Title: The Weight of Us
Characters: Dean, Sam
Disclaimer/Warning: They're not mine. More's the pity. Title of the story comes from a song of the same name by Sanders Bohlke. Give it a listen. Rated PG-13 for language.
Summary: Missing scene/tag to 8.14, Trial and Error. Some errors have been too great, some trials too costly. Losing his brother is not an option, not this time, not when he can do something about it.
His side has its own heartbeat.
The thrum of it beats in time with the rumble of the Impala's engine, one beating a soft, familiar cadence against his back and legs, the other a sharp, intense pressure against his ribs and into his lungs. And damn but he's tired. He hasn't closed his eyes since they pulled through those fancy-assed Cassity Farm gates.
The problem isn't exhaustion. It's not even the wound. Not really. He's handled pain before; more than Sam knows about, more than he'll ever reveal.
The problem is that he failed. He failed and now Sam was in the line of fire. Sam was at risk. He's literally put himself through Hell to prevent that and now….
"You alright, man?"
"Fine," Dean replies, not wanting to delve further into his thoughts, still trying to figure out why he handed Sam that damn spell.
"You want to pull over?"
Dean darts a look at his brother. Sam killed a Hellhound. Dean knows from personal experience how much energy that takes. Add to that the weird two-minute gasping spell that followed the Enochian recitation and Dean is worried.
"Why, do you?"
Sam gives him that look – the one that says stop turning this around on me – and sighs.
"If it gets you to rest a bit, then yes."
"I'm good to get back—" He almost says home. It is still poised on the edge of his tongue.
"The, uh…bunker," Sam supplies, "is still over two hours away. If you don't want to stop, how about I drive?"
"I'm okay, Sam," Dean replies, biting the inside of his lip as his side throbs.
He can make two hours. He can do almost anything for two hours. He held out against a Hellhound attack – sans magic specs – for longer than that in Purgatory.
What he can't do is find a way to make himself okay with the fact that he just handed his little brother a free pass to death's main event because of some pretty words about being worth something. If John were still alive he'd have Dean's head on a platter for this one. Protecting Sam has always been his job and he's been screwing that up three ways from Sunday for so many years – since the damn angels came down and started to pull their puppet strings.
He didn't realize those words had been so close to the surface until he piled them on Sam, but they were true. He felt them long before Purgatory. Long before they lost Bobby. He knew he was going to end bloody the moment he stood face to face with Death. But he also knew that if anything good came out of that fate, it would be Sam living on. It was the one thing he'd held onto as he survived in Purgatory: Sam was out there, in the world, alive.
Dean shifts uncomfortably in the seat, tightening his grip on the steering wheel. The white lines on the road to his left begin to blur until they are no longer separate stripes but one long, continuous seam. Dust motes fly at the windshield and glance away, the night seeming to part and allow them passage.
He will simply not let Sam out of his sight, he decides. It's that simple. If Sam is going to do these trials, pass God's tests, then Dean will be in front of him clearing a path, behind him watching his back. He will flank both sides and keep his gun at the ready. There was no way God was going to go easy on the Winchester boys. This was going to be something out of a fucking Greek tragedy.
"Whoa, hey, easy, Dean," Sam is saying. "You want to take us back in time or something?"
"What?" Dean looks over, confused.
"You're going like ninety, man," Sam points out, his fingers pressing into the door frame and seat between them. "Slow it down a little."
Dean eases off the gas pedal. He's sweating, the pain in his side climbing until he can feel it in his shoulder, in his jaw, chipping away at his temple with a diamond-studded pick axe. He feels Sam watching him, so he shifts in his seat once more, trying to find a more comfortable position. He knows he can do a mental countdown for when Sam will either ask him if he's okay, or try to bring up something else to distract him.
Something like Hellhounds in Purgatory. Something like lights at the ends of tunnels. Something like Sam doing the job Dean should be doing. Sam doesn't even want to be hunting. He doesn't even want to be here.
And yet Sam's the one who killed the Hellhound and bathed in its blood. Dean can't help it; he presses his hand against his side, feeling the heat there.
"You want to drive?" he asks quietly.
"Yes," Sam replies without hesitation.
It's a dark road on a dark night. When Dean pulls over and steps out, the chill wraps around him, not even starlight present to cut the black. He pauses at the trunk of the car – Sam having simply slid across the seat – and breathes in the night. He feels the cold climb into him, cooling his tangled thoughts, soothing his troubled heart.
His brother is a hunter. A fighter. It doesn't matter what he once said he wanted, it matters what he's doing. Sam is here. He's here and he's in this. He's in this and he wants Dean to live. Wants him to survive to come out on the other side of this.
"Comin'," Dean replies, moving from the quiet cold of the night into the waiting warmth of the Impala. God, he's so tired. There is just nowhere he can rest.
"You good?" Sam asks, meaning so many things with two words.
"Hit it." Dean tells him, slouching low in the passenger seat and rolling his head to rest against the window.
He doesn't give Sam a hard time about his choice in music; he lets the sound of the slow guitar and the unfamiliar, smoke-ragged voice lull him into a comfortable doze.
"If I said I was sorry would you forget the things I've done? I don't know why I even worry; I don't believe in anyone. 'Cause in my sleep I'm still running from the demons and the ghosts, that in the night I hear coming…they're coming back for what I stole. 'Cause I am a killing man…."
He's back in the forest, his clothes so dirty they've become part of him. He's running, running so fast, so hard his side is folding up, lungs catching on his bones, air a betrayal of promise.
The first one came at them from out of nowhere, the only warning the sound of breaking branches and forest debris. He swung his axe, embedding it into the invisible heart of the Hellhound, but the second rushed them, slamming Benny to the ground before Dean is able to pull his axe free.
"Run!" Benny yells, and Dean obeys, knowing first-hand how this will turn out if he doesn't.
He can hear it behind him, its breath wetly huffing with each stride, its massive paws – he knows without seeing that they are massive; he remembers how they tore into his flesh, ripping him from life – crunching against the fallen leaves as it pursues him. He needs only to get to the tree; if he can get to it and climb, he can wait until help arrives.
But the Hellhound is to close and he only gets one leg up before it swipes at him and he feels it tear through the skin and muscle of his calf. He screams, his leg hanging wet with blood, useless in aiding his escape. He curses the beast, finding the strength to heave his body higher into the branches, words flowing from his lips like they might have power beyond releasing his energy. He wants to cry from the pain and frustration - it's so wrong, all of this, all of this, is so wrong – but he's forgotten how.
Pain is now simply another way to gauge time.
He perches in the tree, his leg bleeding, no way to stop it, watching as the leaves below him shift, the ground sinking beneath the weight of the Hellhound as it circles beneath him, waiting him out. He remembers shooting the ones that attacked Jo and wondering if this is one he killed. He grabs a smaller branch from above him and aims, throwing it with force enough to draw a bleat of pain from the invisible mouth of the hound.
He waits, tearing the edge of his filthy T-shirt free and wrapping it around his calf, trying to stem the flow of blood. The cuts burn – turning his blood to liquid fire and making him work to slow his breathing. He knows Benny isn't far away; he just has to wait…just wait long enough that the vampire can bring the weapons….
He jerks, startled, looking around. It doesn't register yet that they've stopped moving, that the car is quiet, and that his door is open. He is confused, bleary, trying to figure out why he's looking at Sam and not Benny wielding the big-assed axe that saved his hide so many times over that long year.
"We're here, man."
Here. Dean blinks, looking beyond Sam. Right. The Batcave. Time to regroup.
"You want some help?" Sam asks him, his words wrapping around a tone that is both concerned and irritated.
Dean gets it; Sam's tired, too. After all, Hellhound, right? Trials and all that. Damn, his side hurts.
"I got it," he replies, gripping the door and pulling himself to his feet.
Sam shuts the door behind him. Dean doesn't bother to go for his duffel; no one will find the Impala where they've parked it – he can wait until morning to gather his stuff. Right now he wants nothing more than the cool of his room and the softness of the memory foam mattress. He waits silently while Sam unlocks the door, then enters, tripping over the threshold and catching himself on the door frame.
His legs aren't working so good. He needs to do something about that. Later.
"You sure you're okay?" Sam asks him again and for one irrational moment Dean wants to tape his mouth shut.
Or punch him.
Maybe punch him, knock him out, tape him up, stuff him in a closet so that he's safe and Dean can corner another one of those Hell bitches and start this damn process over again the right way.
The way that doesn't equal Dean living with the knot of what if curled tight in his gut.
"I said I'm fine, man," Dean snaps, pushing Sam out of the way and stumbling down the stairs. "Leave it alone."
He makes his way past the long library table, bouncing against two of the chairs in the process, the sound of their heavy wooden legs against the cement floor echoes loudly in the empty, tomb-like room.
Dammit, gotta get those legs figured out. Not gonna help things much if he can't stay ahead of whatever comes at them. Need to be ready, always ready. Sleep will help. That's all he needs. Some sleep and then he'll talk some sense into Sam tomorrow.
He forgets for a moment which way to turn down the long hallway to get to his room, but memory clicks and in moments he's through the doorway, sinking down onto the mattress. He wants to pull the blankets back, take off his boots, but his body is throbbing, his heart having moved down to his side.
On a slow exhale he closes his eyes and works to blank everything out—
The thing is trying to climb the damn tree, invisible jaws snapping. He can see its claws marking the base of the tree as the perpetual gray of the sky begins to grow darker, night drawing close. Dean curses. Night always brings out more of the crazies and dealing with this one, weaponless, was bad enough.
He hears it snuff against the tree, throwing its body at the base hard enough to shake the limb Dean is perched on.
"Dammit, Benny," he growls into the growing night. "Where the hell are you?"
He's starting to weaken; he can feel it in the tremble of his arms, the pins-and-needles sensation in his fingertips. The run, the wound, the blood loss, the weight of his own body is drawing him down. He can't pass out; if he loses his grip, the hound will tear him apart. And the only place to go if he dies in Purgatory is Hell.
He's been there already.
"Benny!" he yells. Nothing. No sound save the growing vehemence from the creature below him.
Sinking against the trunk, breath rasping out roughly against his dry throat, he whispers, "Cas. Please. I know you're out there somewhere. Please."
And then he sees them: eyes, glowing unnaturally against the darkness. Impossibly blue, impossibly bright, coming his way….
A little voice inside Sam's head told him to follow his brother as he watched Dean make his way through the library, stumbling against the table. He knew Dean was tired – hell, they were both tired – but the voice nagged him to check that wound one more time, make sure he was okay.
He'd ignored that voice in the past and Dean had been fine. Maybe this was one of those times. Besides, Sam still hadn't quite figured out what that whole glowy-arm thing meant. He'd be lying if he said he wasn't more than a little freaked out by that. Was something happening to him again? Something changing inside of him like it had with Azazel's blood? Part of him wanted to talk to Dean about it, but he was almost more afraid of Dean's reaction than he was of whatever was happening. Really, all he wanted was to change his clothes, get some coffee, and haul a couple of books back to the room he'd staked out off of the telegraph station.
Surely there was something in this massive Men of Letters library about trials designed by God.
He'd gotten as far as the change of clothes and the coffee and was eyeing several variations of Biblical translations and lore when he first heard Dean cry out. It sounded like a curse, a rather angry one at that. He wondered if his brother had really gone to sleep, or if he were working on his own solution to this next series of tests they'd be facing.
Because, Sam knew, even if he were the one physically passing these tests, there was no doubt in his mind that they'd be facing the trials together despite his best efforts. He wanted to keep Dean from kamikaze-ing his way through to a bloody end; he didn't want to keep Dean away from them entirely.
Sam knew damn well that he wouldn't survive much without his brother running interference. It had been that way all his life; no reason it would change now.
Setting down the tome he'd pulled off the topmost shelf, Sam paused, listening for more protestations. If Dean really were working on something more than likely he'd wander out to find Sam and grumble about whatever it was had made him curse. When he heard nothing else for a few moments, Sam started to wander slowly toward Dean's room. As he grew closer, he realized that he could hear sounds coming from Dean's room, but they weren't those of Dean looking through research, cleaning his guns, or even surfing porn sites.
These were sounds of distress – of a nightmare.
He rounded the corner and pulled up short, surprised to see Dean stretched out on his back, fully clothed, his face flushed and sweaty, brows knitted in fear or anger, Sam couldn't tell. His fists were once again twisted in the covers beneath him and his lips were pulled back in a grimace of pain.
"God dammit," Sam muttered, moving toward his brother quickly, cursing himself for ignoring the voice.
A hand to Dean's forehead told him what he needed to know: fever had taken hold quickly this time. Quick enough Sam figured Dean's defenses were already low to begin with. He pulled up his brother's shirt and saw that the wound wasn't bleeding through the bandage. Carefully pulling the tape free, though, he saw that the cuts were puffy, red, swollen, pulling at the stitches in some places, burying them in others.
"Dammit, Benny…where the hell are you…." Dean muttered, turning his head restlessly on the bed, one hand reaching for something Sam couldn't see.
Sam flinched at the name. He could only imagine where Dean's fevered brain retreated to; he knew his brother had fought alongside the vampire for a year in Purgatory. It shouldn't surprise him that Dean's nightmares would include Benny, but hearing Dean calling out that name in a tone that could only be described as a plea for help was unnerving.
He turned from the Dean's bed and headed to the side room where they'd stashed their supplies, ignoring the kick of jealousy deep in his gut. It didn't take him long to return with a basin of cool water, rags, a flask of Holy Water, antibiotic ointment, Tylenol, and pain meds. He set them down next to Dean's bed, frowning as his brother's restlessness increased.
"Please…." Dean whispered.
"Hey," Sam finally spoke, his voice rough from emotion and weariness. "Hey, open your eyes, Dean."
When Dean obeyed him, Sam blinked in surprise. It took him a moment to realize that Dean's pupils were blown so wide, he wasn't close to being conscious.
"Friggin' took you long enough," Dean all-but growled, his breath hammering out with every other word.
Sam took a breath, trying to think of the first thing he needed to do. If Dean were awake enough, he could get meds into him. That would be a start.
"Think you can sit up a little, man?" Sam carefully reached for Dean's right hand, not wanting to put too much pressure on the wound.
Dean was distracted, eyes open, searching for something – or someone – but he grabbed Sam's hand and allowed himself to be moved up higher in the bed.
"Here, Dean. Take these, okay?"
Sam worked Tylenol and pain meds between Dean's lips, tipping a bottle of water up and encouraging him to swallow. Dean coughed a bit, choking on the water, but he seemed to swallow everything okay. Next, Sam reached down for his brother's boots, pulling one off easily enough, but as he lifted Dean's other leg, his brother flinched, pulling back with a cry of protest.
Sam lifted his hands. Had he missed a wound?
He looked up at Dean's face and saw his brother's eyes were closed again, his head tilted back against the wall, his body slouching lower on the bed, unable to hold himself up.
"I know you can see it…see those freaky eyes of your glowing…," the words rolled over each other, breathless and rapid and demanding, "…kill the damn thing…fuckin' take its head off…."
Sam returned to his task of removing Dean's boot, and after a thought, pulled Dean's jean cuff up a bit to expose his brother's calf. He could see four pink scars running down the length of Dean's leg, similar in dimension to the cuts Sam knew were on Dean's side.
"Son of a bitch," Sam whispered. Now he knew what was going on in Dean's head; he'd practically planted the dream with his questions of Purgatory. "Hey, Dean, it's okay, man. It's gonna be okay."
He hadn't thought of the Holy Water back at Ellie's. He hadn't needed it before and he was pretty sure Dean hadn't had any in Purgatory. But maybe wounds in Purgatory healed by different rules, how was he supposed to know. He pulled the sheets beneath Dean back and worked his brother's shirt off over his sweat-soaked hair.
Rolling a towel beneath Dean's side, Sam pulled the bandage completely free, then took a breath.
"This might sting a little," he warned his unconscious brother.
He began to pour the Holy Water over the wounds, but to his surprise with the exception of flinching from the cooler temperature of the water, Dean didn't react to the Holy Water. Unfortunately, neither did the wounds, Sam realized.
"So, not a supernatural infection," he grumbled. "Just a regular, gonna kick our ass, body breaking down on you infection. Friggin' swell."
Frowning, Sam patted the cuts dry. Dean flinched, hands twitching, body shivering. Sam carefully smoothed the antibiotic cream over the puffy areas, covering them back up with a clean bandage. Dean groaned in protest at the pressure on his wounds, trying to move away from Sam's touch.
Dean arched his neck slightly, his back pushing up from the bed, trying to get away from the pain. Sam pressed cool clothes on his face, then laid another on his chest. Dean shivered, but Sam left them there.
"Hang in there man, it's okay…let those meds kick in."
Dean gritted his teeth, turning his face away from Sam, shifting and twisting in the sheets as if they were trapping him. His breath picked up speed as whatever he was fighting in his dreams took over.
"Gonna need your help…," Dean muttered, his brows pulled so close his forehead was a jumble of worry lines.
Sam swallowed hard; Dean wasn't talking to him, he knew, but it didn't matter. "I'm here, man. I'm not going anywhere."
"…can't do this alone…,"
Sam pulled the desk chair Dean had pilfered from the library toward the edge of the bed and placed another of the wet clothes on Dean's forehead.
"I know," he said sincerely. "Neither can I."
He looked at his brother's battered form, blood still caked on his jeans, sweat matting even his short hair to his flushed face. It had never been easy before, why would they think it would be any different this time? Sam sighed, leaning his elbows on his knees, carding his hair with his fingers as he curled his body forward.
"Sam…," Dean whispered.
Sam jerked his head up, starting at Dean's sweaty face. "Dean? You with me?"
"Sam." His eyebrows drew together and he looked...sad.
Sam wrapped his fingers around his brother's forearm, frowning at the heat he felt there. "Hey."
But Dean didn't reply, simply grimaced and coiled his free hand into a fist. With his hand on Dean's arm, Sam could feel his brother start to shiver as a result of the fever. He was going to need to rummage through their supplies - maybe search the bunker one more time - and see what kinds of antibiotics they had on hand. Tylenol wasn't going to kick this one, not without back-up.
Sighing, Sam eased Dean out of his jeans, pulling the sheet up over his heated skin, then changed out the rags cooling Dean's forehead. For a fraction of a second, he thought of calling Bobby, asking him if he knew any tricks to combat infected Hellhound wounds, until he remembered and the pain in his heart kicked a sharp retort.
"I got you, though, don't I?" Sam said softly, watching as Dean stirred restlessly, legs twitching against the pain.
With a tired sigh, Sam left Dean's room to seek out supplies. He found what he was looking for in one of their spare duffels and darted quickly into his room to grab a pillow and blanket. He didn't want to be too far away when his brother's fever broke. Returning to his brother's side, Sam eased Dean's head up, coaxing him into swallowing the antibiotics, and helped him drink, all the while listening as Dean cursed his way through a battle that he'd survived without Sam by his side.
Sinking down along the wall next to Dean, Sam pulled his legs up, resting his elbows on the inverted V of his knees, and leaning his forehead on the palm of his hand, his eyes on Dean's struggling form. It was going to be a long night.
He feels gritty. And sore. And weak.
As if he ran a marathon through the sand.
He opens his eyes slowly, skimming the room, getting his bearings. It takes him a minute to realize that he's not in Purgatory with its dirt and pain, he's not in the Impala with her rumble and smell of gunpowder and leather, he's not in some random motel room with water stains on the ceiling and mildew on the comforters.
He's in his own bedroom. In his own bed.
Rolling his head to the side, Dean sees Sam on the ground, wrapped in a blanket, long legs clad in sweatpants, mouth hanging open in sleep. He thinks he can't be comfortable down there, and wonders why Sam's not in his own bed.
Then he moves. And he remembers.
Lifting his sheet he sees that he's wearing nothing but his boxers and there's a large bandage on his left side. It comes back to him then: the Hellhound. The trials.
The fight in Purgatory that he and Benny had almost lost had just been a dream. The rest of it was real and Sam was now pitted against God's imagination and Dean was once more helpless to stop it.
He rubs at his eyes; they feel swollen, as if he's been crying. He wonders for a moment if he had. He wanted to when he was trapped in that tree, but he hadn't been able to remember how. But, wait...that was a dream.
"Hey," Sam says on a stretch from the floor beneath him. "You're awake."
"Looks like," Dean replies, surprised at the rasp of his voice, rough from disuse. "How long was I out?"
"Almost two days." Sam pushes upright with a groan, his long hair spun around his head in a sleep cyclone.
"Days?" Dean repeats. No wonder he has to pee like a racehorse.
"Infection," Sam replies. "Couldn't get it to back off. Even dug into the library."
Dean cautiously pushes himself up higher in the bed, looking at the floor of his bedroom, now strewn with books, rags, empty water bottles, and some bandages.
"Wow," he says, clearing his throat. "The library. I'm touched."
"Your fever broke yesterday," Sam tells him, rolling his neck. Nothing like sleeping on a cement floor, Dean knows. "Guess we just had to ride this one out. Like regular people."
"You stay here the whole time?" Dean asks, dragging a hand down his face and feeling the prickly stubble on his cheeks.
"Well, yeah." Sam shrugs. "Wanted to make sure you didn't tear something, thrashing around like you were."
"Aw, Sammy. You ol' softie."
Sam rolls his eyes and pushes to his feet, multiple joints cracking. He finger-combs his tangled hair away from his face and tugs down the slightly-snug Dark Side of the Moon T-shirt he's clearly stolen from Dean's stash. Dean decides to let that one go.
"You think you could eat something?"
Dean nods, resting a hand on his tender side, remembering how the wound had burned, how it had felt like it was eating through his bones, how nothing seemed able to stop it from consuming him. He remembers another wound, from the same creature, and pulls his sheet back, sliding his leg up slightly to look at his calf.
It had been a dream…but it had also been real.
"You…uh…," Sam stops in the doorway and clears his throat. "You dreamed about that. A lot." His eyes are on Dean's scars. "You fought a Hellhound in Purgatory?" He asks and Dean realizes he's asked before, never receiving an answer.
"Yeah," Dean replies, hearing another echo in his memory. "Yeah, two of them."
Sam looks away, his face unreadable as he says, "And Benny was there."
Dean remembers seeing his friend's blue eyes glow unnaturally in the night. Remembers him approaching like the cavalry. Remembers Benny swinging the axe and missing. Remembers jumping from the tree to help and having his leg not hold him. Remembers Benny throwing him the axe, and yelling directions, seeing the creature with a monster's eyes. Remembers the feel of the hot, black blood spilling over his hands as he plunged the blade deep. Remembers Benny wrapping his wounded leg, throwing him over his shoulder, carrying him away from the battle zone. Carrying him to safety.
"Yeah, he was there. Saved my life."
Sam nods. Dean wonders how much he gave away while the fever held sway. Wonders what his brother is thinking in this moment.
"It was going to kill you."
Dean is quiet, thinking of what Sam had seen in that barn, of what drove his brother to make the choice he had, ignoring Dean's words – Dean's orders, really – and following his gut. He knows that had the roles been reversed, he would have done the same thing.
"I thought...I didn't know, y'know…that you'd taken them out before."
Dean huffs out a laugh. He waves a hand at his leg. "Not like I walked away from that one." He tips his head slightly, trying to catch Sam's eyes. "And I wasn't alone, Sam."
"I know," Sam says quietly, clearly chewing on a thought.
"You're gonna choke. Spit it out already."
Sam looks at him and Dean forces himself to hold his brother's eyes, steady, strong, though he finds he's shivering from the inside out.
"I meant every word, Dean," Sam says as if he's claiming territory in a battle they'd not yet started to fight. "I can do these trials, man. But…," he looks away, pulls at his bottom lip. Dean recognizes this habit, knows it's Sam searching for the right words, waits him out. "I can't do it alone," he says finally. "And I want you to know that I know that."
Dean looks down. He does know. He doesn't want to know, but he does. It's just not enough for Sam to fight these battles with him. Sam's still in danger, still at risk. Dean needs to know that Sam is safe, that he's kept Sam safe. It's the only way he knows how to think about this.
"We've survived so much, man," Sam continues, the door opened now, the feelings spilling out. "It's like…like all this weight. We have to carry it, no matter what, y'know?"
Dean nods, still listening, wanting to separate himself from Sam's words, but unable to.
"We thought it would end with Yellow Eyes, but then there was Lilith and Lucifer and the angels and," Sam pauses pinching the bridge of his nose, eyes closing for a moment, "the Cage. Now the gates of Hell…we just keep bearing the burden."
"It's what we do, Sammy," Dean says quietly, moving his legs to the side of the bed, thinking about standing. Every muscle in his body protests at once and he pauses, catching his breath. "It's why we're here."
"Yeah," Sam nods, looking up at him, and this time Dean sees conviction where moments ago he saw desperation. "Yeah, I know. And that's why I know we can do this. These trials. I can do them…if you're with me."
Dean sighs, looking down at the floor. He doesn't want to accept this, but he also doesn't want to live in a world where they had a chance to shut down the gates of Hell for good and didn't take it. It isn't the weight of the trails they are asked to carry that bows them, he knows. It's the weight of each other's sacrifices.
It's a weight that both ties them down and holds them up, a strange buoy of loyalty, need, and obligation.
It is a bond that keeps them alive and makes them willing to die.
He looks up, slowly, feeling the tired pull of each muscle, and gives his brother a small smile. He knows Sam has seen this smile before. Knows even before he sees it happen that Sam's shoulders will drop slightly, his chin will lift a bit and the lines around his eyes will smooth as he subconsciously relaxes into the knowledge that as long as there is air in Dean's lungs, he will do everything in his power to keep the darkness away.
"I'm here, Sammy," Dean says, keeping the smile in place. "I'm not gonna leave you."
Sam's eyes flinch slightly and Dean sees tears pool there. It's too much emotion for the moment and he finds he has to break it. "Weren't you gonna fix me something to eat?" He asks, furrowing his brows.
Sam pulled his head back with a grin. "Yeah, I think I could find something."
"Well, get on it, then." Dean needs to stand up. Get his balance. Remember where the bathroom is in this place. And he wants Sam gone when he tries these things. It was going to take some coordination after two days in bed. "I gotta build up my strength."
"Jeeze, you're bossy." Sam waves a hand at him and rolls his shoulder along the doorframe as he turns away.
"See if we still have some of that pie!"
"Yeah, yeah…," Sam's voice fades as he moves away from the room.
In the quiet of his room, Dean rests his elbows on his knees, eyes landing on the make-shift pallet Sam had been occupying when he woke, and runs his fingers through his gritty hair.
"I'm not gonna leave you," he whispers once more.
Killing Man by Jack Savoretti
I wanted to write this immediately after the episode aired, but Real Life had other plans for me. I realized I couldn't really approach anything else until I got it out of my system, so I thank you for indulging me if you chose to read.
Those of you who've asked, yes, I'm starting on my next SPN multichapter story, From Yesterday, featuring Brenna Kavanagh. Forewarned – it's an AU of the end of Season 5 and branches off into a different path for our boys from there. I hope you'll enjoy if you choose to read. Hopefully will begin posting in a few months.