Rating:PG-13 for language
Spoilers:Season 5, after 5.16, Darkside of the Moon.
Summary:When Sam is attacked and marked for possession by a 'Hell Bearer,' Dean will stop at nothing to save his brother. Pain and exhaustion he's handled before; however, adding to that the horrific memories of Hell may be too much for this world-weary hunter to bear.
Disclaimer: They're not mine. More's the pity.
Warnings: There is mention of torture (from Dean's tour in Hell) in this fic.
Wake Up and Fight: Part 4a
It was a sound he'd know anywhere. When he opened his eyes, he was alone, sore, and he had to pee. Rolling gingerly to his elbow, he carefully pushed himself to a seated position, hanging his legs over the side of the bed. He'd completely lost track of time, but could see from the window in his room that it was late evening.
The sky was beginning to bleed colors against the horizon and the air had turned gold. Taking a breath and using the back of the chair still positioned at the side of his bed, Dean stood, his legs hollow and shaky. He was dressed only in boxers, a wide, white bandage around his thigh, forearm, and chest. He could feel butterfly bandages on his nose and forehead.
A small bandage was taped across the back of his hand and he looked around, puzzled, until he saw the empty IV bag and two syringes in the waste basket next to his bed. Shuffling forward, not bothering with clothes, he made his way to the bedroom doorway, leaning there for a moment, listening. Another rumble followed the sound of the Impala as a second car joined her in Bobby's lot.
A different rumble rolled through Dean's belly as he stood listening. He had no idea how long it had been since he'd eaten, but he was ready to fix that, and soon. Turning, he made his way to the bathroom adjacent to the room he'd been in, vague, half-formed memories of someone supporting him from bed to the bathroom a few times over slipping through his mind. He smiled with relief when he saw their duffel bags side by side on the floor of the bathroom. He relieved himself, then turned to face his reflection.
His eyes were bruised, smudges of purpled prints spreading from the cut across his nose to frame the delicate skin. The cut on his head—same spot he'd opened twice before—was sealed and bandaged. He looked thinner, his cheekbones stretching his skin tight, and his beard had grown in thicker than he'd ever allowed it to grow.
He eyed the shower, contemplating, but decided against it. He didn't want to have to remove the bandages on his leg, arm, and chest just yet. Turning the water in the sink on hot enough it steamed up the mirror, he grabbed a towel and soap and washed the sweat from his body. He wanted to shave, but his hand was trembling a bit too much.
He settled for trimming his beard close with the small scissors Sam had left sitting out next to the medical tape and extra gauze. The result was reddish-brown scruff framing his jaw and mouth that he could shave off later when he wasn't in danger of cutting his own throat in the process.
When he was done, he wiped the glass, his stomach muscles tightening as he looked to the side of his own reflection, unable to forget the flash of the witch in the mirror downstairs. Closing his eyes, he turned off the water, the words to Lonely Is the Night inexplicably slipping through his memory.
Grabbing a pair of clean boxers, jeans, and a T-shirt, Dean dressed carefully, avoiding bandages, working around stiff muscles, and uttering low groans of frustration. When he was done, he had to sit on the closed toilet lid for a moment, gathering his strength.
The smell of frying bacon brought his head up and his stomach growled in response.
Making his way carefully down the stairs, Dean saw that the chaos that had torn apart Bobby's house had begun to be repaired. Holes along the hallway wall had been taped up, burned outlets removed, light bulbs replaced. Turning at the base of the stairs, he peered into the study and saw that all of the furniture had been returned to its usual place, the books stacked on the shelves, and Rufus was asleep on the couch beneath the boarded-up window, a bottle of Jack Daniels tipped over at the edge of his fingers.
Dean headed through the study to the kitchen, leaning against the doorway.
"Breakfast for dinner?" he asked, amused when Bobby didn't so much as flinch at the sound of his voice.
"You Winchester boys would come back from the dead for bacon," Bobby replied. He glanced over his shoulder at Dean. "How you feeling?"
"Hollow," Dean told him, easing down onto a chair. "How long?"
Bobby tossed a towel over his shoulder and grabbed a mug. Pouring coffee from the percolator into it, he handed it to Dean with a, "careful, hot," caution before turning back to the stove.
"Let's see…this makes five days now," Bobby told him.
"Damn," Dean remarked, sipping the coffee. "No wonder I'm starving."
"You were in and out of it—never wanted to eat anything, could barely get you to drink," Bobby told him. "Had Rufus bring some high-powered antibiotics and fluids."
"Where'd he get those?"
Bobby glanced back at him, pushing his ever-present hat to the crown of his forehead and scratched at his hairline. "You really want to know?"
Dean glanced down with a rueful grin. "No, guess not."
"Between them demons beatin' the hell outta you, and your head still messed up from the Neresit," Bobby told him, narrowing his eyes as he stared at Dean, "it's a wonder you aren't still sleepin'."
"I was hungry," Dean shrugged.
Bobby turned his back to Dean. "Sam helped me stitch you up real good. Gonna have a few more scars, though. Couldn't be helped."
"I have a lot of scars," Dean said quietly.
He stared vacantly at the table, thinking about the half-memories, the words that had floated around him, the knowledge that he'd inadvertently exposed more of his battered soul than he'd ever meant to. It all felt like a dream. Like Heaven had felt like a dream.
But he knew both had happened.
"You got that stare," Bobby said, surprisingly close to him.
Dean jerked his eyes up as Bobby set a plate of bacon and toast in front of him.
"Thousand-yard stare," Bobby told him, pointing at the plate. "Eat." He turned back and began mixing something in a bowl. "Seen it on buddies from 'Nam. Seen it on your Daddy." He glanced back at Dean to make sure he was doing as he was told. Dean put a second piece of bacon in his mouth. "You can't get lost out there."
Dean glanced down. "I know," he replied. "'s…just hard sometimes."
"Dean…," Bobby kept his back to him, his arm moving slowly as he stirred whatever was in the bowl. "About the witch." He lifted his head, still not looking at Dean. "I oughta kick your ass for not listening to me, but—"
"You were right," Dean told him quietly. "Sorta."
Glancing over his shoulder, Bobby said, "What do you mean, sorta?"
Dean began to rub at a knot of wood on the table with the pad of his thumb. "She was using me to get out of that panic room. Woulda killed me if she could've…."
Dean looked up and Bobby looked away. "She...helped me end it. I don't know why, but she…held the demon inside. Took control at the last minute. If she hadn't…," he shook his head, eyes shifting to nothing. "That was a helluva lot of demons, Bobby."
Bobby set down the bowl, bracing his hands on the counter, his head down. "I'm sorry."
Dean frowned. "What for?"
Bobby turned to look at him. "I'm sorry I wasn't home. I'm sorry the witch was. I'm sorry Sam got bit—"
"Bobby, none of that was your fault, man," Dean broke in.
Bobby took a breath. "I'm sorry you had to relive…all of that. I'm sorry I wasn't the one who got the demon ash."
Dean looked down, vividly remembering how he'd yelled at Bobby, how the thought of what he'd have to do to save Sam sent him spiraling back to that moment—the moment he climbed off the rack.
"It's not your fault," Dean repeated. "I'm the one who…," he couldn't finish, glancing up at Bobby, his food forgotten. "It's not your fault."
Bobby worked his lips over his teeth, clearly struggling with what to say next. "Listen, Dean…I know you think it's all because of—"
"That bacon I smell?" Rufus' whiskey-roughened voice filtered in from the study.
Dean glanced over his shoulder, then back at Bobby with a small grin as Rufus untangled himself from the couch and sat up, looking around.
"Is it mornin' already?" he called out, blinking blearily at his friend.
"No, you idjit," Bobby groused. "And you were supposed to be keeping an eye on Dean while we went after the Impala."
Rufus looked at Dean, then back at Bobby. "Well, he's here, ain't he? Still in one piece and everything." He pushed himself to his feet. "I say job well done."
Dean chuckled, hungry once more. Finishing the bacon Bobby gave him before Rufus could steal it from his plate, Dean stood, refilling his coffee mug.
"Sam outside?" he asked.
Bobby nodded. "Cleaning out the Impala. Needed to keep busy, he said."
"How is he?"
Bobby lifted a shoulder. "Just tired, mostly. Once you pulled the poison from his system, the wounds healed up. Like nothing happened. He basically slept on the floor of your room until I made him get into a real bed."
"Those pancakes?" Dean eyed the bowl Bobby had set aside.
Bobby looked sheepish. "Well…when Sam said breakfast for dinner sounded like a good idea…."
Dean grinned, the bandages on his forehead stretching slightly. "It's perfect. I'll go get him."
"You sit," Rufus ordered with a dark scowl. "Don't need you keeling over. I'll get him."
"Now, don't you go yellin' at that kid again, Rufus, I mean it," Bobby ordered, pointing a dripping whisk at his friend's back. "He's been through enough."
Rufus waved a dismissive hand as he turned to head down the hall. "You're just mad you didn't get to do it first," the man groused over his shoulder. "I know how you like to yell when you're worried."
Dean looked at Bobby as the screen door banged behind Rufus' retreating form. "He yelled at Sam?"
Bobby shook his head, turning back to his stove. "His damn fault you had to face the witch, you ask me. Plenty of angelica in the garage."
Dean remembered Rufus' note and the stockpile of herbs next to the car parts in Bobby's garage.
"Why did he yell at Sam, though?"
Bobby glanced at Dean with an expression that made Dean wonder how many times he'd asked that same question over the past five days. "How do you think that witch got out?"
Dean rubbed his face, recalling that night. The endless stretch of hours as he slowly lost Sam to the demon voices, to the witch's power, to the weakness, to the pain….
Sam's bright voice brought Dean's head up and he smiled in reaction to his brother's happy relief.
Dean nodded. "Bobby made bacon."
Sam was still looking at him as if he might blow away any second. "You were out of it for little awhile, man."
"Yeah, well." Dean offered his brother a small grin as he sat back down at the table. "Hope you've gotten the whole delusions of grandeur thing out of your system."
"Funny," Sam arched a brow, then sat down across from him, taking a plate of pancakes from Bobby. "Haven't had breakfast for dinner in…." He shrugged.
"Years," Dean agreed with a nostalgic smile. "Used to be Dad's specialty."
Rufus wandered back in, rinsing out a coffee mug and grabbing a spare, filling both and handing one to Bobby. Dean shared a quiet glance with his brother as they watched the two old friends move around the small kitchen with as much practiced ease as they'd seen them kill a demon.
When there was no one left in the world but the person by your side, balance is the only option.
"How are you feeling?" Sam asked around a mouthful of pancakes.
"Tired," Dean answered truthfully. He didn't think he'd ever be able to sleep enough.
Rufus sighed, leaning against the counter. "Gotta tell ya," he said, noisily sipping his coffee, "I thought I had some nasty nightmares, but…," he shook his head, saluting Dean with the mug.
Dean frowned, looking over at Sam, questions in his eyes. Sam shook his head.
"Don't let him get to you, man," he said, shooting Rufus an irritated glance. "He's just pissed he didn't get to kill the witch."
"Damn right," Rufus grumbled, but Dean could tell this was old territory. There wasn't any heat in the man's words. "You know what I had to go through to catch that bitch? Get her into the panic room in the first place? And then you go and pick the lock."
Dean looked at his brother, slowing on his pancake intake. "You picked the lock?" he asked. "With what?"
Sam's lips quirked, his expression of suppressed humor reminding Dean so much of his dream of Mary, he had to press a hand against his bandaged chest.
"Dagger." Sam tried to look contrite, but a flash of a dimple showed Dean he'd already paid his dues and was looking for his brother's appreciation.
"Bullshit," Dean claimed, grinning in spite of himself.
"I'm serious. One minute I was…dreaming about fire, and the next…I had this little knife in my hand and the padlock was hanging open." Sam turned his hands palms up in a helpless shrug. "I don't know how I did it, but—"
"I do. She coached you." Dean slouched back in his chair, watching his brother.
"Yeah, probably," Sam said, looking down. He smiled softly, glancing over his shoulder. "Thought you were going to have an aneurism," he said to Rufus.
"Almost did," Rufus and Bobby answered together.
Bobby leaned against the counter on the opposite side of the sink, eating a folded pancake like a taco and sipping his coffee. "She worked you over good," he said to Sam.
"You were right, though," Dean said, staring at his empty plate, remembering her voice, the way the words echoed in his head as if she were somehow part of him. "She could only control one person at a time."
"Still not sure how you took her down," Rufus muttered. "I had this whole ritual with sigils and chanting…and here all you needed was a knife."
"Two knives," Bobby reminded him.
"Two knives," Rufus amended.
"And fire," Sam broke in.
"You people delight in showing me up, that it?" Rufus groused, grabbing the last of the bacon. "I practically kill myself stopping her—and let me tell you she was nobody's sweetheart. Killed three men in this town I was in. I find the binding spell, trap her, and I've done my homework, you hear? I knew what had to be done to get rid of her."
He was staring at Sam, a fierce frown puckering his brow. Dean watched with puzzlement as Sam slouched, hooking one arm over the back of his chair and glanced with a bemused smile at the older hunter.
"You hear me, Sam?" Rufus pointed at Sam.
"Yeah, man," Sam told him. "I get it. Thing is…I didn't kill her."
"Yeah, that's right," Rufus shifted his finger to Dean. "That's right you didn't, but you—"
"Rufus," Bobby warned. "Not now."
"No, Bobby," Dean lifted a hand, feeling his aching body pull at him, reminding him that he was older than he used to be. A lot older. "It's okay, man." He looked at Rufus. "I didn't want to kill her."
There is only what you decide, and how you live with that decision.
He saw Sam swivel in his chair, looking at him, humor drained from his expression.
"I didn't," Dean insisted. "But," he looked down, rubbing the pad of his thumb on the knot in Bobby's table again, "I didn't have a lot of choices. Sam was gonna die…."
"I know about the Neresit ritual," Rufus said quietly. "I just don't see how you managed to get past a bunch of demons to trap one inside a witch. A very powerful witch…," he shook his head, staring into his coffee mug. "You got some balls, kid."
Dean swallowed, too tired to take the bait. Too tired to play it up.
"She let me," he said quietly. Looking up, he let his eyes bounce from Rufus to Bobby, then land on Sam. "Maybe she wasn't totally full of shit. I don't know. But…she grabbed onto that bastard…held it inside…let me kill her." He looked down. "And if hadn't," he shrugged, then pushed his chair back, using the table as a brace to stand up. He straightened, then looked up at them. "If I hadn't…I'd have lost Sam."
He moved toward the doorway that led to the stairs, feeling their eyes on him, feeling their silence.
"Think I'm still kinda tired," he said over his shoulder. "Thanks for the food, Bobby."
The room was quiet as he walked away, returning to his bed and the darkness. As another day passed, Dean found that he had the strength to shower, the hot water stinging his open wounds. He emerged, pulling on his boxers, then sitting once more on the closed toilet.
His body was wrecked. And it was starting to piss him off.
"You in there?" Sam's voice came through the doorway.
"Yeah," Dean called back.
"You…uh," Sam cleared his throat. "You need anything?"
Half a dozen outraged replies danced on the tip of his tongue. You forget the meaning of Personal Space? I'm not five! But then he remembered the grip of his brother's hand, the fear in Sam's eyes, the plea to hang in there.
"'K. Got fresh bandages out here."
Dean sighed. The stitches in his thigh looked like an army of ants crossing his leg. Same with his forearm. He may have been brought out of Hell without any scars, but he was making up for lost time.
Toweling his hair off, he opened the door, letting steam out and Sam in. Wordlessly, Sam handed him the bandages, watching without offering to help as Dean wrapped his leg, his arm, his chest. Dean turned on the water in the sink, watching the steam rise to cloud the mirror. He could see Sam's reflection as he paused in the doorway.
"What?" he asked.
"Just…making sure you don't need anything else."
Dean suppressed the need to roll his eyes. Sam had a hard time letting the caretaker role go once he was allowed to take it. Always had. He'd watch Dean like he was spun from blown glass for days after Dean knew he was ready to get back in the game. He didn't blame his brother for the concern, but it was hard to heal up when someone was always expecting him to collapse under the weight of a normal day.
"I'm good, Sam," he said firmly, making sure he met his brother's eyes in the mirror. "Really."
"'K…," Sam replied. "Just—"
"I'll let you know if I need anything," Dean replied, waiting until Sam stepped from the doorway before filling his hand with shaving cream and painting his face with it.
The scrape of the razor pulled at his skin, tugging the hair and cutting it free. The feel of the sharpened metal against his face, the sound of it dragging across the coarse hair, punched a cold knot into Dean's belly.
How long…, he wondered. How long until I can forget again? Until it's something that happened and not something that's happening?
He tried to pull the razor down his cheek again, but his hand shook, making it nearly impossible to grip the blade. He stopped, took a breath, steadied his hand and tried again. The feel of the edge had his breath hitching, catching on the inside of his lungs, lost in its escape. A tiny drop of blood appeared, turning pink against the shaving cream.
Dean heard the angry sob more than felt it. He dropped the razor into the sink, the water cleaning the blade quickly, and gripped the edge of the counter, hanging his head, trying to calm his racing heart, the harsh hammer of his breath.
He had to get control. Had to stop this panic. He lifted his face, his image shadowed by the steamed-up mirror and took an unsteady breath.
"Watch out. You might get what you're after."
Dean frowned, looking over his shoulder.
"Cool babies…strange but not a stranger."
It was Sam singing. As well as Sam could sing anyway.
Dean leaned over, peeking through the still-opened doorway. He could see Sam's legs sticking out from the edge of the bed and realized his brother hadn't retreated far when he left. He was sitting just outside the door.
Keeping the voices quiet.
Keeping the demons away.
"I'm an ordinary guy," Sam continued, his pitch wavering, his voice barely a whisper. "Burning down the house."
Dean looked down, his smile watery, secret. He picked up the razor, wiped the mirror clear with the flat of his hand, then dragged the blade down his cheek once more as he listened to his brother pitch the memories into shadow.
Rufus left the next day. Bobby informed them he was mostly just staying until Dean was on his feet. He hadn't known about the extra angelica and the fact that Dean had faced down a being that had nearly killed Rufus in the first place…well, that wasn't something easy for the hunter to live with.
Later that same day, Dean dressed in his long-sleeved Henley, and realized he was able to tie his boots for the first time without nearly passing out. He found Bobby in the study, repairing the glass from the picture window.
"Nah," Bobby replied, stepping back and lifting his trucker hat to scratch at his forehead. "Just about done."
"Ah, then I timed it right," Dean grinned.
"Well, don't you look almost human," Bobby told him, giving him a once over.
"Thanks to you," Dean replied. Bobby shrugged. Dean put his hand on the older man's shoulder. "Mean that, man."
"Yeah, well," Bobby raised an eyebrow. "I do have a knack for getting your ass out of trouble."
Dean smiled, looking back at the window. "Yeah. Yeah, you do."
They were silent a moment, then Dean took a breath, looked askance at his friend. "You're a good friend, Bobby."
Bobby's lips pressed outward, his eyes unwavering on the window.
"More than that, man," Dean amended, unconsciously mirroring Bobby's stance. "A helluva lot more. You're…our family."
Bobby cleared his throat, looking down. Dean sensed him shift his weight, one foot to the other.
"You boys…," he started, clearing his throat again, then looking back out through the window. Dean watched his expression, knowing what he wanted to say, knowing what was so much harder to vocalize when the person you needed to say it to was staring right back at you. "You're…," he narrowed his eyes and glanced up at Dean, "gonna turn me into an old man."
Dean huffed a brief laugh, a smile claiming his face. "If you're lucky."
"We don't gotta hug now or anything, do we?" Bobby asked.
"I'm good." Dean pressed his lips closed, holding up a hand. "Sam outside again?"
Bobby nodded. "Messin' around with the Impala. Think you might be rubbing off on him after all these years."
"Took long enough," Dean muttered good naturedly. He went to the kitchen and grabbed a couple of beers, then continued outside.
Pushing the door open, he breathed in the crisp, demon-free air of the evening, and made his way down the steps. Heading toward the garage overhang where he saw Sam had parked the Impala, he stepped over what remained of the broken salt line, moving resolutely past where he knew the witch had died.
No evidence of her body remained. Bobby—or perhaps Rufus—had taken care of the rest of the ashes. But he remembered. He knew it was there.
Sam had the car radio on, Dean's Metallica S&M tape rolling out through the speakers at a much softer volume than he'd ever listened to it.
"Hey," he called.
He heard a bump, crash, and curse, followed by the sight of Sam's form straightening up from beneath the workbench.
"Sorry," Dean said sincerely.
Sam rubbed the back of his head, watching Dean as he made his way around the end of the car.
"Hey," he returned Dean's greeting. "You look…better."
Dean half-grinned. "Aw, stop. You'll make me blush." He handed Sam one of the beers. "What are you doing out here?"
"Just…I don't know," Sam shrugged, tossing a wrench to the side and took the bottle. "Cleaning out the car. Restocking."
Keep busy, keep moving, Dean realized. His habits really had seeped into his brother, it seemed.
"I mean…I figured we could stay here. Rest up awhile, but…after that…." He looked over at Dean. "We still got work to do, right?"
Dean nodded, leaning a hip on the edge of his car. He rested his free hand on the back window, peering inside. If he closed his eyes, he could picture himself as a kid, lying across that seat, looking out at the ever-changing sky as their father drove them to another temporary home.
He could picture Sam playing with green Army men along the window edge and across the back of the seat. He could picture Anna stretched out beneath him on the seat before she sacrificed her human life to regain her angelic one. He could picture his father and brother, side by side in the front, as he lay bleeding in the back.
"Huh?" Dean brought his head up.
"Maybe you should go back and lie down," Sam suggested. He was standing close. Dean hadn't seen him move. "You're still kinda pale."
"I'm okay," Dean said. "I'll turn in early," he amended.
"If you're sure," Sam said, boosting himself up on the trunk of the Impala, the large car sagging slightly with his weight.
Comfortable in his skin for the first time in days, Dean slouched against the side of the car, the low sun warming his face, glinting off the chrome bumper of the Impala. Sam turned sideways to look at him.
"I've been thinking about what you said," Sam told him quietly.
Dean waited, afraid of Sam's next words. Afraid to know what all he confessed.
"Those weren't the best days of my life, Dean."
Frowning, Dean looked over at his brother. "What?"
"What you saw—what Zachariah showed us—in Heaven. They weren't the best days."
Dean rolled his bottom lip against his teeth, looking down. You were played, Dean. Pure and simple. And so was Sam.
"I know," he said softly.
"I mean it. I mean, those days were good ones, but it was all out of context and—"
"It's okay, Sam," Dean said, hearing the struggle in his brother's voice, wanting to offer him an escape path.
"I didn't know what it did to you," Sam pressed on. "When I was gone, I mean. I never stopped to think about it, I just…."
"Hey," Dean cut him off with a word. "It's okay, Sam."
"And I know…I know this whole thing…it's a mess. We're a mess," Sam continued.
Dean waited for Sam to tell him that they had to keep believing, that they had to keep fighting. It was what Sam did: pushed him on when he was weak. Reminded him that he had something to fight for.
But Sam was quiet, his eyes down, Metallica playing in the background. Dean waited, watching his brother's face.
"Y'know," Sam began after a moment. "I really thought I was going to burn to death. I could see it. Like it had already happened."
"I know," Dean replied.
He was well past offering platitudes and epithets of comfort, well past reminding Sam it hadn't been real. It had been real enough for Sam. Real enough that he needed to find his own way to work through the memories.
"I could hear them. And I could hear her…."
"The witch, you mean?"
Sam nodded, then he lifted his eyes. "And I could hear you," he told Dean. "And, y'know, the funny thing? No matter how loud they were? You were always louder." He shook his head. "I heard you no matter what."
Dean looked away.
You gotta believe…in us.
You aren't as empty as you believe yourself to be.
There were things he needed Sam to hear…not pleas, not confessions…but truth. The problem was…he didn't always know what the truth was, or what it would take from him to share it.
"Sam," he started. "There's stuff I haven't told you. But…not because I don't trust you." He dropped his gaze to the ground, at the dust gathered on his boots. "It's because…if I think about it too much…," he looked up, staring at nothing. "It'll end me."
Sam said nothing. Dean felt tears build in the back of his throat, burning his eyes.
"I'd do anything to keep you safe, Sam," Dean confessed around the choke of emotion.
"I know," Sam said quietly.
"But…," Dean continued, blinking to clear his vision, still looking at nothing. "The thing is, this whole…destiny thing? Us being vessels? It's..."
"Big," Sam finished. "Too big."
"Too damn big," Dean agreed.
"It's…freaking crazy," Sam added, his voice cracking with an edge of helpless laugh or cry hysteria.
Dean looked over at Sam. His eyes were dry, but his face tight with emotion.
"I don't know what to do sometimes, Dean," he said. "Some nights…I'll go to sleep with all this…weight, y'know? It's like I can't breathe through it. And I fall asleep thinking...what happens next? What do I do next?"
You look them in the eye. You don't flinch, you don't fail.
"You wake up," Dean said, he glanced away, a sad smile tugging at his lips. "You wake up and you fight."
He heard Sam sniff, the shocks of the car creaking as his brother shifted, James Hetfield resolutely declaring that nothing else mattered.
"You still think it's gonna end bloody, though, don't you?" Sam asked. "You don't think we're gonna make it out of this fight?"
Dean sighed tiredly. His body was ticking down, but he wasn't ready to leave. Not yet.
"Yeah," he said. "I do think it's gonna end bloody. And…I don't know if we can make it out." He took a breath, searching for the words. "Demons…I get. We've wasted their asses on more than one occasion. But…the Devil wants your ass…I got an Archangel after mine and God?" He shrugged. "I don't know, Sam. It's bigger than anything we've faced before." He took a sip of his beer, staring at the ground. "But that doesn't mean we give up, man. We just…learn to fight bigger. Right?"
Sam peered at him through his bangs. "Will you think I'm a pussy if I tell you I'm scared? Like…all the time?"
"A pussy?" Dean glanced sideways at his brother. "Are you kidding? After you…latinated a couple hundred demons into another dimension?"
Sam's grin was contagious. "You were pretty bad-ass yourself, man."
"Yeah, I was, wasn't I?" Dean chuckled appreciatively. "Eat your heart out, John McClain."
They were quiet a moment as the tape ended, rolling over to the other side.
"Thanks," Sam said, his voice warm. "Y'know. For saving my life."
Dean looked at him, lifting a shoulder in a slight shrug. "You're my brother, Sammy," he replied, hoping the words were enough to hold everything he couldn't say.
Sam met his eyes, the smile lingering there not cresting his lips. And as the night took hold and Bobby called them inside for food and Sam shut off the Impala, Dean knew that the fight wouldn't end, and no matter what his father said in his dream, there was no winning. There was only just losing a little bit less.
But in this moment, on this night, he hadn't lost what mattered most. They hadn't taken it from him yet.
That was reason enough to keep fighting.
a/n: Thank you for reading. And thank you for your comments. You guys give me a reason. *smile* Some of you might have noticed that Bobby is sans wheelchair in this fic. *nods* Yep, pretty much pretending that didn't happen for the purposes of this story. But if you were entertained, then I'll be back.