Characters: Dean, Sam, Castiel
Rating: PG 13 (language, violence)
Warnings: Coda for 5X14; spoilers for Season 5 up to episode 14
Genre: gen, h/c
Disclaimer: Not mine
Word Count: 2400
Author’s Note: Love and gratitude for my betas, callistosh65and ancastar.
Summary: Sam’s pain, Dean's pain…it’s all muddled together, and Dean has never really been too clear on where his brother’s pain begins and his ends. And there is no way Dean is leaving Sam in that panic room to get through this alone...
“If you were dead, you wouldn’t struggle,” Castiel tells him quietly, as Dean reaches to unlatch the door.
Dean sighs—he doesn’t want to sound ungrateful but he doesn’t have time for this. “Cas. I gotta look in on Sam.”
But Castiel doesn’t budge, his stare pinning Dean uncomfortably in place. “The Horseman knows only hunger—he can’t feel grief…or love. He is not your judge, Dean.”
“Then who is?” Dean snaps, scrubbing miserably at his eyes.
He’s so sick of this crap—he has no idea why, but he’s about to cry again. He’d stayed outside in Bobby’s junkyard until he’d figured he was cried out. Guess he’d figured wrong. Once tapped, this well isn’t going to run dry.
“You and Sam need each other.”
Dean shakes his head. Dean needs Sam—always has, always will. He’s not going to lie to himself any more—there is no life for Dean that doesn’t include his brother.
But Sam needs a fucking miracle. He needs an army and not one wielding pitchforks and sporting horns. He isn’t going to be saved by a big brother who can’t protect him from a couple demons in a motel bathroom, not when the devil is determined to have him.
“Just lock the door after me, Cas.”
“What if you need help?”
Dean shoots him an incredulous look. “I’ll call.”
“There is no cellular coverage in the room. Iron is impenetrable to—”
“Yeah, yeah—I know. If I get in trouble, I’ll yell. But Cas, it’s still Sam. He’s not going hurt me.”
“He’s hurt you before. Sam is not himself.” Castiel says quietly, and Dean doesn’t want to get in an argument about it. But Cas was wrong before when he said that it’s not Sam in there—not really. The person behind that door is Sam. Dean can’t pretend any more that it’s not.
And the truth is that he really doesn’t know whether Sam would hurt him or not. It’s why Sam wanted to be locked up by himself until it was over. Said he couldn’t bear having anyone else’s blood on his hands. Just wanted to get it out of his system on his own, which was fine until he started screaming for Dean.
He screamed for hours before he stopped. For a while, they could hear him crying but even that died down. Dean can’t wait any longer—the memory of the last time Sam went quiet in Bobby’s panic room is forever seared into his brain.
“You feel your brother’s pain. You are not dead inside.”
Dean wishes he’d finished that bottle of whiskey—he could take a little less feeling at the moment. Sam’s pain, his pain…it’s all muddled together, and Dean has never really been too clear on where his brother’s pain begins and his ends.
Cas is wrong… Dead doesn’t mean an end to pain and suffering. Immortality sucks as much as life…you don’t get a break just because it’s the end of the road.
“Thanks for the pep talk, but I’ve gotta take care of Sam.” Dean tries to reach for the door again, but Castiel isn’t budging.
“Earlier…when you went outside…you asked for help.”
Dean looks at him sharply. “How do you know that?”
“Acts of faith…they resonate.”
Dean snorts. Faith has nothing to do with it. There is only Dean’s surety that Castiel’s beloved Father is out there somewhere but that he’s got better things to do with his time. Dean and Sam are orphans in every sense of the word.
“Thought your angel buddies cut you off the pipeline.”
Castiel frowns. “I thought so too. But there are indications that something is changing in Heaven…the rank and file are showing signs of unrest.”
Angst in Heaven … Dean doesn’t want to hear it—Lucifer can have the place for all he cares, so long as it saves Sam.
“Listen Cas… just do me a favor and keep watch… don’t open the door. Not unless it gets bad.”
“This isn’t bad?”
He’s got a point. “Unless it gets worse.”
Castiel unbolts the door but regards Dean solemnly. “Tell Sam to count and keep breathing. I found it… helpful…. while withstanding torture.”
It’s just plain wrong to get torture survival tips from an angel, and Dean wants to laugh. But these days, he can’t turn down anyone who isn’t evil, and who really and truly wants to help Sam.
“Thanks. I’ll remember that.”
Dean claps him on the shoulder, resists the urge to call him a good man. Dean wouldn’t wish humanity on his worst enemy, let alone his only friend.
Dean steps inside Bobby’s panic room. Behind him, he hears the clang of iron. It’s darker than Dean thought it would be—Sam has the lights off. There’s moonlight coming through the vent, but it’s not enough.
At first, Dean can’t find him. He is suddenly convinced that Sam escaped somehow, and his heart stutters before he sees his little brother in the shadowed corner, knees drawn up and head buried in his arms. Dean had hoped Sam would be sleeping, but there’s no chance they’d get off so easy. Sam is trying to make himself as small as he can. Dean knows when Sam’s trying to hide—he’s seen him do it a hundred times before.
“Sammy?” Dean’s voice scratches his throat, reminding him how little he has left to give.
Sam doesn’t answer, so Dean cautiously makes his way over in the dark. It’s only been a few hours, but the room already reeks—sweat and blood and piss…a whiff of Hell on Earth.
Dean crouches next to his brother, and Sam looks up. He can see Sam’s face in the distorted moonlight, and Dean wants to cry all over again. It’s such a violation—his Greek tragedy of a kid brother who never wanted any of this.
“Make it stop,” Sam whispers, and he buries his face in his arms.
It’s true, but it’s the straw that breaks him—they’ve been lying to each other for so long. There’s no telling what the truth will do. So Dean starts crying all over again because there is nothing worse in the whole world than Sam suffering and Dean not being able to stop it…not even able to lie that things are going to be all right.
“I’m sorry, Sammy. I’m sorry. I’m just so fucking sorry.”
But Sam cries out and rolls onto his side, arms wrapping around to protect his belly like he’s trying to keep his guts from spilling out. “It hurts, God it hurts.”
“Sam, it’s okay. It’s going to be all right.” Fuck this—Dean is going to lie. There’s no way he’s going to just sit here and take it. Not when they’re torturing Sam.
“They’re killing me—it hurts. I can’t…I can’t—I can’t…”
Sam is gasping between every word, and that’s when Dean remembers Castiel’s advice.
“I won’t let them get you, Sammy, but you gotta breathe. Count with me, you can do this.”
Dean manhandles Sam until he’s got him up against his chest. It doesn’t work as well as it used to before he turned into a freakin’ giant, but Sam is still folded up enough that the size of him doesn’t matter. It’s all Dean can do to hold onto Sam’s hands so he can’t scratch out his fucking eyes.
“Sam—Sam! Stop it, you’re hurting yourself.”
“Don’t let them…. Oh God, they’re in me…Dean—help me, please…”
Sam is soaked to the skin and shaking so violently, Dean can hardly hold onto him.
“Breathe, Sammy,” he says, but Sam’s beyond all understanding. So Dean starts counting for both of them.
One, two, three, four, five, six….
Cas was right—it seems to help. Sam is still sobbing and panting, but he’s calming down. It’s part of hell that Dean tries to forget—the fact that clinging to time was a hedge against eternal pain. Alistair told him time had no meaning—that there was no longer a beginning or an end.
But it was the memory of mortality that kept him going. That—and the memory of being Sam’s brother.
“…eight, nine, ten…” Sam hardly sounds human, but he’s counting along with Dean.
They make it to thirty before Sam gasps like he’s been stabbed, and he starts screaming again, trying to wrench himself away. But he doesn’t let go of Dean’s hand. Sam’s grip is so brutal, Dean is pretty sure they are both going to leave this place with broken bones.
“One—two—three…” Sam starts counting again. There’s something so absurdly defiant about it—Dean remembers how furious Alistair used to get when Dean wouldn’t break… he sees that same stubbornness in Sam.
Dean gentles his voice, makes it as soft as he can. “You’re doing good, Sammy. You’re doing real good.”
The counting breaks off…it’s too much. Sam is almost keening. “No don’t—please, stay, don’t go—please…”
“I’m not going anywhere.”
“Don’t let him take me. I don’t want this—don’t let him…”
Dean knows better than to make promises he can’t keep, but he tells Sam, “He won’t get you. You’re safe in here.”
“It hurts…help me, Dean—”
Dean squeezes his eyes shut tight, trying to figure out what the hell he can do that could possibly help. It’s like Cas said—Sam’s just got to get through this. But then Dean remembers something that used to work when Sam was little and couldn’t sleep.
“Okay, listen up, Sam. Are you listening?”
He can see in the moonlight that Sam’s lip is bleeding badly—looks like he bit right through it. But Sam nods.
“Stop biting your lip, dumbass. I’m telling you, man, when this is over, you and me…we’re gonna find a cabin somewhere…by a river. Maybe a lake…I don’t know. Maybe in the woods somewhere. I’m gonna go fishing every day until you beg me to stop bringing home trout, and you’re gonna take your geekboy classes online. You can finish up your degree if you want…I don’t care—whatever you want to do, you got it. I’m gonna work on the car, get her back in shape, maybe build something. I could build a deck. We’ll find a place that has room for a shop.”
Dean pauses to take a breath—he’s just winging it here—but Sam has quieted down and is watching him, tracking what he’s saying. It gives Dean the confidence to add, “I’m telling you, Sammy…you and me…we’re gonna find a whole new gig.”
Sam’s voice sounds terrible when he asks, “But…no hunting? What about the job?”
“I don’t give a damn about the job. The world can go to hell for all I care. Once we’re done saving it, we’re through.” Dean pulls Sam close again.
“Can’t save the world and damn it,” Sam mumbles against his shoulder, but Dean could swear he almost sounds amused. “You gotta choose one or the other.”
Dean chokes back an incredulous laugh—the idiot’s chosen a fine time to get legalistic.
“Like hell, I gotta choose. We save the world from the Apocalypse—we get to retire. It’s like tough love, dude. The freakin’ world’s gotta grow up sometime.” Dean runs a rough thumb over Sam’s disturbingly sticky hand. He can feel warm, wet places where a couple of Sam’s fingernails used to be.
Sam actually smiles, but then he sucks in a harsh breath and starts to tremble again. “God, oh shit. It’s starting…no, no, no…God, Dean, help me!”
They won’t leave him alone. Sam is clearly panicked—reaches around wildly and tries to dig at the concrete floor—Dean has a good idea where those fingernails went. But there’s no way Dean is letting go now. He counts the beats between Sam’s sobs, keeps time for both of them.
As he holds onto Sam, something stirs inside Dean, something he hasn’t felt for a while. It’s a change from the numbness, even from the pain. And it almost feels good.
Dean is pissed. He’s ready to clean his guns, buy more ammo, and get back on the road. Lucifer and all his minions can go back to Hell. There is no way Dean is going to let them keeping hurting his brother.
Sam may be the demonic world’s sweet little boy, but he belonged to Dean first.
“I’ve got you. Do you hear me, Sam? I’m right here.”
Dead men don’t struggle. But Winchesters do, and maybe Cas is right. Maybe there’s some hope in that. It’s so freakin’ messy—ugly and unoriginal as sin, but maybe it really is that simple.
It’s the one thing every supernatural dick keeps telling them—people matter. A couple idiots can change the world—but it’s not just by giving a couple dysfunctional archangels a free ride in a cheap meatsuit. Sam said no to Famine. That’s a start.
Sam’s chest is heaving. “I didn’t want to,” he sobs. “I swear I didn’t want to do it. Please don’t leave me, I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay, you’re all right…you’ll never be alone,” Dean whispers to his little brother, the One who Satan loves.
But who Dean loves more.
It’s been hours. Hours of screaming, hours of sweat and tears and spewed bodily fluids, and hours of trying to keep Sam from tearing open his skin to let the poisoned blood out. There’s nothing heroic or dignified about any of this.
Even though early morning sunlight streams through the ceiling vent, their dark night isn’t over, not by a long shot. But they survived, and that’s something Dean can’t completely discount.
Not dead yet.
Maybe… maybe his skyward plea for help went somewhere after all.
But no, if this is the way the cool deities answer prayer these days, divine revelation isn’t what it used to be.
Dean has been living this shitty life the best that he can, taking care of Sam, saving people along the way. He’s done some good where he can, and he’s not about to let some hungry horseman tell him that his life is freakin’ over without a fight.
“Dean?” Sammy’s eyes are still bleeding from where he clawed them earlier, and they’re so swollen he can hardly see. “You still here?”
“Damn right, I’m here.”
Dean holds on tight and means it.