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Sam is aware of how Dean perceives him.

He knows that there are some parts of him; some aspects to him that will never stop surprising or amusing Dean, and that Dean is the only one who won't cringe at Sam being weird. He knows that Dean will always be the only one to laugh at, or be concerned about most unusual things about Sam, rather than ostracise him, or run away from him. That there are very few things that keep Sam from being himself in front of his brother. He knows. Because Dean never turns away. He's always there. Through it all. There is nothing about Sam that can push Dean away.

Or, that's what Dean used to be, because if there is one thing Sam never expects from Dean, it's fear. He certainly doesn't expect the open mistrust either. Sam gets it, though. Drinking demon blood isn't exactly something that Dean would have supported him for anyway. Which was why Sam lied to Dean in the first place.

With everything that's changed between them, and all that they've been through in the past year, Sam isn't sure where they are anymore. He feels like something has shattered between them — not even cracked or broken; but shattered beyond repair. He wishes he could do something — say something to Dean to convince him that they are still brothers, but every time he wants to talk to Dean about it, the words turns into ash in his mouth.

So he just lets it go. He lets it be the way it is. He picks himself up from where he had fallen, and regroups with Dean, although they don't fit together anymore.

Beggars, though, cannot be choosers, and Sam decides to be content with just having Dean with him. Or at least, that's what he thinks he is doing.

~o~

Sam likes colours. He sees them everywhere. He's never been artistic or creative, but somehow, his mind colour codes the world — divides people and situations into hues and shades, and he doesn't know if he's insane, or if it's okay to function this way.

Green, Sam had said to his big brother one day, when their dad was in rare variety of a good mood. He and Dean were watching TV, while John was browsing through a book at the table. The memory is in shades of black, white and grey, and Sam can remember the rickety chairs from the motel room, and the flowery wallpaper, but nothing else. He can barely even remember Dean's face; only Dean's childish voice, raw and innocent.

What's green? Dean asks him.

Daddy looks green, Sam replies confidently.

You mean he looks sick?

No, Sam says. Daddy looks happy. He looks green.

Dean sighs. You're such a doofus, Sammy.

Sam wrinkles his nose, pushes himself off the sofa, and frowns at Dean. You're a doo – doofles!

Doofus, doofus. Doofus. Not dooflesDean snorts, and Sam can't stand the rudeness of his brother.

His lip quivers. Go away, he whines, as he makes his way to their very green-looking father to seek justice for Dean's outrageous words. Dean gets mock-yelled at, and Sam sleeps peacefully, even though Dean just smirks at him. It's a happy and a sad day. But Sam is just pleased his dad is green.

Now that Sam thinks of it, he was so little when this happened; he's surprised he can remember. But this is just a vague, muted memory in his head. An echo of another time. It comes back to him, when on one morning, he wakes up and realises that everything around him has lost its colour.

~o~

The Apocalypse rages on. Sam and Dean move from motel to motel. They hunt. Bobby grumbles from his wheelchair, but keeps going. And Sam and Dean go on as well, with Sam trying to put his mind into what they're doing, but finding it difficult. He knows it was easier when the colours were there. It was also better when Dean trusted him. And his heart sinks when he realises that Dean will not trust him again — probably never — and sometimes, when he thinks of this, he's angry.

Maybe the colours won't come back either.

Then Sam starts to get angry — very angry at Dean; but it subsides in a moment, because he can't blame his brother for this. It was him. It was him, it was him, it was him… and he knows it and it makes him want to throw something, but he can't. He can't fix it. He's just ruining it… ruining it…

Ruining it.

~o~

Sam's thoughts keep going in loops, and make everything hard for him. He and Dean are on a case, when Sam decides he can't take it anymore. He can't breathe. His lungs won't expand, and he feels like he'll die if he doesn't run away — away from his head.

The thick, musty air in the motel room suffocates him. He takes one breath, then two, and decides he needs some air, if nothing else. Dean's on the other bed, reading lore — or something, and Sam looks back at his laptop, and the brightness of the screen hurts his eyes.

Sam puts the lid down and stands up. Going for a walk, he says to Dean.

Dean doesn't even steal a glance at him. He just rubs at his temple and turns a page in the book. Get coffee, he says.

Sam nods in reply. Dean doesn't see that. He just grumbles some and squints at the book he's reading, and Sam shuts the door on his way out. He checks his wristwatch. It's half-past ten.

He walks and he walks, trying to get rid of the circles in his head. They won't go away. So he walks in circles, just like his thoughts. He wonders if Lucifer can tap into these too, and laughs — laughs maniacally into the night. The circles don't stop, though. But the thing that seems to be blocking his airway does clear out.

When he feels like he can breathe, he returns to the motel, only to realise that the night wasn't half as calm for Dean as it was for him.

The air inside the room is chilly and dark and Dean is up in his bed, eyes wide and mad. The moment Sam enters the room, there are hands clutching at his collar. Where were you? Dean asks him furiously.

Sam moves his lips once, twice. His voice his hoarse when he speaks. I—

Shut up! Why the fuck couldn't you take my calls or check your texts, you asshole? Do you realise that there's a fucking apocalypse going out there, and that you need to pay attention to this shit?

Dean looks really hurt and pissed and worried when he lets go of Sam's collar. Sam pulls out his phone and checks it, only to see that Dean had called him twenty-eight times. He frowns at it.

I wasn't gone that long, he says, I wasn't— His eyes fall on the digital clock on the bedside cabinet. It reads three thirty-seven AM.

Dean rakes a hand through his hair, and he does it two more times. He does nothing more, says nothing more, before plonking down on his bed with a faltering sigh, and resting his head in his hands. Sam, he says, Sammy… he looks up, eyes bright with sadness, and shakes his head. Go to sleep, man.

Yeah, Sam replies, yeah. He changes into his sweats, brushes his teeth, and lies down. However, he doesn't sleep. He just listens to Dean snore all night, and wonders if Michael ever enters Dean's dreams, or if Dean feels like his thoughts are in circles too.

`~o~

It happens again two weeks later, and this time, Sam's been walking for seven hours before returning to the motel, to Dean. He forgets the coffee again, and Dean promptly swings a punch at Sam's face when he enters the room, with fifty missed calls, and twenty unread text messages on his phone. He hadn't even heard it ring.

I'm sorry, Sam says, to Dean's anxious, manic face. Didn't know I was gone that long.

What?! Sam, what are you talking about?

I don't— Sam pushes his hair back, I lost track of time.

Dean's anger falters, as a shaky sigh escapes him. Sam, what's wrong, man?

No, no, I'm okay, Sam says, I'm okay. Just… please… he heads to his bed, I need to sleep.

Dean looks at him with sleep-deprived eyes for a moment. Okay, he says. Okay, but we talk. Once you're up.

Sam nods, and slips into bed. Dean doesn't sleep this time, and it's much harder to feign sleep for Sam, but he does it. He wonders, as he pulls his covers around him, as to why his legs don't hurt. He wonders how he didn't know that he'd been out seven hours. He wonders if Lucifer has anything to do with this.

He feels like cutting off his legs.

~o~

It doesn't stop at just the two incidents after that and every time, it starts with Sam feeling like he can't be in a motel room, or in Bobby's house, and Dean just stops with the frantic calls and lets Sam take his time. Sam does take his time, but sometimes, he doesn't know what he wants because once he's out, out in the open, he just wants to get back to Dean.

When he's with Dean, he wants to go out and sort himself again. He feels like he's suffocating, and he chokes like he can't breathe. He feels like he'll die.

He wonders, vaguely, if death is the real option here after all.

If Lucifer will ever let him die.

~o~

After Ellen and Jo's death, Sam doesn't get out of bed for two days. They're at Bobby's and they drink themselves into a stupor, before returning to bed, after the fiasco at Carthage. It's the first night in many nights that Sam actually falls asleep, but when he wakes up the next day, his mind refuses to cooperate with his body.

He lays in his blankets, staring at the faded wallpaper, blinking away the headache from his hangover. He refuses food, and Dean doesn't push — because Sam isn't sure if Dean's eating either. And Sam lays there, thinking, thinking — and he doesn't want to think; and once again, he's choking on air, but he can't get his legs to work; and he's paralysed. Trapped.

He doesn't dare shut his eyes, for fear of Lucifer in his dreams, but he doesn't move. And he wonders if he'll suffocate enough to die — if he'll actually asphyxiate from this, but he realises doesn't care if he does. Because, who knows, maybe it will all be better this way.

Dean looks like he's at his wits' end on the second day, but he doesn't prod Sam, or ask him anything. He nods to whatever Sam says — or doesn't say; and there are lines on his face, and around his eyes, like he's worried. He and Bobby talk in hushed voices.

Sam can't figure out why Dean worries, though. He should be happy that Sam is resting. Dean should be happy because he deserves all the happiness that Sam wasn't able to give him.

~o~

When Sam is not choking on his own breath, he feels numb. It sits on him like a cloud, and the only thing that penetrates it is anger — pure, raw anger. It's the only thing that makes Sam feel like he's still human.

Sam tells Dean about how he's angry, but Dean asks him to push it down. Dean tells him it will drive him insane. So Sam listens to his brother, and pushes it down. He feels the numbness cry out in a triumph of its own when it wins.

~o~

Sam and Dean go on a hunt by a lake — not long after their travel into the past, to meet their parents. Sam listens to 'Hey Jude' on a loop and doesn't talk to his brother, jealousy bubbling inside him, because Dean knows — knew John and Mary for longer than Sam did. Dean got the tomato rice soup and lullabies and all Sam got was death.

He almost doesn't get out of bed again; because he's tired — too tired, and his bones, and fingers, and hair are tired.

His soul is tired.

He wants to rest. Rest for a while. He wants to not be smothered. He wants to talk to Dean without being mocked, or getting Dean angry, or it being awkward between them. However, he doesn't want to see another morning, because he can't bear to stand the absence of his colours.

Sam coaxes himself to live without it, though. He watches Dean hustle pool and swig down beer, wondering how Dean even keeps that game face on. He wonders how Dean will react if Sam sticks his Taurus into his mouth and pulls the trigger. He thinks of the blood. The mess. Dean on his knees, in tears.

He doesn't want Dean to waste time and energy grieving for him. So he stows that thought away.

It does come back, though. It comes back during their hunt at the lake.

The spirit flings Sam into the water, as Dean works to torch the burns, which are buried underneath the soil on one of the sodden edges of the lake. And Sam struggles to come up, to swim, when he feels the ghost's supernatural energy on him, pushing him back inside.

He fights. Beats his arms and legs. Dean frantically aims his shotgun, shooting erratically while trying to dig up the bones simultaneously, and Sam fights one more time, when he thinks about what is happening. And he feels good about it.

The water makes him light — takes away his weight; but he remembers how much heavier he is on Dean — on Dean's shoulders. He's gagging… and he feels soothing water surround him, sliding smoothly over his skin, as the spirit pushes him lower…

He is so tired.

Water crawls into his nostrils and he coughs, but he lets it in. It's cold, and he feels so good, so, so good.

He just wants to sleep.

His throat spasms, but he swallows in the water. It tastes strange. Like elixir. Relief washes over him. This is what he wants. This is what he wants.

Peace.

~o~

Bobby, I don't know what to do.

A warm hand rests on Sam's forehead, and he welcomes it. His head hurts. His chest hurts. His whole body feels frozen. A voice is talking somewhere in the distance; as though it's coming out of a radio. Sam relaxes, and sighs, as he feels the stabilising heaviness of the calloused fingers that stroke at his temples.

He almost died. If he was doing it on purpose I swear—

The voice breaks, and Sam doesn't know what the person is talking about, and he doesn't care. All he knows is that he feels good — much better than he has in years; and there's no Lucifer, no weight on his shoulders, no blame, no hate, and…

Realisation hits him. The voice. The hand.

Dean.

The word is out of his lips before he can control it. His throat is sandpaper and salt on a deep wound; sore and on fire. He doesn't know how he spoke at all.

Sammy?

The response is instantaneous. Dean's voice is desperate, and borders on tearful. Sammy? He repeats.

Dean.

Yeah, Sammy.

Dean.

I'm here, Sammy. What is it?

Dean's hand comes down lower, skimming over Sam's eyelids to shut them for him gently, and Sam gives in to sleep, the last thing he remembers mumbling being, I'm so tired, Dean. I'm so tired.

~o~

Sam's fever rises and sinks; a ship in the ocean; rocking through the crests and troughs on the waves. Dean is there with washcloths and Tylenol, and the lines on his face are deeper. Sam doesn't talk to him much; nothing more than their small talk anyway, and Sam knows that Dean wants to know something else, but he doesn't even mention it, and Dean doesn't ask.

On the day that Sam can get to his feet without wobbling, Dean watches him emerge from the bathroom in his sweats and a clean t-shirt, and reaches for the car keys. Come on, he says.

Where? Sam asks, frowning.

We're seeing a doctor.

There is silence, and then Dean explains himself. There's something wrong here. I don't know how to fix it. Please, Sammy. It's when Sam notices the red rims on his brother's eyes, and his heart jumps. Dean's not been doing well with this at all.

A doctor, though? Sam can't. He can't. He doesn't want to sort this out. He needs something else. Not a doctor. He needs all this pain to just go away.

He sighs, trying to sound nonchalant. I'm all right, Dean.

No! You tried to… y- you— Dean can't even seem to get himself to say it.

No, I wasn't trying to kill myself, Dean, Sam lies. It was just an accidentI'm okay. I'll be okay.

Dean doesn't buy it. Get in the car, he says, lips quivering ever so slightly as his voice wavers.

Please, Sam begs. No doctor. I'm all right. I promise.

Sammy—

Dean.

It throws them back to the day that Sam woke up with his fever, and Dean's face crumples as his shoulders slump. He's broken. Lost. Sam knows it and Sam wishes he could help, but what can he do? What could he ever do for his brother? He's never been able to do anything right when it comes to Dean, and he doesn't want Dean to be even more broken because of him.

Dean looks down and washes a hand over his face. Sam, Sammy. Sammy, please. What are you doing, man?

Nothing, Sam replies. I'm good. I told you.

No, you're not, Dean says to him, the worry in his voice notching up to anger. You're not! You're so fucking not! He grabs his keys and leaves the room; and this time, he's the one who isn't back for another four hours.

`~o~

Sam's second detox is worse than his first. The symptoms are the same, but everything about this round is worse — so much worse, and he doesn't know why. He wishes he could scrub himself clean from it all, but he can't. He hates that it's all a part of him.

He hates the hopelessness in Dean's eyes.

He is all alone; he realises. He is a monster, a murderer, a freak, and Dean doesn't even want to be brothers and Dean will leave some day and he's alone…

He chokes on air, back arching against the bed he's handcuffed to, sharp metal grazing against his skin and pushing out blood, thick and warm; and Sam wants to run away. Away from all this. All these people. He wants to run until his legs fall off. He wants to go to a cliff and scream; scream his lungs out… but he can't; he can't; and more pain whips across his body, seizing his muscles as he yells out; out of his mind with everything he has done to the world, and everything the world has done to him.

There's just one person who's never been unfair to him; who's always done everything he has, because of his fucked-up affection for Sam. There's just one person who's blind, so blind when it comes to Sam, and all because his heart is so big, and…

Dean.

His brother's name escapes his lips without meaning to, and Sam clenches his fists, fighting back tears. He doesn't deserve Dean. He doesn't deserve the devotion or the faith or anything that his brother gives him.

Nothing.

Dean.

Pain lashes through him again, shooting up his nerves, making every cell in him cry for help. He can feel his body clench, and wishes he hadn't disappointed his brother so badly; and…

Dean… Deandeandeandeandeandeandean…

DEAN.

With that last thought everything around him falls into blackness; hopefully forever.

~o~

There's a hand on his forehead when he wakes back up. It's like déjà vu, with the calloused fingers and the desperate voice, but this time, it's chanting something in Sam's ear.

I'm here, Sam. I'm here. I'm here…

It's Dean. Sam tries to curl up; tries to face away from his brother but he's too stiff; and it washes such helplessness over him, he wants to push everything away; and then, again, he's feeling like he's being smothered; two hands clutching his neck, pressing his windpipe, and he can't breathe, can't breathe, can't breathe, until…

Hey, relax, Sam. Just breathe. Just breathe.

Dean's hand is on Sam's chest. Hey, Sammy, he whispers again, soothingly, and Sam curls up some more because it's a hallucination.

This is not real. Not real. Not real. Notrealnotrealnotreal…

I'm here, Sammy, Dean repeats from his previous chanting, a thumb moving against Sam's temple. I'm here. This is really me.

No.

Sammy, Dean sighs, and Sam shuts his eyes tight, so he won't have to look at this figment of his imagination, that is calling itself 'Dean'. Dean wouldn't be here. Dean is angry. Dean hates Sam. Dean is disappointed. Dean doesn't have any faith left for Sam anymore. Sam has broken his brother in every way possible, and he is guilty, and he should be dead, dead…

I don't hate you, Sam. The weight on Sam's bed shifts, and a warm hand encloses his wrist, lifting his hand up, and placing it against soft fabric. And there, Sam feels the slow beating of a heart, steady against his fingers.

I'm here, Dean repeats. It's me.

This time, Sam believes him. His fingers curl against Dean's shirt, but he lets go of the cloth the next moment, because Dean is pissed, and Sam knows that his brother doesn't want to associate with him right now. Dean's grip on Sam's wrist tightens, though, and Sam opens his eyes again, to see his brother blinking rapidly at him. The lines under Dean's eyes are deeper, made more prominent by the dim light. He looks drained. Tired. Like he's given up.

I'm sorry, Sam whispers to him.

Dean shakes his head. No, Sammy, no… he hesitates, eyes growing sad, and he takes a deep breath. Talk to me.

This time, Sam is sure he's hallucinating. He tries to turn away again, but Dean squeezes his wrist. Sam.

Despite himself, Sam snorts. Since when do you talk?

There is a pause. Then, surprisingly, Dean replies. Since you started going for walks and making me think you'd never come back. Since you got into bed one night and didn't get out for two fucking days. Since you tried to drown yourself. Since you told me you are angry, and the only thing you did was be angry, and nothing else. Since you stopped mumbling about your stupid colours at the randomest of times when you thought I couldn't hear you. Since… since… Dean's breath shudders, and Sam looks at him, heart jumping when he finds his brother's eyes wet.

Randomest isn't a word, Sam says quietly.

Dean doesn't reply, though. He just presses a fist to his mouth, as though he's controlling the urge to scream, and his shoulders hitch.

Sam blinks at him. Dean.

Dean shakes his head, and a tear escapes his eye, trailing down onto his cheek. Sam feels something break inside of him, as his vision blurs. Dean, he whispers, tears escaping down his temples, into his hair.I'm so tired, Dean.

I know, Dean replies. I know. But we can't… you can't… you and C-Cas and Bobby. S-Sam… He swipes his wrist across his eyes, shaking his head again, because he's not making sense, and he doesn't seem to be able to. He licks his lip, and tries again. Please t-talk to me. I'm fucked and I'm s-screwed, but I'll help. I always, t-try, Sam. Please, he begs, face crumpling as he wipes a hand across it. Why are you doing this, man? he asks, simply, his eyes heartbreakingly honest when they peer into Sam's.

Sam realises in that moment, that he has been selfish. He was burying himself in his own problems, thinking about himself, when Dean was struggling just as much as he was. As for what Famine said about Dean — the emptiness; Sam realises that's how he's been feeling — either extremely angry, or empty; like he doesn't want anything to do with anything. Even with living his life. And if that's made him this miserable, it's done the same to Dean. How hasn't he ever thought about that?

He's been so, so selfish.

Sam blinks more tears out of eyes and turns about, pressing his face against Dean's lap. Dean's jeans rough against Sam's skin, and Sam's throat works rapidly, agony lashing through his body and collecting in the tears in his eyes as they fall out, drop by drop.

I'm sorry, Sam whispers, choking on a building sob. I'm sorry, I'm sorry.

No, Dean tells him. No, no. His fingers wind around Sam's hair, raking through them, before coming to rest on Sam's neck. His other hand is on Sam's back, thumb rubbing circles against his sweat-soaked shirt, and it feels like Heaven has come down upon Sam. This is Dean, Dean, and Sam doesn't want to move for fear of waking up to this being a dream. He doesn't want to move because the world out there is cruel, and he won't have time to just rest against Dean's lap anymore, or be a child again.

Sam shifts in his brother's hold. I've been s-selfish, he whispers, coughing, as more tears spill. S-So selfish.

You haven't, Sammy.

I'm sorry.

You don't have to be.

D-Dean.

I'm here, Sammy.

~o~

When Sam wakes up the next day, his face is still pressed against Dean's lap, and there's dried tears and drool on his brother's jeans. Dean is fast asleep, sitting in the same position that he had assumed all those hours ago, with one leg folded on the bed and the other dangling down, foot almost touching the floor. His head lolls uncomfortably as his chin touches his chest, but his hand is still in Sam's hair, while the other one rests on Sam's back, holding him against himself.

Sam doesn't move, though. He doesn't want to get out of here. He wants to stay in this moment and let it all be the way it is, but he knows he can't do that. He's been stuck in one place too long. He's been here for months, and he can't let this take over. He needs to unfreeze, and as difficult as it's going to be, he knows he has Dean to turn to, when it gets too hard.

He shuts his eyes again, sleep taking over his tired mind and body. When he wakes up the next time, Dean is awake too, although he hasn't moved. His eyes meet Sam's, and they seem greener than they have been in months. And the only sound that echoes around the room for five minutes afterwards is that of feeble, but genuine laughter, when Sam smiles up at his brother and mutters, Green.

The End