So Far Away
A/N. One-shot story. Not exactly a songfic, but a fic to a song, 'So Far Away', by Staind. I strongly recommend you to check it out. Thanks so much to Gaelicspirit, my beta in this little journey, a Staind fan and an amazingly talented writer as we all know ;-) Love u, babe!
So Far Away
That was it, it was finally over. All those years of fighting, of tears contained, of blood shed. After all the struggle and all the pain, after a life drenched in death, darkness, and fear, an ancient binding spell and a match were about to put an end to it all. Sam passed it to Dean, who lit it and threw it, and they stood side by side, watching the yellow-eyed demon burn.
The roar of the flames engulfed the sinister cry of the creature that had haunted Sam's family his whole life. He shut his eyes, sensing the glow of the fire through his closed lids. He breathed in deeply, letting the hot, sizzling air enter his lungs. He relished the heat, savoured it on his dry lips, and let it wash over his frayed nerves.
Sam felt like jumping. He wanted to dance, clap, and laugh at the same time. The hum of the fire was like music to his ears. He could feel his head drumming to the exhilarated rhythm of his heart pounding against his chest. It was over. It really was. Sam could barely believe it. He doubted he had felt more elated in his life.
At the same time, he had never felt so confused. It was difficult to wrap his mind around the fact that they weren't in danger anymore. Nothing was chasing them.
They had nothing to chase.
Sam licked his lips and exhaled, blinking his eyes open. The bite of the flames made them sting and water, but he couldn't bring himself to move. He glanced at Dean, who was standing right next to him, staring at the fire with an unreadable expression. The flames played tricks of light and shadow over his skin, and his eyes were bright. His lips were pursed in a thin line, his breath steady, almost imperceptible.
Mesmerized, Sam stared at his brother for a couple of seconds. He felt the urge to reach out for Dean, to force his big brother to look at him in the eye and tell him what he was supposed to feel. Because, honestly, Sam had no idea of how he felt and in that very moment he really, really, needed Dean to be his guide.
But he couldn't do that; he had no right. Although they were sharing the moment, each one deserved to enjoy it on their own; they needed to deal with it their own way.
Besides, Sam didn't need to hear Dean's words to know that they were thinking about the same thing: another fire, which they had also watched side by side. Only that time, it had been their father who had burned. About all the other fires that had slowly torn their lives apart, about their mother, and Jessica. About Jim, and Caleb, and Max's mother. About that girl, Meg, before being possessed by a demon and the person her demon-brother had once been. About Ava, and Steve Wendell, and all the other people who had suffered and died at the Yellow-Eyed Demon's hands during their crusade.
Suddenly suffocated by the heat, Sam fought a wave of nausea and crouched down, one hand planted to the ground. There, the air was slightly cooler and it felt good against his sweaty face. He felt a bit light-headed, like he'd held his breath for long. In a way, he had. He had been holding his breath for the last twenty-four years, during which time hunting had been a way of life and finding the demon his only purpose. Normalcy was simply a goal. Something to dream about, a reason to have hope.
Yeah, Sam was happier than ever. And he had never felt so lost. He gulped a cautious mouthful of air and stared at the fulfilment of their lives with mixed emotions of sadness and relief until a soft brush of fingers across his hair made Sam look up. Dean was gazing down at him, with a serene expression that spoke of tiredness and age and I know.
"Let's go," Dean said.
"Where?" Sam rasped.
Where? Where do we go from here?
Sam hadn't intended his voice to sound so broken or his eyes to look so forlorn. Dean looked at him intently for a very long time, with a blank expression. Finally he sighed and said.
"I need a drink."
On that note, the older hunter turned around and stomped his way back to the car. Sam huffed to himself and chewed his lower lip as he saw Dean walk away. He knew that his brother didn't have all the answers, not even his father had ever had them, so it was unfair of him to wish otherwise. After all, somehow they all had believed that their crusade would never end.
Now, watching silently the dying embers, Sam realized that he hadn't been ready to see that end. He simply hadn't known what to expect. Maybe a sign that his mother finally rested in peace or that Jessica had forgiven him; maybe he was waiting for his father to magically come out of the flames and pat his shoulder with his eyes full of pride.
When none of that came, all Sam could do was to stand up and steal a last glance at the ashes before going after Dean.
Dean drove them back to the motel they were staying at and left the Impala there, before walking to a bar nearby. Sam knew what that meant: Dean had every intention to get drunk. This time, though, he didn't expect Sam to wait around and drive him home. By choosing a bar so close to their room, Dean was giving him the chance to get smashed too without having to worry about the car. And alright, drinking wasn't really Sam's thing, but it was undeniable that that night was a special night.
The moment they entered the bar, they were enveloped by a warm, heavy atmosphere, smelling of beer and animated by an indistinct sound of chatter, music, and pool. The brothers shared a meaningful look. Although it was pretty much like all the other bars they had been to over the years, that night everything seemed different, unreal. Sam took a deep breath and clenched and unclenched his fists, willing himself to relax, because… Well, the demon was dead, and they had come to celebrate. Right?
Dean nodded his head towards a corner of the establishment and then to the bar. Sam bit his lip, because all of a sudden the mere idea of being more than two feet away from his brother caused him a cold sensation of vertigo. Childish and uncalled for as it was, being asked to get a table while Dean went to take care of the drinks elicited the same reaction he would have had if asked to jump off a cliff. But of course, he managed a nonchalant nod and did what was expected from him.
Once at the table, Sam looked around, taking in the sense of casualness, of normalcy, that seeped all through the place. He could hear the conversations, the laughter, the click of bottles and glasses around him, but it was as if his brain refused to process the sounds. Dean reappeared at his side with two beers and nudged Sam with his. The younger brother took it, vaguely wondering whether a couple of drinks would get him to feel something other than the numbness that had taken over his body since they have left the fire behind. With that in mind, he chugged his beer silently and put it back on the table when it was empty, earning himself a curious look from Dean.
"What?" Sam asked defensively.
Dean gave him a soft, amused smile and shook his head slightly before tossing an absent look around. Something appeared to catch his attention and he looked back at Sam with a playful glint in his eye.
Sam followed Dean's nod and spotted a vacant pool table in the corner.
"Dean…" he started, not really in the mood for hustling.
"C'mon, just a couple of games," Dean pressed. "You and me?"
Sam frowned at Dean incredulously, looking for the catch. Dean and he hardly stayed together in bars. Usually they shared a couple of drinks and then Dean was off hustling or flirting or whatever, while he stated at the table, surfing the net or reading, bored out of his mind. Dean must have understood his bewilderment, but he still held his gaze, waiting for him to accept. Because, above anything, Sam was a little brother and, as such, he reacted almost physically whenever his cool big brother said he wanted to play with him.
This time was no different, and Sam couldn't stop the tiny smile that lit up his face. Dean smiled back and arched an eyebrow.
"So?" he prompted, although he already knew the answer.
"Alright", Sam shrugged in a tone that said 'if you insist' that elicited a soft chuckle from Dean.
"Alright then. Go ahead. I'll go get us another drink."
Sam shoved his brother and Dean shoved him back as a response, before heading to the bar again. Sam's eyes followed him for a minute and then stood up and trod towards the table with a lighter air around him. When Dean joined him he was carrying two more beers, one for Sam and another one for himself.
"Do you want to break?" Sam asked.
"Ladies first," Dean replied, motioning for Sam to open the game.
Sam scoffed, but took his position next to the table and broke with an outstanding stroke that silenced Dean, much to his enjoyment.
It had been ages since the last time they had played together just for fun, without holding their game back in order to con somebody, and he barely remembered how good it felt. And the best part was that Dean seemed to feel the same way; since an easy half-smile lingered on his lips, usually aimed at Sam, whenever their eyes met.
The night had definitely taken on a surreal feel. Sam had to shake his head at the thought, because, after all, their lives had had to be really screwed up if playing pool with your brother without an agenda was the surreal fact, instead of that of watching a demon burn. Anyhow, the younger hunter was starting to think that he could get used to it. Because, for the first time in months, Dean was laughing, really laughing, and Sam felt his stomach tingle and unclench, just a little, enough to have his legs going weak in the knees.
Sam felt like laughing too, but it wasn't relief. Not exactly. As a matter of fact, Sam knew that it was closer to hysterics, and he had the impression that if he let go he would break into a full-fledged fit. The only thing that was keeping him together was his brother's continuous teasing that both calmed him down and forced him to keep his mind on the game. The easy bickering back and forth was familiar and real. It was their normal to dare each other and mock their respective strokes even though they were well aware that the banter hid its share of sincere admiration on both sides.
The older brother won the first game, but Sam beat him in the second. The third game was tight; the two of them played at their best, giving free rein to their competitiveness. The level of the game was such that it gathered a little crowd of onlookers who started to cheer when a particular shot was especially brilliant, but the brothers didn't even notice their presence. Only at the end, when Sam won out of a lucky shot and the crowd started clapping did they realize that they had somehow become the center of attention. Sam blushed furiously, at which Dean couldn't help a laugh.
"Looks like you've got yourself some fans, Sammy," he teased.
"Shut up," Sam grumbled mortified.
Dean's smile widened and Sam was about to point out that he had just beaten him just to wipe out the grin of his face when a bunch of kids appeared by his side.
"Man, that was awesome! I hope you don't mind us asking but, are you professional players or anything?"
Startled, Sam turned around to find three guys and a girl, of about his same age. A couple of them wore college jackets, and, beers in hand, they all stared at the brothers in honest awe.
"No," Sam cleared his throat uncomfortably. "Not really. We've been playing for a while, that's all."
"And here we were thinking that Pete was good, huh, Pete?" One girl teased, nudging the tallest guy playfully. "You still think you could beat him?"
Pete smiled good-naturedly and looked at Sam.
"What do you say?" he nodded to the table. "Best of three?"
"Why do I have the feeling this will be over soon?" One the boys whispered to the girl, who giggled.
"Hey!" Pete protested, feigning indignation. "What side are you on?"
"Aww," the girl cooed.
Pete was rewarded with a hug from her and Sam found himself smiling at the image. They reminded him of he and his friends at Stanford, and he couldn't help but wondering what they might be doing. Would they be casually playing pool at the bar of the campus, a drink in their hands, as they had done so often in the past? Would they remember him? Would they remember Jess?
"So?" Pete prompted. "C'mon, man, you have to do me this favor. My honor is at stake!"
Sam gave a soft snort and eyed Dean out of the corner of his eye. The elder's expression was inscrutable, but his lips tugged up a little as he looked back at Sam and he gave him a little shrug. Sam shook his head almost imperceptibly. He didn't feel like hanging out with strangers, friendly as they might be. Not that night.
"Sorry, man. I think I'm done for the night."
"Ah, come on!" Pete pushed.
"Yeah," another one of his friends intervened. "I mean, we joke and all, but he's quite good, honest. You won't get bored."
"Go ahead, Sammy."
Dean had stepped closer to Sam. The latter shot him a disbelieving look, but Dean simply arched an eyebrow.
"Hey, he's daring you. And no Winchester runs away from a challenge."
"Dean, no…" Sam started.
Dean sighed, grabbed his brother's arm and brought him closer.
"Dean…" Sam muttered begrudgingly.
"Sam," Dean countered, his voice low to match his brother's. "You'll have fun," he shrugged matter-of-factly. "Besides, it's not everyday that you can kick some locals' asses with them begging you to."
"I'll be fine." Dean gave Sam's arm a brief squeeze before releasing him. "I'll be more than fine, actually. Looks like I've got myself some fans, too."
Sam frowned and glanced in the direction Dean's nod was indicating to find a nice-looking redhead perched on a stool and looking meaningfully at them.
"You're unbelievable," Sam sighed.
Sam looked back at his brother, who gave him a smug grin. The younger huffed, but his lips curved up on their own volition. He had enjoyed the idea of spending the evening with Dean, but, after all, his brother had the right to unwind too, and if he preferred some other kind of action, Sam wasn't going to get in the way.
"Okay," he gave in reluctantly.
"Okay," Dean repeated. His smile softened and for a split second an emotion hard to define flickered behind his eyes, but soon enough the wicked expression was firmly back in place and he winked at Sam. "Go and make me proud."
"Jerk," Sam blurted.
"Bitch," Dean replied, pushing Sam towards the table.
Sam saw him walk to the bar and sit down next to the red-haired girl. Then he turned towards the college kids and nodded to Pete.
They played for over an hour. Pete was indeed quite good, and although he was no real match to Sam, they did have a good time exchanging shots. He kept checking on Dean now and then, to find him engrossed with his red-haired prey. However, at some point Dean disappeared. Sam assumed he had left with the girl for a glorious Dean Winchester night and so, after finally beating Pete, he let him buy him another beer and then he played a couple of games more with the rest of the gang.
It was close to midnight when Pete and his friends left. Apparently, they had class in the morning, and they didn't want to turn in too late. Sam said good-bye and went back to the bar with a sigh. It had been nice hanging out with them, but he hadn't been able to shake off the feeling that something was missing. Someone was missing…and okay, it wasn't like Dean and he were attached by the hip or anything, or that they hadn't spent an evening apart before, but…Sam was feeling kind of off and he couldn't help wishing that his big brother had stayed. Maybe he could have even played with them too…But that wasn't going to happen, not in that universe at least. It wouldn't have been fair to ask.
Sam had resigned himself to walk back to the motel on his own, maybe after having a couple more of drinks, when a slouched form in the end of the bar caught his attention. Sam frowned, an intense rush of relief washed over him and his face broke into a quick, sunny grin because Dean was there and he had waited for him. But then it was concern that overrode the rest of emotions. Concern and guilt. Because judging by the number of empty bottles around him, Dean had been there for a while, and as happy as Sam was to see him, he would rather have him having fun with a random girl than sitting alone and drinking himself into oblivion as he obviously was.
Sam swallowed around the lump in his throat and walked to his brother. Dean was nursing a bottle and, when his brother approached, he looked up to him with glazed eyes.
"Hey," Dean greeted him with a little smile.
"Hey," Sam smiled back at him and took a seat on the stool next to Dean, closer to his brother's than it was probably necessary. Apparently Dean didn't notice, or if he did, he didn't mind. "What happened with your girl?"
"Not my type," Dean slurred. He raised the beer he was holding to his lips but his movements were slow and the tip slid in the corner of his mouth. He would have spilled it all over himself if Sam hadn't reached out and guided the bottle back to the counter, despite Dean's half-hearted protests.
"How many have you had?" he asked softly.
"Didn't count them," Dean shrugged. "Have fun?"
"I guess. They were too easy, though."
"Aw, Sammy," Dean snorted. "I think I've ruined you."
"May I remind you that I just kicked your ass over there?" Sam pointed out, a hint of amusement in his tone.
"I let you win," Dean concluded, reaching out for his beer again.
"No, you didn't," Sam protested, trying to grab the bottle before his brother.
Dean ducked him, got the beer and chugged it. Drunk or not, he was a Winchester.
"Of course, I always let you win," he mumbled, placing the beer down.
Sam was about to object again, but the words got caught in his throat when Dean closed his eyes and wavered on the stool. Sam placed his hand on his brother's wrist, eyeing his face carefully, trying to gauge if he was going to be sick or if he was just dizzy after drinking too fast. When Dean didn't shove him off, Sam's heart clenched. He had seen Dean tanked before, but the experience had taught him that a drunk Dean ranged from happy to grouchy, and no amount of alcohol had ever made him accept any help or comfort unless it knocked him unconscious and so, unable to reject it.
Sam wanted to ask him if he was alright, but he knew it was probably the most stupid question he could utter in that particular moment. Instead of that, he let his hand rest over Dean's wrist, running his thumb gently over his pulse point as he watched his brother take some deep, controlled breaths. The spell passed after a minute. Dean licked his lips and blinked his eyes open half-mast. It was then when he pulled his arm from Sam's grasp, although it was with a gentle pull, not with the offended yank his little brother had been expecting.
"Anyway," Dean cleared his throat and swallowed, without looking at Sam. "The blonde chick? Dude, she was totally into you. You should go give it a shot."
Sam shook his head.
"Maybe some other time," he replied.
Dean snorted and made a gesture to the barman. Sam didn't think it was a good idea to let his brother drink more, but when Dean glanced questioningly at him, his eyes a glazed mix of hope, sadness and please, Sammy, just…please, he didn't have the heart to fight him over it and gave him a light nod. Dean ordered two beers and when they were served, each one of the brothers took his.
"So, this is it, huh?" Dean rasped after a couple of silent gulps.
Sam looked down, eyes glued to the neck of the bottle. Dean's tone was tying his stomach in knots and for a couple of seconds he couldn't find his voice.
"Yeah. This is it," he finally croaked.
The words hung between them, heavy and so full of meaning that they seemed to thicken the air around them. Sam bit his lip hard, trying to get a grip on himself. He had felt on-edge all night, wanting to laugh one moment and cry the next, but he couldn't break. Not now.
That was it. That was it.
Sam turned to Dean, who was waving his beer at him while looking at him intently in the eye. Sam swallowed again and clicked their bottles together.
"To Dad," he muttered thickly.
"And to Jess," Dean added.
Sam averted his eyes and nodded with a shaky, grateful smile, before downing the rest of his beer in one go. By him, Dean did the same and then put it down hard against the wooden surface.
"So, you'll tell where you want me to drop you, huh?" Dean blurted.
"What do you mean?" Sam asked him with a puzzled expression.
"Well, this is it. The demon's dead," Dean said unceremoniously. "You can finally go back to school, you know, be a person again…"
Completely taken aback by his brother's words, Sam could only shake his head.
"It's alright," Dean cut him off. "I-…I'm not mad or anything. You belong there, Sammy. You belong with those people," Dean insisted.
Sam clenched his jaw, his lips pursed in a very thin line. It was true that he had thought about going back to college after they got the demon. And he couldn't deny he had liked Pete and the rest. He had felt good among them. It had been fun, it had felt safe, and normal, but…that didn't mean that… Dean couldn't possibly mean that…
"Look, if you don't want to go back to Stanford, that's fine," Dean continued, seemingly unaware of Sam's inner turmoil. "You just tell me where and when you want to go and I'll drive you-"
"I'm not sure that's what I want anymore," Sam interrupted him.
Dean gave him a weird look and Sam realized his tone had been a little bit too harsh.
"Of course it is," Dean grunted. "You want normal, you always have. I didn't understand before, but I do now."
Sam averted his eyes, knowing that Dean was referring to the dream that the djinn had induced in him. Only that experience was able to bring that look onto his brother's eyes, and the pain they contained was unbearable.
"Dean…" Sam started.
"Sam, Dad and I…" Dean went on, ignoring Sam to focus in the empty bottle instead. He shook his head and smiled sadly. "Let's say we were ruined for normal long ago. But you can still make it. You're better than us."
"Dean, no," Sam shook his head earnestly. "It's never been about that," he stressed.
He couldn't let his brother think that that had been the reason he had left in the first place. And even if he eventually left again, it would never be because he thought he was better than Dean. They were just different, why couldn't Dean understand that?
"It is for me," Dean answered stubbornly, and Sam wanted to strangle him and hug him at the same time. "I want you to be happy, Sam. You deserve to be happy."
Sam's chest constricted and swallowing became impossibly hard. Dean had to be really drunk to be talking like that, but Sam knew that he meant every word. He always had.
"You deserve to be happy too, Dean," Sam answered, his voice somehow defeated.
Apparently it was a point he would never manage to get across to Dean, no matter how hard he tried.
"It's alright. I'll be alright," Dean dismissed it without a second thought. "I just-" his voice faltered and Sam could have sworn he saw his chin trembling for a second. "I don't want you sneaking out on me without warning, okay?"
Again, Sam thought. What his brother meant was "Don't you do it again," and knowing how much he had hurt Dean every time he, voluntarily or not, had done exactly that made Sam feel nauseous. Dean was giving him his blessing to have the life he had always sought, with only one condition: to let him say good-bye.
One thing was for sure: things were different now. Sam was no longer convinced that college was what he wanted, and he sure as hell wasn't going to walk out on Dean at the first chance as his brother seemed to believe. He didn't want to lie to him either, and if Sam was honest to himself, he couldn't promise that he wouldn't wake up one morning and decide to put the hunt behind, choose a nice place and just settle down.
He could promise it wouldn't be without warning, though. He could promise that he wouldn't leave without making sure that Dean understood that he wanted him to be a part of his life too.
"I won't," Sam replied with conviction.
Dean studied him for a second through blurry eyes,
"I won't," Sam repeated.
Dean's shoulders relaxed and all the tension seemed to drain out of his body as a dopey smile found its way to his lips.
"Good," he whispered.
His limbs grew heavy, and as his muscles loosened, Dean tilted to the side and he would have ended up getting acquainted with the floor, if Sam hadn't been close enough to catch him before he slipped completely off the stool.
"Dean?" Sam called him, struggling to keep him upright.
"M'fine…" his brother mumbled, sagging a bit more against Sam's chest.
Sam sighed and gave up trying to keep his brother upright. Instead of that, he wrapped an arm around Dean's back and squeezed his side gently.
"C'mon," Sam coaxed softly. "I think it's time to go back to the motel."
"Yeah," was Dean's muffled reply.
"Can you stand?" Sam asked, ducking his head to try to meet his brother's gaze.
Dean kept his eyes low and blinked slowly against his brother's shirt. He seemed to consider the question for a second before giving a slight nod. Then, he took a deep breath as if to brace himself. Right on cue, Sam shifted to have a better hold of Dean; he lowered himself and shouldered the older sibling's arm until it rested around his neck. He took a firm hold of Dean's belt loops with the hand he had kept around his brother's waist, and placed the other firmly on his chest.
"Ready?" Sam warned him. "On your feet."
Sam straightened up, using his superior height to bring Dean off the stool and to his feet. Dean let out a small grunt at the movement—almost, but not quite a whimper, because Dean Winchester didn't whimper—and his head lolled against Sam's shoulder. Immediately, Dean's knees wobbled. Sam readjusted his grip to balance them both and supported most of Dean's weight.
"I got you, alright?" Sam whispered into his brother's hair. "You know the drill, deep breaths, in and out."
Dean let his arm drop from Sam's shoulder and fisted the shirt on his little brother's middle back as he forced himself to follow his instructions. Sam hung onto him, his cheek brushing the top of his head, and waited patiently, knowing that his brother would need a minute until the bar stopped spinning and the ground felt solid enough under his feet.
Sam sucked in a breath at the dejected tone of his brother's thin voice and tightened his arms around Dean as a reflex.
Dean swallowed and straightened up unsteadily. Sam let him pull away a couple of inches.
Dean avoided his brother's eyes. Suddenly, he looked extremely vulnerable, almost fragile. Worried, Sam placed a hand on his shoulder and gave him a tentative squeeze to make Dean look up, which he reluctantly did. The moment their eyes locked, Sam felt his concern spike. Dean's eyes were shiny and held an apologetic look that definitely shouldn't be there.
Dean had nothing to apologize for.
"What's wrong?" Sam pressed, thinking that maybe Dean was starting to feel that standing up hadn't been such a good idea.
"You think you could just…uh," Dean cleared his throat. "…you know, stick around for a while?" His voice shook in the end and he moistened his trembling lips, before looking down, embarrassed. "Just a few days," he assured him. "I…I think I kinda need you right now."
Sam stared at Dean in disbelief. His brother's voice had been so small, his plea so hesitant, naked…honest. It broke him that Dean didn't dare to meet his eyes after that. His throat closed up and he had to blink back the tears of knowing that Dean thought he had to bargain with him.
Just a few days.
I kinda need you right now…
Teeth clenched, Sam brought both hands over his brother's shoulders and gave them a light shake.
"Look at me, you idiot," Sam growled.
Dean kept his eyes stubbornly glued to the floor, but Sam was having none of that. Not now. He needed Dean to understand this without a shadow of a doubt.
"Look. At. Me."
When Dean obeyed, the need and fear in his expression pulled every string inside Sam. The younger softened his tone and wrapped a hand on the back of his brother neck to bring him closer. He ignored the smell of alcohol in his breath, instead relishing in the warmness that tickled his skin.
"I'm not going anywhere, you hear me?" Sam promised him. "Not today, not tomorrow," he paused and searched in Dean's eyes to make sure he was listening to him for once. "As long as you need me, I'm staying with you."
Dean's breath caught while he looked back at Sam, just as intently. Sam felt that he was being tested: Dean was trying to read into his soul to find something, anything, to hold onto and believe he was telling the truth. Sam allowed the scrutiny, because he wanted Dean to believe in him just as bad.
He sensed the exact moment when Dean believed him. He saw the sparkle in his brother's eyes and the wave of raw relief that followed it.
"Thanks, Sammy," he whispered.
Sam shook his head, wanting to say "don't mention it" or maybe "it's okay." However, those words died before being voiced as Dean surrendered to the haze and all but fell against Sam once more.
"Whoa," Sam blurted, momentarily surprised. "Man, you're heavy, you know?"
Dean didn't answer, although he struggled weakly to transfer some of his own weight to his feet. Sam smiled affectionately and gave a soft squeeze to the back of Dean's neck before helping him to move.
"C'mon, let's get you to bed," he muttered.
The brothers got to their room—which was blessedly, blessedly close—about twenty minutes later. The way back passed in silence. Dean leaned heavily on Sam, too focused on putting a foot in front of the other to waste any energy talking. Sam was okay with leaving him to his musings, happy enough with helping him to get to the safe intimacy of the motel before he passed out in the middle of the street.
As soon as they got in and Sam closed the door behind them, Dean's let out a throaty sound and sagged helplessly against his brother like a rag doll.
"No, no, no," Sam chanted, as he readjusted his grip. "Hang on a sec, we're almost there."
Apparently Dean could still hear him at some conscious level—somehow Sam suspected that he always did—because he made a last effort and staggered to the bed with his help. There, he fell heavily on the covers and it was all he could do to crawl his way up to the pillow and bury his face in it with a groan. Sam sighed and bent to take Dean's shoes off, but his brother, who should be out cold by then according to all standards except Winchester's, shook his leg to shove Sam away.
"Don't," he muffled against the pillow.
"Dean, you cannot sleep with your boots on…" Sam ignored him and reached out for the shoelaces again.
"I said don't," Dean protested, jerking his ankle again. "You don't have to…Leave it."
"I don't mind."
Sam sighed and let it drop. Of course, he'd just wait until Dean fell asleep to finish the job, but for the time being, he caved in and walked away from the bed and to the closet in order to grab an extra blanket. Back to the bedside, he found that Dean had rolled over to lie on his back, and two shiny slits of green were now following him unfocusedly around the room.
"Did you know it would be like this?"
Dean's raspy voice startled him and Sam's eyes darted towards him almost involuntarily. The younger brother set his jaw; he knew what Dean was talking about, but giving him an answer would make it real. He would have to deal with it. Uncomfortable, Sam kept silent and busied himself in spreading the blanket over his brother's pliant form.
"That it would feel so…empty?" Dean continued, almost to himself.
Sam bit his lip and shook his head as all answer. Empty. Yeah, that was the word. Strangely, painfully, unexpectedly and scarily empty. The lump felt so tight inside his throat that he could barely breathe, let alone talk. He realized that was starting to lose it and, once he was finished with the blanket, he placed a hand on Dean's knee, probably more to anchor himself than for Dean's comfort.
"Get some sleep, Dean," he shushed.
When he looked up again, Dean's eyes were already closed. Sam's stomach tightened. For a couple of minutes all he could do was watch his brother's chest rise and fall with the even rhythm of sleep, until his knees gave way, and he sat dejectedly on the floor. He felt the sobs that threatened to overcome him and fought them, because he was a Winchester, and they had just wasted the demon and he definitely shouldn't feel as if everything he had ever been was falling into pieces.
Empty, empty, empty. The ultimate quest of his life was finally fulfilled and nothing made sense. Why didn't anything make sense? The world was rid of a great evil, and Sam was proud. No more killings, no more blood, no more babies whose life would be shattered and the tender age of six months. And Sam was happy.
But Sam also wanted to cry. And he couldn't stop trembling. Soon Sam couldn't hold back the sobs anymore and he buried his face in his hands since it was all he could do to suffocate them. Because, damn it, it was so not the time. He was going to wake Dean…
Dean, who was the only family he has left… Dean, who had all but told him "You're free to go," only now he didn't know what to do with that freedom. It threw him off-balance; it made him giddy and sick, as if he was standing at the edge of a cliff. And really, how fucked up was he when between the realm of nightmares they knew and the normal existence that most of humankind enjoyed, it was the second that felt like the big, bad world?
The weeping intensified, the grief became physically painful. Empty. Yeah, empty, lost and alone. Because Dean had said he needed him, but sometime soon, once the alcohol wore off, and the smell of the flames faded away and became nothing more than a snapshot in their book of memories, his big brother would get over it and move on.
Dean would be alright.
He would push him to leave, because he wanted him happy, and Sam would leave because he wanted safe. They'd part ways and he would be on his own, in a world full of people who would never know John, or Mary, or Jess. People who would never ever know him for real.
Sam would be…away from Dean.
He shuddered and curled over himself with a little whimper, seeking refuge in the darkness of his own form as he pulled his knees to his chest, wrapped his arms around his shins and buried his face in them. He only needed a moment, Sam told himself. A couple of seconds and he would have pulled it together and he would be overflowing with joy because that night had been a fucking dream come true.
However, for once, darkness did nothing to ease his pain. It only reminded him that no one could see him. That one day no one would see him at all. And before realizing, he was crying harder and harder.
Sam jerked at the word and raised a tear-streaked face towards the bed. Dean had rolled over and was now on his side, facing him with a little frown. His voice had come out groggy and his eyes where still blurry and heavy with sleep, but from somewhere in their hazel depths, Sam felt Dean watching him soberly. It made him feel even worse, because, despite his efforts, he had woken his big brother and as much as he wanted to put his concern at ease, his mind was blank; although he meant to reach out and wipe his tears, his body was frozen; he tried to apologize, but he was tongue-tied.
Wordlessly, Dean extended one hand towards him. Sam just stared at it idiotically. The silence that followed was only broken by his ragged, teary inhales, until Dean spoke.
"C'mere," he said softly, not a trace of alcohol in his voice.
Sam's throat closed and his breath hitched. His hand shot automatically and found his brother's even as fresh tears blurred his vision. Dean's fingers closed firmly around Sam's and guided him up with a gentle pull. Sam followed Dean's lead, with the simplicity of implicit trust, and laid down on his back, next to Dean. Then his older brother let go of his quivering hand, and Sam, ashamed and torn, locked his eyes on the ceiling and swallowed thickly, working to avoid looking at Dean and try to keep his blubbering emotions in check.
At once, Dean's arm was around his middle, grounding him with its reassuring weight. Sam's stomach dipped and he choked back a gasp. Tears pooled in his eyes, and the sobbing finally escaped his control.
He didn't even know why he was crying anymore. All he knew was that his chest was on fire, his whole frame was shaking and maybe it was pathetic but he was falling apart and he couldn't stop.
Dean didn't say a word. Judging by his even breath, one could have thought he had gone back to sleep. However, his fingers ran soothingly up and down Sam's clenched stomach and his palm pressed right there, over the exact spot where Sam's grief pounded, built and flowed, in time with his brother's uncontrolled sobbing, as if he knew—because he knew—exactly where and when it ached the most.
Blindly, Sam put his own hand over Dean's and forced it down, needing his brother to press harder, harder until it fucking hurt, because maybe then it would stop and he'd be able to breath again. Dean's pressure remained steady, though, as he kneaded gently the pit of his brother's stomach. Sam tried to talk: to tell Dean that, please, please, please, it wasn't enough, but the only thing that came out was a pitiful moan as he dug his fingers into his brother's flesh.
Dean took it without changing the contact, refusing to harm him, although in answer to his little brother whimpering pleas, his thumb curled around Sam's. The latter clutched at it as if he was a drowning man and it was his lifeline and the older Winchester returned the squeeze just as tightly, while he kept untying Sam's midsection with calm, measured strokes that countered the anxiety of his little brother's grip. Although neither of them uttered a word, Sam could almost hear Dean convey his reassurances through his touch as clearly as if he was whispering them into his ear.
Little by little, Dean's ministrations did the trick. The edge of Sam's despair began to fade away, channelled through their laced fingers. His mind drifted from the heavy void that rolled over his chest to the warmth of Dean's palm across his belly and he found himself focusing on the even motions of his brother's hand. Relaxing under it, Sam sighed in an attempt to reign over his erratic breath, broken now due to the quiet hiccupping that marked the end of tears. Dean loosened his grip and rubbed his thumb across his brother's knuckle until Sam did the same and the remaining tension of his body melted away.
"As long as we need each other, alright?"
Dean's voice sounded close and although their entangled arms where the only part of their bodies that were actually touching, Sam could sense his brother's comforting presence washing all over him. He sniffled and nodded in the dark, no longer lonely. Dean moved his arm to let it rest around his brother's waist, curled his hand lazily around his side and gave it a tender squeeze before stilling.
Sam sighed wearily and closed his eyes. His heartbeat was slowly returning to a normal rate and he no longer felt as if he was breathing needles with every intake. By him, Dean's breath eventually deepened out. Apparently, sleep had finally taken him, although somehow his hold of Sam was just as firm. Sam would never stop marvelling at the little details like that. He wouldn't want to, either. Exhausted, the younger brother rested his own hands loosely on Dean's wrist and forearm and began tracing absent patterns on his skin as he waited for sleep to take him too.
As long as they needed each other. It was a promise on both sides. And in that moment, as they laid in the dark, on the cheapest bed of the crappiest motel in the middle of nowhere, Sam realized that even if it meant forever, by him it would be just fine.
This is it, then. I hope you liked it!! Either if you did or you didn't, don't hesitate to leave any comments that may cross you minds!!
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