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Death's Other Kingdom

April 1st, 2006 (10:25 pm)
aggravated

feeling: aggravated

Summary: Life before. Life after. Dean had seen so many turning points. But this one trumped them all. Before Sam fell. Before. And after.

A/N: I'm not even sure where to begin with this, how to preface this piece. This is a very depressing piece--not a deathfic, but in many ways it's worse than one, in my mind. It's not a piece be to read lightly so I just want everyone to be prepared for some heavy content to come. Thanks to geminigrl11, who has been instrumental in my completion of this piece. She encouraged me endlessly to pursue and finish it and sat with me for countless hours of revision and organization. Therefore I dedicate this to her with much love and thanks (and I'll throw in Sam's "I did" for you as well...you have to share the hipbone...and the pec flex...). 

Rating:  Gen, PG-13

Disclaimer: I don't own any of this stuff.
 

 

Death's Other Kingdom 

"Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to death's other Kingdom
Remember us -- if at all -- not as lost
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men
The stuffed men."

-"The Hollow Men," T.S. Eliot

 

Dean poked his 15-year-old brother, who was reading a book. "Sammy, would you rather be blind or deaf?"

Sam glanced at him, scrunching his nose. "What kind of question is that?"

Dean shrugged. "I don't know. Just a question. Answer it. Blind or deaf, Sammy--which would you rather be?"

"Dude, that's morbid."

"Is not."

"You don't even know what morbid is."

Dean sighed. "Answer the question, Sammy."

"Deaf--so I wouldn't have to hear you talking to me."

Dean rolled his eyes. "Real intelligent answer there."

Sam looked up at him. "Well, what am I supposed to say? How do you reason away one of your senses?"

"It's just hypothetical."

Sam went back to his book. After several minutes, he looked up again, cocking his head thougthfully. "You know, Dean, I'm not sure it would matter. Because if I was blind or deaf, wouldn't you just be my eyes or ears?"

Dean blinked, the earnestness of the answer surprising him. He stared at Sam, a feeling welling up in him that he couldn’t give a name to, but it felt like warmth, like light, like home. He shook it off, not willing to admit how much it had affected him.

"Yeah," he said with a grin. "I'd only let you walk into walls every now and then."

OOOOO

Life before. Life after.

Dean had seen so many turning points.

Before his mother’s death, before Sam left for college, before his father left.

But this one trumped them all.

Before Sam fell. Before. And after.

OOOOO

He had been on too many hunts to think that anything was simple, and the surprises each hunt threw his way never really caught him off guard. He’d fought fate so many times and won, that he had no reason to think that this time would be any different.

But luck can only last so long and skill can only go so far before something else is luckier and better.

He fumbled with his gun, trying to get a clean shot, but the thing was flailing around the room, attacking violently at furniture and anything else in his way. Sam was luring it away, trying to hold its attention, giving Dean time to reload.

But the ammo was stubborn and the lighting was dim. Sam was fast, but the thing was faster, and Dean heard his brother yelp before yelling, "Hurry it up, Dean!"

"I’m going, I’m going," Dean muttered, finally loading the gun.

He moved to cock it, raised his arm to aim, but it was too late.

Dean could see the look—oh crap—in Sam’s eyes the second before he flew out the window, disappeared from view in a shower of shattered glass.

Dean fired without thinking, and the thing fell without his notice. He just kept staring at the broken window, gaping now to the flickering lights of the dingy cityscape.

He almost didn’t want to look. He almost wanted to stand right there, to keep looking through the broken glass and hope that the fall wasn’t as long as he knew it had to be.

He didn’t know how long he stood there; he didn’t remember walking to the window. He only remembered looking down through the still night air and seeing the sparkle of glass in the streetlight, reflecting wildly in the alleyway, glimmering clearly even two stories up.

Sam was sprawled on his back. Cuts checkered his face and a darkness seeped out around his head.

OOOOO

"I’m afraid Sam’s brain sustained serious trauma. If he wakes up, he may never regain his full mental abilities."

Dean shook his head. "I don’t understand."

"The damage to Sam’s brain may be permanent. There’s no telling how much he’ll recover or how long it’ll take. But I think it’s very likely that your brother will not be the same as he was before the accident."

Dean was devastated; he had thought he wanted truth, but now he didn’t know what to do with it.

"We’ll have to see how it goes if Sam wakes up."

The if was not lost on Dean.

OOOOO

When Sam first moved, Dean was by his side instantly.

The doctors came, poked and prodded. Sam grimaced and moaned, shifting slightly.

Dean was waiting for more when the doctor smiled. "This is a good sign."

Dean didn’t know what that meant.

"He hasn’t showed this level of consciousness since his fall," he explained, noting Dean’s expression. "This is good news."

"But he didn’t wake up. When will he wake up?"

The smile was sad. "Dean, you need to understand the reality of the situation. Until now, I wasn’t sure Sam would wake up at all. He’d suffered a severe trauma. Every small improvement is an important milestone in his recovery."

OOOOO

When Sam first opened his eyes, Dean was the first thing he saw—Dean made sure of that.

But as he smiled hopefully into Sam’s hazel eyes, there was nothing—no recognition, no spark, just blankness.

OOOOO

The doctor sighed. "Sam is making progress, but I know it seems minimal to you. Unfortunately, at this point, I think the damage is permanent. Scans show widespread trauma. That means it’s not just a singular area that has been affected. We’re looking at setbacks across the board—speech, memory, motor skills. He’ll likely recover some skills, but the fact is, Sam will no longer be the same as he was before the accident."

"What do you mean?"

"He has to relearn it all—speaking, balance, coordination. With intense therapy, I believe Sam will accomplish these things to the point of nearly being able to perform daily life skills—"

"Life skills?" Dean was incredulous. "He went to Stanford—he’s brilliant, strong—"

"He was. But I doubt he’ll ever be that way again."

Dean shook his head. "I don’t understand."

"You’re missing the big picture here. You can’t focus on Sam’s higher education right now. Right now our goal is to get him to a functioning level. Sam can’t communicate. He can’t go to the bathroom without help. Luckily he seems to be achieving higher levels of lucidity—aware enough that he should eventually be able to function, perform basic tasks, but never like he was. And as frustrating as it is for you, it will be worse for Sam."

Time would prove that final statement to be slightly less than true. 

OOOOO

Sam learned two words. Dean and no.

Dean was the affirmative, the hopeful question.

No was everything else.

OOOOO

Dean first changed a diaper when he was four. He changed his last when he was six, when their father stopped buying them whether Sam was ready for that or not.

He still knew how, still understand the motions, but nothing had been harder to do than changing one on his 23-year-old brother.

OOOOO

There were moments when Sam would look him in the eyes, hold his gaze, and for a moment, Dean almost thought he could see his Sam, the Sam he used to know, staring back at him, begging him for help.

But the moment always passed and the look always faded, and Dean was just left with the same stifling questions.

"Is he in there? Just trapped in a body that won’t do what he wants?"

"Part of him. You’ll never know for sure how much he lost—both ability and capacity."

OOOOO

Dean’s first call to his dad told him that Sam had had an accident, that it was bad, that he wasn’t sure if Sam would make it.

Three weeks passed without anything and Dean called again, this time desperate and broken, to tell him that Sam was alive but he wasn’t okay, that he didn’t know if he’d ever be okay, that he was terrified and confused. He’d come close to asking for help, but he knew his tone of voice was clear enough, and let his message stand.

Three more weeks passed and Sam was nearly mobile, at least in a limited way. The insurance had fallen through and he was broke and Sam needed to be moved. Now he told John about long term care facilities and that Sam wasn’t making as much progress as hoped and that this wasn’t the kind of problem he knew at all how to deal with. This time he didn’t hold back on the plea, didn’t shy away, because he was a day away from bundling his barely functioning brother into a car and just driving. He didn't know what else to do.

OOOOO

The doctor didn’t want to let him go, didn’t want Sam to stay with some untrained, emotionally repressed older brother, and Dean knew on some levels he was right. But they had survived the death of their mother, the vengeance of their father, and countless supernatural foes. They had made it this far together. Surely the two of them could just keep on going, united in the face of the world.

He had faked confidence convincingly, promised he’d have Sam checked frequently, and nodded at the litany of advice and warnings.

He was barely out the door to the hospital, Sam leaning heavily on him, when he realized that together had always meant a balance, an equality between them. Where Sam was weak, Dean was strong. Where Dean was weak, Sam was strong.

But Sam was incomplete, and now so was he. He would have to carry the burden for both of them, fill in the all the holes himself, and try to find a way to make up for what had been lost forever.

Dean had nowhere else to go, no one else to turn to, so he went forward, carrying Sam with him, and didn't look back.

OOOOO

Dean’s eyes traced the dotted yellow line, followed it for miles upon miles, bending around curves, creeping up hills, gliding down slopes, stretching endlessly toward the ever-present horizon.

He’d been driving for as long as he could remember, for longer than he knew how to explain, always chasing that invisible point where the road met the sky. He was never any closer and never farther away. He’d traced that dotted line for miles and years, but nothing ever changed, it seemed, and he was always connecting the dots, one to the next, hoping each one will be the one that took him home.

He glanced to the side, and the sight was familiar. Sam was curled up as best he could, his head lolled against the seat. He’d had a headrest installed, didn’t care anymore if it made the interior less authentic, because it made Sam more comfortable, helped him keep his head upright, provided reprieve from the countless hours of sitting.

He even had one installed in his own seat, because he was always driving now, always at the wheel, and the constant sitting made him tired. It made his back ache, and the headrest provided him the structure he needed to keep himself erect, to keep himself awake, to keep him from plowing the Impala into the ditch.

Some things never changed; other things always did. There were opposites and constants, and Dean needed and hated each truth equally.

Sam would never leave now, that was the greatest irony. But he would never have Sam back.

Sometimes when his brother’s head was turned out toward the landscape slipping behind them and the sun was just right, he could see the hint of scars peeking out around Sam’s hairline and he understood their dirty secret, understood they’d both saved his brother and taken him away.

Growing up, Sam seemed to be the one always falling, and Dean would pick him up. But the scars represented the one time Sam fell and as much as Dean tried, he could only pick part of him up. The rest of Sam had fallen away. Dean didn’t know where or why but knew he would never get his brother back.

He clung to the parts of Sam he could, but it wasn’t the same, and he hated that he was the only one of them who really knew it.

OOOOO

He hadn't meant to start hunting again, but the news story was too pressing, the weight of unfinished business too real. So he packed Sam up and headed west.

He bought Sam a fountain drink, which Sam spilled on himself an hour in.

Patting Sam dry on the shoulder, assuring Sam he could get another drink, Dean doubted if this was a good idea.

But they had no where else to go, no other prospects, just that lifelong mission that wouldn't let either of them alone.

The haunting was simple. Dean was in and out. Sam stayed in the car, playing with the pair of magnets that had fascinated him at the last gas station.

When Dean got back, Sam grinned at him, holding up the magnets. "See?"

Dean smiled back, just as earnestly as the first fifteen times Sam had shown him. "Yeah, good job there, Sammy."

Sam looked back at the magnets, letting his awkward hands pull the magnets apart and then pull together again, his eyes tracing the movement with endless fascination.

Sighing, Dean started the car, thinking this might work after all.

OOOOO

The visions and nightmares were the worst. Sam’s abilities had been unnerving before but now they were overwhelming. Of all the parts of Sam’s mind Dean wouldn’t have minded losing, the freakish visions were it, and yet they seemed to be the one thing that remained completely intact. They still haunted Sam, more viciously than before it seemed, but then again, Dean could never be sure just how much Sam had kept from him before.

Sam’s response was heartbreaking.

They overtook Sam, overrode what little presence of mind he had anymore and dragged him down. The nightmares shook him from his sleep, leaving him panting and sweating, shaking and crying. And they came more and more during the day too. These were more painful and Sam collapsed under them, writhing from a pain he couldn’t comprehend, leaving Dean helpless to do anything except hold his brother until they passed.

Sam’s eyes would blink open and search frantically, panicked, never settling until he recognized Dean’s face.

OOOOO

Sam could walk, but not very far and never very straight. Dean made him practice every night.

He made Sam hold the spoon as they slowly emptied spoonful after spoonful of mushed up carrots into his mouth.

He made him fumble with his fly, made him pull it up and down, and then helped him learn to use the toilet, time after messy time.

OOOOO

Sam smiled more now, gave Dean large goofy grins for no explainable reason.

Sometimes Dean cherished those smiles, needed them, loved to see the joy that had long been absent even before the accident.

But they were double-edged swords.

The smiles were primitive emotion, a contented response to having basic needs met. They stood for nothing more, they weren’t earned the way they used to be, and they echoed hollowly with what Sam no longer was.

OOOOO

It was so easy to blame his father.

He was the one who started the hunt, he was the one that had sent them on this quest. Dean was following his orders.

He had always taken solace in that; it was easier to know that his will was not his own, that when he broke his brother's heart that it was all in the name of a great good.

That had been fine when it was Sam's heart because Sam could hide his heart, he could live emotionally crippled and still be an adequate soldier.

But hunting had taken his brother's mind, taken everything that made Sam Sam, and the chain of command offered no peace of mind for that.

In retrospect, Dean understood that grief had warped his father, that evil had taken everything good and sane and turned it sour and clouded. Dean didn't really remember his father, knew that that man, the devoted father, had died the moment his wife was burned alive on the ceiling.

But Dean was no longer sure that gave John the right to put life on hold, to put everything else aside while he pursued a vengeance that ultimately wouldn't bring anyone back from the dead or heal any wounds in the living. He loved his mother, and he loved his father, but he could no longer understand why they were all so wrapped up in a death that had taken place over 20 years ago, when there was a fledgingly life being squandered here and now.

OOOOO

Dean wasn’t surprised by the cry that shook him from his sleep. It was a whimper and a plea, and Dean had never slept that deeply anyway.

He was out of bed and by his brother’s without thinking.

"Shh, Sammy," Dean said. "You're okay."

Sam sniffled, trembling, and Dean pulled him into his arms, sliding into the bed next to him.

And Sam would curl into him, scrunching his tall frame into his brother. Dean would hold him until the tremors eased and the dream dissipated, and when they both woke in the early morning sun, Dean would be holding him still.

OOOOO

Dean missed Sam, wished fervently that he was still here, that this person who lived and breathed beside him would revert to the man he once was.

But he was still Sam.

This was the same kid who surpassed him in school when he was six. This was the kid who wrote his history papers in seventh grade. This was the younger brother who could theorize on ghosts when he was 13. This was the kid who got a full ride to Stanford and left everything and everyone he knew and made it anyway.

Sam.

Sam who sometimes couldn’t move his legs right and slammed into walls. Sam who couldn’t be trusted to stand on the slick surfaces of the motel shower stalls without slipping and taking the shower curtain down. Sam who would throw a tantrum when the motel didn’t have cups and ice bucket on the same tray because he liked that order, that consistency, that thing he could recognize and call his own from place to place.

OOOOO

They still needed money and he still hustled pool better than working a regular job. He positioned Sam at a table adjacent to the pool tables, drank a beer while Sam had a soda, acclimating both of them to the new environment.

Sam had never liked bars that much, but he didn’t know that anymore, or at least he didn’t recognize what a bar was.

He would follow Dean anywhere now, and Dean never thought he’d miss Sam’s doubts, but he did. He really did.

Looking at his brother, he made sure Sam held his gaze. "Stay there, Sam," he said.

Sam looked earnest.

"Sam?"

He smiled, looked almost proud. "Stay here."

Dean’s grin was appraising. "Good."

Dean was lining up his winning shot when he saw it happen. The guys at the table next to Sam—all gruff, mid-30s, half-drunk—were talking to Sam. He watched them roar in laughter at Sam’s simple replies, and Sam laughed too, not at the mocking he didn’t understand, but just the sound, the action that made him happy.

He cursed, abandoning his game, and almost made it to the table in time to stop the joking from turning malicious.

"—something right here, kid," one said, pointing at Sam’s chest.

Sam obediently followed the finger down, just in time to be greeted with a rough bop to his nose. There was no real force behind the movement, but it disoriented Sam and he blinked and his eyes watered, eliciting raucous laughs from the table

"What do you think you’re doing?" Dean demanded, moving defensively near Sam.

The guys backed off slightly, pulling back in their jubilance. "Just talking," the one replied.

Another snorted in the background, his voice slurred from too much alcohol. "Dude, he’s just some retard." He made the familiar mocking noise, snickering to his buddies.

Dean felt his rage mounting. He glanced at Sam, who was still rubbing his nose absently, looking uncertainly at his brother for a sign. Dean took a deep breath. "Let’s go, Sammy."

Sam let himself be prompted to stand, too eager to comply and he fumbled with the chair.

Laughter erupted again.

"Little ‘tard can’t walk straight," one of them hissed in giddiness.

Dean felt his control slipping and didn’t stop it. He hauled the guy to his feet and slammed a fist into his face without thinking.

Soon the whole table was up, moving instinctively toward Dean. Dean bobbed and struck back, able to handle the inebriated bunch.

Three of them pursued him, each taking their turn, looking for a weakness, keeping Dean occupied.

It was only one—but that was all it took—to not maintain a boundary of decency. There was a sadistic gleam in the fourth's eye as he approached Sam. Sam watched him warily; the activity had made him anxious, seeing Dean fighting left him apprehensive.

Dean threw down his attackers one, two three, and then turned on the man threatening his brother. He landed a hard fist across the man’s jaw.

The man reeled but stayed upright, for a moment looking ready to fight back. But then he eyed his downed friends uneasily, and snorted instead. "Just having a little fun with the idiot."

Dean moved closer, grabbing a fistful of the man’s shirt. "He’s not an idiot."

"That’s right. He’s just a retard."

The words echoed within Dean, resounding with the awful truths he tried so hard to deny. "He’s my brother," he sneered, "And he’s more of a man than you’ll ever be."

Dean held him a moment longer before letting him go distastefully. Wordlessly, he collected Sam, guiding his brother, and they exited the bar together.

OOOOO

They were driving through Nevada and Sam was wailing so loud Dean couldn’t think, couldn’t even drive. He pulled over and turned to his brother and found himself screaming before he knew what he was doing.

Sam quieted, streaks of wetness glistening on his face. Dean couldn’t stop screaming, incoherent, angry words, even when Sam looked terrified, even when it looked like Sam’s heart had been shattered into a million little pieces. His brother shrunk into the seat, ashamed and scared. When Dean flung the door open and slammed it behind him, he could hear the hiccupping sobs.

He walked out into the vast desert, only made it a few feet before he broke down and screamed and screamed and screamed. It was all so messed up and he didn’t know how to make it right, to make Sam right, to put all the pieces back together they way they had been.

He ended up on his knees, crying. He didn’t feel the desert sun pounding down on him, didn’t feel the dust that ground beneath his knees. He wanted to stay there forever, stay in angry denial, let the desert sun burn him up.

When he got up, his knees were stiff but he walked back anyway, back to the Impala. He sank into the seat, spared a glance at his brother. Sam was asleep, his eyelashes clumped together with wetness. His hair obscured the worst of the scars that traced his brother’s skull. Sam was leaned against the window, his body turned protectively away from Dean.

Dean wanted to say something, do something, but couldn’t think of anything. So he turned his eyes back to the road, started the engine, and pulled out again.

OOOOO

He heard Sam scream in a muted rage from the bathroom.

When he opened the door, he found Sam pulling angrily at his jeans, his whole body nearly thrashing with the effort.

"Sammy, Sammy, hey, calm down," he said, putting his hands on his brother to still his frustrated movements.

Sam looked at him wildly, tears on his cheeks.

"What is it, bro?" he asked.

Sam just whimpered.

Dean looked down and saw the wet stain on Sam’s pants. He forced a smile. "It’s okay," he said. "We can get you into a new pair."

"No help," Sam said forcefully.

Dean let an easy smile cross his face. "We all need help from time to time, Sammy. All of us."

He didn’t know if Sam believed him or even understood, but he let himself be taken out into the main room, let Dean carefully undo the zipper. Together, with slow movements, they removed Sam’s jeans and boxers, replacing them both with fresh pairs.

"See? All better."

Sam looked up at Dean, reluctantly returning the smile. "All better."

OOOOO

Sam didn't understand the pilgrimage to Lawrence, but he liked the vast fields of wheat as they crossed Kansas. He didn't know why Dean cried at the gravestone, but he knew enough to be silent and let Dean grieve.

Sam didn't understand the yearly trips to California either, but he liked when Dean took them to the coast afterwards.

Dean wasn't sure why he made the trip to Jessica's grave. Sam didn't remember her, and he had never really known her, but he knew Sam wouldn't have wanted to leave it unattended, that his brother would have paid his respects to abide the guilt that ate away at him.

Dean didn't see any guilt in Sam's eyes as he vacantly scanned the tombstone. But Dean figured that was okay. He carried enough for the both of them. 

OOOOO

The vision came from nowhere.

One minute he was talking to the waitress, the next Sam was writhing on the floor, screaming incoherently.

Another patron was kneeling by him when Dean got there.

"He just fell down," she tried to explain, attempting to restrain the young man.

Dean shifted her out of the way, taking Sam into his arms. "He's okay."

"Okay?" the woman asked. "He's hurt!"

"Should I call 911?" the waitress asked, leaning over them.

Dean looked up and regretted it, his face turning hot in the crowd of people. "No," he said. "It's okay."

The crowd watched as Dean fumbled with Sam, trying to pull the thrashing young man to his feet.

"Are you sure you should be moving him?"

"He's fine!" Dean snapped. "We're just fine! Just leave us alone!"

Sam was nearly standing but then nearly falling, and a man reached out to help, grabbing one of Sam's arms.

Dean pulled Sam away violently, his eyes flashing. "Leave us alone!"

The man backed away in surprise, and the crowd partly wordlessly as Dean nearly drug Sam from the restaurant.

Sam was moving now, but still crying, his screams silenced in Dean's grip. Dean could feel the tension of the vision leaving Sam as they exited into the sunlight but he still held his brother close. "We're fine."

OOOOO

He tucked Sam in, kissed him goodnight, and sat on the opposite bed, watching until his brother fell asleep. He was about to get up, to get ready for bed himself, when something broke inside of him.

Suddenly he couldn’t ignore the question, he couldn’t sit and look at his baby brother and not remember what Sam used to be, not remember what Sam would never be again.

Why did this happen? Why did he let this happen? Why Sam? Why this? Why?

But there were no answers and no relief. He started crying and couldn’t stop, laid himself down and fell asleep on the covers with his clothes still on, still trying to figure out where everything went wrong.

OOOOO

There were moments when he almost wished Sam were dead, that the fall had killed him for real, not just robbed him of who he was.

The thought always made him feel guilty, made him wish for some sort of penance he could serve, but he knew he was living it every day of his life.

Life without Sam would have been devastating, impossible. But life with this half-version of Sam was wrenchingly painful, longingly difficult.

OOOOO

Sam wasn't supposed to be here.

Dean had left him in the car, given him the magnets, left him with a pop, even his favorite blanket to keep him warm.

But Sam hated being alone more and more. He was harder and harder to appease.

As he faced down the latest monster, he heard the uneven sound of Sam's footfalls and knew he should have installed a child-safety lock.

Sam saw the thing lunge at Dean, and a brief flicker of understanding passed in his eyes.

"Sam, get out!" Dean screamed as the claws slashed his arm. He went down, the gun clattering to the pavement. "Go, Sam!"

Something unconscious triggered in Sam. Heedless of his brother’s yells, he tripped forward, his legs counting on fluidity not there. His left knee gave out and he fell on all fours, the gun now close to his grasp. He flailed for it, his hands grasping it on the second try.

The creature ripped Dean’s flesh again and he bit back a curse, knowing how jarring those were to his baby brother. How had he been so blind—Sam shouldn’t be here, Sam couldn’t be here, and neither could he. Without him, Sam would have no one, he’d get lost in a system, he’d be alone—

A gunshot shattered his thoughts.

The creature yelped, staggering off him.

Dean gaped in shock at the sight of Sam holding the gun in a familiar but foreign way, in a way Dean hadn't seen since before the fall. Sam's eyes were wide, uncertain now. The moment hung, all three beings too stunned by the turn of events to move.

The creature was the first to recover its sense. It took after its new threat with ferocity.

It only made it two steps before it fumbled, lurching forward uncontrollably. It made a guttural moan then collapsed in a heap.

Dean watched the beast fall still then turned his gaze in shock back to his brother. Sam was still holding the gun, still standing in a defensive position, fear frozen into his features.

"Sam?"

His brother didn't respond, simply stood, his eyes unblinking at the scene before him.

Dean scrambled to his feet, ignoring the pain in his shoulder and the blood dripping down his side. "Sammy?"

As Dean neared his brother, Sam finally looked at him, blank recognition on his face. "Dean?"

"Sam. Are you okay?" he asked, placing his good hand on Sam's shoulder.

The contact was all Sam needed, all it took to break open Sam's confusion and let it spill out. Sam's face crumpled and he began to shake as tears ran down his face.

"It's okay, Sam, it's okay," Dean assured him quickly, pulling his kid brother close and gently disentangling Sam's hands from the gun.

"Dean?" he asked between sobbing breaths.

"Yeah, Sam?"

Sam visibly stilled himself, attempted to rein in his tears. He took several deep breaths, sniffling until he was calm enough to speak. "Hurt?"

It was so sincere, so true, that Dean could help but smile. "Just scratches, Sammy. I'll be fine," he said, tousling Sam's hair in a familiar gesture of affection. "Thanks to you." 

OOOOO

It was so easy to blame himself.

It was easy to sit and remember his fingers numbly maneuvering the ammo, slipping awkwardly over the gun. It was easy to berate himself for not loading faster, for not being more prepared, for not being the one to be the bait.

He could trace all the events backwards, try to find their origin; he could connect all the dots, but the picture was never any different.

It was so easy to blame himself, but so hard to make it mean something.

Because every time he thought about that night he knew it was just one hunt among many, one misjudgment among hundreds, thousands. If it wasn't this hunt, another would have gone wrong. If it wasn't this monster, another would have done the same.

Sam hit the ground that night, but they had both been falling all along.

OOOOO

He had always promised that he would give up his life for Sam, that he would save Sam by dying.

He saw how he was wrong, that it was all wrong somehow. The greatest gift he could give his brother was staying alive.

Sam didn’t need a martyr; he needed a brother. He almost thought maybe that had been true from the beginning but it didn’t matter now, it was a question he could never ask. At least, not one that Sam could ever answer. 

OOOOO

"I've found it, Dean."

Dean had waited years and years to hear those words, prayed nights and nights that they would come true.

"I need your help to kill it."

For a moment Dean wanted to say yes, to drop everything and follow this man again, to finally make those years of service to him complete. But as he stood before his father, seeing that same look of dedication and anticipation on his face, he knew that he could never follow him again.

"No."

"No?"

Dean shook his head. "I can't."

His father was incredulous. "Why not? This is it. We can end this."

Closure seemed so appealing, but he knew it was a fallacy. "It's already over."

"We can do this for Mary, for Sam."

"Sam can't be our cause, Dad. He needs us alive and with him more than he needs to be avenged."

"Dean--"

"Stay with us. We can settle down. We can get jobs and stay with Sam. He needs a place to live, someplace consistent. That's what we can give him, that's what we can give Mom." Even as he made the plea, he knew it would not be understood, knew it would never be requited.

John stared at him, desperate and without comprehension.

Dean knew that his father could never stay, knew that his father would pursue his quest until the end before he ever understood what it was really all about. But vengeance wasn't a luxury Sam afforded him, and he didn't have the energy to figure out if that bothered him or not.

When his father left, it broke all of them. It would make his father fight harder. It would make Dean finally leave it all behind. It wouldn't change Sam, not this time, because Sam was already broken irrevocably.

OOOOO

They were supposed to go out in a bang. They were supposed to go down fighting demons, taking as many of them as they could with them. It was supposed to be a blaze of glory.

They weren't supposed to grow old. They were supposed to die young and brave, young and heroically.

Dean had never even realized that, but he knew it now, knew it so clearly now as the months stretched into years and the years disappeared into decades.

They were supposed to go out in a bang. Not with a dwindling, prolonged, devastating whimper.

OOOOO

The Impala needed a new transmission and he was getting too old for hustling. The price tag of the repairs was more than he expected, and it didn’t matter that the credit cards weren’t his, it still hurt to hear. When he hung up with the place, he flung the phone forcefully to the bed, kicking angrily at the nightstand.

Suddenly it all caught up with him and he didn’t know what to do, he didn’t know where to go. His skills were slipping and his desire waning—the hunt had never seemed so unsatisfying, so monotonous. Putting his life on the line had been something before, but he couldn’t let anything happen to Sam, and Sam followed him more closely than ever before.

He hadn't followed his father, but he hadn't left hunting, because he didn't know what else to do. But he stuck to easy gigs, small hauntings and low risk cleansings.

Sam was still improving, his movements still steadying somewhat and his vocabulary still expanding. He was happy as long as Dean was around, but the continual contact was wearing Dean out.

His father had never called again, never said two words since the he found the thing that started this, and Dean was beginning to not care if he was still alive or not. He could barely remember the meaning of the hunt, the purpose of vengeance, the value of following orders.

It was just Sam now, and he supposed it had always been Sam, but never like this.

He was crying before he knew it, long, hard sobs on the motel room bed.

He nearly flinched when he felt an arm around his shoulder and Dean recognized the soothing motion of the hand on his back as the one he had offered to Sam time after time.

Sam’s mimic of comfort was so earnest, so Sam, that for a moment, Dean believed in the impossible and looked up.

Sam stared at him, a plaintive, worried look plastered on his features, his puppy dog eyes wide and fully on.

He stared back at Sam, a feeling welling up in him that he couldn’t give a name to, but it felt like warmth, like light, like home.

He laughed, a strangled, disbelieving laugh, and let his brother hold him.

Comments

Page 1 of 3[1][2][3]
Posted by: Stacey (staceey)
Posted at: April 2nd, 2006 05:49 am (UTC)
big brother

Damn, you broke my heart with this.

Excellant writing though...just so freaking sad.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: April 2nd, 2006 01:08 pm (UTC)

Thanks! It was kind of depressing to write, but the bunny would NOT leave me alone...sorry for depressing you :(

Posted by: GirlOnFire (sacrilicious)
Posted at: April 2nd, 2006 06:00 am (UTC)

This was just...wow. Dean's anguish was very real. He loves Sam so much, and to lose him like this feels so much worse than having him just die.

Two lines really stuck out for me -

"You know, Dean, I'm not sure it would matter. Because if I was blind or deaf, wouldn't you just be my eyes or ears?"

and

Sam would never leave now, that was the greatest irony. But he would never have Sam back.

Sorry if this was a bit incoherent, but this story has left me speechless.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: April 2nd, 2006 01:11 pm (UTC)

I understand incoherence very well--so no worries. I've written deathfics before, but this one was far harder to write. There really are some things worse for death, especially for the boys.

Posted by: Vera (l_vera01)
Posted at: April 2nd, 2006 06:00 am (UTC)
whereuponxfiles

This was just brilliant. It ached with Dean's sadness all the way through. Well done!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: April 2nd, 2006 01:13 pm (UTC)

Thanks! In my mind this started as what if focusing on Sam, but as I pursued it, it became painfully clear that the real heartbreak is for Dean...

Posted by: seraphina (_seraphina_)
Posted at: April 2nd, 2006 06:02 am (UTC)
abandoned

no words, just the tears rolling down my cheeks. Beautiful job.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: April 2nd, 2006 01:19 pm (UTC)

Thanks! But I am sorry for making you cry...this fic was kind of a downer after an ep like "Hell House."

Posted by: seraphina (_seraphina_)
Posted at: April 3rd, 2006 02:44 am (UTC)

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: April 6th, 2006 03:24 am (UTC)

Posted by: seraphina (_seraphina_)
Posted at: April 6th, 2006 03:29 am (UTC)

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: April 6th, 2006 12:14 pm (UTC)

Posted by: Ajali (ajali)
Posted at: April 9th, 2006 02:05 pm (UTC)

Posted by: seraphina (_seraphina_)
Posted at: April 9th, 2006 02:29 pm (UTC)

Posted by: Ajali (ajali)
Posted at: April 9th, 2006 02:43 pm (UTC)

Posted by: This IS my warm and sensitive side (choasangel)
Posted at: April 2nd, 2006 06:13 am (UTC)

Wonderfully beautiful. Wonderfully sad. Beautiful. Heartbreaking.

Reminds me a woman from my church. She went in for surgery and ended up nearly braindead. She's no longer comatose, but still no where near who she was, and most likely never will be...really breaks my heart for her family.

Your stuff is always amazing to read. Glad that I found you over here too.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: April 2nd, 2006 01:22 pm (UTC)

This is actually my first post over here (and it took me FOREVER..this site is harder to post to than ff.net).

I'm sorry for the woman at your church...I have never dealt with something exactly like this, but my grandfather suffered from dementia for a few years before he died, so I have some grasp of how hard it is to have someone alive but for them not to be themselves.

And for Sam and Dean, their whole world is each other, and they have no other support system to turn to, which makes this even harder....

Posted by: This IS my warm and sensitive side (choasangel)
Posted at: April 2nd, 2006 06:28 pm (UTC)

Posted by: Courtney (aldrea7)
Posted at: April 2nd, 2006 06:20 am (UTC)

I...but...*blubbers*

I can't...hold me?

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: April 2nd, 2006 01:23 pm (UTC)

*holds aldrea* *offers tissue*

Sorry for making you cry! It was hard to write, and I almost quit it several times because it was so daunting and so depressing...but for some reason I couldn't leave it...

Posted by: wincestaddict19 (wincestaddict19)
Posted at: April 2nd, 2006 07:18 am (UTC)

wow that was really sad, also really good.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: April 2nd, 2006 01:24 pm (UTC)

Thanks! I hope it was too depressing :(

Posted by: Amy (whisp)
Posted at: April 2nd, 2006 07:47 am (UTC)
Tree

Already reviewed this at ff.net, but I totally didn't know you had an lj. Mind if I friend?

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: April 2nd, 2006 01:25 pm (UTC)

My lj is brand-spanking new--this was my first post with it (and it took FOREVER...I had no idea how difficult it was, unless I'm just completely inept!). So friend away!

Posted by: Amy (whisp)
Posted at: April 3rd, 2006 05:16 am (UTC)

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: April 6th, 2006 12:16 pm (UTC)

Posted by: Ajali (ajali)
Posted at: April 9th, 2006 02:08 pm (UTC)

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: April 9th, 2006 09:24 pm (UTC)

Posted by: Ajali (ajali)
Posted at: April 9th, 2006 09:43 pm (UTC)

Posted by: lisAHHH (exitosus)
Posted at: April 2nd, 2006 09:57 am (UTC)

This hurt so good. Wonderful. Beautiful. Perfect... iful, lol. Hate to be a greedy whore but I would love, love, love it if you would make this AU fic into a long-running series because I just adored this piece and would definitely love more of it. Thanks for sharing!!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: April 2nd, 2006 01:27 pm (UTC)

When I started I was considering making this a much longer piece, much more drawn out and detailed. It's still something I think about, but it would be SO HARD. This piece was emotionally draining to write--I tweaked it for days--it was kind of an obsession. However, I never rule out sequel, and knowing there's someone who would read it does encourage me...so no promises, but I'll think about it, but I think I need some time to emotionally recover from posting this.... :)

Posted by: lisAHHH (exitosus)
Posted at: April 10th, 2006 08:15 am (UTC)

Posted by: Port (desertport)
Posted at: April 2nd, 2006 11:27 am (UTC)

Wow. My heart is broken and, with that ending, fixed again. Not sure I've seen a fic where Dean grows quite this much. He fell into the caretaker role easily enough, like it came naturally to him. But learning to reexamine his life, the hunt and everything else he used to take for granted--and coming to the conclusion that he needs to stay alive for Sam's sake--that is something he may have never done without this tragedy. And poor Sam. I almost wish we'd seen more of him in this fic; there were times when I wanted to hear his voice, changed as it was, and had to settle for descriptions. Maybe those were enough, though. This was so wonderful to read. When I can take it again, I'm rereading, because, yeah, such great Dean, and that ending. Wow. *adds to memories*

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: April 2nd, 2006 01:32 pm (UTC)

I haven't replied to the posts over at ff.net yet, but yours was one that was at the top of my list. I'm glad that you managed to finish it--I feel terrible for writing something so difficult to read. I actually worried quite a bit about whether or not I should write this fic--it almost seemed like it could be offensive or just wrong to share, but I curiosity finally pushed me over the edge to share this. I don't have a lot of first hand experience with this topic, and on some levels, I'm glad to know I portrayed it realistically--I worry about that kind of thing.

Yeah, Sam almost is absent from this fic, which is odd since I always start writing with Sam in mind. I think the reason Sam didn't say as much was because I wasn't confident in how to accurately portray his condition. I did some research into TBI, but it wasn't very specific, and it was hard to hear Sam's voice like this, so I backed away from letting him speak.

Anyway, I'm glad you found the ending almost hopeful, because that what I was going for--I really didn't want to leave this as completely bleak. Thanks :)

Posted by: ahead on collision (memoriesconsume)
Posted at: April 2nd, 2006 05:11 pm (UTC)
[sw]well...fuck

Oh... Oh, ouch. This has broken my heart, left it bleeding. I don't have any words. It's so well written, so coherent, so believable. Because you can see it, how much they mean to each other, how much they need each other. So for Dean to have Sam, and yet not have him? That's got to be the hardest thing either of them have ever had to deal with. And the sad, bitter irony is that Sam doesn't even know he's dealing with it. Just. Wow. Thank you!

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: April 2nd, 2006 10:18 pm (UTC)

Thank you! I've always thought Sam and Dean were destined for tragedy, but I really hope it didn't mean like this. It's depressing sometimes to think that the "happiest" ending for them might be dying at the same time. I just can't see much else working for them in the long run....

Posted by: Amy (mellaithwen)
Posted at: April 2nd, 2006 06:18 pm (UTC)

Oh wow I need to stop crying like now...

Nothing more powerful than the scene in Nevada, with Dean on his knees screaming--just-wow, so glad you came over to Live Journal dude :)

Ah flippin' eck seriously, the tears

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: April 2nd, 2006 10:19 pm (UTC)

Sorry for making you cry!

I was coerced into coming over to lj by my beta. I blame her for EVERYTHING. It's like I didn't spend enough time on the internet as it was...now if I could just figure out the nuances of this site...

But I'm glad you liked it!

Posted by: Amy (mellaithwen)
Posted at: April 2nd, 2006 10:21 pm (UTC)

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: April 2nd, 2006 10:29 pm (UTC)

Posted by: Amy (mellaithwen)
Posted at: April 2nd, 2006 10:31 pm (UTC)

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: April 2nd, 2006 10:39 pm (UTC)

Posted by: Amy (mellaithwen)
Posted at: April 2nd, 2006 10:42 pm (UTC)

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: April 2nd, 2006 11:01 pm (UTC)

Posted by: Amy (mellaithwen)
Posted at: April 2nd, 2006 11:05 pm (UTC)

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: April 2nd, 2006 11:09 pm (UTC)

Posted by: Amy (mellaithwen)
Posted at: April 2nd, 2006 11:15 pm (UTC)

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: April 6th, 2006 12:20 pm (UTC)

Posted by: Amy (mellaithwen)
Posted at: April 6th, 2006 03:16 pm (UTC)

Posted by: Ajali (ajali)
Posted at: April 9th, 2006 02:23 pm (UTC)

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: April 9th, 2006 09:30 pm (UTC)

Posted by: Ajali (ajali)
Posted at: April 9th, 2006 09:43 pm (UTC)

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: April 9th, 2006 09:53 pm (UTC)

Posted by: Ajali (ajali)
Posted at: April 9th, 2006 10:02 pm (UTC)

Posted by: Andi (luvmax1)
Posted at: April 2nd, 2006 06:35 pm (UTC)
sam by dekolette

I read this last night, but I couldn't comment until now. Utterly sad, utterly beautiful. I think you ripped my heart out of my chest here.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: April 2nd, 2006 10:20 pm (UTC)

Aww...sorry for making you so sad! I had to rewatch this week's ep multiple times while writing this just to get myself un-depressed...

Thanks!

Posted by: Emily (esprit_boheme)
Posted at: April 2nd, 2006 09:51 pm (UTC)
Brothers

Hey, I know you! It's tricksters apprentice from ff.net. Love this story, just like I said over there, because they are so deliciously in character and real.

You might want to put this behind a cut, though, so that it doesn't take up too much room on your lj.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: April 2nd, 2006 10:25 pm (UTC)

HEE!! I know you too!!

This piece is my baby in ways I can't explain. It took something out of me to write it, so I've become quite protective and fond it. It's the only thing I've ever written that actually hurt, which is saying something in light of the deathfics I've penned.

Okay. lj cuts. I did have help while posting this (and the process was annoyingly messy for me--is that normal?) but unfortunately the person who helped me has never done an lj cut right in her life so she couldn't help me. So while I would happily put this behind an lj cut--I have no idea how.

Posted by: Emily (esprit_boheme)
Posted at: April 2nd, 2006 10:37 pm (UTC)

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: April 2nd, 2006 10:58 pm (UTC)

Posted by: Emily (esprit_boheme)
Posted at: April 2nd, 2006 11:11 pm (UTC)

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: April 2nd, 2006 11:30 pm (UTC)

Posted by: Emily (esprit_boheme)
Posted at: April 3rd, 2006 12:21 am (UTC)

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: April 3rd, 2006 01:30 am (UTC)

Posted by: Emily (esprit_boheme)
Posted at: April 3rd, 2006 07:44 pm (UTC)

Posted by: Emily (esprit_boheme)
Posted at: April 6th, 2006 10:24 pm (UTC)

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: April 6th, 2006 10:59 pm (UTC)

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: April 9th, 2006 09:23 pm (UTC)

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: April 2nd, 2006 10:10 pm (UTC)

excellent !! yet..so sad lol

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: April 2nd, 2006 10:25 pm (UTC)

Thanks!

130 Read Comments
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