paleogymnast (paleogymnast) wrote,
paleogymnast
paleogymnast

To Save You.. (2/2) (fanfic)

 
Title: To Save You... (2/2)
Fandom: Supernatural
Characters: Dean Winchester, Sam Winchester, mentions of most minor characters from seasons 1 and 2
Pairings: vague mentions of Sam/Madison
Rating: R for language, references to sexual situations (nothing graphic), and general dark themes
Word Count: 13,500 (total for story); 6700 (this part)
A/N: Episode tag (or maybe extended coda) to "Heart" ("Supernatural" episode 2.17).  This was originally written on 3-27-07 and contains heavy spoilers for all episodes up through 2.17.  I posted it on another site ages ago, and now that I'm trying out livejournal, I figured I might as well post it here.
Disclaimer: I own nothing and no money is being made, no copyright infringement intended!  "Supernatural" and its characters are owned by Eric Kripke, Warner Brothers, the CW network, et al., and the movies the movies Thelma and Louise and Best Men and their characters are property of their respective creators; Oprah belongs to herself.  This is fiction written entirely for entertainment purposes only.  Not mine; don't sue, please. I repeat: not mine.
Summary: Sam's a mess and Dean doesn't know how to help him.  Madison's death struck much closer to home than Dean would like to admit, and he's falling apart as he tries to put Sam back together...
 
A couple of hours maybe had passed since then. The moon had set and the sky was beginning to brighten in the east over the mountains. They were driving by more cliffs. They past several hours had been spent between driving high in the mountains on steep hills with slope warnings and giant redwoods and open expanses with trees or occasionally fields and streams on their right and steep cliffs dropping down into the Pacific Ocean on their left. The road had twisted and turned and continued to do so even after they had crossed the border into Oregon and continued up the coast. It took every ounce of concentration Dean’s battered mind had to keep them on the road. 
Occasionally the road took them too far inland to see the craggy coastline, but when they were exposed to the cliffs and the water, another voice in his mind, this one sounding sometimes like a crossroads demon and sometimes like his own, kept taunting him to just let go and drive off the edge. It would be like Thelma and Louise. Go out with style and have a beautiful view on the way out… Dean momentarily wished they had taken that trip to the Grand Canyon, because at this rate, he probably was going to die before he ever got to see it. But then it drifted back to the Oregon coast, and the cliffs and the sand and lumpy rocks below, the smoother eroded pillars of rock further out in the water like sentinels guarding the western horizon. They could be like Thelma and Louise, right, after all the Feds were on their tail, and after Glenn and Madison they would probably have a few more murders pinned on their collective ass. It didn’t matter anymore whether they cleaned stuff up or not, did it? It seemed they always missed something; it always got pinned on them. It wouldn’t matter even if that hooker Dean had saved from Glenn told the cops that he had shot Glenn to defend her. She could still ID Dean, and Henricksen and his team were going to believe whatever they wanted to. Maybe they should just stop trying… maybe if the Feds just caught up it could be over and they could go out in a hail of bullets after trying to escape, just like in that movie Best Men… 
 
Another voice in Dean’s head took pause at his morbid train of thought. ‘Since when did you become a chick?’ it taunted. ‘Honestly, Dean, Thelma and LouiseBest Men?  For the love of all things decent that wasn’t even that good a movie, and it was a total weepy chick flick.’ 
 
Dean came to his own defense, ‘Hey, Drew Barrymore was in Best Men and she’s hot, and well, the main character,’ his train of thought trailed off… The main character reminded him of Sam and the character’s interaction with his dad and the bitterness over the character’s mom’s death… well, that was all like Sam and Dad and Mom, and it all struck close to home. “Damn Oprah,” Dean muttered aloud. ‘Oprah didn’t do anything to hurt you,’ one of the voices answered back. “Damn insomnia and stupid movies on hotel cable at 3am,” he shot back. That silenced the voices and he was able to let the subject drop. He and Sam were not going to be driving the Impala off of a cliff into the Pacific Ocean. 
 
Dean returned to his silent driving, but his muttered protests seemed to have stirred Sam’s attention. Dean doubted Sam had been sleeping; there had been no nightmares.  But an alertness had returned to his brother. “Turn off up here,” Sam said swallowing hard.
 
Dean shot him a glance, but the urgency in Sam’s eyes earned his compliance without further objection. They turned off of 101 onto a designated lookout. Dean put the Impala into park and turned off the engine, looking out over the water in the still-murky, bluish light of not-yet-dawn. Sam must have seen a sign or something, Dean realized. All he noticed was another one of those ridiculous-looking Tsunami evacuation route signs with a ridiculously inappropriately comical looking figure apparently trying to run away from the giant killer wave. ‘A tsunami would be nice about now,’ one of Dean’s louder voices pondered. ‘Earthquake under the ocean to send the water to come and swallow you up, just like the earthquakes in here keep trying to drown you and swallow you up,’ the voice taunted. Dean ignored it. He and Sam might both be in pain, but he wasn’t going to wish harm on anyone else to get them out of this mess. 
 
Random people getting harmed seemed to be the crux of the problem for them lately. If it was just him and Sam, they would have both been willing to risk letting Madison live, he knew that.  Just like if it was only him and Sam, Dean would never kill Sam. Let Sam turn evil, as long as he was still alive, Dean would chance it, maybe he could find another way. Just like part of him had wanted to let Roy heal Layla… and he would have given his life to make that happen, but there were other innocent people that could have been killed. For the at least the third time in 24 hours Dean was smacked with the irony of the situation, here they were, Winchesters, isolated from the world by upbringing and circumstance and necessity, never able to make lasting connections, always on the outside, but they couldn’t just let things be and live and be happy, because somehow it always had some negative impact on those other people, the normal people in the normal world that they always tried to save, but were never really a part of.
 
Dean’s thoughts dropped off again.
 
Sam reached over and opened his door, “Coming with me, he asked?”
 
Dean just nodded, feeling the twinge in his shoulder again as he opened the door. He didn’t ask where or why; part of him understood, part of him knew.
 
Two mornings ago, sunrise had been a joyous occasion. The cure had worked. Madison had a second chance. Dean had left them for the hotel to sleep, giving them privacy, hoping that Sammy would finally find some peace and maybe a little happiness and pleasure for probably the first time since Jessica. He was smug, proud of Sam even, for getting the girl. Happy that they had tried the cure. Relieved that he had listened to Sam when Sam said that Madison didn’t know what she was doing. Dean hadn’t believed it, but after Glenn, he had seen with his own eyes, and he understood. Oh yeah, and there was that pride that his Dad had been right, that John Winchester’s theory had turned out to be correct. The beautiful majestic orange and pink dawn reflecting off of San Francisco bay, the sunrise over the mountains and the water and the city, beautiful with renewed hope. A new day; another chance. A moment to savor and share together.  “Thank yous” exchanged. 
 
One morning ago, sunrise had been panic and desperation and loss and confusion. Sam banging on the door to the motel room. Panicked calls to Bobby. Dean’s calls to everyone he could think of. Frantic moments on the internet. Tearing down the stairs and getting the call from Madison. Saving her from her lost, confused state, only to have to… kill her. 24 hours from pure joy and the happiest day Sam had probably had—hell the happiest day that he had had in months if not years—to the dawn of the most confusing and painful 24 hours of…. Of his life? Of Sam’s? 
 
It seemed ridiculous with all the loss and pain and torture they’d endured over the years. They’d only known Madison for what, a little over two days? Dean hadn’t even known her that well. He wasn’t even sure if Sam was in love with her yet, but there had been a connection, a strong one, between Madison and Sam. They had so much in common, they were so the same, Madison’s apparent cure had given Sam hope, and he’d taken a risk that he hadn’t allowed himself to take since Jessica. Yet, it all ended the same. Everyone around Sam died. Only this time, it was by his own hand. This was territory without a road map. It was like Mom’s death all over again—falling off a cliff into unknown territory—only this time, there was no Dad to guide them. No Missouri Mosley to get Dean talking again. No security of Dean caring for Sam and promising to always keep him safe. With Jessica, they’d known it was the same thing that killed Mom. They’d had a purpose—find Dad. That had helped Sam to hold it together. When Dad died, it was horrible, terrifying, especially with Dean carrying the secret, but it was also familiar. They’d lost a parent before, there was familiarity there. Dean had even been brought back from death before, so bizarre as that seemed, there was some familiarity to the emotions there as well… it was different because Dad had been the innocent who died this time, which brought new levels of guilt, and well, there was the pressure of Dean’s promise. But there was Bobby there to help, and broken and scared as they both were, the emotional walls in Dean’s mind had still been holding strong, possibly even refortified with the knowledge that he had to hold it together for Sammy. And Sam, Sam had been whole, strong, trying to support Dean and unaware of the turnings of fate. And most of all, Dean hadn’t really known what it all meant then. Now he did. 
 
Dean followed Sam silently to the edge of the cliff looking down, visions of Thelma and Louise flashing through his mind again. They stood shoulder to shoulder in silence, waiting. The sun would rise behind them. They could look out over the water, over the waves and the beach and the rocks in the water, over the natural beauty of the situation, and stare off into the horizon as a new day dawned behind them. 
 
The water began to shimmer with little glints of light as the sky continued to brighten. Behind them there would be pink and orange, and a big, bright sun, but neither Winchester turned to look. Dean didn’t have space for that kind of beauty and the false promises and dashed hope that accompanied it right now. Neither did Sam by the looks of it. 
 
They stood there in silence for what must have been a few hours. Dean didn’t really have a sense of time anymore. Just the ebb and flow of the pain in his head, the onslaught of freshly discovered emotions and realizations clawing their way out of the dark corners of his mind where he had banished them long ago. Cycling and flowing more frequently than the tides. 
 
Dean chanced a glance at Sam. Sam still stood stock still, resolutely staring off into the horizon, eyes not fixed on anything in particular, but not crying or sobbing. Sam must have felt Dean looking at him, because he stirred from his silent reverie.
 
“Uh,” his voice was dry and shaky this time, “I think I need some water, maybe,” Sam swallowed and attempted a half smile. “I probably should have taken you up on your offer, but I uh…” he didn’t finish.
 
The cold reality of medical necessities served as a life preserver in the dark drowning flood in Dean’s mind. Something solid onto which he could hold and focus for a while. Dean did the math and realized that it had probably been maybe 30 or more hours since Sam had had anything to eat or drink… maybe more, Dean not knowing how Sam and Madison had spent the previous day, but doubting there would have been much food or water factoring into their activities. Why should their have been? They were celebrating survival and second chances with need and touch and sex and comfort and connection and passion, there would have been the rest of their lives to worry about everything else. Except the rest of their lives, well of Madison’s life, hadn’t been very long. And then there had been Sam crying and falling apart, and the nausea that so often accompanies a loss like that. Sam was probably already dehydrated when they left and hadn’t wanted to drink anything else for fear of vomiting it up… but now he was sick. Too dehydrated… Dean reached out and felt Sam’s forehead. Too warm. His pulse was too rapid. 
 
Dean was about to curse himself for allowing this to happen to Sammy, curse his own negligence, but then his earlier mental debates about not being able to protect Sammy came back. Well, this was something he could—they could—fix. 
 
“You dizzy?” Dean managed to ask.
 
Sam nodded. 
 
“Come on, let’s get you fixed up before you go into shock,” Dean said, not recognizing his voice. It sounded a little bit like the voice he usually got in a particularly bad crisis, but there was a quietness and sadness there he’d never heard before.
 
Sam hesitated, “I, uh, think I need to clean up too.” He looked down briefly at his shirt and hands and then away over the water, looking like he was going to cry, but probably unable to from the dehydration. 
 
Dean looked at Sam’s hands and shirts and involuntarily shuddered when he noticed spots of Madison’s blood still there and flecks of dried blood on Sam’s wrists.  It was nothing like the ruined bloody, gunshot, powder-burned shirt of Sam’s that Madison had been wearing when she died. The shirt that now laid wrapped in plastic hidden and ignored in the trunk of the Impala, but still…
 
“Sammy,” Dean walked up to his brother, and touched him gently on the shoulder. Sam refocused his eyes and glanced back to his brother, careful to avoid looking at the sun which was now much higher overhead. “We’re going to get you fixed up. I’ll get a room,” Dean said.
 
Sam nodded.
 
They headed back to the Impala and pulled back onto 101 heading north again. Dean pulled off a little later at a small convenience store, grudgingly allowing the attendant to refill the Impala’s gas tank as he went inside the store, returning minutes later with a bag full of Gatorade, water, meal replacement shakes, and various items for their first aid kit.
 
They pulled off a few minutes later on the northern side of some town called Bandon which looked like a cutesy touristy town with a historic drive and advertised sights to see and a beach, but Dean bypassed this, opting instead for a small motel off the main drag that was a little more subdued and homely, situated farther from the water, and more towards the mountains. ‘Bandon, funny name,’ he thought, ‘Makes me think about feeling abandoned by the universe.’ But the bitterness didn’t last long. Dean quickly shoved his thoughts aside—somewhere, because the topography of his mind was so altered that his mental map was no longer reliable—and hoped that they wouldn’t come back to haunt him until this crisis had passed.
 
The motel was like so many others. Small, family run. Long one-story building with cars pulled up to parking spaces outside the door. The rooms plain, but gratefully clean with terracotta floors and small beds and a TV on top of an old-fashioned dresser. There was a bathroom and a coffee pot and mini-fridge and some artwork on the walls, but no kitchenette—since neither food nor a long-term stay was high on the Winchesters’ priority list right now. For a vacationing couple or family, the motel might have even been nice, homey, but to Dean, it was just a place. Someplace that thankfully didn’t remind him of Madison’s house or the hotel room in San Francisco, or Sam’s apartment in Palo Alto, or their old house in Lawrence, or a hospital or any number of places of which Dean did not want to be reminded right now. 
 
The rest of the day was spent re-hydrating Sam, trying to get his fluids up and his temperature down without causing an electrolyte imbalance. Sam even managed to keep down one of the meal-replacement shakes, an encouraging sign, Dean thought. 
 
Then Sam was getting cleaned up, finally showering and removing the rest of the physical evidence of Madison’s death—Dean knew that no matter how hard they tried they would never remove the psychological and emotional evidence, the bloodspots and scars on Sam’s soul. 
 
Satisfied that Sam was no longer in danger of physically going into shock, Dean convinced his brother to take a few sleeping pills—enough to maybe knock Sam out so that he could get at least few hours of dreamless sleep before the nightmares started, but not enough to cause an overdose. Sam accepted the pills silently, shooting Dean a pleading look, which Dean silently answered. Sam visibly relaxed and settled back into the bed. 
 
This, they knew how to do. Dean slept lightly enough—if he actually managed to fall asleep, that he would wake up if Sam’s nightmares got too bad. And if they did, Dean would wake Sam and help ground him while Sam pulled his mind out of whatever personal hell it decided to descend into. And Sam had assuredly added several new levels to his version of hell, which his mind would undoubtedly force him to explore. Neither brother liked this, but sleep was a necessity.
 
When Sam finally drifted off about an hour later, Dean took the opportunity to clean himself up, showering and changing, doubting he would ever wear those clothes again. He drank one of the shakes himself—he wasn’t exactly up to eating real food either—choking a little at the hint of iron in the taste, but keeping it down. When Sam was still sleeping a few hours later—and miraculously not showing signs of succumbing to full-fledged night terrors or even minor nightmares—Dean allowed himself to relax a little and lay down on the other bed. He hadn’t intended to drift off to sleep. 
 
***
 
Dean was standing in a room he didn’t recognize. Sammy was there, looking at him, the new Sammy, with the haunted eyes and burdened soul. The Sam who had taken human life and not just when possessed, and who had looked so young before he fell apart and then looked so old. 
 
Dean looked down at his hands. Something heavy was resting in them, something familiar that he should know, but something that felt alien and confusing. The familiarity of the situation struck him, like he had been here before, but not. Déjà vu? Sam was speaking.
 
“I don’t want to hurt anyone else; I don’t want to hurt you,” Sam said, his voice holding that world-weary haunted tone it had ever since Madison.
 
“I tried so hard to keep you safe; I tried to save you,” Dean felt himself saying the words as if someone else was operating his body. Was he possessed?  No, he was fully aware; he was just lost, he wasn’t supposed to be here, not now. He knew where he was. It was like Twin Lakes all over again, but it wasn’t. It was like San Francisco, but it was Sam in Madison’s place and he in Sam’s, Sam looking at him, begging and pleading with his eyes, begging to die before he lost control again and killed someone else, tortured with deeds he had committed over which he had no control. Not wanting to die, but unable to live like this. 
 
“No!” Dean felt more in control of his words this time. “Not yet, it’s not time for this yet, we have more time, Sam. I can try something else, look somewhere else, if you can hang on a little longer, maybe…” his voice broke off. Dean swallowed blinking back tears that had somehow found their way to his eyes. “Sam, there has to be another way. I’m not ready to give up yet; I can’t. I can’t lose you.”
 
Sam’s spoke, his voice pained, but calm and not as emotional as Dean’s, “Dean, no, it has to be now. I know you tried. And I know you could never give up on me. That’s why I’ve made it this long. But we can’t take that chance. I don’t want to take that chance, if we wait any longer, the next person I hurt could be you. I could kill you, and then no one would be able to stop me, to save me.” Sam’s face was clean. There were no hints of the scratches Madison had given him. Whenever this was, wherever this was, it seemed like they shouldn’t be here yet. Hadn’t Dean just been asleep on a bed in some motel with Sam sleeping, soundly for once, in the next bed? 
 
But here they were.  The situation felt real, too real. Dean tried to put down the gun, but Sam grabbed his hand gently, closing Dean’s fingers around the grip. Guiding Dean’s finger onto the trigger, flicking off the safety himself. “I wish it didn’t have to be this way, Dean. I’ve tried and fought as long as I could,” Sam’s voice was soft, loving, almost innocent again. “But I don’t want to die alone, and I really don’t trust myself to do it. Maybe I’m selfish, but,” and a single tear rolled down his check as he spoke these words, “if I’ve got to die, the last person I want to see, the person I want to spend my dying moments with, is you. There’s no one else, Dean. You’re the only one… the only one I have left, the one who’s always been there for me… you’re still the only one I trust.”
 
Dean knew it was true. And he knew that Sam knew how he felt. After all, Sam had done this for Madison. Dean couldn’t let Sam down. It wasn’t about a promise to Sam or a promise to his father, but about his own personal mission to protect Sam. To not let Sam come to harm. And it in the end, Dean realized that promise included saving Sam through death. But there was something…
 
“Sammy, when you’re gone, who’s going to do this for me? I’ve always known I’d be the last one left, but I don’t think I can live alone, and I don’t want to die alone…” Dean’s voice was tight, hoarse, the words escaping from an unwilling throat.
 
“I’m sorry, Dean,” Sam whispered. “I know it’s not fair, but we can’t trust that the timing will work out if we try to do it at the same time, and I don’t trust myself to try to kill you. I might kill you to soon, so you couldn’t save me.” Sam sighed and leaned in closer to Dean’s face, resting his hand gently on Dean’s left shoulder, the twinge of the long-ago-healed gunshot wound making its ghostly presence known. “But I’ll understand if you’re right behind me, Dean. I can’t order you to go on if you don’t want to. I know how hard it is to face life, to face fate, alone,” Sam’s voice was shaky and barely audible. “I’d love it if you could stick around and take out that Yellow-Eyed son-of-a-bitch for me, and I’m sorry to leave you alone to do it, but I’ll understand what you choose, either way. You have my permission to be free, Dean. You did a good job. I could never have asked for a better brother. Thank you.” Sam took Dean’s gun hand in his left and guided it up to his chest, positioning it so the angle was right for a fatal shot. It was the same gun Sam had used to save Madison, Dean noted, in some detached part of his brain that still functioned, that wasn’t screaming in protest and crying out in pain. 
 
Sam took his left hand off of Dean’s but left his right on Dean’s shoulder. “I’m ready,” Sam nodded, his voice sounding a little odd. Dean felt his hand tense around the grip and his finger prepare to squeeze the trigger. Sam got a funny look on his face, as if he had just remembered something, but was surprised by it, “I love you, Dean,” he said, simply, and then a wave of peace washed over him. 
 
All Dean could see was those big, brown puppy-dog eyes, he’d never been able to refuse them in all his life, and he wasn’t going to start now. Sam wanted to be saved, and Dean was the only one that could do it, and Sam forgave him and gave him permission, and there was really only one thing left to do. 
 
“I love you too, Sammy,” Dean said softly and then squeezed the trigger, the sound of the gunshot not registering, only the kickback of the gun hitting his own chest and the weight of Sam’s hand falling heavily and lifelessly off his shoulder and trailing down Dean’s left arm, and the look—the look of peace on Sam’s eyes as the light left them for the last time.
 
And then Dean was falling slowly, eternally falling, alone for the first time, with the weight of his dead brother pulling him down to the floor, slumping against the bed of whatever room in whatever town would be the last they would share. Dean couldn’t break his eyes from Sam’s, the comfort in knowing the last thing Sam had seen had been someone he loved filling Dean more than he expected. But there was agony and despair just under the surface, and indecision. He could end it this way, never moving again, just adjust his hand, and he could join Sam now—or if the universe didn’t work out that way, at least he could leave the world now too, not having to figure out how to go on alone. Or he could finish the job their father had started—once and for all putting that Yellow-Eyed bastard out of commission. Getting revenge for his mother and his father and his brother and everything and everyone and every other family that had fallen victim to his plan… maybe Dean could wait to join them until that was done or he died trying. Maybe he didn’t have to decide right now.  He could just sit here slumped against the bed with Sam’s dead body slowly cooling on top of him until the universe gave him a sign. Dean would never be whole again, never fully human, he realized, since a part of his soul had just died, and he drifted off to sleep as he waited.
 
***
 
Dean woke with a start. Gasping, drenched in sweat, the image of Sam’s dead brown eyes haunting him. But he was in bed, or rather on a bed, back in that hotel room with the terracotta floor somewhere in Oregon. He heard a loud moaning, and turned towards the source of the sound. Sam was crying out in his sleep, face grimaced in pain, fists clenching the comforter that covered him, covered in sweat, something that sounded like “Please, Dean,” and “I’m sorry,” escaping his lips between moans. 
 
Sammy was alive and having a nightmare in the next bed. And sweating… which was bad, Dean remembered, because Sam had been severely dehydrated. It had been a nightmare, not a vision—‘cause Dean didn’t get those—but a nightmare about a possible future, but it hadn’t happened yet. Sammy was still here and there was still time. 
 
Acting on reflex, Dean found himself at Sam’s bedside, gently touching his brother’s shoulder, and saying Sam’s name softly. Sam woke with a panicked start, and a moment’s glance exchanged between the two brothers confirmed that Sam’s dream had been much the same as Dean’s. “We’re both still here,” Dean said, as much to reassure himself as Sam. “It’s still OK.” 
 
Dean reached down and grabbed a bottle of Gatorade from the bag next to Sam’s bed, removing his hand from Sam’s shoulder to open it, passing it to Sam, and then returning his hand reassuringly to Sam’s shoulder. Sam gulped the beverage quickly, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand when he was done. 
 
“Let’s get cleaned up and get out of here,” Dean said softly. It was still night, barely past evening really, since they had arrived in the late morning and slept during the day, but that didn’t matter, they both knew there would be no more sleep for a while. Sam nodded and Dean squeezed his shoulder before getting up.
 
Sam showered while Dean packed. Dean showered while Sam drank more fluids. They left the key in the room with a note—they had paid for one night, and the office had said they could just leave the key to check out—who cared if it was a whole lot earlier than expected. Then, they loaded themselves into the Impala heading north on 101 again.
 
They drove swiftly through the night. Dean kept himself distracted by the crazy twists and turns of the Oregon coastline. The steep arch of the bridge over Coos Bay, the fog, the tall trees, hills, twists turns, all of it keeping his emotionally drained and sleep-deprived brain occupied and keeping it from drifting too far. Sam sat quietly again, this time leaning against the door and watching Dean.
 
They drove all night, crossing from Oregon into Washington, barely noticing the twisting mouth of the Columbia as they passed over it. Dean felt better now that there was an entire state between them and California. They continued up the coast, passing bay after bay, skirting Indian reservations and National parks. They drove past grass-covered sand dunes, and estuaries that glinted in the moonlight. The Hoh rainforest to the east probably would have provided them with ample opportunities for jobs—big, scary, dark woods, especially those where it rained all the time, were always a prime spot for supernatural activity. But those were thoughts for another lifetime, not here and now. So Dean kept driving. They hit the top of the Olympic peninsula and followed 101 in along the Strait of Juan de Fuca, passing through little towns with strip malls that slept silently in the night, oblivious to the Winchesters and their flight. They hit the end of 101 and headed south, running out of land thanks to Puget Sound. Somewhere just after they crossed the Hood Canal, its bridge just one more gatekeeper to pass through on their flight from San Francisco, Sam spoke.
 
“Are we going to Seattle?” he asked. 
 
“We can,” Dean answered, glancing at his brother, whose eyes had that ever-haunted look. Dean was just driving away, he had never really formulated a destination.
 
“Please,” was Sam’s reply.
 
With a curt nod, Dean acknowledged, choosing to drive south around the base of the sound and then heading back up the other side on I-5—it would take longer, but Dean didn’t have the patience to wait on a ferry, plus, it was still before sunrise, and he wasn’t about to sit still and wait for a few hours just to sit still some more. Plus, Sam actually wanted to go somewhere, and Dean was going to do everything in his power to comply.
 
When they arrived in Seattle, Sam guided Dean off the freeway and through a confusing maze of surface streets as if he knew where he was going. They finally headed down a long and winding road that felt more like a country lane or some alpine way full of switchbacks than a city street. It was built into the side of a cliff and curved sharply downward through a forest.  At the bottom, they came to a traffic light and a T intersection. 
 
“Take a right,” Sam said, his voice filling with relief. Dean complied, confused, but still relieved to be taking direction from Sam.
 
Moments later they pulled into a parking lot past a sign that said “Golden Gardens Park.” Dean noted that the park was still technically closed, but he didn’t care. He drove through a few sections of parking lot until he neared the far end of the park. It was dark and quiet here. Away from the picnic enclosures and clusters of grills and the gazebo and the boat ramp, and all the things that would attract people. It was just him and Sam getting out of the Impala and walking onto yet another beach. Fire pits here and there. This time, looking out across Puget Sound instead of the Pacific Ocean, the Olympic Mountains forming vague dark shapes on the horizon. 
 
Dean followed Sam out almost to the water’s edge, and they stood, shoulder to shoulder like the morning before waiting for the sun to rise behind them, so they wouldn’t have to look at dashed dreams or the harsh light of a new day.
 
As the light began to spread to the water, Sam spoke again. “Jessica and I came here for New Year’s one year,” his voice sounding strangely at peace.
 
Dean chanced a glance at his brother, Sam’s face still bore the signs of a haunted man, but there was a new peace there too, a hint of happiness slipping into the corners of his eyes and mouth. 
 
“Some of Jess’s friends were from Seattle, and their parents had this tradition,” Sam continued. “Every year for New Year’s Eve they would come out here to the beach and have a bon fire. They’d eat snacks and tell stories, and ignore the weather, even if it was drizzling or windy or cold. Just talk and stare into the fire, and then a little while before midnight, they’d all write down hopes or dreams or worries onto little pieces of paper and throw them into the fire,” Sam actually chuckled. “I don’t know if it works, but the idea is that the fire would somehow make your wish come true or remove your fear.”
 
Dean was impressed; Sam had been touchy around fire even before Jess had died. They both associated fire with pain and loss, the idea that Sam would hang onto a memory—a happy memory, no less—involving fire as a supposedly positive force, intrigued Dean.
 
“I know, it’s crazy,” Sam said, as if reading Dean’s thoughts. “Fire doing something to help people, but the way Jess explained it, that’s the whole point. Fire is uncontrollable; it’s a force of nature. We fear it, but if we surrender to it, respect it, maybe, just maybe, it can do some good instead of harm.”
 
“I always liked that idea, and when I realized where we were, I wanted to come here,” Sam explained. “There’s something peaceful and hopeful about this place.”
 
Dean nodded. Sam remained silent, apparently that was all he had to say.
 
A little while later, the silence was broken again, this time Dean finding the courage to wade through the slightly settling flood in his mind, floating an ark of sorts through his thoughts, trying to collect and preserve the ones he needed to hold onto, letting the rest drown in the swirling pit of undifferentiated emotion below. 
 
“Madison didn’t want to wait,” he said, softly.
 
“No,” Sam replied.
 
“Do you…” Dean started, but he didn’t know where to go from there. Not sure which question he wanted to ask; not sure which would be the least painful.
 
“I know why,” Sam supplied. “She didn’t want to die a monster. She didn’t want to wait until she turned; she wanted to be with someone she cared about when she died.” He spoke quietly, but evenly. “And she didn’t want to lose her nerve. She was afraid that if she waited, she’d kill me or turn me before I had a chance to save her.”
 
Dean noticed the way Sam emphasized the last two words. Killing was saving. Maybe there was only one way to fulfill his father’s last wish.
 
“I understand her,” said Sam. “We all probably would have lost our nerve if we waited. It would have been too much like murder.”
 
Dean’s mind drifted at the concept of murder… For so long, Sam had been insistent that killing people was always wrong. He even found fault with Andy for killing Anson, even when doing so had been absolutely necessary to save Dean and Tracy, and maybe even Sam himself. Then Sam’s body had been used to kill Steve Wandell, when Sam was possessed, but Sam seemed to have come through that OK, on some level accepting that he really wasn’t in control, and that it was all a ploy to hurt Dean. But then, seeing how Madison was still responsible for the deaths she caused in wolf form, even though she had no recollection and no control, Dean had worried about Sam changing his mind… and that was before… Well, before Sam actually had killed Madison. It was absolutely necessary, and at Madison’s request, so it definitely wasn’t murder, but Dean still worried that Sam would see it that way, and take it as evidence that he was turning, that he was slipping and failing. And Dean dreaded the request that might bring.
 
“Sam, there’s still time,” Dean began, hesitantly. “I don’t know, for sure, if I can go through with it when the time comes, if the time comes,” he added emphatically, “but you did it for Madison, and I know you know how I feel, and you did it anyway. You saved her,” Dean choked on the word “saved.” “But Sammy, there’s still time. We don’t know how much—hell maybe you’ll never turn—but I’m not willing to give up on saving your life yet. I can’t give up on you yet. I need you. I need you to promise me…”
 
“I won’t,” Sam supplied softly. “I promise you I won’t ask you until we have to. Until there are no other options.”
 
Dean nodded, swallowing back the tidal wave that threatened to come spilling from his eyes. His gaze drifted to a smooth rock lying on the beach, partially submerged in the tidal water. A funny, painful, poignant, and vaguely inappropriate thought popped into his head.
 
“I fucking hate rock-paper-scissors, now,” he admitted with a chuckle. “Fucking scissors, why didn’t I pick paper?”
 
“’Cause that’s not you,” Sam replied.
 
“I swear I’m never picking scissors again,” Dean stated with a hint of finality.
 
“You know it probably wouldn’t have changed anything,” Sam said. “Things might have happened differently, but Madison still would have been a werewolf, and we still wouldn’t have been able to save her—we still would have had to kill her.”
 
“But maybe you, wouldn’t…” Dean didn’t really know how to finish that sentence. He tried again, “But maybe I would have been the one to kill her.”
 
“Dean, I’m not sure if I regret it,” Sam replied as if reading his brother’s mind. By “it” Dean understood he meant falling for Madison—having that perfect day of second chances. 
 
Dean remained silent for a moment, letting the thought roll over in his mind getting used to the edges and nuances of it. “I’m not sure either,” he said, at last.
 
“This is just one of those things…” Sam started.
 
“There was never going to be a good way for it to turn out,” Dean finished.
 
They both knew it. It wasn’t easy, but it was true. And they weren’t sure if they had any regrets. It was painful, the territory was unfamiliar and uncharted, but there was still hope. They’d pull through, both of them. Forever changed, but still themselves, and they’d keep going—together—for however long they had. And when it came time, well, they’d cross that bridge—deal with that gatekeeper—when they came to it. Until then…
 
“I still fucking hate rock-paper-scissors,” Dean said with a hint of sarcasm.
 
“Me too,” Sam answered with a chuckle. “Me too.”
 
Tags: angst, dean'spov, fic, hurt/comfort, r, supernatural
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