Tag Scene to "Monster at the End of This Book"
Dean stared up at the dark motel ceiling. He'd been staring at it a while now, lying under his blankets, thumb in the pages of one of Chuck's books, All Hell Breaks Loose.
It was all there. Just the way Dean remembered it. The cold, the rain, the mud. The sound of the knife severing Sam's spine. How everything else fell away at that moment but Sam. Catching him, holding him, feeling him die.
Tears rolled out of the corners of Dean's eyes and he didn't wipe them away. It'd been nearly two years topside since Sam had died in his arms, and over forty down under, but the sensations and the fear and the pain were still fresh, and reading about it in that book had ripped it all open again.
Sam was five feet away, if that. Alive. Breathing. Clearing his throat every once in a while. When Dean looked over, he could just make out Sam's silhouette in the dark room. Sam was alive, he was here.
It just didn't feel like enough. He felt too far away. All these six months, Sam always felt too far away and right now all Dean wanted to do was – well, Dean had never - Sam had always - when they were younger it was just a matter of course - it was always Sam who - Dean had never -
Sam was alive and five feet away and Dean wanted to cross those five feet and sit on the bed next to him. It felt like the only way he might fall asleep tonight. The only way he might fall asleep for the first time in what might be weeks.
Right. Sam would draw down on him or laugh himself silly.
It wasn't just Cold Oak though. Dean had sifted through most of the books, seeing bits of their lives through Chuck's eyes. Seeing a Sam he hadn't known to look for before.
Reading the first installment had brought back that night, the night Mom died. What Dean had never realized before was that when Dad put him in Dean's arms, Sam's eyes were fixed on him, on Dean. Not Dad, not the flames - Dean. Chuck had written that Sam looked at him like he knew they were in danger but also trusted that Dean would get them out of it.
Another book, Born Under A Bad Sign - and where did Chuck come up with these titles? - when Sam was possessed by Meg. Dean didn't need to read about it to remember, to feel, his desperation when Sam was missing, his aggravation when he couldn't figure out what was going on, his fear when he finally did figure it out.
His relief when he had Sammy back again.
Dean was glad to see a lot of their lives not in the books. Like the week after Jessica died, the night after Madison died, the afternoon Dean found out what really happened at the Mystery Spot down in Florida, or any of Sam's prayers. Those days and weeks and moments were too personal, and if thousands – or even hundreds - of people were reading about them, for Sam's sake Dean was glad that those were days, weeks, and moments not written about.
He missed that Sam though, the one who believed him, trusted him, needed him. Dean's brother Sam was maybe five feet away, but his little brother Sam might as well be dead and gone and buried a million miles away for as close as he seemed.
Dean wanted that Sam close again.
Sam had been doing his own reading, mostly the one titled Shadows, Meg and her Daevas. When Sam let it out of his sight the one and only time, Dean found the spine creased at the page that detailed the moment Sam and Dad hugged after not talking to each other in nearly four years.
So maybe little brother Sam wasn't as far away as Dean thought.
He was still clearing his throat every now and again, Sam was. Maybe he was getting a sore throat. Maybe Dean could have him gargle with warm salt water and then use his impending illness as the excuse to sit with him.
Maybe Dean could just suck it up and tell Sam the truth, or something close enough to make his case for sitting with Sam, without totally humiliating himself. It wasn't like they hadn't been through the beginner's guide to hell the past couple of months. It wasn't like they'd been at all close for longer than that. Dean just wanted to be close to Sam, physically if that was the only way.
He just hoped it wasn't something Chuck was recording for posterity.
He set his book on the bedside table, gathered his courage, and before he could stop himself he got up and sat on the edge of Sam's bed. Before he could explain what he was doing, Sam surprised him by saying,
"Dean - I'm fine."
Well, until that exact moment, Dean had no reason to think Sam wasn't fine. But that didn't stop him from acting like he'd known it all along.
"Yeah, you sound it." He switched on the lamp. Sam was on his side, turned away, and Dean reached over to tug the book from his hand. "Enough reading for tonight."
"You didn't tell me."
Tell you what? Dean thought. That Dad loved you? I tried to tell you that a million times, you never wanted to hear it. If that hug didn't prove it to you, nothing will.
He turned the book over but it wasn't Shadows, the book Sam had been nursing all day. This one was No Rest for the Wicked, this was the one where Dean went to hell.
"I didn't tell you what?" He asked because nothing came to him. "Sam? I didn't tell you what?"
"It says in the book -." Sam's voice was thin, small. "It says that you woke up in hell, suspended over the abyss, with - with - meat hooks in you, pulling you apart. It said - it said -."
Dean didn't press him to finish. He knew what it said.
"You were screaming my name."
What could Dean say?
Because that was exactly what happened.
When Dean went to hell, he didn't believe in God or angels or divine intervention. The only thing he believed was strong enough, stubborn enough, determined enough, to save him from hell was Sam.
"Sam – you're the only person who never gave up on me. Who else was I gonna call for help?"
"Help?" The word seemed to surprise Sam. He turned over and sat up. "You were calling me for help?"
"Well, yeah. What else?"
"I thought you hated me. I thought you must've died hating me."
Dean almost couldn't answer that.
"Never. No matter what – never." And he didn't need a book to tell him that either.
Sam didn't answer though, just cleared his throat again and took a deep breath. Over this past year, Sam had learned how to be immune to demon-power, learned how to kill freaking Alistair with nothing more than a thought, he'd learned how to be tough and in charge and as much John Winchester as John Winchester had ever been.
Which all meant that somewhere along the line he learned how not to be a little brother. And Dean had that feeling again that Sam was a million miles away even if he was just a short reach across this bed. Dean wanted to reach him.
So, when Sam said,
"Dean, I'm fine. Go back to bed. I'm – I'm fine."
"Yeah? Well I'm not."
That made Sam's eyes open wide and he sat forward, intent on Dean.
"Why? Dean – what's wrong?" And the tone of Sam's voice, the 'whatever it is, tell me, I'll do anything' tone hit Dean square in the chest and exploded up behind his eyes.
There were times, despite the lies and secrets, the late night 'do I even want to know what you're doing?' rendezvous with Ruby, the 'so powerful that Lilith at her worst can't even muss my hair' strength, the anger, the fights, the silences, despite all that, there were times when Dean could still see Sammy inside this man he didn't always recognize.
He could see him right now.
"I miss -." The words were out before Dean could stop them. He kept criticizing Sam for not telling the truth, he supposed the least he could do was tell a little truth of his own. " – us. You know, I’ve been reading these books and how we used to be together and it's like – it's like we're not us anymore. We were more us when we didn't even know who we were at that office building and we managed to kill Sandover's ghost anyway. That was us. This isn't us. I miss us."
Sam blinked a few times, looked down and away and pulled his knees up under the blankets like he was uncomfortable.
"I know I changed – a lot – while you were – when you were -."
"We both did." Dean said.
"We can't go back."
"No, we can't. Not entirely. Just – I just -."
Dean tried a couple of times to say it, he shrugged and took a deep breath and tried to sound lighthearted.
"You went and grew up while I was gone and I'm still trying to find my way around that. Sometimes I wonder if you wouldn't rather I just sat the rest of this one out and you'll just swing by and pick me up on your way back."
"Dean – please – c'mon. That's not what I - I didn't - I don't – I just -." Sam scrubbed his hand down his face. "I don't think you can't, I just think you shouldn't have to. I don't want you to have to."
A memory surfaced in Dean. Something else he didn't have to read to remember.
"Well Sammy, whatever's coming, I'm taking it head on. So, if you really wanna watch my back, then I guess you're gonna have to stick around."
A slight smiled curled around Sam's mouth and Dean figured he recognized the words. Those were the words Sam had said to Dean after Gordon tried to blow him to smithereens and Dean had been all for high-tailing it somewhere safe.
"We can't run from this, and you can't protect me." Dean went on.
"I can try." Sam said, sounding just as grave and resolute as Dean had felt when he said it to Sam back then.
"Thanks for that."
Sam smiled, a full smile, and nodded.
"It's just this habit I've gotten into lately. Something I learned from my big brother." He looked at Dean a minute longer then dropped his eyes again.
"I really thought you hated me. I thought you had to hate me and that you were screaming my name in hell because you were there and I wasn't."
"Yeah, well, I guess Chuck has just got to pay a little bit better attention to detail." Dean patted Sam's knee a couple of times. An old signal, dredged up from somewhere in his memory, that it was time for Sam to go to sleep. "Never, no matter what, no matter who. Never."
"Yeah. Okay." Sam slid back down under the blankets. "See you in the morning."
Dean sat there a minute longer, remembering what started this whole conversation in the first place: Sam felt too far away and Dean wanted to feel close to him again. His missed Sam, he missed them being brothers, he missed being the big brother.
"Screw it." He thought to himself. He grabbed his pillow and blanket and dropped himself unceremoniously in Sam's bed. Sam pushed himself up on his elbows.
"Dean – what? You don't have to – really, you don't have to."
"Humor me." Dean said. He punched his pillow and got comfy under his blanket and switched off the lamp.
"Okay…" Sam said. He sounded confused but he lay back down. He turned on his side and cleared his throat again but it sounded an awful lot like a disguised chuckle to Dean.
That earned him another chuckle or two, but after not much longer, Sam's breathing evened out and Dean knew he was asleep.
Not much longer after that, Dean was asleep too.