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SPN Fic: It's Not Who You Are (It's What You Do That Matters) 1/1

May 5th, 2011 (07:39 am)

Title:  It’s Not Who You Are (It’s What You Do That Matters)

Disclaimer:  Not mine.

A/N:  I wrote this a while ago but somehow I sort of forgot about it.  I’m mostly posting it because I told myself I would post most of the random files on my computer and this is among them.  I wrote it post S5 with no notions of S6.  To that end, I haven’t even watched any of S6 so this doesn’t have anything to do with that :)  This also wouldn’t have been posted without the wonder and kindness of sendintheklowns , who gave this a beta for me :)  I tweaked and added some things after her read, so mistakes are my own sloppiness.

Summary:  One last choice, and this one will define him forever, because he thinks it’s the last thing he’ll ever do.


Sam is six, and he learns the most important lesson in his life.  It’s not about math, though sometimes he thinks it could be.  It’s not even about Thundercats, even if Dean makes a pretty convincing argument.

It’s about what really matters in life.  See, they’ve just moved to a new town.  It’s a nice place, Sam thinks, and he likes the park downtown, along the storefronts that are all neat and straight, with brick fronts and slanted roofs, just like on TV.  The school is nice, too, and Dean walks Sam to his classroom every day.

His teacher is nice.  Pretty, or so Dean tells him.  She smiles a lot and smells like peppermint.  Sam likes that, and he likes the pen she wears around her neck, always waving in children’s face when she leans over to check their math.

Sam gets a desk in the front of the room and a cubbyhole at the end of the line.  All the other kids have decorated theirs, but Sam’s come late and doesn’t have time.  Mrs. Gallagher gives him a few stickers of dinosaurs for effect, but it still doesn’t look the same, and everyone else seems to know.

In fact, everything is nice except everyone else, because the kids are mean to him.  Sam tries to figure out the problem, and thinks first it might be his clothes.  Most of them are all too big by at least two sizes, and some of them have holes in the armpits.  His jeans either scrape his ankles or have to be rolled three times just so Sam doesn’t trip.  And his hair is longer than the other kids, and he has to hold it out of his face sometimes just so he can see.

Sam also thinks maybe it’s because he’s not involved with any of the same things.  He doesn’t play on the community soccer team and he doesn’t have a part in the community theater.  He doesn’t even go to the park on Saturdays for crafts and snacks, like most of the others do.  His dad doesn’t come in during parent week and he has no mom to volunteer to provide snacks on the field trips.

For awhile, this makes Sam sad.  He doesn’t like being different, and he doesn’t like feeling left out.  But Sam can still do his best--and that’s just what he does.

If he doesn’t have the same clothes, he’ll learn to write his letters clearer.  If he isn’t involved with the same activities, he’ll spend more time practicing reading.  If he doesn’t have parents to come to all the events, Sam will practice his multiplication tables in his head.  Sam doesn’t make friends, but Mrs. Gallagher places him in the highest learning groups and invites him to join the extended learning program at school.

Sam likes that, and the more Sam learns, the more he wants to know.  Because this is the first lesson Sam really remembers, even more clearly than tying his shoelaces.  It’s like a rule, Sam thinks.  Something he can live by, something he can take with him from place to place, no matter how often Dad’s job makes them move.

In the end, it isn’t who Sam is--white trash, Lose-Chester, nobody--it’s what he does that sets him apart, and it’s a lesson Sam learns better than the rest, and never lets himself forget.


Sam’s fourteen, and he’s a hunter.  This is what his father tells him, day after day.  This is what his father makes him be, with the training and the studying of ancient religions.  This is what he lives and breathes, this is the option laid out for his life.

Sam’s okay at it.  Memorizing Latin chants is a cinch, and hitting pop cans off fences gets easier when Dean shows him how to aim.  He’s got a ways to go in hand to hand combat, though.  He’s  small and lanky, and he’s just as likely to trip over his own feet as he is to get taken down by a well timed hit from Dean.

Sam’s okay at it, and he’ll get better.  This is the promise he’s given.

But promises aren’t hope.  Improvement isn’t a life.

Sam’s fourteen, and he’s a hunter, and he wakes up each morning wondering why he bothers.  What is there beyond monsters and killing?  What can he look forward to beyond sharpening his skills and staying alive?

It’s all going through the motions.  It has been since Sam learned the truth about his family, about himself.  For eight years, Sam operated under the delusion that he could be who he wanted to be, and now that his destiny is laid out before him, striving to meet it is a mundane task Sam dreads.

Sam writes a paper in school--one of the few he’s bothered to turn in this year, especially since they’ll be leaving soon--and he tells the truth.  He knows he’s not supposed to--it’s a family rule, we do what we do and shut up about it--but no one will believe him anyway.  No one ever has.

Mr. Wyatt doesn’t believe him, but sees something in him anyway.  Mr. Wyatt asks Sam to stay after class and doesn’t look at who Sam is, but looks at what he’s done.  Not killing werewolves, of course, but the words themselves.  The story on the page.  Mr. Wyatt looks at what Sam’s done and sees potential.  Possibility.  A chance.

These are things Sam doesn’t understand.  Doesn’t even know how to approach.  But when Mr. Wyatt asks the question, asks if Sam’s happy, Sam realizes that if who he is doesn’t make him happy, then what he does damn well better.


Sam has these dreams.

At first, he thinks they’re flukes.  He’s prone to fears that seem irrational to his friends and Sam figures ten years of hunting down things that go bump in the night is going to leave some not-so-nice lasting marks on him, both physically and emotionally.  But this dream is vivid and darker than most, and Jessica on the ceiling seems so real that he wakes up screaming the first time he dreams it.

It doesn’t get better, but he learns how to control it more.  He doesn’t want to let her know.  Doesn’t want anyone to know.  He tells himself that his subconscious is trying to sabotage him, that these dreams are just his doubts manifesting themselves.  Asking Jess to marry him will be a big step, and there’s still so much she doesn’t know about who he is.

So much she never has to know.

That’s what the dreams are, he tells himself.  That’s what they have to be.

But Jessica doesn’t need to suffer for his weakness.  The dreams will go away, he thinks.  He’ll buy a ring and Jessica will say yes, and Sam doesn’t have to be that person anymore.  It’s not who he is, he tells himself.  It’s what he does.

And Sam does a lot of things right.  He studies hard, works even harder.  He’s good to Jessica, listens to her and makes her dinner when she’s had a long day.  He is loyal to his friends, and has a good plan for a future.  He can provide Jessica with the things she needs and a lot of what she wants.  This is what Sam can do, and he’s going to work hard until he gets there.

When Dean shows up in the middle of the night, Sam knows he can’t turn his brother away.  He can’t let him go empty handed.  This is about what he does.  His choices matter.

He chooses to go with Dean.  He kisses Jess on the cheek and tells her he’ll see her in a few days.

When he gets back, he feels good.  But when he lays down, something drips on his head and for a second he thinks he’s dreaming, but he can feel the heat of the fire on his skin and he knows he made the choice to ignore this, he made the choice to leave her, he made the choice, and this is the aftermath he can’t avoid and will never get over.


Sam knows this has always been about revenge.  This is why they started this, this is why Sam came back.  To make his mother’s death right.  To avenge Jessica’s final moments.  This is what’s driven Sam, this is what’s kept him going even when nothing else seemed to make any sense.

Grief and anger can define a man, and Sam knows.  Sam saw it in his father, and he knows it in himself.  So many other things fell away, so many other hopes and dreams he’d had.  So many ideals stopped mattering the way they used to.  Because there are some failures that change everything, and Sam’s just a man trying to rebuild a fallen castle, one brick at a time.

And this is his chance.

The demon in front of him, captive and immobile.  The gun in his hands that can kill anything.

Pull the trigger.

Make it right.

End this.

Sam looks at his father’s face, hears his brother’s voice.  “No, Sam...”

It feels almost like a force Sam can’t stop.  Pulling the trigger would be who Sam is, and no one could blame him for that.  But it’s not who he is...

It’s what he does.

There’s pleading in his brother’s voice and desperation on his father’s.  Sam’s heart skips a beat, and it’s just enough.  The demon escapes, disappears, and Sam is left with a broken brother, an angry father, and a failed chance at redemption.

In the car, driving to the hospital, his father reprimands him, tells Sam he thought he understood now, after all these years.  He tells Sam that revenge comes first, before everything else.

It could be true, Sam thinks, but when he looks in the mirror, he sees his brother’s face, and shakes his head.  “No, sir,” he says, because he wants it to be true.  He can make it true.  He can.  “Not everything.”


The demon has brought him here, to this town in the middle of nowhere, because of who Sam is.  Sam has a destiny, after all.  He’s still not sure what he’s supposed to do, but he’s got demon blood coursing through his veins and his only ticket out of here is to kill or be killed.

Sam wants to talk this out.  Wants to convince the others to join him.  But Ava’s out of her mind and Andy’s already dead and Lilly was gone before he even had a chance to know her at all.  Jake seems reasonable enough, but Jake’s got a destiny, too.  And the soldier’s only way out is to kill or be killed, and it’s pretty clear which path Jake is going to take.

It’s hard to blame him, because Sam can feel the pull.  Sam doesn’t want to die here.  Sam doesn’t want to die at all.  Sam wants to get back to his brother, tell Dean he’s okay, even though it’s a lie.

This is what it’s about, Sam realizes.  This is what it’s been building toward.  The dreams, the visions, the other kids like him: this is who he is.  This is why his father told Dean to save him or kill him, this is why Sam’s felt cursed in every relationship he’s ever had.  This is why his mother died, this is why Jessica burned.  This is why Sam can see people die in his sleep and this is why he can survive a demonic virus without so much as spiking a low grade fever.

Sam has been chosen, since birth--maybe before.  And standing there, with Jake standing between him and survival, Sam doesn’t even know what choice there is.

Jake will kill him, Sam knows.  Jake will smash his nose into his skull, snap his neck like a twig, punch a hole through his ribs. 

Somehow, Sam gets the upper hand, knocks Jake out cold on the ground.

And Sam looks at him.  Sam stands above him, the metal in his hand and looks.

He sees the face of a man who was going to kill him.  Sees the face of someone who would leave Sam for dead to save his own skin.  Sam owes him nothing.  Sam would be right to kill him, right to end this right here, right now.

It’s why he was brought here, after all.  Kill or be killed.  Fulfill his destiny.  Flip the switch, let it happen.  It’s hardly Sam’s fault.  He didn’t choose this place.  He didn’t choose this fate.  He didn’t make these rules, and survival has always been the highest law.

Sam can end it with a single swing.

Sam can take a life and be justified in doing it.

Sam can, because it’s what Sam’s meant to do.  It’s who Sam is.

The anger surges, builds a little more.

Killer.  Murderer.  Chosen. 

And he lets his arm drop.  His damage shoulder aches and his ears are still ringing.

This may be who he is, but it’s not who he is that matters.

Sam lets his enemy live.

Sam turns his back.

It’s not who he is.  It’s what he does.  And Sam can’t--won’t--regret that.  Not now. 

Not ever.


Rules are made to be broken.  Cliches exist to be defied.

Sam’s always told himself that it’s not who he is that matters, but what he does that makes a difference.  He’s lived by it.  He dies by it.

But rules, you see, they’re made to be broken.  Cliches exist to be defied.

Sam dies in Cold Oak, a knife to the back, severing his spine and leaving him breathless in the dirt.  He dies on his knees, in his brother’s arms, breathes his last with the smell of leather in his nose.  He thinks for a moment, maybe he’s going home, or as close as he might ever get.

Sam comes back to life in Cold Oak.  He wakes up on a rickety mattress in a log room he doesn’t recognize.  There’s a scar on his back and an emptiness in his soul, but his heart is beating sure as ever.

Sam learns that this is the power of a choice.  This is the power of self determination.  Sam can die upon his own sword, but he can only be brought to life on the sword of another, and Sam doesn’t know what to do with that.  Sam is brought back to life because he’s someone’s brother, not because he deserves it. 

What Sam does know, is that this makes him someone else now.  Someone different, someone older.  Someone with more to lose and less to gain.  He’s living on a clock now, waiting for his brother’s deal to run out or his powers to just explode.

And what he does next is anyone’s guess, and Sam’s not even sure he wants to know.


Sam’s the problem.

That’s what they tell him when they lock him in.  That’s what they tell him when they tie him down and leave him to his delusions.  That’s what they tell him.

His delusions tell him that, too.  Sam’s the problem because he’s evil.  He’s got demon blood in him and he’s a no good addict.  Sam’s not a person anymore; he’s just a series of mistakes, one worse than the last.

He doesn’t know how he gets out, but leaving isn’t really a choice.  He’s crawling in his own skin, strung so high he can barely think straight.  He doesn’t care who he is.  He just cares that he gets himself out of there and sane again.

Ruby’s given him the runaround and when he finally finds her, it’s rage and love and need all at once.  In the morning, he’s calmer, and the path before him is clearer.

When Dean shows up, Sam wants to be rational about it.  He thinks they might have a chance.

But when Dean looks at him.  When Dean looks at him.

He sees a monster.

Sam rages and Sam fights.  He has his brother on the ground and he thinks, if this is what he is, then maybe he should.  Maybe he should let Dean be right.

But he doesn’t.

He gets up and gives one last look.  “You don’t know me,” Sam says, spits the words because they hurt so bad.  “And you never have.”


This is Sam’s choice.  To go with Ruby, to kill Lilith.  It’s to save the world.  It’s the right thing.

But Sam doubts.  He still feels his brother’s neck in his hands, and he wonders if he can trust a monster like himself.  Maybe it’s more than what he does.  Maybe it’s who he is.  Maybe the monster in him will damn him no matter what he does.

But if he trusts Dean.  If he goes back and makes it right.  Maybe there’s redemption, even for a monster.

He might turn back, but Dean’s voicemail is the last bit of condemnation he needs.  There’s nothing left of him to save.  There’s just this last choice, and he will make the best one he can.


When Lilith dies, Ruby laughs.

She tells him that he did it, that it’s always been him, that it’s been in him all along.  It’s just who he is.

She’s wrong.

The problem isn’t who Sam is.  It’s what he did.  And even as he holds Ruby and lets Dean's knife finish the job, even as he holds onto his brother’s jacket, he can’t undo this choice.  Can’t undo anything.

Sam’s been so afraid of the monster in him, so it’s almost funny that it’s his actions that do them all in.

Almost.  But then the light engulfs everything and that’s all there is.


Rules may be made to be broken, but they exist for good reason.  Sam doesn’t choose his words to live by idly, especially the ones that have seen him through since he was six years old.

So Sam knows the doctor was right.  The doctor looked at Sam and saw an angry, disturbed man.  Sam’s been pretending that’s not true, but it is.  Sam is angry.  Sam is disturbed.  Sam is wrong.

This is who Sam is.

These things define him.  The grief of losing a mother, a girlfriend.  A father, his own life.  His brother, right in front of him, ripped to shreds because of Sam.

He’s used powers given by the devil himself and damned the world.  Since then, he’s made weak truces with his brother, forged uncertain alliances with an angel, and had a psychiatrist look him in the face and tell him that there’s something very, very wrong with him.

That’s the kind of stuff no therapy can fix.  The kind of stuff that gets people locked away for a very long time.

Sometimes Sam thinks he should be locked up.  Sometimes he thinks he still is.  Sometimes he can feel the shackles on his wrists, see the water on the table, hear the lock on the panic room snicking into place as Dean and Bobby leave him to rot.

He deserves that.  The drugs at the hospital were too kind.

Sam got out of the panic room.  Once, he doesn’t know how.  The other, after hours of detox that left him weak and helpless and foul.

He gets out of the hospital, too.  That’s a little easier, but not really any less humiliating.

He’ll take off the medical bracelet. The drugs will wear off.  But Sam doesn’t think he can leave everything behind.  Who he is--the angry man-- it’s still here, inside him, and sometimes Sam wants to lash out just to make it stop.

Like he did with the doctor.  Hands on flesh; hurt, kill, destroy.  It was for the hunt, he tells himself.  But Sam knows it’s not quite true.

Sam’s learned a lot about himself through all of this.  He’s learned that he’s prone to failure, no matter what he does.  He’s learned that there’s something evil in him--something so dark that he doesn’t really deserve to live.  He’s learned that good intentions don’t mean anything, and Sam always has plenty, but they don’t matter much now.

This is who Sam is.  This is who Sam fights every morning.  This is who he tried to run away from when he parted ways with Dean.  This is who he tried to deny when he called Dean, begging to be let back in.  This is who he fought with in the mental hospital, burning and breaking inside of him, screaming in the back of his mind with every passing moment.

Sam tells himself it doesn’t mean anything.  Sam tells himself that he is more than his anger.  Sam tells himself that he doesn’t have to be his worst moment.  Sam tells himself he can choose something different.

The thing is that Sam was right about this.  He was right when he told Max he had a choice.  He was right when he told Jake that there could be another way.  He was right to believe in Lenore, Madison, Andy, Ava--all of them.  They didn’t have to be evil, and some of them weren’t.  But some of them made a choice.  One last choice that they can’t take back, and it changed everything.

This is Sam now.  This is the reality he has to face.

Sam’s good intentions, Sam’s noble reasons--they don’t mean anything.  He still broke the final seal, Lucifer still walks the earth, and his brother can’t look at him anymore.

Sam doesn’t even want to look at himself.  He doesn’t want to get up day after day.  He doesn’t want to get into the car with his brother to fight demons and angels and anything else in their way.  He doesn’t want to, not now, not ever, not even a little.

Lucifer tells him that it’s just a matter of time.  Dean looks at him like he’s going to fail.  Castiel doesn’t have enough faith left for an abomination like him.

But if it’s what Sam does that matters, then maybe there’s hope.  Maybe there’s redemption.  Maybe he doesn’t have to be the vessel.  Maybe he doesn’t have to be the face of the coming end.  Maybe, maybe.

Sam’s pinned his hopes on less, and this is a lesson he knows so well.  He can still hear Dean: it’s not who you are, it’s what you do.

Sam’s the guy who ended the world.  And he’s angry as hell.  But he will--he has to--make it right.


Sam believes in Dean.

He’s not sure why.  Dean’s bailed on him, Dean’s told him that he thinks Sam will fail, Dean’s admitted that he thinks going to Michael is the only way to salvage anything.  But Sam can’t help it.  Sam has to believe.

Because Sam knows what belief can do to a man.  Sam knows how faith can change everything.  Sam knows how purpose can change someone’s outlook.

Only this time, it’s not for his sake.  It’s for Dean’s.

Sam’s seen his brother’s Heaven.  Sam knows what Dean wants.  Sam knows Dean’s still looking for the little brother who idolized him, who believed in his every word.

Sam’s not that kid anymore, but he can still give Dean what he needs.

So when Dean kills Zachariah, Sam’s really not surprised.  He’s not foolish enough to believe that it really has much to do with who he is.  Because Dean’s told him flat out.  Sam’s still the screw up, Sam’s still the one who can’t be trusted.  Sam’s still the one who made this mess, and he knows he’ll never regain the same place in his brother’s heart.

But this isn’t about who Sam is.  This is about what he does.  And he chooses to trust.  For Dean.  For the world.  And it makes a difference.

It makes all the difference.


Sam says yes.

It’s not the epic showdown he thought it’d be.  It’s not even the plan they’d mapped out.  But Sam is still the vessel and Lucifer is in the driver’s seat and it’s all Sam can do to just hold on and watch.

He watches as Lucifer kills the demons who haunted Sam’s life.  He watches as Lucifer rides out to Stull to meet Michael.  He watches as Lucifer pounds his brother bloody, fist after fist until there’s nothing left.

Sam howls with rage, he flails pathetically against this.  It’s fate, though, and Lucifer’s voice haunts him still: this is who you are, Sam.  This is what you were born to be.

And he’s right.  The fit is perfect.  The result is flawless.  This is who Sam is, who he’s always been.  This is who his father said Dean would have to kill, the one Dean never should have brought back.

In this, Sam knows himself like never before.  He knows every weakness, he sees every flaw.  He understands the anger that twisted him and he understands the need for control that pushed him over every ledge.  He understands how much he wanted to be accepted, but how that kind of acceptance was just never possible.  He understands that he’s a freak, a monster.  He understands.

And yet, Sam remembers.  Sam remembers the power of a choice.  He can live and die by his own sword not because of who he is--

A kid carving his name into the Impala’s trunk, a man watching the stars with his brother--

It’s not the kid, it’s not the man.

It’s the carving of the name, the watching the stars.

It’s not the chosen vessel.

It’s the letting Lucifer go.

It’s not who he is--

What he does.

Sam said yes.

That was a choice.

Sam can say no.

It’s a choice.

Sam says no.

And Lucifer can’t fight that.  He tries, but that’s just who he is.

Sam opens a hole to Hell and makes one last choice, because rules are made to broken, but they always win out in the end.

One last choice, and this one will define him forever, because he thinks it’s the last thing he’ll ever do.

Because Sam can’t change himself.  Sam can’t save his own soul.  But he can let go.  He can do something that matters.

He holds Dean’s eyes right before he falls, and hopes his brother understands.  Hopes he sees not who Sam is--not the good intentions gone wrong, not the good kid who went bad--but what he does.

Sam opens a hole to Hell and Sam says no and Sam lets go and if anyone wants to remember Sam, he hopes they don’t remember his tainted blood or his evil destiny but the last fall he makes, the last one that matters, the last one that changes everything.


Posted by: percysowner (percysowner)
Posted at: May 5th, 2011 07:39 pm (UTC)

This was beautiful and heartbreaking. Thanks so much for sharing.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: May 9th, 2011 12:21 am (UTC)
broken sam

Thank you so much for reading :) I know I've been all over the map with my writing these days; I wasn't sure how many SPN readers still paid attention to my stuff.

Posted by: floralia2 (floralia2)
Posted at: May 7th, 2011 09:09 am (UTC)
selfless - Dollhouse

I always love how you can totally get under Sam’s skin, and this is a really interesting look at the things that drive him. The fact that it’s the choices of the man, not the destiny of the monster, that get them where they are is heartbreaking. The ending is perfect, and his last act deserves a lot more recognition than I think it’s ever likely to get.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: May 9th, 2011 12:51 am (UTC)
brothers herding

I know the show has moved on, but for me, that moment at the end of S5 is still the quintessential Sam moment. I take so pleasure in the closure of it that I personally don't want to move on.


Posted by: dtwilight (dtwilight)
Posted at: May 7th, 2011 06:13 pm (UTC)

I really loved this!! Thanks for sharing.

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: May 9th, 2011 12:52 am (UTC)
brothers malleus

Thank you for reading :)

Posted by: carocali (carocali)
Posted at: May 12th, 2011 04:55 am (UTC)

How lovely to see you writing again. I love the roadmap of how Sam got to Hell. It was SO paved, and you played it out so beautifully.

Hope you're doing well!


Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: May 26th, 2011 01:15 pm (UTC)
broken sam

I'm always writing, though these days not generally in the SPN realm. I'm currently in the process of posting all the fics languishing on my hard drive, which is where this came from :)

I'm doing very well, thanks! We are currently expecting our second baby, so that's added a whole new layer of insanity to our household. I hope you're doing well, too!

Thanks :)

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