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truth to tell

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The party’s winding down, so they’re digging dusty cots out of a back corner of the bunker where Sam had vaguely remembered seeing them stashed when Sam stops. Takes a breath and wraps his arms tighter around the bedrolls he’s carrying, and says, “Dean.”

If his tone didn’t give away that he’s serious, the way he glances at the closed storeroom door does. “Yeah?” Dean asks, straightening up, trying to sound like he’s not too tired for whatever’s coming.

“You need to talk to him,” Sam says. “To Jack. About his—about Lucifer. Jack needs to know, to understand what he’s really like.”

“We were trying,” Dean points out. “Kid didn’t seem like he wanted to listen.”

“No.” Sam shakes his head. “He’d listen, he just—he needs the truth. Everything. What Lucifer’s tried to do—what he’s done. To—to everyone.”

Jack would care, Dean thought. The kid had been angry enough about Michael, what the archangel had done to his own world; he probably wouldn’t be thrilled to hear Lucifer had tried for his personal Armageddon here, on Jack’s own world.

But a world’s abstract. What’d really gotten Jack fired up was getting to know the people Michael had hurt, the people he wanted to protect. And if Jack knew that truth, about what Lucifer had really done—to everyone, yeah. But also… “What he did to you,” Dean says.

Sam flinches, barely—a twitch of the shoulders, a shadow across his eyes—confirmation Dean would’ve rather done without. “Thought that was yours to tell,” Dean says, pitching his voice light.

Sam’s spine stiffens anyway; he swallows, throat tightened. “Yeah, well. I meant to—I tried. And I—couldn’t. I don’t know how to—there aren't—” He squares his shoulders, faces Dean like he would a firing squad. “But you—you could tell him. You know.”

Know what, Dean could ask. Because Sam doesn’t know how to talk about this, not even to Dean.

But Dean’s been to Hell himself, not the Cage, but enough to know that maybe there aren’t words for this. Words for whatever Sam’s remembering, when occasionally light glances across a metal blade and he jerks back, whole body twisting away. When there’s a rattling sound and his eyes dart up, scanning the ceiling for something unseen over him.

Years later and there are still foods Sam won’t eat anymore, that he looks away when Dean digs in, until Dean figures out what he shouldn’t order. There are injuries he won’t let Dean tend to—bandaging up his hand is fine, his calf, his back; but if his face gets cut he’ll clean it up in front of a mirror; if his thigh’s gashed he’ll let Dean thread the needle but sews it up himself.

Dean could tell Jack about that year after the wall came down, hunting Leviathans and watching Sam coming apart stitch by stitch and Dean wasn’t strong enough to keep him together—trying to hold on with all he had and it wasn’t enough, not then, not in the years after, no match for what was tearing Sam apart. Lucifer, bursting through the seams of Sam’s existence, and the only reason there was anything left afterwards was because Sam’s made of stronger stuff than any mortal man possibly should be, fireproof, imperishable.

Yesterday, give or take, he got to hug Sam again, jacket crusted with blood but breathing, and no, Dean will never understand that strength, where it comes from; but he’s grateful for it, every fucking day.

“Please,” Sam says, looking Dean straight in the eye, for all his shoulders are hunched like he’d rather be looking anywhere but. Making himself beg because it’s what he has to do; strong enough for that, too. “Jack needs to—”

“Yeah,” Dean says. “Okay. I’ll talk to him. If he’ll listen,” because the kid likes Dean, for some damn reason, but Jack never looks at him like he looks at Sam.

But Sam’s back relaxes, shoulders unclenching. “Thanks.” He gets a better grip on the bedrolls in his arms, pulls another one into the pile.

“Maybe we don’t need to anyway,” Dean remarks, as he picks up the pair of cots. “With Lucifer back there—maybe Michael will off him.”

“No,” Sam says, barely even resigned; he might as well have been talking about the date of the next full moon. “He’ll be back. Jack will have to deal with him again.”

And you, Dean doesn’t say. Maybe this time he’ll be there, able to watch. Sam facing Lucifer, with Jack at his side—Jack knowing the truth, and knowing that, he’ll be able to see it, see how much hurt Lucifer inflicts just by existing in the same dimension as Sam. Jack with his human heart and his growing protective instincts, and all his power.

Dean isn’t going to tell Sam this, either, but he’s looking forward to it.