
Did he really need an answer to that? Sam thought angrily.
"Why not, Dean? Why wouldn't I try to help you, save you?" Sam asked instead, his disbelief partially hidden as he tried to hide his anger and panic and stay calm for the sake of his brother.
"Why would I want to break the curse?" Dean clarified innocently, completely throwing his little brother off balance. "Why would I want to be saved?" He spat the word like it was something that was utterly disgusting and he badly needed to get rid of.
"Why are you—" saying that? The rest of Sam's question died in his mouth before it could get out, his frustration and hurt were starting to take hold of him. Why would his brother say something like that? Wasn't a whole year enough for being apart? Didn't Dean know how much Sam needed him around? Did he still think of himself so little?
Stopping himself from dwelling in these thoughts, Sam took a deep breath. This wasn't about him, he reminded himself. He was there for Dean—to save Dean.
Instead, he took a different pass. "Did you fight for a whole year, kicking too many freaks' asses to death, only to get killed by a curse?" He reasoned, confusion echoing in his question this time.
Dean stared at him for a couple of strained moments then blinked, shook his head and turned around, giving Sam his back one more time. Sam waited for two beats before he moved and stood next to his brother.
"It's okay with me, I guess." The oldest Winchester said after another long moment of silence. Silence Sam knew Dean didn't have time for but wished it could have lasted instead of hearing his brother's answer. The sound of gravel crunching under the older hunter's boot made Sam look up from his own boots and at Dean who had moved closer to the edge of the cliff they were standing above.
Sam saw him stare hard at the steep bottom as if he was contemplating the idea of jumping. Afraid to come too close and add to his brother's distress, maybe force him to jump too, and terrified from standing far enough to not be able to get a hold of Dean in case he decided to jump, the younger brother took another step towards the older one. Not too close, yet not so far.
"At least this way you could get back to Amelia," There was no heat in Dean's voice this time, no venom dropping along with her name. It was an honest confession, Sam realized with a thumb to his heart. An honest wish for Sam to have the life he wanted against everything Dean has ever wanted—for his brother to be by his side. To be family again. To work out the broken trust between them and put the pieces of their brotherhood back together. To be like how they used to be, to belong to each other again like they always were.
"You know, sometimes I wish I had stayed," His brother's words cut the freight train of his thoughts and Sam blinked tears he didn't even feel spilling from his eyes.
"Stayed?" Startled, Sam asked in confusion. He had no idea where his brother was going with this.
"In Purgatory." Dean clarified and his words from the day of their reunion after a year of separation echoed in Sam's ears.
"It was bloody, messy, 31 flavors of bottom-dwelling nasties. Hell, most days felt like 360-degree combat. But there was something about being there... felt pure."
"Things were … you know, easier this way." A pause. "For both of us." Dean said confidently, his voice void of emotions. His eyes found Sam's for a second before he averted his gaze away and nodded once as if unconsciously reassuring himself that he was on the right track and encouraging himself to continue.
"You were safe; you had a life … before I came back and dragged you into all of this again." Dean looked down and shook his head, throwing Sam's own words back at him, not even intending to, which made it even harder for the younger bother to breathe. From where he was standing, Sam could see the guilt of what Dean thought were his own wrong choices. He could see the way—even in this place—Dean was trying to keep himself together, not for his brother's sake but for his own.
"And I was …"
Dean paused and Sam bit his cheeks from the inside to stop himself from saying a word, afraid if he said something—anything, if he even breathed, Dean would snap out of the moment and stop himself from speaking his mind and what he obviously believed was the truth. Except that Sam knew firsthand it was going to be far from the truth.
"… where I belonged." Dean finally said with a light shrug and raised his head towards the sky. "I was selfish, but I guess I just didn't want to be alone." A mask of misery itched on Dean's face that he finally said the words out loud and Sam felt something snap inside his chest at that.
When he finally spoke, Sam couldn't hide the emotions in his voice. "You're not alone, Dean." He rasped, taking a dreadful step towards his brother. "You don't have to be. Not anymore." At that his brother finally looked at him, the green of his eyes filled with tears that kept only swimming but not ever falling.
"You don't know that." Dean spat at him, and before Sam could answer he added, his voice cracking. "You want the while-picket-fence life and I can't give you that, Sam. The only thing I can do is causing you pain. You and everybody else I know." Dean turned his eyes away from Sam's again, frustration and self-hatred too clear to the surface for Sam to see.
"That's not true, man." Sam tried, not sure which part he was refereeing to, before Dean cut him one more time.
"It isn't?" Dean's eyes were burning hot with anger and he was the one to take a step towards his brother this time. "Then why can't you wait to leave and get away from me, Sam, huh? Why do you insist that I can do it alone? You want, what, for each of us to go in our own way and we catch up every now and then? 'Cause if it never worked for us this way, what makes you so sure it'll work this time?" Dean was almost panting, hurt showing in his tone no matter how much he tried to hide it.
"Maybe you're right, Dean. Okay, I admit it, it was a dick-move from me to say what I'd said back in the car. I know, I swear—"
Dean laughed bitterly, interrupting his brother yet again. "You don't have to justify your words, man. It's not you, believe me. People can't wait to dumb my sorry ass, is all. And it's not like it's the first time"
Hurry up, Sam. The younger hunter heard Laureen's voice in his head at the same time he was listening his brother's semi breakdown and he knew they were running out of time, but it was too much to handle right now and he wanted nothing but to shake his brother awake—beat some sense into his mind if he had to. Goddamit!
"Could you just listen to me?" Sam shouted, surprising his brother after trying to stay calm since they started this pointless conversation. Closing his eyes briefly and taking a deep breath to calm himself a little, Sam opened them with a newfound determination. Maybe Dean would never listen to him no matter how many times he told him that he mattered, that he was wanted, that he was loved, but his brother was never one to hide or stand by and watch someone get hurt while he could do something about it.
Glad to finally have his brother's whole attention, Sam looked at Dean's eyes which were eyeing him curiously and spoke. "Whatever going wrong between us, we can fix it, Dean. I promise. We always found our way to each other, we always knew how to have each other's back no matter the circumstances." He held a hand out for Dean to stop whatever he was about to say before he continued.
"And you can blame me forever for not looking for you—God knows I do it nonstop since you got back. And we can kick each other's asses for whatever we said later, but at the meantime there're too many lives that depends on our help, man. We have to keep looking for Kevin and lock the hell gates on all these demons' asses, we have a mission and we can't stop now. But we can't do any of this if you don't snap out of it, man. You can't give up, Dean. Not now!" By then Sam was the one panting and almost pleading, he shook himself, squared his shoulders and took a deep breath and held it as he waited for Dean's answer.
The oldest Winchester blinked at him, and Sam saw something register in the older man's eyes and prayed silently for the answer he was waiting for. Dean looked away but not before Sam could catch the glimpse of something akin to shame coloring his brother's eyes and he could tell exactly what was going inside Dean's mind right now—he was probably ashamed of himself for considering the chance to give up while there was still unfinished business for him and too many lives to save, what Sam exactly wanted him to feel. Maybe minus the shame part. It was a low blow, Sam knew, but it was the only way he could convince his brother to fight the curse, and he hadn't gone all this way for nothing.
He watched Dean's inner struggle, the way his jaw was convulsing and his body shaking as he tried to come to a final decision. Finally, the older hunter drew in a deep breath and nodded, making Sam feel dizzy with relief.
"Okay." Dean Said finally, looking at Sam's eyes with a trace of the tears that he finally gave permission to fall down his face.
"Okay." Sam nodded, giving his brother a reassuring smile and his best everything-is-gonna-be-okay nod before Dean closed his eyes once, releasing more tears and nodded back, allowing his brother to come closer and grip his shoulder tightly as if he had expected him to fall—and a second later, Dean did.
Even though he had a supporting hand on his brother's shoulder, Sam was startled when Dean started to fall towards him. He held Dean by both shoulders but he still didn't manage to stop the fall so he went down to his knees along with his brother, all the while gripping at his shoulders for support.
Dean's hands that had fisted around Sam's shirt at some point tightened and he started to shake and cry out in pain, making the younger brother feel utterly helpless—more than he already was. As he waited for Laureen to guide him through this and tell him what to do, Sam was moving by instinct, holding onto his brother, one hand supporting Dean on the chest and the other on his back.
"It's okay, Dean. It's alright, just fight it." He didn't know what exactly he was asking his brother to fight—maybe the curse—but he knew fighting was always the only way out for them. Dean, though, had a different opinion.
"I can't!" He gasped in pain, struggling against Sam, his fists tightening even more around his little brother's shirt as if he was trying to absorb some of Sam's strength to help him through the so sudden and intense pain.
"Yes, you can. You're Dean Winchester, dammit!" Sam commanded from between clenched teeth and tightened his grip around his brother. Somehow he felt a little of the pain flaring through his brother's body, and he knew it was just a fraction of it judging by the way Dean's body shook against the waves of pain and the world of hurt he looked like he was trapped into.
"No," Out of breath, Dean whispered. "No, I can't!" He said again, his fists relaxing and his body going terrifyingly lax between Sam's arms.
"Dean!" Sam shouted, panic climbing to a higher notch inside him as he was forced to lay Dean on his back on the ground. The low devastating chant of 'IcantIcantIcant' coming from his brother unsettled Sam and cut through him in every way possible and suddenly he found himself shaking Dean.
"C'mon, Dean! You can, just snap out of it, man!" Dean's only response was a weak shake of his head and a low "I can't." and Sam could only imagine what exactly his brother thought he couldn't do.
I can't fight it.
I can't do this anymore.
I can't hurt any longer.
I can't do this to you.
I can't give you the life you deserve.
I can't ever be enough.
"NO!" Dean's scream unexpectedly ringed loudly in the air between them, his body starting to convulse with pain, snapping Sam out of his frightened haze.
Now, Sam. Laureen's voice echoed in his mind and somehow Sam knew what he needed to do.
"I'm getting you out of this, Dean. You're going to be okay. I promise." As if proving his point, Sam gripped Dean's arm and took a deep breath and braced himself, knowing what he was going to face this time.
He heard his brother scream, few screams echoing from the repeated and new memories and feelings that accompanied the falling, and other screams of the pain Dean was enduring at the present. But this time the intensity of the flashes wasn't as hard for Sam. He figured it was because he had Dean to ground him this time and share the pain with him, or maybe the curse was now weaker that Dean was breaking free. Either ways he was relieved he was finally getting out from Dean's mind with Dean along with him.
Just before he could follow Laureen's order to open his eyes, the hunter caught a glimpse of himself—Dean—shaking hands and half-hugging a man who Sam had never seen. A man that cracked his neck and released his fangs in another glimpse.
Opening his eyes, Sam was stricken by the last memory he had seen. The clear wrongness of the situation settled in the bottom of his stomach with awful dread. Before he could decipher what he had just seen, he felt the witch's strong grip shaking his shoulder.
"Sam? You okay?" He followed the voice and looked at the woman who still held each of their arms—him and Dean—and nodded automatically, unable to find his voice after everything that just happened—was still happening.
Remembering the reason why he was forced to see all these things, Sam looked down at his chest where Dean still had a tight grip around his shirt. His eyes traveled up his brother's bare chest, to his face and eyes, expecting to find them open, only that they weren't.
Ordering himself to get a freaking grip, Sam swallowed and asked, "What's happening? It didn't work?" And before Laureen could answer his question, Dean's body started shaking so hard just like it had been right before they broke through the surface to the outside world.
Dean was still holding onto Sam's shirt tightly as if it was the only thing keeping him from falling, before his body went even more ridged and a second later he was having what could only be described as a seizure. The younger brother watched helplessly as a thin line of blood trailed from Dean's nose and down his lips and chin before the older brother shot upright in bed, almost hitting one of the two heads that hovered above him worriedly.
Dean gasped for air like a drowning man coming from under heavy water and cried out in pain when his broken rib was rattled inside his chest, totally oblivious to the hands that tried to slow his movements and take his pulse. Drenched in cold sweat and only semi-conscious, the hunter fell back after what little energy he had was drained out of him and Sam caught him before he could hit the bed roughly and add even more insult to the injury and lowered him to the bed, feeling his brother's heart racing under his hands, and heard his heavy breath hitch in his chest.
"Hold him!" The witch ordered, standing up and going as fast as she could to the table where her medical tools and stuff were laid. Confused and caught in the middle of a haze where his mind couldn't comprehend one single thought, Sam moved and tried to hold his still convulsing brother as much as possible, following Laureen's command.
The woman seemed to come out of nowhere and appear at Sam's side as she got back to the bed, holding a glass of a strange-colored liquid.
"We need to make him drink this and we need to do it fast." She told him earnestly.
"What is that?" The young hunter couldn't help but question, pointing at the glass in the witch's hand.
"It's one of the witch stuff you wanted to try earlier. It'll help him heal since the cure is finally broken." Sam was staring at her, not knowing if he should let her feed his brother this stuff. "Oh, come on! Don't be stupid now. You gave me permission to enter your brother's mind but you can't trust me to give him a drink? Hold him."
Sam swallowed and nodded before he sat with his back to the bed's headboard next to Dean and held his shaking head in place, helping Laureen to pour the magical potion or whatever into his brother's mouth.
Dean choked onto the liquid a few times, his gag reflex working to expel the offending liquid out of his mouth, before both Luareen and Sam were able to make him swallow some of it and finally his shaking started to cease.
Hearing the witch's relieved sigh after Dean's body finally settled, Sam let out one of his own, staring at her and for what felt like the thousand time in only couples of hours, he asked. "Now what?"
"Look for yourself," He could hear the smile in her voice but Sam refused to hope too much before he made sure there was a good reason for this smile. Looking down at his brother's face, he found Dean's eyes slightly open and staring at the woman sitting next to him, obviously having no clue of whom she was.
"Dean?" Sam almost sobbed when Dean's eyes followed his voice and found his face and blinked once in recognition. "God, Dean! You scared the shit outta me, man." The youngest Winchester's chin trembled with emotions and tears of relief slid down his cheeks. Dean's only response was to blink again at him which made the panic in Sam's belly that didn't quite leave yet rise back up again. He looked once at Laureen before turning his eyes back to his brother.
"Dean, can you hear me?" He asked fearfully, and Dean blinked one more time, this time smiling a little and his fingers tightened around Sam's shirt. Sam remembered the hollers and screams of pain and all the things Dean had gone through the past two nights and he could only imagine how much the older hunter was hurting at the meantime. It must have been already taking him all the energy he could muster to just keep his eyes open and Sam couldn't ask for more.
"It's okay, man. You can rest now. We gotcha." Sam reassured his older brother who frowned ever so slightly, obviously at the 'we'. "I am not going anywhere, Dean. Get some rest." Sam squeezed Dean's shoulder gently and nodded to him even though he was terrified to see Dean's eyes closed again too soon. But before he could take it back, Dean blinked and his eyes stayed closed this time.
Dean stood in the bathroom and stared hard at his reflection in the broken mirror. If there was anything he could come up with to describe how he looked like, it would be a ghost. Dean scoffed at the thought, feeling odd as he saw his lips twitch upwards in his reflection but couldn't quite feel it. He couldn't feel in complete control over his body ever since he was able to get out of bed at the first night after a long argument with Sam and Laureen, which ended up with him taking off the IV tubing out of his own arm and stomping to the bathroom to take the leak he had been holding for so long.
The first time he woke up, confusion was the first thing that struck him, before pain assaulted every cell in his body, making every joint he had and places he didn't even know he had hurt like a mother. The icy, burning sensation he felt in his vines along with the blood his heart bumped to the rest of his body while dealing with the curse didn't go all the way still, but Laureen—the witch—had reassured him—mostly Sam—that it was typically normal to feel this way after this kind of strong curses—of course—before she and Sam forced him to drink another dose of this nasty liquid that tasted like ass.
During the two days he was forced to stay in bed, they had wrapped his chest tightly with gauze to hold his broken rib in place and kept forcing as much fluids as Dean could take into his system, either through his mouth or IVs, trying to keep him well-hydrated. Sam had filled him in with everything that happened since he completely lost consciousness and about the whole "Purgatory stunt" he had pulled, making him feel more embarrassed than he already was.
Sam also told him about Laureen and that she was one of the good guys and how she helped him to save Dean and break the curse by entering his mind, and at that Dean almost threw a fit. And the worst part of it was that he couldn't even remember a single word of the conversation that had taken place in his own mind between him and his brother according to Sam, and Dean wouldn't dare to ask.
The oldest Winchester had talked to Laureen at the first time Sam finally allowed himself to crash and get some sleep, and asked her about how the process worked and what his brother could have seen while wandering inside his head. From what she had told him, Dean concluded that Sam must have seen each and every memory he tried so hard to keep away from the surface for a long time—including Benny. But Sam wouldn't talk about it, wouldn't say a word, but the tension was still there all the same. Was it that he didn't see this particular memory or was he waiting for Dean to bring up the subject and confess first, he didn't know.
After the two first nights passed without any complications—as much as it could be for the Winchesters, anyway—Laureen was hundred percent sure that the curse was broken and only the aftereffect remained. She packed her things and dropped her number for the brothers in case they needed her help again or needed to return the favor. Both brothers thanked her sincerely before she took off and left a load of tension in her wake that Sam and Dean were back to being alone together again, with no buffer this time, just each other.
At the third day, Dean suggested that they hit the road and get back to work since he was feeling a lot better, maybe start looking for Kevin again or work a light case just to get back into the game after the short hell of a hiatus they had away from hunting. Maybe break the tension between them a little as well, until either Sam decided to come clean about what he had seen in his brother's head—if he had seen anything at all—or Dean did about Benny. For Dean's relief, but not after a little argument and a promise from him to take things slow, Sam agreed, obviously more than ready to put this whole thing in their rearview mirror and leave the damn town just as much as his brother was.
Sam started to pack their stuff while Dean went to the bathroom to take a shower, disgusted and feeling dirty after the unholy past days of blood and sweat and vomit. Now that he finally felt fresher and cleaner, he stood in front of what was left of the mirror and stared at his own pale face, hollow cheeks, the dark circles around his eyes and the three-day-old beard—the tired features he knew all too well.
The broken pieces of the mirror were still scattered on the floor beneath the sink, obviously no one bothered to clean them up during the whole mess they had in hands—Sam had in hands. Although he knew well enough that the curse was completely gone, the oldest brother still couldn't shake off the feeling of being a little detached from his body.
Staring solemnly at a particular sharp piece of the reflective glass for a long moment, Dean carefully bent over, his rib protesting the movement, and picked up the piece of glass he was staring at. He needed to make sure himself. Just a little cut to vanquish the senselessness that has been taking over him for a good long while.
"Well, what the hell!" He whispered to himself before he pressed the sharp side of the glass along his left balm and dragged it along his skin, leaving a thin line of blood in the wake of the makeshift blade. Dean winced as he eyed the cut he made in his balm, but was satisfied that he could feel the usual burn a sharp blade should cause at any regular day.
Reassured, he washed his hand and wrapped a piece of gauze around the cut from the first-aid kit Sam had left for him on the counter beside the sink. He swallowed three pills of ibuprofen to take off the edge of the pain caused by his broken rib and sore body after lying in bed during that frigging ordeal for too long for the first time in a very long time. His head still ached like a bitch and his throat still burned from all the screaming and retching.
Letting out a tired sigh, Dean picked up the razor to shave; maybe he would feel and look a little bit more human after he was done.
Fifteen minutes later, Dean got out of the bathroom, feeling even better that the painkillers had finally started to kick in. He was more than ready to hit the road.
"Hey," He said to Sam who had just finished packing their few stuff.
"Hey," Sam replied casually, hoisting one of the duffel bags on his shoulder. "Feeling better?"
"Yep. A lot better actually." Dean answered honestly.
"Good," Sam nodded, smiling a little before his eyes fell on Dean's left hand and the smile faded away. "Everything okay?"
"Uh, yeah," Dean raised his wounded hand in the air awkwardly then picked at the loose end of the gauze covering it. "Just needed to test a theory." Sam narrowed his eyes a little at him, looking like he was about to say something before he just nodded and looked up at Dean's eyes.
"I was born ready." Dean answered excitedly, glad that Sam didn't push the hand thingy and walked to his bed, shoved his dirty clothes into his bag and was about to carry it before Sam stopped him with a warning for his still broken rib.
Dean sighed, allowing his little brother to take the bag from him with no further argument and followed him outside the room.
Maybe Sam had known about Benny, maybe not. Maybe their relationship was fucked up on so many levels; maybe they would blame each other for their wrong choices and beat the crap out of each other for eternity if they had to. But whatever shit they had standing between them, they could fix it. They were the Winchester brothers after all; they always knew their way back to each other and always would have each other's back no matter what.
An odd feeling of déjà vu hit Dean at the thought. It felt like he had heard or said these words not long time ago. He shook his head to clear it, closed the door behind him and walked to join his brother at the side of the impala.
Song: With You - Linkin Park
Here we go, folks. To everyone who read, reviewed, followed this story: thank you so much! I hope you liked the way the story ended, even if it sounded a little bit AU. Also sorry for any mistakes, the chapter was too long and no one beta'd it.
I hope you enjoyed the ride and looking forward to hearing your thoughts, guys! It's the last chapter, drop me a goodbye review ;)
Also, Folka/Ranna, I really hope you liked the whole thing, sweetie. After all this is dedicated to you *hugs*
- Any suggestion for more tags or ideas for a new fiction, drop me a line ;) See you in a new fiction - I hope *hearts*