Dinner had been surprisingly pleasant, despite the never-ending knot of dread in Sam’s gut that told him something was going to go wrong. Mary and John had enjoyed their time together, John was the most relaxed and genuine Sam had ever seen him, and Dean… his big brother was practically glowing from happiness, his greatest wish fulfilled. Sam never thought he would hear such unburdened laughter ringing through the room from the throats of any of these people ever again, much less with those sounds mingling in a song all their own. He berated himself for his worry and his nervousness.
This was his family, and he was welcome here, not the outsider he felt like, no matter what the sickly voice in his head whispered, had always whispered ever since he was a teenager. He forced away the dread, resolving to live in this moment, more importantly, to let Dean live in this moment. If the universe was to begin unraveling around them as a consequence, they would deal with it when it happened. He wasn’t going to add another mark on his already long list of sins by worrying about it now and ruining his brother's happiness.
He tried to tell himself that all the laws of time and reality they were breaking were the only reason for the sour pit in his stomach, but then he knew all the Winchesters had developed a reputation for saying ‘screw it’ to the rules. He tried to assure himself that in a few days, provided reality didn’t implode, he would find his footing in the family he had never known whole. In a few days, Castiel and Jack would be back, brother and son, and then he would feel more comfortable finding his place among his blood kin, with the family he already felt secure with around him. God, he missed his – their – son, and the angel who had become a second brother to him. Hell, he even missed the slightly misguided aunt that had become Rowena, but he desperately hoped she wouldn’t show up while either of his parents were here. It was kind of funny, in a depressing way, how much he could miss his family when all of his blood family was here with him. He tried to convince himself that the dread pricking tears in his eyes and bile in his throat had nothing to do with that family currently in the bunker. He almost succeeded.
“Sam.” His dad found him after dinner where he was performing maintenance on their hunting knives, steady gaze and even tone setting off warning sirens in Sam’s mind. Either John was pissed or he was about to be, on rare an occurrence, emotionally vulnerable…Sam was kind of afraid of what would happen if those two events occurred simultaneously. He forced himself to relax and turn around to face his father, meeting his gaze with eyes carefully shrouded in calm. “Yeah?”
A muscle ticked in John’s jaw and he inhaled deeply through his nose. ‘Anger’ Sam’s mind supplied him, ‘but oddly held in check.’ “Sam.” His father’s voice sounded like gravel as it ground out the achingly unfamiliar calm tone. “I know I haven’t been the best father to you, certainly didn’t handle your emotional outbursts as well as I should have. I was hell to live with at times, and I’m not surprised you ran as soon as you could, but I did try, you know that.” Sam didn’t say anything as he held his father’s gaze calmly for a heartbeat, two, three, and then turned back towards the table, sheathing the knives he had been polishing. He didn’t need to see John Winchester to know that the man’s shoulder’s had just become tenser, that the muscle in his jaw was ticking again, that his teeth were gritting together as he contained himself.
“I know that Sam.” ‘Exasperation’, that was the word for his current tone, frustration and anger began to color the edges, sharpening them into what they had once been years ago, back when Sam would have torn at him in fury for it. “But I am still your father, and you may not need a father anymore, but you could at least remember who I am, who Mary is,” That was definitely anger now, controlled but still anger. “And you could try to show a little more respect than silence and vague grunts when we speak to you, like the stubborn teenager I thought you grew out of." He huffed, trying for some form of humor. He failed horribly. “I mean, is this what you’ve been giving Dean all these years? This attitude? God knows you were never an easy child, but really Sam, petulance is beneath you.”
Sam set the last knife, now sheathed, down gently, barely making a sound as the metal handle met the wood of the table. "Ya know what?" He released the words quietly in a sigh, turning around and standing straighter "Screw you." For once the words lacked heat, his expression lacked the spark of anger, both showing weary resignedness. He met John Winchester's eyes and spoke before the old and familiar aggravation could spill from the elder man's lips like liquid fury.
"Ya know something? I had a real shitty gene doner." He tilted his head a bit like a tired puppy as he stared at John Winchester, who nearly vibrated with shock, shock that then began to bleed into fury barely held in check. Mary took a step forward to be next to her husband, a warning tone of disapproval on her tongue, as if she were a mother speaking to an eight-year-old. "Sam."
His eyes flicked to her and he huffed the smallest, most humorless laugh. "On both sides." She flinched back and his eyes tracked back to John, leaning back against the table with a weary sigh as the older man clenched his fists at his sides.
Unbeknownst to them all, Dean had stopped in the hallway at his brother’s words, out of sight and without drawing attention. At first, anger had burned in his chest, unable to believe his brother would ruin this now, after everything they'd lost. But something stopped him, and he did not know what it was, maybe the lack of righteous, impetuous anger once so familiar from his brother’s tone, but he waited and listened. He wanted to know…know what, he wasn’t sure, but he needed to know it. He forced his anger down from roaring flames into smoldering embers, forced the blood to stop rushing through his head and made himself listen as Sam started talking again.
"I mean, got a hell of a legacy from both sides, but at a freakin’ steep price." He titled his head as he studied John, noting the steadily building fury under the man's skin, at the very least he gave him credit for trying to keep it under control instead of exploding like he would have before. "Shitty motels, drill sergeant barking orders from the time I could walk, same man who was just a tad alcoholic and borderline abusive after one too many." His eyes narrowed "How many of those scars did you give Dean with your inebriated ‘training’?" He shook his head, weary and disappointed as if he were the parent here. "All that I could have lived with," He sighed as he dropped his arms to the table at his side's, fingers curling loosely over the edges. " 'cause that was only when you were around. And at least I didn’t doubt you did it out of some misguided, hypervigilant form of love."
His eyes narrowed as they lit with the beginnings of a spark, but his tone didn’t change. Low, steady, and emotionless. "And you weren't around most of the time. Know what that meant?" He cocked his head to the side, humorless in his imitation of a cute child sharing a fun secret. "Blankets too thin, clothes too small, mold on the walls that made me sick, no food, no money for food. Sickness with no medicine because my big brother couldn't risk getting caught and leaving me ill by myself." He shook his head, a hard edge cutting into his tone as he glared. "My brother." He spat, "That's what I always hated most." He tilted his head, like a curious child marveling to a parent, the glare disturbingly out of place on an almost innocent and thoughtful expression. "You know he still thinks I don't know how often he wore those too small clothes, went places no child should be in, all to have money to feed me, just me though, not himself, because he couldn't risk getting caught and leaving me alone?" He scoffed. "Hell wasn't the first time Dean sold himself for me. Far from it." His eyes flashed dangerously, betraying the hell-hardened warrior under his skin, and he stood straighter, forcing John to look up at him as he leaned forward, voice even and hard. "I'll never forgive you for that." John stared at him, silent for once in his life, as the blood drained from his face. Mary was gripping his arm, but whether from shock, anger, or nausea, Sam didn't know.
He fell back against the table lazily, hardness disappearing from voice and eyes both as he flicked a hand lazily toward Mary before crossing them over his chest.
"And then there's Mom." Mary shied away from how her youngest said her name, not daring to look him in the eye as he stared at her with as little interest as one might show an insect. "Oh I can forgive her the deal with Azaezal, and all the pain it caused me, caused Dean." He shrugged, the motion moving half his body. "Be a damn hypocrite if I didn't." He tilted his chin up, huffing out a breath, blowing hair out of his eyes as he looked down at her even from his hunched position. "But then she came back." He said flatly, shaking his head slowly, almost sadly. "Big shock, I know. Needed time to adjust, understandable." His eyes narrowed, the hard edge coming back.
"But then she started ignoring us. Then she started working with those British bastards. Takes a job from them that nearly gets our brother killed." He frowned at her, eyes flashing like frosted steel. "Stared us in the eye and lied as she worked with the people who nearly killed Cas and tortured her own child." She squirmed in place, looking away from him.
He huffed another sigh, low and sad, looking between them, or maybe at both of them for how his gazed pinned them there. "God knows, for all he cares, that I forgave you both for your old sins...mostly. Knows I love you both as much as I hate you," They both flinched at the detached tone and vacant stare resting behind them. "As much as it hurts to do so." He shrugged, sudden conviction the only change to his emotionless tone. "All Dean has ever wanted was his family, whole and together, and to God or Lucifer either, I will give every shred of my being to give him that, no matter what it does to me."
His eyes snapped to them, hard and flashing with color at the intensity of his emotions. His jaw locked as he set it, and he seemed too large, even as he didn't move. "But you know what? Screw. You. Both of you." He stared at them a moment, the emotions swirling in his eyes locking around his voice. Fury. Sorrow. Despair. Love.
"Because guess what, Mommy, Daddy? I had an amazing mother. One who held me when I was sick. Stayed up too late to comfort me. One who held me and sang to me when I cried or couldn't sleep. Who patched me up when I was hurt. Taught me to read and write. How to dress and wash. How to brush my teeth and deal with my hair. Who picked lice out of my hair. Who smiled at me and hung the damn sun in the sky just so I could see him better. Who gave everything to me, no matter what it cost."
His eyes moved from Mary to lock completely on the hard gaze of John. He stared, unwavering, and began to see the wall he had rammed his anger against without success all his childhood beginning to crack.
"I had a wonderful father. Who shielded me from anything and everything. Who took the beatings meant for me to spare me the pain." John did flinch then, Sam was beyond caring. "Who taught me everything. Who carried me when I couldn't walk. Kept up with my school. Worked a fucking job while I was at school. Who held me when I couldn't sleep. When nightmares of fire and screams and yellow eyes I didn't understand plagued me." Another flinch, from both of them this time. He didn't care. "Told me stories and listened as I babbled. Taught me how to work on the car. Trained me, and cared for my injuries before his own. Put the moon in the dark sky so I wouldn't be scared, so I would know he was there. Who went hungry or cold or ignored that he was sick, just as long as I wasn't. Who sacrificed mind and body both to take care of me. Who loved me unconditionally."
He sighed through clenched teeth and forced his emotions and the tears brightening his eyes back. "I had a big brother who put me first in everything! Who goofed around and joked with me. Who taught me how to ride a bike, how to fucking shave, how to draw. Who shoved me and hit me with a damn pillow to shut me up. Who took me to the hospital on the handlebars of a bike after I followed him off a barn roof trying to fly. Who gathered light in his hands and scattered the stars so I wouldn't get lost, so I could always find him. Who stood between me and anyone who would hurt me. Who gave his damn soul to me!"
He took a deep breath and sighed, steadying himself and swallowing his tears. He stood languidly, arms dropping to his sides as he straightened to his full height and looked down at them. Then anger was back, but it was matched by pain and love.
"So go ahead." He looked at Mary, "Run out on us, shy away." It was dispassionate. He looked at John and the anger finally took hold making his voice hot and razor sharp. "Tell me you're disappointed. Tell me I'm a screw-up. Say you should have put me down for the demon blood in my veins. Yell at me to hold my tongue and show you some respect." Pain overwhelmed anger and he gestured with his arms open wide, palms up, not noticing the tears now on his face. "Say whatever the hell you want to me!!" He took a shaky breath. "It won't matter."
His arms dropped. "I love you both as much as I hate you, and it hurts, so fucking bad." Barely above a whisper, it still filled the room. His lungs filled, his chest expanded, and as he exhaled a laugh bubbled up his throat, broken and beautiful. "You don't have any part of me anymore." He stared at them, each in turn, unwavering in the face of their shaken expressions, the sickness of John's features, the tears silently marring Mary's face, the shock in both their eyes.
"Dean is my Brother. He is my Mother. He is my Father." He breathed softly. "He is, has always been, my world, my home." His voice gained strength, unwavering surety, no matter his tears, his eyes shone clear and strong with the strength of his emotions. "He is my heaven and my hell. He's my fucking soulmate. And if he still hates me and doesn't ever forgive me, it'll break my bloody soul." He choked off a quiet sob before it fully left his throat. He looked at them, almost serenely calm despite his trembling, despite his tears. "But I will still love him, and I will never be able to hate him." He shrugged, arms raised and palms open. "For better or worse, I belong to him."
He shook his head and took another unsteady breath, tilting his head to look toward the sky he couldn't see. Toward the sun, and the moon, and the stars hidden away from him. He looked down at them, piercing gaze finding their eyes through pain and tears. "Your words can't hurt me anymore John Winchester. You have no place in my heart or my soul anymore, either of you!" He stared at his birth father through blurry tears, shoulders slumping sadly, he began to fracture but his voice was firm and unwavering.
"You gave me to Dean."
He broke. He didn't know how or when, but some band around his heart snapped. His shoulders curled in toward his chest and his hands came up to cover his mouth as he hung his head, trying to muffle quiet cries. He shattered.
He was vaguely aware of the sound of bodies being jostled out of the way, of hurried footsteps, and a voice harsh as a blade and dipped in the first edges of panic calling out. "Sam! Hey, Sam!"
Something hit his chest, two somethings actually. They were clinging to him, pulling at him. Oh, those were hands gripping his shirts. His mind refused to acknowledge much else other than that as he lost his mental footing and floundered for an anchor.
Dean paid his parents no mind as he jostled John out of the way, grabbing Sam by the front of his shirts and pulling at him. "Sam?" He didn't get any response and the panic edging at his senses built. Instincts as old as his brother woke up and began to scream at him. 'Take care of him! Protect him!' Another instinct, more deeply ingrained, but so deeply buried, whispered out of the chaos, gentle and firm and final. 'Comfort him.'
He forced himself to stop, forced the tension snapping through his muscles to fade, forced his lungs out of the vice that had surrounded them and filled them with air. He closed his eyes and took another breath, fighting instincts giving way to something older, something gentler. Something he hadn't let out in a long time, since before hell.
He sighed quietly, a steady exhale of breath, and ducked his head, trying to get in Sam's line of sight. "Sammy?"
At that gentle word, a muffled and choked sob broke from the grip of Sam's throat and crashed against the barrier of his hands, a tsunami against a breakwater. It was like a lance to Dean's heart. “Come’ere Sammy.” He murmured, cupping the back of Sam’s neck and pulling him close, arm around his back, to cradle him close. Sam buried his face in Dean’s shoulder, hands falling to grasp desperately at the front of his shirts, unbidden tears refusing to be kept inside.
Dean whispered to him quietly, nonsense words and reassurances, while Sam trembled in his arms. “It’s ok Sammy, I’ve got ya.” A broken sob fell from Sam’s throat, cracking like a shattered pane of glass, followed shortly by a tear-filled gasp of “I’m sorry.”
Dean shook his head, though he knew Sam could not see it. “No. None of that now.” He pressed a soft kiss to the side of his brother’s head. “Got nothin’ to be sorry ‘bout.”
Sam shook his head side to side, almost violently, rocking it against Dean’s shoulder as he tried to subdue his growing pain. “Shouldn’t have to do this. Put up with me, ‘n all my crap.” He lamented quietly, just barely loud enough to be heard by anyone beyond their isolated little world. Dean tightened his hold almost painfully, forcing it to become gentle again as he shook his head. “Shut up.” He snapped, but there was little heat to the words. “You listen to me now little brother: I do not hate you, and whatever sin you think you’re still carrying? I forgave you a long time ago. Ya hear me? And this?” He scoffed lightly, “I don’t mind holdin’ you now any more than I did when you were a baby.” He chuckled quietly, a soft exhale of breath as he pressed a kiss to Sam's temple. “And lord knows they could barely pry you from my arms even then.”
He pulled back just far enough to press a gentle kiss to Sam’s forehead, carding his fingers through long hair as Sam buried his face at Dean’s collarbone. “Now come on, no use bottlin’ all this up anymore.” He soothed gently. Sam barked out a short and fractured laugh, causing Dean to grin wryly. “Yeah I know, me of all people sayin’ that.” He rested his cheek against Sam’s hair, letting them both settle for a minute.
“You think you can manage to move now?” He absentmindedly nosed at Sam’s hair, taking in the familiar scent in a movement of affection nearly as old as the two of them. “Might be the first time since you were twelve that we’ve got a bed big enough to hold both of us without you crushing me to death, ya giant.” He smiled as Sam laughed weakly, knowing full well that they could be on a king-sized bed and his little brother would still press as close to him as possible; he didn't mind. He pressed another kiss to Sam’s head as he pulled back a few inches. “Come on Sammy.” He whispered soothingly, stepping back and pulling Sam with him, happy to lead the way. “ ‘s time to rest.”
He led Sam from the room, fully intending to settle them in his bed for the night and hold his baby brother until his pain subsided. Neither paid any mind to the two elder adults standing in rare silence, rooted to the spot in shock and the pain of their own mistakes.