Hey guys! This is the second and last chapter of this fic! Thanks to everyone who reviewed, and sorry if we didn't respond this week! Super busy over here. The next verse installment will probably be out in a couple of weeks, so make sure to put me on author alerts or check back for more.
Thanks for reading, and if you enjoy it, please take the time to drop us a review. Enjoy!
Of course, that plan goes all to hell when he gets out of the shower and Sammy's sitting on the bed, head hung and med kit across his knees like it's some kind of penance.
"Go to bed," Dean gruffs. "I got it."
And then Sam looks up, sad and quiet, his eyes huge and watery, and goddamnit if anyone can say no to the kid when he gets like this, when he just begs silently with those big goddamn eyes, looking like he expects the kick that's coming, knows he deserves it, but hopes, wishes for something else.
Well hell if Dean'll give him whatever he's hoping for, 'cause the salt in his chest still stings like a son of a bitch, and Sam's words, the ugly twist of his face when he pulled the trigger, when he tried to ice his only brother, are still fresh in Dean's mind.
The thought that his baby brother, his Sammy, could do that…
He doesn't have any kindness in him to give. Not yet.
But he could use the patch up, and Sam'll only get worse if Dean doesn't let him do something.
He flops down on the bed with a huff, glaring at everything but Sam as his brother picks rock salt out of his chest with tweezers. Sam kneels to get a better angle, the rasp of his jeans against the matted shag of the motel carpet the only sound in the room aside from the rattling hum of the motel air conditioner.
Sam's silent as he works, but Dean doesn't act like he can't hear his little brother swallowing hard, doesn't pretend he can't feel Sam thinking of words and dismissing them, trying and failing to find something to bridge the sudden, sharp space between them.
Explanations that'll never explain enough. Apologies that'll never quite heal the wound. Words and wishes and excuses that Sam knows Dean well enough to not even try and use.
Dean doesn't say anything. Doesn't make it any easier for Sam, just stares fixedly at the shitty motel art in front of him. Lets the silence say everything for him.
It's not until the swallows get louder, become hot, heavy breaths and loud, wet sniffs, that Dean can't ignore it any longer. He has to look, to watch his brother try and keep his hand steady, try and get as much salt as he can out of the wound while fiercely knuckling away tears.
The third time Sam's tweezers slip as he's going for another piece of grit, Dean pushes his hands away.
"I'll take it from here," he mutters, still not making eye contact, still keeping everything in, but it's getting harder to find that calm, cool indifference he needs, harder to dig down and find that ice-cold center of distance, of resolve.
"Dean…" The word comes out broken and watery, as sad and pathetic and lonely as Sam looks, and if Dean is a kicked dog then Sam is a starved one, a shivering, wet, lonely puppy in the middle of winter, but God, the things he said.
And he meant it; he did. All that shit had to come from somewhere, no matter what his little brother says. A ghost couldn't make those things up. Nobody could pull such perfect, painful words from nowhere, and what the hell is Dean supposed to do with that, huh? How's Dean supposed to deal with the fact that Sam thinks he's some sort of- of- suicidal puppet for their goddamn dad? How's he supposed to take that? That his brother doesn't trust him enough to keep them alive, to know the difference between a dangerous job and- And what? They're both better off dead than with Dean callin' the shots? That's what he's supposed to go with?
"Go to bed, Sam," Dean grits out, jerking his head at the bed furthest from the door, big and empty and far away.
Just far enough away.
Sam looks at the bed, as cold and empty and distant as his brother is right now, and Dean watches his brother's eyes well up and spill over. He knows what he just did, can't help but hate himself just a little for it, because even though they never said – even though they neversay – well, anything about their sleeping thing, that thing that gets them through the nights that are too hard and the days that are too long, the hunts that hurt too much and the hurts that just won't go away, the thing that stands in for all the words they don't want to say, can't say, shouldn't say…
Well, the one word that's never been said, never been meant or hinted at or implied – not between them, not ever, not since this whole fucked-up journey began – is "no".
"Please, Dean—" Sam manages.
He's full-on ugly crying now, and somehow, that's what breaks Dean, what shatters the cold, distant armor he'd been able to pull around himself up 'till now, because he's hurt too, dammit! Sam would have fucking shot him! Would have turned Dean – his own goddamn brother – into nothing but bone shards and an ugly red stain on the floor of that shit hole, would have blasted him out of this world forever and fucking liked it, and now Sam's crying?
"I should go," Dean bites out, more to his knees than anything, trying to keep control of his face, trying to keep it in just a little longer, because this is Sammy and he doesn't trust Dean, doesn't believe in Dean, doesn't know that the night Sam left, the night he finally took off for Stanford, was one of the worst—
"Dean, no," Sam protests, his face crumbling as he grasps for any part of his brother he can reach, his warm, salt-sticky fingers tumbling, fumbling, tugging for a grip on Dean's knee, his wrist, anything. "Don't leave, please."
"Ellicott didn't pull that shit out of thin air, Sam!" Dean bursts out, shooting to his feet with a hand clenched on the towel at his waist, glaring down at his brother on his knees before him. "You don't trust me? You think I'm gonna get us both killed? If it's that bad, believe me, we're better off alone!"
"Don't say that, Dean, please don't say that," Sam chokes out, grabbing for Dean's free wrist, his fingers hot and strong, slamming their arms and wrists and hands together. Dean can feel the smooth, cool length of Sam's scar brushing the back of his hand, trailing down against his fingers where Sam's dragged them together, is holding on too tight and just tight enough.
He's suddenly, sharply aware of life without Sam. Of what leaving, of what being alone would really mean.
The memories hit him like a fucking semi, memories of time lost and chances missed, of empty hotel rooms and days alone on the road, of how fast an hour's fight can turn into a day of silence, a week, a month, a year…
Two years without Sammy, without even a phone call from his little brother. Without a word or a look or a body in the passenger seat, laughing and joking and filling that space in Dean that is always empty, always hurting when Sam's not around.
"I trust you! I trust you, I promise," Sam gasps, his head falling forward onto Dean's bare chest, still damp from the shower. His little brother's is face warm and sticky with tears, his nose squashed, pressing wet and messy right beneath Dean's heart.
Sam's still on his knees. Even though he's every bit as big and tall as he's been for years now, just for a second it's like it was ages ago, before all this shit started, when Dean was the one who was big and tall and strong, striding through his growth spurts while Sammy stayed the same scrawny, floppy-haired little kid he'd always been, small and sullen and withdrawn to anyone and everyone except for Dean.
"I trust you, I do," his baby brother sobs, burying his face in Dean's chest. "Just don't leave me. Please, Dean."
"Sammy…" Dean swallows hard.
He can't help but bring up the hand not clenched in Sam's to tangle in his brother's hair. Dean skims his fingers down the soft, messy curls at the base of his neck, reassuring himself that Sam is here – here and with him – and Dean's not on the other end of a pistol, not lost or broken or bleeding out, not two years and an impossible argument away. It's not too late.
Maybe this time, just this once, they can fix things before it all goes to hell instead of picking up the pieces.
"I'm sorry," Sammy continues, still holding on tight, still digging his face into Dean's chest, tears coming, dripping down to mix with blood and salt and water alike.
It stings, salt and hair and brother on top of raw, scraped, rock-salted skin. It aches and burns and keeps the pain fresh in Dean's mind, keeps Sam's words – fueled by Ellicott's ghost and Dean's mistakes and Sammy's own sleeping rage – right there, right in front of him.
But Dean's pushed Sam away enough for one night, isn't about to shove away a lifetime of Sammy for a few minutes of hurt.
"I'm sorry and I didn't mean it and you can be mad at me," Sam rambles, hands tight and head unmoving, the weighted pressure of his rock-hard skull and silk-soft hair held against Dean as tightly as a bandage against an open wound.
Dean lets him get it out, keeps up the soft pressure of his fingers in Sam's hair, making soft, almost absent passes over his brother's scalp.
"Hate me if you have to, Dean," he finishes, wrecked and thready, "but please, please don't go."
He's panting now, worn out by hunting and hurting and crying. Dean can feel the heave of Sam's chest against his stomach, the terrified, too fast in-and-out of stress and pain and misery.
"Don't hate you, Sammy. Could never hate you," Dean murmurs.
His hand fall from Sam's head to slide across his shoulders. Dean pulls him in before he brings their linked hands up, cards through Sammy's hair as best he can with his brother's fingers still tangled around his wrist, still refusing to let go. Dean lets his head fall forward, rest against Sammy's own as he takes a deep breath, inhales, takes in home and family and brother and – everything.
Everything he's ever fought for. Everything he's ever wanted. Everything he's ever needed to keep going, to live this life.
It's right here.
It's right here, and it's begging him not to go, not to walk out that door and destroy everything they've worked so hard to recover, so hard to win back.
How could he do anything but stay?
If it means he's weak, means he can't stay mad at his little brother for anything, not even when his life was on the line, well, so what? There are worse things in the world. Dean'll take it – take it all – if it means having Sam safe and close and here with him.
"Not gonna leave you," he mumbles into his brother's hair. "I'm not. I promise."
And it's like all the tension, all the desperation and fear drops out of Sam, falls right away, and his arms come around Dean's waist. His head turns into the gentle pressure of Dean's.
"Dean, I—" Sam starts, breath puffing against Dean's breastbone.
"Forget it, Sammy," he interrupts, eyes pinched shut, keeping his little brother tight against him as he hopes – God does he ever hope – that just this time, just once, they can keep things from getting any more screwed up. "Look, we can deal with it in the morning, I swear, but let's just… let it go for tonight. All right?"
Sam takes a deep breath, nods against him, and Dean can feel the movement through his entire body. He can feel Sam everywhere, under his cheeks and against his fingers, arms around him and chest pressed against him.
"Good," Dean sighs, scratching his fingers through Sammy's hair one last time before straightening up and stepping back.
He can feel Sam lean toward him just a little, notices how his brother's arms resist the separation for just a second. He doesn't miss how he wants to do the same thing, to just stay there wrapped up in his brother, holding on tight and never letting go.
But one of them has to.
And he's still in just a towel.
"Go wash up," Dean orders, jerking his head at the bathroom as he scoops up the forgotten med kit and slaps it on the table, rooting around for the biggest pack of gauze they have. "It's ass o'clock already, and we're not staying another night in this shithole."
Dean sees his brother hesitate, watches Sam's eyes dart between the beds and Dean and back again, unsteady, unsure. Dean remembers his spilt second refusal, breaking Sam down with a jerk of the chin and a door, opened months ago in tragedy, in desperation, in having nothing and no one else, and thoughtlessly slammed shut in an instant because he was angry and because he knew it would hurt.
God, why did he ever do that? This is Sam, and with the shit they go through? No matter what Sam said in that asylum, he didn't deserve that.
"And remember to dry your goddamn hair," Dean continues, hating himself even more now that the anger's cleared and slow, weary regret has moved in to take its place. "Last time you dripped all over the fucking place. It was like sleeping with a goddamn dolphin."
Dean knows he doesn't deserve the smile that breaks out on Sam's face, no less brilliant for the tear tracks, snotty nose, and red-rimmed eyes, but he'll take it anyway. When Sam shuffles out of the shower, warm and damp and sleepy, tumbling into bed and stealing all the covers and burying his face in Dean's collarbone, he'll take that too and shove all the other crap down, keep it to himself in favor of wrapping his arms around his baby brother and falling asleep with the slow, steady puff of Sam's breath on his neck, no matter what the consequences end up being.
Because Dean's not just a mean bastard; he's a selfish one. And because even if he doesn't deserve Sam, he has him. As long as he does? Well, he'll be okay.
They'll be okay.
They have to be.