A/N: While I had originally intended for this to be a oneshot, I felt like the ending was a bit rushed and I could not leave the story alone, so I wrote this epilogue. I also did a little editing of the first chapter. I hope you enjoy it!
Dean was drowning. There was red everywhere, rising in an endless tide around him, filling his lungs with the familiar coppery taste of blood. His brother's blood, flooding from his mangled body lying limply on the grimy bathroom floor. Dean struggled to get to Sam, but he was trapped in the sea of blood, pushing him further and further away from his brother, whose life he could see fading with every second.
Finally Dean fought his way through the suffocating current to Sam's side, dropping to his knees beside the motionless body. He took his brother's face in his hands, searching for any sign of life, but knowing that there would be none.
"Sammy!" he called anyway, shaking the young man as if it would have any effect. Droplets of red fell from his sleeves onto Sam's face, and he realized with horror that he was soaked with his brother's blood. He pressed his fingers to Sam's neck, each second that he did not feel the beat of a pulse beneath them ripping a new hole in Dean's chest.
He started CPR, but he knew that it was utterly useless. All he that he was doing was pushing whatever blood Sam still had left out of his body.
The bronze amulet hanging from Sam's neck seemed to smile at Dean, mocking him.
"You did this to him," it taunted. "You killed your brother."
"No!" Dean shouted, pulling Sam's lifeless body into his arms. "Sammy! Sam!"
Dean jerked awake, following the sound of his brother's voice. He looked down at his clothes, his breath escaping him in a relieved huff when he realized that he was drenched in sweat, not blood. He looked over at the bed next to him, but Sam was not there. The hunter felt a brief stab of panic before he realized that Sam was closer, sitting on the edge of Dean's bed, a storm of guilt raging in his eyes.
The guilt made Dean's stomach clench. Guilt was what had gotten them here in the first place. He reached out to grasp Sam's solid arm, carefully avoiding the bandages that were still wrapped around his wrists. He squeezed, reassuring himself that Sam was really there, and not still bleeding out on that bathroom floor.
"I'm sorry, Dean," Sam whispered, running his free hand through his hair. He had obviously deduced what Dean's nightmare was about. What all of Dean's nightmares had been about since that horrific night in the motel. "God, I was trying to help you, not-"
"Help me?" Dean repeated incredulously, sitting up without letting go of his brother's arm. It had been two weeks since Sam's suicide attempt, but they had not talked about it, not really. Apparently now was the time, because dammit how could Sam have felt like that? "Sam, how could you possibly have thought that offing yourself was gonna help me?"
Sam flinched at the anger in his voice, and Dean grimaced, internally kicking himself. Because Sam really had had have that low an opinion of himself, really had thought that Dean hated him enough to be relieved when he was gone. And there was no way Dean could allow that to continue, no way that they could go through this again.
He remembered the ashamed look in Sam's eyes when he had woken up in the hospital, remembered the sick feeling that had torn through him when he realized that Sam was sorry for being alive. That he was planning on trying to kill himself again.
It won't be bloody this time; you won't have to clean anything up.
How fucked up was that? Sam had been about to throw his life away, and all he was worried about was not leaving a mess for Dean to take care of. Since Sam had woken up and said that, Dean had been terrified to leave him alone, terrified of coming back into the room to find his brother lying in another pool of his own blood. He still could not look at any knives without getting a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach.
"You made it pretty clear that I wasn't your brother anymore," Sam said quietly, ducking his head to avoid Dean's gaze. "You didn't want me around."
"That wasn't me, Sammy!" growled Dean in frustration. How many times did he have to say it before his brother finally believed it? Apparently more than he had, because Sam scoffed.
"Oh please, Dean," he said roughly. "You might not have wanted to say it, but we both know you meant it. And it's fine, I get it, but let's just stop pretending."
Dean sighed, scrubbing a hand across his face. It hurt even worse because there was a grain of truth to what Sam said. He had been angry with his brother since his return from Purgatory, but he had never wanted this. Never wanted Sam dead.
"Sam, listen to me," he said firmly, grabbing his brother's other arm as well and shaking him gently. "I'll admit, I was angry with you. It hurt to find out that you didn't look for me while I was gone, I'm not gonna lie. But I never stopped caring about you, never stopped wanting you to be my brother. And I sure as hell never wanted you to kill yourself. Not ever, Sammy."
Sam still would not look at his brother, but after a moment, he spoke.
"I thought you were dead," he muttered.
"When you and Cas took out Dick Roman, I thought you had both died."
"Yeah, I get that," said Dean, not sure where this was going.
"No, you don't," said Sam, getting agitated now. "You don't get it. I thought you were in heaven, Dean. I thought you were safe there. Happy."
"Okay…" The one trip to heaven that they both remembered was not exactly one of Dean's favorite memories. But there was clearly something that Sam needed to get off his chest.
"Dean, how many times have you gotten hurt because of me?"
"Exactly," Sam interrupted. "More times than either of us can count. You've given up everything for me, time and again."
"Sammy, come on-"
"No, Dean, just let me finish this. Let me explain." Sam took a deep breath, and Dean tried to brace himself for what was coming. "You went to hell for me, man. Then Cas saved you, and I got you back. But I kept screwing up. I kept letting you down, kept piling crap on your plate. I started the damn apocalypse. And when I was gone, when I was in hell, you finally had what we both know you always wanted. You had peace, and a family. You were raising a kid, and going to barbeques and soccer games, and waking up every day next to the woman who loved you. But then I came back, and I tore you away from them, I pulled you back into this whole ugly mess. I remember being soulless, Dean. I remember the crap I said and did. I freakin let you get turned into a vampire!" And abducted by fairies, but Dean was not going to bring that up. "And even then, you made a deal with Death to save my soul. Do you know how badly that could have gone?
"Then Cas went nuts and almost broke the world, and you were ready to give up, I could see it. You were miserable. But somehow we made it, and you went out saving the world, and I thought that was guaranteed to earn you a spot upstairs. And so help me Dean, I couldn't stand to drag you back down again. I didn't want to give the world a chance to screw you over again. I didn't want to give myself a chance to screw you over again.
"And when you came back, and I realized what I'd done, or hadn't done, I guess, I thought there might be one last thing I could do to fix it. I didn't think that there was a chance that we could make things really right between us. I didn't think you could forgive me. But I could take myself out of the picture again, let you find that peace that you had before. That was gonna be my last gift to you."
Dean sat in stunned silence for a few moments after his brother had finished speaking. He could not breathe. He'd had days in hell that hurt less than this.
At least he understood now, really understood, why Sam had not looked for him. It was not because he did not love Dean, it was because he hated himself. And that was so much worse. Could he really not see how much he meant to Dean? That he was the only reason Dean had made it this far without going insane or putting a bullet through his own head?
Sam seemed to realize some of the effect his words had had on his brother. He shifted his arms in Dean's grasp, gripping the older man's wrists and giving them a reassuring squeeze.
"I see now that I was wrong," he said, meeting Dean's eyes. "I guess, after all this time and all the crap I've pulled, I couldn't believe that you could still feel the same way about me as I do about you. But when I woke up in the hospital, and I saw you wearing that-" he nodded towards the amulet that was resting against Dean's chest. "I realized that you still cared, and that you weren't ready to give up on me."
At that, Dean finally found his voice again.
"I will never be ready to give up on you," he said firmly, fully aware of how cheesy it sounded but not giving a damn. Sam seemed to thrive on gooey crap like that, and just this once, Dean was happy to oblige. "Look, Sam. I've seen my fair share of pain. I've gotten the shit beaten out of me on more than one occasion, I was the special project of hell's best torturer, and I've lost just about every person I've cared about. But to date, the worst pain I have ever experienced has been losing you. And I've had to do that way too many times already. So if you even think about putting me through it again, so help me, I will kick your ass into next year, you understand me?"
Sam held his brother's gaze for a moment, then nodded firmly. Then his eyebrow rose and his face split into a familiar teasing grin.
"You do understand that I'm going to die eventually, right?" he asked. "It's kind of inevitable."
Dean gave a small grin of his own, releasing Sam's wrists as he relaxed. He punched his brother lightly on the shoulder.
"Yeah, but it had damn well better be of old age, and it's gonna be after me. Perks of being the oldest."
"Yeah, and of being the one with the crappy diet."
"I refuse to apologize for not eating rabbit food," Dean retorted. "And if I have a heart attack because of it, then at least I'll have died a man."
Sam snorted and rolled his eyes. Dean enjoyed the levity between them, but after a moment, he felt the small smile fade from his face. He could only handle so much emotional drama, and he did not plan on having this conversation again, which meant that he had to get out everything that needed said.
"Seriously though, Sammy," he said. "You could never do something so bad that I wouldn't forgive you for it. And the only peace I want is with you in it. That's what you can give me. Just promise me that."
"Yeah, Dean, I promise."
The sincerity in Sam's eyes brought some of the comfort that Dean so desperately needed after this whole ordeal. The hug that he then pulled his brother into brought the rest. Dean held Sam close, listening to his heartbeat because he could, because it was still there and would still be there tomorrow, and the next day, and the next.
It was only when he broke into a massive yawn that Sam pulled away gently.
"Sleep, Dean," the young man ordered softly. "I'm not going anywhere."
To demonstrate his promise, Sam settled onto the other side of Dean's bed, pulling the covers over both of them. They had not shared a bed since they were kids, but they both needed it right then. But if Sam hogged the blankets, Dean was going to kick his ass.
A/N: I thought that this warranted a bit of a fluffy ending, considering all of the crap that I put the boys through. Anyway, I hope you liked this story, and reviews would be tremendously appreciated. Thanks!