Dean waits for Sam to finish the phone call before he starts the car, cringing as he listens to Sam inform Rebecca that Olivia is dead.
He doesn't try to engage Sam in conversation during the drive. Every once in a while he steals a glance at his brother hugging the child's body close, as if trying to make up for the two and a half lost years. Or maybe the years that won't happen.
Dean parks outside of the Jordans' house less than an hour after Sam makes the call.
"Wait here," Sam says.
Dean nods and Sam gets out of the car. The front door of the house opens with Lorelei behind it. She's crying silently as she waits for Sam to come up the walkway and pass through. She closes the door behind him and then Dean doesn't hear anything from the house for a long time. He was expecting devastated screams or sobs. Turns out Rebecca is taking it quietly, or she fainted.
The silence leaves Dean with little to do but reflect on what a complete and utter pile of shit this job was. And, eventually, wonder if Cas succeeded.
"Dean." The angel is sitting in the passenger seat before Dean finishes his prayer.
"Did she make it to Heaven?"
"Tell Sam that she made it."
"Heaven is closed to everyone. Angels, reapers, souls... especially souls that belong in Purgatory."
Dean and Castiel spent enough time in Purgatory to know what's going to happen to her. At least it should be over quickly.
"...God, I was so stupid coming here with Sam. He was pissed when he woke up and he- he doesn't even want to be brothers anymore. Because I saved him."
"When he was dying, you asked him to let you help, and he chose to accept."
"Well now he knows what he said yes to, he hates me."
Cas sighs. He's developed some attitude in the years since they met, and especially since spending a good four months as a human.
"Have you ever hated Sam?"
"Then why do you think he hates you?" At this point, Cas is less sympathetic than he is exasperated.
"You tellin' me you didn't go Invisible Man on us back there?" Dean scoffs.
"Sam isn't afraid to be honest. He never said he hated you."
Dean thinks about it for a while. He decides not to argue. The phrase afraid to be honest echoes in his head.
"Cas, we have to tell the truth if Sam asks about Olivia. He can't take any more lies."
Castiel nods in agreement.
"You think it really was the yellow-eyed demon's blood in her?" Dean asks a few pensive seconds later. "Nobody dosed her up?"
"The demon blood I sensed in her was not from an ordinary demon and it was less... concentrated. I believe it was from Sam."
The front door opens before Dean has time to respond. The angel disappears.
Sam looks straight ahead as he makes his way to the car, gets in, and closes the door.
"How- uh... how's Rebecca?" Dean asks.
Sam speaks in a stiff, controlled monotone.
"She lost her daughter. And I didn't lie to her. I think you can make a good guess, Dean."
Dean doesn't want to. They probably have a time table before she calls the cops.
Sam finally faces him, and as Dean takes in his little brother's expression, he's floored by it. Dean has seen literally tortured souls before, in Hell where there's no disguising a damaged psyche, and Sam's face is the closest to the face of a tortured soul than Dean has seen in a long, long time. Maybe it's because he knows Sam so well, it's almost like the defenseless, unmasked state of damned souls.
"Don't," is all Sam says to him. He turns away again, taking a deep breath and then letting it out, keeping himself together. "Don't," he repeats in a whisper, and Dean realizes Sam isn't just talking to him.
At the motel, they change out of their bloody clothes. They don't need to burn them but they will anyway, just in case.
They do need to go back to the barn. Dean suggests he go alone. The brothers agree without saying a word to each other that Sam shouldn't be around Robert's corpse, for the corpse's safety.
Going home, Dean drives and Sam spends a lot of time pretending to be asleep. Dean finds out when he glances over and sees a shining tear track on Sam's face—people don't cry in their sleep.
Sam declines to eat or drink anything Dean offers him, or even respond to anything Dean says with more than one or two words. Usually the words are "No," or "I'm fine."
It's the morning after they get back and Dean hasn't seen or heard from his brother in a few hours. Last he knew, Sam was in his bedroom.
He finds Sam slumped over the kitchen table, face buried in his arms. There's a bottle of whiskey next to him, half empty and in danger of being elbowed off the table. Probably snuck out with the car and bought it, Dean guesses.
As Dean steps into the room, he notices a shattered glass on the floor, as if Sam intended to use it but ultimately couldn't be bothered.
Sam lifts up his head at the sound of footsteps.
"Hey," Dean greets.
Sam looks at him for about two seconds before squeezing his eyes shut and resting his face in his hands with his elbows on the table.
Dean stands there looking at his little brother. When Sam had Gadreel in him he said he felt really good for the first time in his life. Taking that away, plus Kevin's death, plus a reminder of things they'll never have... of course he's going to try to drink himself into a stupor.
Dean debates leaving Sam alone with the scotch and ends up deciding to offer his presence. He slips into the seat across from Sam.
"I'm sorry, Sam." His voice cracks more than he wanted it to.
"Doan apologize, Dean," Sam slurs. "We both fucked up. T's'not your fault. You di'n know."
Dean waits instead of asking what exactly he's referencing because Sam isn't done. The younger man lowers his hands and squints at Dean. His voice raises.
"But at the fuckin' hospital... you did know. You knew I was ready to die, that I'd rather die than live with an angel inside me, and you did the opposite of what you fucking knew I wanted!" He pounds the table with his fist and shouts, "Why aren't you sorry for that, Dean?!"
"I'm not sorry you're alive." Never have been, never will be.
"Well I am," Sam informs him without a shred of mercy. He slides the bottle in front of him, studying it. He continues, calm at first but a tear on his cheek by the end: "I'm sorry to Kevin, 'cause if he's dead 'cause a'me, I need to make this- this chapter of my life mean something. For him. ...I got another chance t'help people, Dean. Save lives. I di'n wannit but I got it, and this is what I fuckin' did with it. I killed Olivia. So tell me, why should I feel good about being alive right now?"
Dean almost replies, "Same reason as always. You and me, fighting the good fight together," except he isn't sure anymore if that's true. Sam notices the hurt on his face.
"Don't lookit me like- I don't- M'not gonna..." Sam gives up with a sigh and gulps a couple shots' worth from the bottle. "I'm goin' to sleep." He stands up, gripping the edge of the table to steady himself.
Dean gets up in case he needs to save his little brother from falling into broken glass. He decides not to mention it's mid-morning, just help Sam to bed and keep an eye on him.
Sam stumbles trying to reach the doorway of the kitchen. Dean grips him by the arms like he did outside the barn. This time, instead of waiting for Sam to make the next move, he instinctively wraps his arms around his brother. If Sam were sober, he'd probably punch Dean; maudlin, he accepts the hug but doesn't return it, simply leaning into his brother. Soon his body is shaking with silent sobs.
"Our lives revolve around saving people, Dean. Our whole lives. I could've saved my daughter's life. I failed her," Sam whimpers. His tears fall onto Dean's neck.
Dean doesn't say his thoughts aloud: You saved her from turning into a monster, Sammy. That won't comfort Sam. Nothing he can say right now will make Sam feel better. Nothing true, anyway.
The Nachtkrapp job isn't really done, Dean realizes soon after Sam slinks off to his bedroom. If Robert only started taking kids this past lunar cycle, he was probably turned in the past month, unless he had somehow been living off animal hearts. That means another wereraven. The question is whether Dean should go back to Maryland himself, or find another hunter to do it. Leaving Sam alone for two days isn't an option.
Either way, he decides, it's a good idea to look up what the Men of Letters have on Nachtkrapp.
The first two books that mention Nachtkrappen don't have any information the Winchesters haven't already learned. Dean gets more and more frustrated as the hours tick by. On the other hand, neither source implies that wereravens can live off anything but the hearts of children, so Dean starts to feel more certain that Sam made the right decision.
Finally, in a dusty corner of the library he finds a huge tome entitled On Species Pregnable to the Argentine. He almost passes over it, but on a hunch he looks up the definition of argentine—after he does, he wonders why they couldn't have just called the book something closer to Monsters That Are Hurt By Silver Things.
The section on Nachtkrapp is several pages long and has a ridiculous amount of detail, some of which is new and useful to Dean. Then he turns the page and sees the final subheading.
A cold feeling washes over Dean. He doesn't get past the first paragraph before he slams the book shut so hard it echos in the room, and shoves it halfway across the table.
"Son of a bitch." He puts his head in his hands, leaning on the table, and stays that way for a few minutes.
Eventually he drags the book back in front of him and opens it up again. After skimming over the last subsection, he carefully rips out the offending page. He folds it up and puts it in his pocket.
After putting the book back where it belongs and checking to make sure Sam is still asleep, he calls Cas.
"Is Sam all right?" are the first words out of Castiel's mouth after he sees Dean's face.
"...No. But he isn't pointing a gun at his head or anything." Dean takes out the small rectangle of folded paper and turns it over and over in his hands as he talks. "I have to go back to finish the Nachtkrapp job. Alone. Can you keep an eye on Sam for a few days?"
"Of course, Dean."
"And, uh..." Dean unfolds the paper and hands it to Cas. "You didn't know this, did you."
The angel needs less than a second to read the entire page. His expression tightens and he shakes his head no. Dean takes the paper back.
"I'm gonna put this somewhere Sam'll never look," he tells Castiel. "I mean... he's gonna get through it, what he's dealing with right now. But if he finds out about this, now, he'll lose it. He'll go fucking crazy. He'd feel like killing himself. I think he'd try. And I can't..." Dean shakes his head.
"If you don't want him to find this paper, you should destroy it."
"I can't do that. This, here, is the only thing we've got that tells us how to cure a Nachtkrapp."
So this is the end. Roll credits because a.) I said at the beginning that this is like an episode of SPN and b.) there's no way I'm not thanking the people that helped me finish a relatively long story for the first time in 4 years.
Damien - Plot problem fixer, Beta listener, Critiquer
Diana - Beta reader
Jennifer - Beta reader, miscellanous
klu - Chief reviewer, Surprise plot problem fixer
my mom - [Underutilized] child development reference
you - Awesome reader/follower/reviewer
References Explained/Extra Info:
Title: I took the title of the episode when Adam is introduced and added "The Next Generation" because of Star Trek: TNG.
Chapter 2: Agents George Harrison and Richard Starkey because I came up with those aliases early in my SPN watching before I realized that Dean wouldn't be into the Beatles.
Chapter 5: Rebecca and Olivia's surname should have been revealed by this point, but it never came up in the dialogue. It is Patterson, and Olivia's full name is Olivia Mae Patterson.
Chapter 6: Sam's message does in fact contain the answer to life, the universe, and everything. (Count the words.)
Chapter 11: The final twist was conceived very late—while finishing up chapter 9 for publishing. When my beta read it she slammed my netbook shut and shoved it at me.
...Oh my god, I finished a story.