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Dean dropped the weapons bag on the foot of Sam's bed with a dull thump on his way past without a word, crossing from the door to the bathroom. Sam glanced up in time to see the door slam shut, and looked at the duffle, the expectation apparent: your turn to clean the guns.

Sam sighed and closed his laptop.

A moment later, he heard the water in the shower switch on. He set the laptop down beside him on the bed and thought about Amelia pressed against his chest, about Riot's soft fur between his fingers and his cold wet nose against his palm, and it surprised him when tears sprung to his eyes. He quickly blinked them away, because no. He'd ruined that. He'd walked away from that.

Because he didn't deserve to have anything good, anything decent or pure. Those were the things he always managed to destroy.

Those were the choices he made.

There had been nothing but cold formalities from Dean since Sam had stood his ground outside the Impala. With Dean's words burrowing like acid into his gut, he'd thrown it all right back, threatening to "ice" the vampire Dean had called a better brother than him. And though Dean's recollection of the things he'd said to Sam were hazy, that seemed to solidify it for him. That Sam was no longer the brother he'd once cared for, protected, given his life for. He was done with Sam. He was Benny's.

Sam saw it happen, one more thing gone, ruined. It reflected in the way Dean's eyes turned cold and hard when he looked at him, as if there was nothing there worth saving.

He heard the shower shut off and shook himself, reaching over to draw the bag closer, sitting cross-legged in front of it on the bed. A few minutes later, Dean came out, dressed and running a towel over his hair. He tossed the towel onto a chair and picked up his keys off the table.

Sam drew in a breath. "Dean—?"

"I'll get food," he said, without a glance at Sam. And he was out the door before Sam could reply.

He'd thought they might go out somewhere. Get a drink. Sit down. That they might talk. Maybe Sam would explain. Fix things. Make a new start. Any other day of the year, maybe he wouldn't have thought it was worth trying. But today…

"Happy Thanksgiving," he muttered, looking back down at the weapons bag.

He felt the tears coming back again, and it made him angry, because he didn't want to feel sorry for himself. He was done with pity. The thought made him smile bitterly, thinking of Amelia again, her hardened exterior so much like Dean he couldn't help but love her. When he kissed her it was like everything falling into place, like letting go of the fear, guilt, and grief.

Letting go, while Dean had been holding on.

Never once left you to die.

Sam drew back the zipper on the bag and pulled out one of the guns that he knew was still loaded. How many times had Dean saved his life? He'd been a burden to Dean since he was six months old.

Dean was right. He hadn't made mistakes. He'd made choices. He'd chosen to be every disappointment that Dean saw in him. Chosen to drink demon blood, use his powers, set Lucifer free. Chosen to lie, deceive, mislead, endanger Dean's life, murder innocent people.

He cringed inwardly and forced himself to acknowledge the things he'd done without a soul. That was him, body and mind. He made those choices. Dean should have left his soul to rot in Hell where it belonged.

He really had one choice left that made any sense.

He brought the barrel up against the underside of his jaw.

There was the faint sound of a key turning in the door.

Sam's pulse sped up. He closed his eyes, the gun heavy in his hand. It didn't matter. Didn't matter. One pull of the trigger and it would be done. He didn't want to see Dean again. He didn't want the betrayal in Dean's eyes to be the last thing he saw. Dean would go through the motions of stopping him, would pick up his end of the rope in their familiar save Sam tug-of-war, and Sam just couldn't.

He heard Dean set the bags down inside the door and take a step toward him. "Sam. Sam, whoa. Sam, stop. Whatever you're doing, stop."

"Dean, leave. Please. I'm sorry. Just. Don't be here."

"Sam—"

He drew back the hammer, eyes still screwed shut, and he heard Dean's breath catch.

"Okay," Dean said. "Sam. Please. Give me a chance, here."

He opened his eyes one last time and met Dean's panicked gaze, and took in the way he stood with his hands held up, palms out. Don't, his posture said. So much between them had always passed without words. Everything in Dean at that moment was screaming don't, please.

And Sam almost didn't.

Then he inhaled and pulled the trigger.

 



He was aware of the sounds first. A distant, rhythmic beeping, a static hum, and a steady whoosh of air near his left side. After a moment, he noticed the light behind his eyes. He tried to open his eyes, but it was too bright, and he squeezed them shut, tears instantly filling them.

He tried to turn his head, and found that he couldn't.

"Sammy?"

Dean's hand was on his forehead, a familiar warmth and pressure that Sam couldn't help leaning into. "Sam. Hey," he said, relief heavy in his voice. "Sam, don't try and talk, okay? They'll get the breathing tube out before you know it, man, you just need to hang tight. You're gonna be okay, all right? Sam. You hearing me? Don't talk, don't move your head, just squeeze my hand if you're with me."

That's when he realized his hand had been in Dean's the whole time, Dean's hand solid and secure around his. He gripped Dean's hand hard feeling hot tears slide down his cheeks.

He'd fucked up. In so many unforgivable ways, but this was perhaps the worst, the final and most despicable show of weakness. If he hadn't been certain he deserved to die before, he was now.

"Sam. Hey, come on. Open your eyes for me."

Obediently, miserably, Sam opened his eyes and looked up at Dean. Dean looked so pale, with dark, tired circles under his eyes, but he smiled down at Sam.

Sam opened his mouth to apologize and immediately gagged on the tube in his throat. He tried to bring his hands up on reflex, but found that his wrists were restrained to the sides of the bed to keep him from unconsciously pulling at the tube, and panic surged through him. He heard the beeping of the monitors increasing around him. A wave of horror crashed down on him and suddenly he wasn't there anymore, he was—

It happened sometimes. Sometimes triggered by the feel of something against his skin, a smell, a sudden noise. The horrors of the cage would come rushing in at him all at once. It was like being caught in a tidal wave, being dragged under by a fierce current, and all he could do was try not to drown in the horror of it until it passed.

It always passed. He just had to remember. Had to fight it back.

Dean put his hands on Sam's shoulders. Dean. Dean always knew when he was drowning, always pulled him back out. "Don't talk, Sam," he said. "There's nothing you need to say right now, okay? Just listen." Dean wiped the tears away with the sides of his hands and cupped Sam's face. "You listen, Sam. You hear me?"

He nodded, eyes locked with Dean's.

"I know I said some things that hurt you. And I'm sorry. Sorry I made you think—"

Sam's brow furrowed and his eyes darted away. Dean took hold of his chin. "You're gonna hear this, Sam. Okay?" He took a breath. "I'm sorry that… that I ever did anything to make you think putting a gun to your head was the answer. God. Sam. I just… I'd be next. I'd be one bullet behind you."

The tube in Sam's throat wouldn't let him argue, wouldn't let him come back with all of the reasons it had nothing to do with Dean, that it was all Sam's own weakness, his own failings, his choices. Dean didn't deserve the same fate, not by a long shot. But he had no voice, and all he could do was plead with Dean through his eyes to understand that wasn't what he'd meant when he'd pulled the trigger.

Sorry, he mouthed around the tube, new tears forming in his eyes. Dean squeezed his hand.

"Don't be sorry," he said through tears of his own. "Be better. Just get better."

 


To be continued.