“I’m sorry, Sam. I really am.”
She isn’t. She’s scared. Her chin is trembling faintly and she can’t even meet his eyes. It’s obvious she would like to get as far away from him as possible, but she’s the one who hired him, so now it’s up to her to correct her own mistake.
“I know you’re not... dangerous.” She hesitates, her tongue tripping on the lie. “But we can’t have you scaring away our customers.”
She keeps talking and Sam feels dizzy. Adam’s sobs resonate down the aisle and it’s getting increasingly difficult to focus on what she’s saying. He tried to protect Adam, he did, but Lucifer (or maybe it was Michael this time) always catches up to him in the end.
“It’s okay, Rachel. I understand.”
And he does. He’s actually surprised he managed to keep the job for as long as he did. But then, it had really nothing to do with him and everything to do with the way Rachel hung on to his brother every time he came to pick Sam up. How she flirted and cooed and said that Sam had been ‘a really good boy today’ just so she could earn one of Dean’s tired smiles. But ever since his brother’s shift at the garage got extended and the fringe benefits disappeared, keeping the loon around was clearly not worth it anymore.
“Do you want me to call your brother?” She brightens up at her own idea. “You shouldn’t go home alone, so it’s better–”
She blanches at the forceful interruption, her lower lip quivering and her hand frozen where she was about to reach for her cellphone. Sam exhales slowly, clenches his fists at his sides and forces himself to take a step back.
“Thank you for your concern but it’s only a short walk. There’s no need to bother him.” She gulps nervously and simply nods. “I’ll just... I’ll see myself out.”
No reply. Apparently, the conversation is over. Sam makes his way to the exit, trying not to step over any of the stuff on the floor. He’s had half a mind of clearing the mess he created, but doesn’t think his offer would be appreciated now.
(Doesn’t matter, he’s not quite sure he’d be able to tell the difference between the spilled milk and Adam’s blood anyway.)
Outside, the air smells like rain and the clouds are black. It’s damn cold too, but maybe he’s only imagining it because he looked at the calendar this morning and it was still summer. Or maybe Dean has just forgotten to turn the page for him. It happens sometimes.
A few seconds later, the small bell of the door chimes and he feels a warm gurgling breath on the back of his neck. Sam resists the urge to look back (yet) and forces his legs to start moving in the correct direction.
He can hear Adam limping just few steps behind.
He sits on a bench by the lake, the one situated behind couple of overgrown bushes, so he’s mostly hidden from any random runners or blissful couples strolling through the park. He’s been coming here for the last three days and staying for the whole shift he used to work at the store. It’s not as much that he’s avoiding telling the truth to Dean (although he is) as it is him kind of forgetting every morning that he doesn’t have any place to go to anymore until he’s already on the street.
It’s difficult to remember when the alarm clock rings and he wakes up with his heart playing a battle march against his ribcage and the walls pulsing red. When the world won’t realign itself –Hell slipping away through the cracks again – until he comes down to find Dean sitting in front of the kitchen counter and scowling into his coffee.
“Dean is going to find out sooner or later,” Adam says, sitting besides him. “And he’s going to be pissed.”
“You can’t know that.”
“I can’t,” Adam agrees placidly. “But you do. And I know you.”
And yeah, he does. Maybe because they spent two hundred years together in the Cage (five times more than Sam will ever spend with Dean). Or maybe because he’s only a figment of Sam’s crazy deluded mind. It doesn’t really matter.
“You should tell him.”
Sam doesn’t bother answering. Thinking about the future only gives him headaches. It’s easier to face his life one minute at a time.
Adam shrugs, seemingly unconcerned about the subject, and wanders over to the edge of the lake. A ray of light comes through the clouds and for a few seconds he’s surrounded by twirling reflections. It’s so beautiful Sam wonders if Adam could actually walk over the water, and if his feet would actually make ripples on the surface.
(Lucifer knew how to walk over water, and it was beautiful too.)
His little brother looks calm today, unharmed (well, except for the long gaping gash across his abdomen, but from what Sam can see all his entrails seem to be still inside) and it’s been so long that Sam can’t help staring.
“They are too busy yelling at each other.” Adam explains, probably picking on his surprise.
It’s a good day.
(It would be better if he could share it with Dean.)
Time drifts by slowly and Sam can hear his stomach growling. It’s a little difficult to recognize his own body’s needs, but he guesses he must be hungry. That was another good thing about the job: A clear routine and free meals at the canteen where all the staff had lunch. Dean didn’t have to worry about getting enough money for groceries, or about cooking all his meals... or about leaving them on sight to make sure Sam remembered to eat.
He could go back to their house and try to cook something. He probably could manage to re-heat some leftovers, but he’s terrified of going back to an empty home.
(He’s not sure if they can even call it that.)
Sam buries his face in his hands.
Adam hasn’t moved from his spot, still looking over the horizon. But the lake is now tinted red, bubbles of putrid gas bursting to the surface, and Sam realizes that’s what his little brother has been seeing all the time: The nightmarish equivalent in the Cage.
He still doesn’t want to go back.
“Lucifer told me he misses you.” Adam says, nonchalant.
Sam has to bite his lip until they bleed to keep himself from uttering ‘I miss him, too.’
In a way, living in the Cage was easier.
Sure, there was the endless pain and the hopelessness of eternal torture, but at least there was a natural order and he knew exactly what to expect next. And what was even more important: he knew that somewhere up there Dean had a family and a normal life. He knew that Dean was happy and that thought helped Sam endure even the most twisted of Lucifer’s games.
(After all, he fell to save Dean. Saving the world was only a sideeffect.)
At his lowest and weakest moments, he used to picture Dean enjoying his brand new daily life. He would picture him playing ball with Ben or smiling at Lisa. He would picture him having fun and being surrounded by lots of friends and people he cared about. Sometimes, he even indulged a little and pictured him remembering Sam with pride and fondness in his eyes.
(In the Cage, Sam found absolution. His mistakes didn’t matter anymore. He had died a hero.)
But there isn’t any pride in Dean’s eyes now. And Sam can’t see any fondness either. All he can see in his brother’s gaze, is anger and disappointment.
“When were you going to tell me, Sam?” Dean isn’t yelling, but Sam kind of wishes he were. Anything would be better that the flatness in his voice. “Were you going to wait until we didn’t have enough to pay the rent or what?”
And Sam should have seen this coming. He really should. He had a whole week to get ready after all. But he’s got nothing. His mind is totally blank and even if he knew what to say, he probably wouldn’t be able to find the right words. He’s useless like that.
“What the hell were you thinking? No, scratch that, you weren’t thinking at all, were you?” Dean keeps going and Sam suddenly realizes it doesn’t matter if he’s just standing there frozen and mute. His brother is not really expecting any answer. This is not a conversation.
Adam comes crawling into the room. He’s covered in blood. A thousand thorns bursting out from his skin.
“It was damn embarrassing. Rachel came to ask me how you were doing and I didn’t have a fucking clue what she was talking about!”
Of course she did. She probably thought it was her best shot at approaching Dean again. Offer a little sympathy and maybe a night to relieve the stress of taking care of a wacky brother. They could even bond over the scary experience or something.
Sam wonders if she was very disappointed when Dean just stormed home, as Sam is certain he did.
“She told me you suddenly flipped. Started throwing things and yelling people not to get near you.”
Near Adam, actually. But Sam doesn’t think the clarification will make any difference to Dean.
“Even Mark and George know. Probably the whole fucking town knows!”
Sam shrugs; he doesn’t even know who Mark and George are. Just another piece of Dean’s life that he doesn’t belong to.
“Do you know what could happen if people start talking?” Dean runs a hand over his face. “They could take you away and lock you down!”
At least Dean would stop looking so tired all the time then. He would have more time to spend with Rachel, Mark and George. No Sam to get in the way of a real life.
Adam starts wheezing and coughing blood, buds growing form the thorns.
“I don’t understand, Sam. Have you been taking your meds? Weren’t we past this?”
Dean opens to the cabinet to check on the stupid pills they can barely afford. Every bottle costs nearly as much as the rent and they don’t do a thing for Sam except making him feel dopey and off-center. But he takes them anyway because Dean insists.
(Sam takes them because they make Dean feel better)
Adam is rocking back and forth in the corner, a growing pool of blood spreading around him like water under a potted plant. Sam itches to go there and offer some comfort, even though it’s proven useless.
“Sam, what–” Dean gasps and Sam drags his gaze back to his (big) brother just in time to see his eyes widen in realization.
“I thought you weren’t seeing Lucifer anymore.”
Adam screams. The buds bloom into beautiful red-blood roses.
It’s not even a lie.
Dean pinches the bridge of his nose and his shoulders slump in defeat. Sam aches to touch those shoulders, to put his arms around them and say with his actions what he seems unable to convey with his words. But before Sam can make a move to act on the impulse, Dean looks up again and his eyes are hard as steel. Sam has lost his chance.
“Fuck it.” Dean growls.
He picks up the car keys and turns away. The slam of the door resounds inside Sam’s chest like thunder.
Sam goes sit by Adam at the corner, not minding the blood or the fallen petals.
“It hurts.” Adam whimpers.
“I know,” Sam whispers. “I’m sorry.”
Dean takes a second job.
Sam still wakes up every day at the same time, but there’s nobody in the kitchen and the coffee has gone cold. Hell doesn’t go into hiding that easily either, and Sam often finds himself heaving and fighting to keep himself grounded. A couple of times he loses the battle and fades into nothingness, only becoming aware of himself again few hours later. Trembling, cold, with broken nails and a sore throat.
It’s not entirely unpleasant. At least the day passes faster.
He goes for short walks sometimes. When the walls start closing in on him and the house starts to feel like a prison (like a Cage). But he never goes far, nor to places he hasn’t been before. Dean wouldn’t like him getting lost and Adam is usually in no shape to walk for long anyway.
Sam avoids getting into town, though. He’s sure the unusual circumstances of his dismissal have spread like wildfire and there would be whispers and stares and judgement and he just... he just can’t.
He wishes he was whole (was he ever?) and could look for a new job by himself. But Dean was the one who did the hard work, the one who charmed his way into the town people, the one everybody trusted. Sam only had to restock the shelves and wipe the floor. And he failed.
So he does nothing. Nothing at all. And waits for Dean to come back.
Except that when Dean arrives at night, it’s not much better. There’s only the discouraging rumble of the TV turned up too loud and the strong smell of whiskey.
One day, Sam encounters a demon.
He knows what it is before he hears the footsteps. Before he looks up and watches the figure walking across the narrow path by the lake. And way before it ever speaks a word to him.
He knows because he can feel it. Because he can fucking smell it.
Sam’s stomach flips and jumps – a strange mix of craving and repulsion – and a cold shiver runs down his spine. He wants to turn back and hide, get away before it sees him. But he’s not crazy enough yet to believe that this is just a coincidence. Every demon out there knows who Sam Winchester is (even if he’s not quite sure himself), which means he’s being hunted.
No. He’s not going to run, he’s not going to make the chase even more interesting.
(A little part of him it’s actually surprised he’s lived this long.)
“Excuse me, sir.” The demon pretends to just notice him. “Could you please tell me–”
“Stop the bullshit.” Sam’s voice wavers, and he hates himself for it. “I know what you are.”
The demon halts, clearly caught off guard, but then starts cackling.
“Yeah, I guess I deserved that. Of course you would be able to recognize one of your brothers.”
Its eyes turn into deep black pools and the smell grows stronger. Sam feels sick.
He wonders how long it will take to find his body.
“This is way better, don’t you think? No need to beat around the bush or waste valuable time with pleasantries.”
Sam hopes it won’t take too long and that Dean is still at work when he receives the call. At least there will be a lot of people there willing to comfort him, even though none of them really know who Sam is.
Even though Sam cannot picture any of their faces.
“You know, I’ve heard so much about you. You’re like a legend. The boy who saved the world,” it snarls, getting closer. “I’m almost tempted to ask you for an autograph or something.”
The demon is wearing a middle-aged man with a pot belly and a balding head. No very impressive, but it still manages to look down on Sam.
“So, tell me, how’s retired life treating you? I don’t think it agrees with you. You look a little shaken.”
He does. He’s covered in cold sweat and he can feel his own heartbeat in his temples. It’s actually kind of embarrassing because he’s fairly sure he’s not afraid. Not of this second-rate demon. Not of dying.
(That which scares him is another league altogether.)
“Not much of talker, huh?” The demon sighs, shaking its head. “Has the cat got your tongue?”
Sam looks around. He’s not really looking for help so much as simply looking. His eyes meet with Adam and Sam guesses he should be relieved he’s not going to die completely alone. He tries to smile but he only manages a grimace.
This is not the brother he wants to die with.
“Or maybe I’m not suitable company? After all, you are used to far greater partners, aren’t you?”
It’s not like Sam was expecting Adam to go ask for help (no one else can see him, remember?) but there’s a light of anticipation in the kid’s eyes and he looks almost... eager. Maybe he thinks the half-brother who left him behind for an eternity of torture is going to come back now. After all, Sam was Lucifer’s favourite distraction.
(And at least down there he was of some use.)
“What are you looking at?” The demon grabs his jaw and wrenches his head around. It studies him through narrowed eyes.
The smell is overpowering. Sam tries to break the demon’s grip on his face, but he’s not strong enough.
(He’s never strong enough for anything.)
“Are the rumours true then? You’ve gone cuckoo?” It cackles again. “By all means, tell me, what are you seeing? Is it Lucifer? Michael? Or maybe something worse?”
“Get. On. With. It.” Sam hisses between clenched teeth. Adam whoops and claps.
“Oh? Get on with what? What exactly do you think I’m here for?”
Sam concentrates on breathing through his mouth.
“You think I’m here to kill you, don’t you?” A sharp teethed grin that stretches the demon’s features to distortion. “But tell me, why would I kill the one who makes sure Dean Winchester stays out of the way?”
It lets him go and Sam stumbles backwards, his back colliding with the trunk of a tree. “Wha–what?”
“Don’t you understand? We owe you so much that in fact I think I should thank you! Not only did you dispose of Lucifer, who I was admit I wasn’t very fond of... He was kind of racist, you know?” the demon tuts mockingly. “But you also managed to do what no other demon or angel ever could: Incapacitate the infamous Winchesters for good.”
Adam has gone strangely silent but the demon’s laugh grates through Sam’s brain.
“It’s almost pitiful,” it snorts. “The best hunters in the world! Feared by monsters and demons alike! Always in the eye of the storm and messing up everybody's plans! Oh, how the mighty have fallen.”
Sam closes his eyes, but he doesn’t know how to close his ears.
“Just look at you now,” it spits. “You are just a useless trembling mess, and your brother is nothing but a glorified babysitter.”
The bark digging into Sam’s back may be the only thing keeping him upright.
“Besides, if you died, your brother would be free, and we don’t want to unleash him, do we? He’s given us enough headaches already. You keep your brother exactly where we want him.”
Sam gasps, the words hitting him like a punch to the gut.
(You and your brother are exactly where we want you.)
“So, nope, sorry. I won’t kill you. I won’t even lay a finger on you.”
Sam opens his eyes. Adam is nothing but a rotten corpse. His body covered in cockroaches.
“Oh, are you disappointed? Yeah, I bet you are.”
“Why are you here, then?” Sam croaks. “To gloat?”
The demon shrugs. “We all get our kicks in different ways.”
It’s so ridiculous Sam feels a hysteric laugh bubbling to the surface. He pushes it down, though. If he starts now he’s not sure he will ever be able to stop.
“I’m not really fond of this place, though. Such a boring town, don’t you think? A little too peaceful for my tastes... I’ve been wanting to pop up and liven things up for a while now. So I couldn’t pass the chance to pay you and your brother a little visit.”
Sam clenches his fists. “If you dare to get close Dean, I swear–”
“Oh, but I already did. Didn’t I tell you? We had a really nice chat about classic cars when I left mine at the garage.”
Something hot rushes over Sam’s body, and it takes him a few seconds to recognize it as fury. He can’t remember the last time he got angry. It always seemed too much of an effort.
“I was almost disappointed when he didn’t notice a thing. But on his behalf I’ll say that judging by his breath he wasn’t completely sober.” The demon lowers its voice to a stage-whisper. “If I didn’t know better, I’d say he’s pretty miserable.”
Sam’s nails dig painfully into his hands.
“Your brother almost wet himself when I promised a good tip if he was fast.” The demon guffaws, turning around. “He’s a really good domesticated boy now.”
It’s a mistake.
Because yeah, Sam may be crazy, may be useless, may be a burden, may be unable to remember correctly what he did yesterday... but he still knows by heart at least six different kinds of exorcisms.
The chant catches the demon by surprise. It fights and shouts and lashes and twists but Sam is nothing if not determined. In the end it doesn’t really take that long.
When Sam limps home, battered and bruised, there’s a very confused middle aged man sprawled on the ground behind him (he’ll probably think he was mugged) and exactly one less demon on the face of the Earth.
Sam doesn’t feel anything about it.
His hands won’t stop shaking.
He meticulously showers, puts ice on his knee and manages to hide most of his bruises behind some really loose clothes. But still, his stupid hands keep trembling and he ends up cutting his own palm open with the kitchen knife.
(His blood stinks of sulfur.)
When Dean comes home, he catches him trying to bandage it and making a mess all over the counter (it will be difficult to take off the stains from the wood). Sam kind of expects Dean to get pissed or start questioning him any time now. But he just stand there with a weary look of dismay on his face, the dust of freckles over his nose standing out in stark contrast to the chalky skin.
In the end Dean says nothing at all, doesn’t even scold him for being careless (Sam kind of wishes he would). He just sits beside him and helps Sam to disinfect the wound. Maybe he even gives him a couple of stitches, but Sam can’t be sure because those things don’t even register on his radar anymore and he’s too busy studying the purple circles under his brother’s eyes to really pay attention.
It’s well past ten when Dean finishes cleaning the kitchen and starts cooking the next day’s lunch. Watching Dean with an apron should be hilarious (he’s sure at some point in his life he was the kind of guy to tease him mercilessly about it), but for some reason it only makes Sam feel vaguely sad now.
“I’m fine,” he blurts. Because he wants to break the silence and because that’s like an ingrained response at this stage. He honestly would give anything to alleviate the tension radiating from his brother’s shoulders.
(Anything except telling him the truth, that’s out of the question.)
And isn’t that the trademark Winchester catchphrase? The one that made all the problem go away, the one that buried the issues so deep that they could keep going like they never existed in the first place? Those simple words were enough for so long that Sam doesn’t understand why they aren’t now.
Dean doesn’t even turn. “Of course you are.”
(Fake it until you make it, and if you can’t make it, just keep faking it. He didn’t need to fake anything with Lucifer.)
Sam goes to bed early. He hates himself for not daring to ask his brother how he is.
The next day, when Sam comes into the kitchen, he discovers his meal has already been cut into small neat pieces. He doesn’t even need to look around to know all the knives have been hidden from sight.
His stomach lurches, but he forces himself to sit down and and manages to take a couple of bites, his mind deliberately blank. But when he reaches for the water (to wash the taste of ashes from his mouth) he realizes that all the glassware has been replaced by plastic cups and suddenly he finds himself retching violently in the corner.
Besides him, Adam is retching too. Small, neat, bloody pieces of what seem to be his heart falling from his mouth.
Dean is late.
Dean is late and Adam is pacing and it’s driving Sam crazy(er).
“Will you please stop?”
“But it’s been hours!” Adam says agitatedly. “It’s been hours and he’s going to find me!”
Of course he will. Lucifer always did. The longer it took, the longer you were without being hurt, but the more gruesome and painful was the outcome. It was a twisted Hide and Seek and Adam has not yet learned that it’s better not to hide at all.
(Sam remembers the first time he gave up. When Lucifer stopped counting and saw him standing there, he smiled sweetly before drawing him into a warm embrace and gently snapping his neck. It was worth it.)
The phone rings and Sam looks at it warily. He doesn’t like talking on the phone, it makes him nervous so he almost never picks it up, even if it’s Dean.
(Especially if it’s Dean. Because his brother’s voice over the phone says cruel things sometimes.)
But Dean is late, so Sam takes the phone.
“Hey, Sam.” Dean slurs, obviously well on his way to his fifth or sixth beer, but still very much alive.
“Hey,” Sam mimics, not knowing what else to say. He can hear music on the other side. Somebody is making a toast and there are people laughing and joking.
(Sam looks at the door. Dean is late. He should arrive at any moment.)
“I’m at the bar with the guys. We’re celebrating Dave finally getting engaged, can you believe it? So don’t wait up, okay?”
Sam can hear the smile in his brothers voice and if somebody deserves a break and some fun, that’s his brother. He means to agree. He does.
There’s silence for a few seconds
“He’s one of the boys at the construction site, you know?” Dean says hesitatingly, sounding ten times more sober.
Sam doesn’t. He doesn’t know. Dean never talked about any Dave (never talks about anything). In fact, Dean hasn’t even bothered to inform Sam that his second job is at a construction site until this very moment.
“He–he has been trying to gather the guts to pop the question for weeks now and we thought...”
Dean’s voice dies out, and he curses under his breath. He must have reached the same conclusion. Or maybe Sam has stayed silent for too long.
He hangs up.
Behind him Adam starts howling. Lucifer has finally caught up with him.
When Dean comes home, barely thirty minutes later, Sam is in bed pretending to be asleep (they both know he’s not). His brother hovers at the door for a few seconds, and Sam silently wills him away (wills him in).
Finally, Dean just sighs and leaves, and Sam tells himself the sting behind his eyelids is not due to disappointment.
Sam feels guilty.
It’s nothing new; actually, Sam has been feeling guilty most of his life (he has good reasons to) but right now he mostly feels guilty because he destroyed Dean’s first night out in forever because of a stupid childish tantrum.
For the last couple of days, they have been tip-toeing around each other. And there’s a tightness around Dean’s eyes and mouth that scares him. A couple of times he has caught his brother opening his mouth like he wants to say something but Sam never stays in the same room long enough to let him make up his mind. He knows he’s being a coward, but he can’t help it. He’s more afraid of what Dean is going say than of the strained silence.
The result is that the rift between them only grows larger, and Sam misses Dean more and more every day. Missing his brother had always been like missing a severed limb: the phantom pain never quite stopped. But now he feels the void even when they are under the same roof.
That morning it just becomes too much. Too much empty space, too much nothingness. The air becomes so thick that it sticks to Sam’s throat like slime and he feels like he’s suffocating.
He needs to see his brother. Dean is the only one who can keep the vacuum at bay.
Sam realizes he has not really thought this whole thing through when he arrives in town and an old, wrinkled woman almost gets herself run over by a truck in her haste of changing to the other side of the street.
(She used to be a regular at the store. She even asked him to help her carry her bags home once and gave him some flavored tea afterwards. But she doesn’t seem so keen on talking to him about the merits of her granddaughter anymore.)
There are whispers around him, and barely concealed sneers, and Sam can feel their gazes on him. Hateful, scared, pitiful, disgusted gazes prickling at the back of his neck like needles. But nobody stops him and nobody crosses his path, so Sam just lowers his head and keeps walking.
He has to find Dean.
Maybe some part of his subconscious must be still working properly, because suddenly he turns a corner and his brother’s voice reaches his ears, making all the others vanish like dissipating smoke. He looks up and Dean is right there, in the backyard of a skeleton house across the street.
But the relief Sam’s waiting for doesn’t come.
He falters, because feeling better when Dean is close to him is like an ingrained reflex at this stage. He doesn’t understand what’s wrong, what’s different.
And then he looks at Dean again.
His brother is smiling.
He’s talking animatedly with some co-workers and it must be something really funny because they are grinning and elbowing each other and Dean looks relaxed, completely at ease.
The air becomes a solid barrier in front of Sam and he knows he won’t be able to get a step closer. He’s looking in through a wall of unbreakable glass.
(He’s an outsider. What else is new.)
So he just stands there, watching his brother’s face, studying his relaxed expression while something akin to dread pools in the pit of his stomach. On cue, Dean throws his head back and laughs – a big body-shaking guffaw – and a strange numbness spreads over Sam.
He can’t remember the last time Dean laughed like that around him, even before the mess of the Cage or the Wall, and Sam’s sure it’s not only because of the gaping holes inside his Swiss cheese brain.
Adam puts a hand on his shoulder and when Sam he turns around to meet his eyes, he finds only two empty sockets.
(It’s for the best; if he had seen anything resembling pity, he would probably would have ripped out Adam’s eyes himself.)
“Let’s go, man.” Adam says, shaking his head.
So he goes. And if just when he’s disappearing around the corner he thinks he hears a familiar voice calling out for him, it’s only his imagination.
After all, Dean doesn’t call him Sammy anymore.
He walks for hours.
He doesn’t really know where he’s going and he tries not to keep track. He doesn’t trust himself enough not to freak out and run back to hide under his brother’s wing, and if he fails now, he will probably never find the courage to get away again.
And he must. He owes Dean a real chance at happiness. It’s time he pays his debts.
(His brother deserves more than this half-existence Sam’s inflicted on him.)
So he walks.
Adam is a silent presence by his side. His bare feet making squishy sounds with every step and leaving bloody footprints on the concrete.
It’s not that easy, though. Sam keeps faltering and becoming confused about where he is and what he’s doing, and it always takes a while before he manages to remember that everything it’s for the best. There’s also the small issue of him not having the faintest idea of where he’s heading. But after some pondering, he decides that returning to the Cage is his best option. Lucifer will probably take him back.
Adams certainly perks up when he mentions it, and Sam feels glad he can still help one of his brothers.
The ironic part is that he has always known he wasn’t meant to leave Hell. Dean went in his place once, and Sam almost destroyed the world in return. It made sense that he had to be contained. (Hell is the only place where he actually fits). But no, he had to fuck it up again. He had to come back and piss all over Dean’s bright future. Steal his brother from his new family and destroy his hard-earned happiness.
Dean deserves to be surrounded by people who love and care about him. He had them once. He almost has them now. One does not need to be a genius to figure who is messing up the equation here.
So Sam is glad he’s finally made up his mind. He’s done being selfish.
That’s why when he looks up, he doesn’t understand what he’s doing standing in the middle of their porch.
The house is in complete darkness.
When Sam opens the door, he thinks for a moment that there’s nobody inside (that maybe Dean is celebrating his new-found freedom somewhere else) but that’s only until he meets his brother’s shocked, bloodshot, red-rimmed eyes.
Dean looks like crap.
He’s still in his coveralls and his ashen skin is almost translucent in the pale light coming from the street lamps. He’s also clutching the telephone and has probably been shouting something into it just a few moments ago. Right now, he’s just staring, completely frozen. He opens and closes his mouth a couple of times but no sound comes out. And it takes almost half a minute until he finally comes to his senses.
“False alarm,” Dean croaks, clearing his throat. “He just came home.”
The small voice on the other side is still talking when he hangs up.
“The lights are out,” Sam says, because he really can’t find any other plausible explanation of why his brother is pacing in the dark.
Dean’s eyes narrow. Maybe Sam was wrong after all.
“Where the hell have you been? It’s been fifteen fucking hours!” Dean yells, and Sam can just lower his head. This is going to be one of those not-conversations. “Is this some kind of sick game for you? First showing up at my work and then running out like that?”
“Damn it, Sam...” Dean whispers, and it’s such a sudden change of mood that Sam can’t help looking up again, just in time to see his brother shrink. The fight going out of him like water down a drain.
“Please, talk to me.” Dean rubs his hand across his face. “You gotta start talking to me.”
He looks so tired, his eyes so pleading and hopeful that Sam wants to comply. He does. But he cannot think of a single thing outside of 'I wanted to set you free' or 'Please don't leave me' which is stupid and contradictory and probably not what Dean wants to hear at all.
He faintly remembers a time in which talking was easy, and they used to talk about everything and anything (mostly about nothing) but that piece of his brain must have been lost somewhere.
Time stretches, but words still don’t come. Dean just slumps further and Sam has rarely seen his brother look so small. He suddenly realizes that maybe, just maybe, the cause of the unforgiving silence that has been plaguing them wasn’t that one-side after all.
Dean turns away.
“Just... close the door, will you?”
Sam does, following his brother into the living room, still trying to find the right thing to say. Dean switches on the lights with a sigh.
“Are you hungry? You must be, it’s...” He stops with a choked up sound. “Oh, Sammy, your feet.”
Sam follows Deans horrified gaze and looks down to the red marks on the carpet.
“Don’t worry. Those aren’t mine.” He smiles, glad he can finally reassure his brother of something. “They are Adam's."
Dean chokes again.
Dean can barely stand to look at Sam’s soles.
It certainly makes it more difficult for him to clean them, but Sam is not complaining. He has tried to explain to Dean that he doesn’t need to be so careful, that it doesn’t hurt, that in fact he doesn’t feel a thing. But his assurances only made his brother tenser, so he’s keeping quiet now.
Still, he’s surprised by the sheer amount of pebbles and pieces of glass that have made their way into the bowl.
Dean finishes with the stitches (beautiful job, Lucifer would be proud) and reaches for the bandage. But his hands are trembling faintly and he ends up knocking it from the table. They both watch it roll away.
There’s a shuddering breath, then, and Dean slowly lowers his head until it’s resting against Sam’s knees. Which Sam actually thinks is pretty nice and warm, until he hears a strangled sob coming from his brother.
Dean is crying.
Sam is met with his own uselessness again. Because no matter how much he wants to fix this, everything he does only fucks things up even more.
He doesn’t know how to stop needing Dean.
(Doesn’t know how to stop hurting him.)
“You know, you were a shitty big brother down there.” Adam’s voice is hoarse, maybe because his chest is ripped open and one of his lungs has been removed. “But you are an even shittier little brother up here.”
Sam looks down at Dean’s shaking shoulders, and silently agrees.