Work Header

Five Times Dean Waited (The Sam-Comes-Through Remix)

Work Text:

Dean wakes up every day that spring expecting Sam to have arrived. He gets a new bike and a new pair of sneakers; he gets the biggest Easter egg he's ever seen, and Mommy shouts at Daddy, later, when the chocolate's gone and Dean's sick and miserable. There's no baby, though. Just Mommy, still all big and tired and slow, not at all the way she should be.

She always smiles at him when he asks when the baby will finally get there, as bright and happy as she does when he eats all his vegetables--even the carrots, which are totally gross--or puts his toys away without being asked. "Soon," she says, as if she hasn't said that every day since Dean's birthday. And once she says, "He's excited to see you too."

Dean doesn't say that he's not exactly excited to see Sam. He was, but Daddy says he won't be able to play football, or race, or even talk. Dean doesn't much see the point in the whole thing. But before, Mommy could play with him and pick him up and chase him up the stairs to bed, and Dean figures she can do those things again once the baby's born.

So he wakes up every day, and he's sure it'll be time, and it never is, until it's the middle of the night and Daddy's bundling him up to send him next door, and Mommy's telling him not to be scared. Dean is, a little, because Jenny next door tells him Jesus is watching over him, when Dean knows it's angels that are supposed to do that, and Mommy doesn't like him sleeping out of the house much, likes to be there to make sure he's safe. He means to stay awake, but his head gets heavy and his eyes get tired, and then Daddy's shaking him again. He's smiling in a way Dean's vegetable-eating has never produced. He kisses Dean's head and scoops him up, says, "I've got the two best boys ever," and he laughs and laughs when Dean asks if this means Mommy can play with him again.

"Best boys," he says again, and he keeps smiling while he dresses Dean, doesn't stop the whole way to the hospital. Dean gets to eat cookies for breakfast and in the car, too, even though Jenny tries to stop him, and there's a new Spiderman action figure waiting for him when he gets there. Daddy says it's from Sam, but Dean's not stupid--Sam's only been born a few hours; no way he's had time for that. He likes the present, though, and he thinks maybe having a little brother is going to be kind of awesome after all. At least until he sees him.

"I didn't ever look like that," he says, because he can't ever have been that small and squirmy and grouchy-looking. Jenny laughs right along with Mommy and Daddy. Sam doesn't do much of anything. Dean expected that, but he's still kind of disappointed. He creeps closer, anyway. Sam goes on lying there, and Dean wonders if he'd do something if he poked him in the head.

"Your mom'd kill you," Daddy says, behind him all of a sudden. He grins down at Dean; his hand's warm and gentle on the top of Dean's head. "Besides, he's your little brother. You wanna watch out for him, don't you?"

Daddy's voice is quiet, but he sounds like he does when he wants Dean to pay attention, so Dean stretches onto his tiptoes, leans over the cot and takes another look, just in case he's made a mistake. Sam opens his eyes, kind of sleepy and stupid looking. He reaches up, tiny hands waving helplessly in the air. Dean thinks about watching him a lot, and shakes his head. "I'd rather watch Spiderman," he says. "He does cool stuff."

After he's said it, he thinks maybe it wasn't what Daddy wanted to hear, but Daddy just smiles at him again, and then he's distracted picking Sam up and handing him to Jenny. Jenny coos and says a lot of weird, baby-talk stuff to Sam, which Dean thinks is all wrong. Sam's never going to learn to talk if people do that to him, and that's going to make Sam dull forever. Only maybe Sam thinks it's stupid too. He makes a loud, unhappy noise, and Dean moves away from the cot to get closer to him. Jenny's busy telling Sam how beautiful he is, which just goes to prove she's not paying attention to him at all, and then there's some other stuff that isn't even almost words. If anyone had asked Dean, he'd have said Sam couldn't have looked any grumpier than he already did, but he scrunches up his face some more. Dean's just about to tug on Daddy's sleeve so they can rescue him when Jenny's voice loses some of that delighted tone, and she says, "Looks like somebody needs changing."

There's a lot of fussing after that, and in the middle of it, Daddy leans down to Dean. "Your brother just pooped on Jenny," he says, very low, like it's a secret. Dean isn't sure if he's telling the truth, but he goes over to Mommy, gets a look at what she's doing to Sam. He smells it before he sees it, and when he sees it, he smiles at Sam, even more than he did when he got his present. "Good job, Sammy," he says, just how Daddy says it to him, because Sam deserves real words.

He's still smiling when he goes back to Daddy. "He might do some cool stuff, too," he says. "Maybe I could watch him sometimes."


Sam's eleven and a pain in Dean's ass; worse than the mosquitos feeding off him and the blazing hot sun that makes his jeans so fucking uncomfortable. Seems like all the kid's got are plans--books to read and movies to watch, baseball games he's gonna catch on Pastor Jim's crappy little television. He tells Dean about it as they walk, words pouring out around mouthful's of blackberries, mapping out the summer like it's gonna last forever.

Truth be told, Dean's a little worried it might. He's seen the future, and it ain't pretty: too much sun, and nowhere to go; wasted days at Pastor Jim's while Dad's out hunting werewolves in Mississippi, with Bobby at his back instead of Dean. For his own good, Dad had said, like Dean was a little kid, no better than Sam. Right now, the only things Dean's in danger of are boredom, sunburn and blackberry bushes--maybe of committing fratricide. Not that it's exactly Sam's fault that he's a geeky little dork, not old enough to do anything cool; hell, he's not even old enough to want to do anything cool. Knowing that doesn't help much, though; he meets Sam's stream of conversation with one word answers, until the kid finally shuts up--or mostly does, anyway.

He's quiet all the way back to their house, not even complaining like he normally does about how heavy the baskets of collected blackberries are, and he spends ages in the bathroom cleaning himself up. Dean feels bad about that, and that just makes him more pissed off.

"You'd think midgets would shower quicker than normal-sized people," he says, once he's checked that Sam hasn't actually drowned himself in the shower. Sam certainly looks mopey enough to do it. Dean's not sure he won't do it for him if he stays in the house much longer, so he says, on impulse mostly, "I'm gonna go see Jurassic Park with the guys tonight," and looks at his own reflection in the mirror to avoid seeing Sam's face. Also because he's got some definite stubble potential going on these days, and chicks totally dig that.

"We were gonna see that together," Sam says, which is true. But Tim's got alcohol and cute girls for friends, and if Dean has to be here, he might as well make the most of it. No need to tell Sam about any of that, though. The little squirt would probably go straight to Pastor Jim, and Pastor Jim might not tell Dad, but he'd yell at Dean in that non-yelling way he has, which is almost as bad.

"Yeah, well." Dean says. "Dad said we were only staying here a couple days. Things change."

Sam doesn't say anything. He just gathers his stuff and stalks from the bathroom, somehow indignant and defiant, even with his Donald Duck pyjamas flapping around his ankles and his hair an unbrushed mass of wet curls. Needs a haircut, Dean thinks, maybe some new clothes too. It'll give them something to do tomorrow, Dean supposes, help kill a few hours.

Tonight, though, Dean's got more interesting things in mind. He doesn't even know how much more interesting until he gets into Tim's car and finds Steph, the cute blond he's had his eye on since he got here, in the back with him. Then Tim's handing him a bottle, saying, "That's good shit, Winchester." Dad thinks Tim's trouble, and a lot of the time Dean thinks Tim's kind of a moron, with his trust fund bought convertible and his Che Guevara t-shirts, but right now, Tim's a-okay with him.

The whiskey tastes like ass, but Dean drinks it, anyway; it isn't long before he's forgotten he ever felt anything but awesome and spun-out and certain that ghosts and werewolves and any bad shit in the world couldn't possibly stand a chance against him. At some point, Tim's girlfriend suggests skipping the movie and spending the night in the empty lot on the edge of town, instead; Steph backs her and Tim shakes his head, and they all turn to Dean.

"Casting vote is yours, man," tim tells him, and Dean thinks of the look on Sam's face and smiles some.

"Drinking sounds good to me," he says, which isn't even a lie.

It is good, shots and laughter at first, making out with Steph later. Tim's supply of alcohol seems limitless, and that's how Dean feels, right up until the whole world jumps the tracks and doesn't stop moving. He's got a dim memory of Tim laughing, of Steph saying she'll kill him if he throws up on her, of tumbling out of the car. Then he's in the bathroom at Pastor Jim's, and he doesn't know how, heaving up everything he's ever eaten and hoping his death is quick, even if he knows it won't be merciful.

"You're such a moron," Sam says from the doorway, and Dean figures his hell is complete.

"Just--" he says. "Just ate something bad." He wants to tell Sammy to go back to sleep, but he doesn't have the words for that.

Sam squeezes in behind him, closes the door quietly. His glare itches across Dean's skin, and Dean doesn't need to see it to know what it looks like. "Right. That's why you fell on my bed, and you smell like you drank a bar." NO eleven-year-old should be able to sound like that; all that sarcasm and superiority is just wrong, even for Sam.

"I think I'm dying," Dean says into the toilet. If he's dying, maybe Sam'll be nicer.

"Pretty sure you're not," Sam says. Dean isn't completely certain Sam doesn't sound disappointed about that. The small hand that lands on his back is gentle, though--God help him, even comforting. Dean doesn't shake it off, and Sam doesn't take it away until Dean's stopped trying to bring up his vital organs. Then he disappears just long enough to get a glass of water and a couple of tablets; he glowers at Dean until he's taken both. He takes the glass away when Dean's done, flushes the toilet and offers Dean a hand up. He's a tiny model of extraordinary efficiency, and Dean's more than a little terrified.

When he asks if Dean can stand, Dean manages it, mostly because the idea of failing in front of Sam--of failing in front of this version of him--is unthinkable. He still wobbles a bit, and Sam still sticks close by him as he shuffles across the hall to their bedroom

"Gotta take my--" he says, and then can't remember what's supposed to come next. Sam sighs, long and loud, and then he kneels down, starts unlacing Dean's boots.

"I'm not stripping you," he says.

Dean kinda laughs, but that does truly unpleasant things to his stomach. The room won't stop spinning; he puts his hand on Sam's head, wants to know that Sam's solid and still in front of him. "'M'sorry," he says.

"You will be," Sam says. "You're gonna owe me, like, forever." He straightens up and kicks Dean's shin. "You can get under the covers now, Dean."

Between them, they get it done, though Dean suspects the work maybe wasn't distributed all that evenly. Multitasking isn't his thing right now, and he's looking hard for full sentences. "Meant I was sorry I was such a jerk," he says, grabbing Sam's wrist before Sam can turn away. "Wasn't your fault I was mad. Didn't even see the movie."

He feels more than sees Sam's shrug, but the tremble in his voice is unmistakable, and suddenly Sam's a kid again. "'S'okay," he says. "I know I'm not--whatever. Hanging out with your little brother isn't cool."

Dean huffs out a breath. "Putting your loser big brother to bed isn't, either," he says. He squeezes Sam's arm a little. "Don't need to be cool for me to take care of you, dork."

"Jerk. I'm taking care of you so you'll buy me popcorn at the movies tomorrow," Sam says. In the dark, Dean can't see Sam's smile, but he can hear it, and that's enough.


October's always a shitty month: evil crap and Dad's temper on a steady rise as the month progresses. They've just finished clearing out an apartment block in Tulsa, and Dad's got another three cases lined up. In Saugus, a few miles outside Boston, there's a series of mysterious deaths, violent and bloody.

"You can take this," Dad says, like it's a reward, and Dean nods, like he's grateful. There's a three hundred mile drive ahead of him, and that part, at least, is awesome. He puts his music on loud and lets his baby fly; he barely even notices the empty passenger seat these days.

Saugus isn't so bad, either. The weather's still pretty mild, the people are friendly, and the bars are plentiful. Even the deaths aren't so mysterious once Dean shows up with his awesome skills. They're just the work of a psycho watchmaker, a guy who worked too hard, died, and then went a little mental in the afterlife. There's a joke in there about knowing when your time's up, but there's no one to roll their eyes and be disapproving if Dean tells it; without that, it's not nearly as funny.

It's been a year, two months and maybe a week or two since Sam left--probably. It's not like Dean's been counting. It's not like he misses him, either; he's just having a little trouble getting used to not being slowed down and bitched at and guilt-tripped. Sam managed to pack a lot of that into eighteen years. Dean can't be blamed for taking a while to trust that it's gone, but when he does, his whole life is going to be a lot easier. That's what he tells himself, and one day, he's actually going to believe it.

For now, he flirts with the waitress who brings him his coffee, and he saves the lives he can. Rounding up and burning everything the dude ever made is going to be a pain in the ass of monumental proportions, but it's not like Dean's got an awful lot else on his schedule. Still, by the end of the second day he's pissed off and tired; even a couple of beers and some quality time with the waitress haven't taken the edge off. He's lying awake, trying not to think, when his phone buzzes, loud and jarring in the quiet of the empty motel room.

Dean doesn't recognise the number, but his heart beats hard and heavy in his chest, anyway. California area code. Could be Sam, could be a girl, could be any of the people they've helped out there over the years. Dean wants so badly for it to be Sam. Enough that he thinks about not answering at all. But it might be Sam, and Dean's never not going to pick up when Sam calls. He clears his throat, takes a breath, and his voice comes out strong, steady. Normal. There's static on the line, and breathing beneath that, and fuck if Dean doesn't know who it is from just that much.

"Seriously," he says. "College has not been good for your conversational skills."

There's a huff of laughter, so soft Dean almost doesn't hear it, and then, "Shut up, Dean."

"You meant to say hello," Dean says. "I say hello, then you say hello. That's how the grownups in America do it. Also the five-year-olds." Dean can't shut up, because then he'll have to think about how good it is to hear Sam's voice, how stupidly, teeth-grindingly essential it seems. "Are you drunk-dialling me, Sammy? You never could handle--"

"You're such an asshole," Sam says. "I'd forgotten that." He doesn't sound mad, though, more like he's trying to sound it and coming up short. Behind his voice, there's nothing but quiet, no music or people or anything resembling fun.

"You're such a geek," Dean says. "I hadn't forgotten that. You're studying now, aren't you? You're the only person in the world who thinks college is where you go to do that."

"Excuse me for trying not to fail," Sam says, and the prissiness in his tone this time is perfectly genuine, perfectly Sam. "Anyway, I'm not studying. I'm hunting." The last part comes out in a rush, and then he's quiet again. Dean waits for more, but for the first time in his life, Sam seems to have decided laconic is the way to go.

"Duck? Deer? Moose? Squirrel? You could probably just about handle squirrel."

"Dean," Sam says, in that way only Sam ever has. Dean smiles, and says, "Tell me what you got, kiddo," and Sam does. Three fires in a month, three different apartments, all involving the same girl; all unexplained, and nothing else but Sam's gut feeling that something isn't right. Sam lays it out for him in a few, short sentences, but he's thorough as he always is, answering every question Dean asks like he was expecting it. If Dean pretends, they could be discussing any case, late night and close, no states or timezones between them.

"Could be just the girl," Dean says. "Maybe she's just a psycho." It's for form's sake, more than anything else; Dean trusts Sam's instincts as much as he trusts his own--as much, maybe, as he trusts Dad's.

"No history of psychiatric problems in her medical records." Sam pauses, like he's hoping Dean's going to fill the silence. Dean's busy being impressed that Sam hacked into her medical records somehow, and when he doesn't say anything, Sam goes on, kind of tentative. "Her mother's Russian. I'm thinking--"

"Domovik," Dean says. His hand goes to the ugly scar the last domovik in his life left on his thigh. "Someone forgot to keep the fridge well-stocked, huh?"

"Pretty much." He waits again, and Dean rolls his eyes.

"You need to trap it," he says. "Then you need a banishing ritual. Which is in Russian, by the way." He watches a freakishly huge moth fly erratically around the bare bulb in the centre of the room; feels bad for the fucker if it really thinks that tiny little glow is the moon. It's his turn to wait, and he does it better, because he's had more practice.

"I like knowing," Sam says, pissy because Dean's beaten him. "That you're okay. Pastor JIm promised to call if anything big happened but I--I like knowing. He told me you'd come up against one last time I called."

Dean hopes the tightness in his chest is the result of early onset heart failure. God forbid it's just how he reacts to hearing Sam likes to know he's not dead. "You could've called me," he says, and then wishes he hadn't. If Sam didn't want to call, Dean's not going to admit he wanted him to. "I can email you the ritual," he says, before Sam can start fumbling around for an answer. "You're on your own with the pronunciation. I'm not convinced it didn't try to set me on fire because I was mangling its native tongue so badly." Sam snorts in his ear, and Dean says, "You want me to come up there, I will." He knows Sam'll refuse, because Sam's a stubborn little fucker, but he asks because he's got a stubborn, hopeful streak of his own.

"I appreciate it," Sam says, predictable and sincere and maybe a little pleased all at once. "But I'm good. If you can take one out, no way I can't."

Dean nods, though Sam can't see him. "You don't have to do it," he says, and he surprises himself, because it's not what he intended to say, and he means it all the same. "I mean--you've made it pretty clear you don't want to do this."

There's movement on Sam's end of the line, Sam shifting around and then going still. "She's a nice girl--seems like it anyway. I'm not just gonna do nothing when I could do something." He laughs a little, though he sounds more sad than amused. "I was brought up better than that, Dean."

Dean swallows hard and for once, he's glad Sam isn't there to see him. He's not surprised, exactly. Sam's been easy to be mad at for years now, but he's always been easier to be proud of. Sometimes, Dean just forgets. "Ten stitches in my leg says the fuckers are fast," he says. "Get in and get out, and don't mess around. And you call me when you're done, you hear?"

"It'll be the first thing I do," Sam says. There's an awkward pause then, the kind that should be filled with goodbye or smalltalk, but Dean doesn't want either.

It takes Sam to break it; Dean should've known that. "I got work to do," he says. His breath catches, only noticeable because Dean's listening so hard to him. "Thanks for picking up," he says.

Dean'll be insulted about that tomorrow, and righteously so. Tonight, he says, "Always will."


The thing about having his ass handed to him by a ghost is that it's just so fucking humiliating.

There are other concerns, of course; Dean's not denying that. There's a lot of pain, just for starters: in his head, from being a little bit knocked unconscious, and in his arms and shoulders, from being a little bit tied to a tree. And obviously it's cold. Ball-shrivellingly cold, the way only Colorado in January knows how to be. The snow's coming down like it might never stop; the wind's driving it into Dean's face like Dean's personally offended it. Freezing to death in the near future probably shouldn't be discounted, which seems only marginally less appealing than the cops coming by and finding him by an open grave, not far from a car with a weapons stash a military division might approve of. Henriksen is gonna think all his Christmases have come at once, and Dean's not onboard with giving him that kind of easy break.

But still. The humiliation looms pretty large on the list of things that suck about this night. He's almost glad Sam isn't here to see it, but for how Sam isn't here, which means he isn't around to save Dean from all the other terrible things. It's frustrating, is what it is, and not only because Sam's gonna be hugely pissed at him, and hugely smug about how right he was, probably while he's reading about Dean's remarkable death in the shitty local paper.

"We hunt together, Dean," he'd said, what seems like a hundred years ago. Back then, Dean's biggest problems were a little brother with a broken rib and too much to say for himself, and a haunting that seemed more annoying than dangerous. There wasn't much he could do about Sam, but the haunting he could deal with, couple hours, tops, and then they could get out of here, go somewhere warmer, maybe even stop in at Bobby's and let Sam rest up properly.

"I'll be back in time for supper," he'd said, ruffling Sam's hair just to be annoying. "I won't do anything if it looks like trouble."

He'd left Sam knocked out on painkillers, which is probably the only reason he got to leave at all, and it really hadn't looked like trouble. Mr and Mrs Arthur were perfectly sure that whatever was in their house had never been dangerous. Unsettling, certainly, mischievous, maybe, but never particularly scary. Like Casper, if Casper played jazz music in the middle of the night, or tried covering the walls in really bad impressionist art. The house had been empty before they got there; a little research told him what he'd already suspected--the last occupant had died years ago, and until the Arthurs moved in, no one had any reason to noticed Steve Rimsley wasn't as gone as he should've been.

Dean had kinda liked the guy--he might've acted out a little bit himself, given ten years with nothing to do and no one around. That lasted right up until the air around him got ghost cold, and not just winter cold, and the sharp, brutal pain rocketed through his head.

That was more than an hour ago, and he thinks he might've passed out again since then. He isn't sure it'll be the last time. He should stay awake. He knows this. It's just that the graveyard is in the most deserted part of a town so quiet it's nearly dead. His cell's digging into his leg, and it might as well be in the Grand Canyon. He's got nothing to do but wait, and he doesn't even know what for--Sam's probably still out of it, hurt and not really up too much of anything. At least the pain's gone now, even if he knows that's not a good sign. Feeling something has to be better than feeling nothing, after all. Sleep would be good; his tiredness is a real, scary thing now, burrowing deeper and deeper into him like it's going to pick him apart.

It's not going to win, though. Not for a while yet, anyway. Dean knows every word to every song on the Black Album, and fuck if he isn't going to get through it all. After that, he's going to pick his top ten Zeppelin songs, and after that, he's gonna start quoting The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, see how far he gets. It's a good plan, and if sometimes he zones out in the middle of it, or if sometimes the tree starts talking to him or the snow starts looking like people--that's just a minor setback. Nothing to worry about. Turns out they're all people Dean knows, so that's good. Dad seems pretty pissed, and Bobby keeps telling him to set the tree on fire, because then at least he'll be warm. He doesn't seem to understand that Dean doesn't think the tree would appreciate that. Dean can't really feel his mouth moving, so maybe it's not Bobby's fault that he doesn't understand. He fades out again on that thought, and he only comes back around because Sam's there, even if it's not really Sam.

He's got two heads and no neck, but Dean apparently has to respond even to imaginary Sam. He tries to sit up straighter, because that's what Sam would want him to do. San's crawling around in the snow, muttering to himself like a psychopath. Dean thinks he's got a knife in his hand, and it doesn't seem entirely fair that his imagination gives him a Sam who's shown up just to kill him.

"I'm not even going to help you out," Sam says. "I'm just gonna hang out here and gloat."

Dean smiles and lets his head loll back against the tree again. "That totally sounds like something real you would say," he says, pleased.

Sam pauses behind Dean, and Dean listens for him and can't hear anything but the too fast thump of his heartbeat in his ears. "Jesus Christ, you are so stupid," Sam says, finally. He sounds so aggrieved that Dean figures maybe the two heads and no neck thing was the part he was imagining. Only real Sam could pull off that tone. Dean would laugh, if he thought he had air in his chest for that. He coughs instead, this upsetting wheezing noise coming out of him, and Sam's talking now, fast and insistent. Dean tries, but he can't make sense of most of it. All that he catches hold of is Sam telling him to hang on, and Dean does, Dean always fucking will, if Sam asks him to.

That's how he gets to his feet; it's how he makes it back to the car. Well, that and the gigantor holding him up, and the gigantor's unnatural willpower. He bundles Dean into the car, bitches at him all the way back to the motel; he keeps bitching at him once they're there, as if Dean hasn't already had a very traumatising few hours. Dean's too cold to point out the injustice of it all; he's not sure he'll ever be warm again. All the blankets Sam could find certainly aren't helping.

Apparently, he said that last part out loud, because Sam stops getting undressed to glare at him. "Saving you has pretty much no payoff whatsoever," he says. He lets his jeans fall to the ground, doesn't even bother picking them up before he's climbing up on the bed. "Move the fuck over."

"I do not want to be spooned," Dean says, but he absolutely, one hundred percent does. Sam gives off heat like your average sun; better still, there's enough of him to warm every inch of Dean. Sam fits his body around him, and Dean curls in against him, and getting warmer gets a whole lot easier after that.

He's drifting off to sleep when he remembers. He reaches a hand down, lightly squeezes Sam's arms. "You were supposed to be taking it easy," he says. "Can't fucking trust you to do anything."

Sam snorts, tightens his arm around Dean for just a second. HIs voice is heavy and thick with drowsiness, maybe with pain, too. "Didn't wanna miss my chance to say I told you so."

Dean thinks about Sam tracking him down, about Sam carrying him through the snow with a broken rib and no complaints. "I might let you do that," he says. "A lot."


There's no internet in the cabin. There's barely even running water, and electricity isn't always a given. It's about a million miles from anywhere; it's exactly the kind of place you'd go if you wanted a serial killer to get you. For what Dean needs, it's perfect. It's perfect, and Sam's gonna hate it. He's gonna bitch Dean half to death complaining about medieval times and the forest around the cabin, and the single bed and the drafts that come in from everywhere. He's gonna tell Dean that he's saved the world twice, and he deserves better rewards than this.

Cas shakes his head, when he sees Dean smile, says, "You have to accept that your brother probably isn't coming back from this." He looks absurd in his trench coat, too neat and too clean in this dusty old room. He looks sad, and he looks certain, and Dean knows he's wrong.

"You can go," he says, and he means Bobby, too. "Someone's gotta be out there fighting. The queen bitch of all didn't exactly go quietly."

Bobby looks like he wants to argue, but Dean shakes his head. "I'll call you when he wakes up," he says. He doesn't blame either of them for doubting. It's just that they don't know--can't, really, not like Dean does.

When they're gone, he gets to work. The cabin's no more than one good-sized room; Dean can clean it up and talk to Sam the whole time. With work, it could be pretty nice, something Bobby could make a bit of money out of, if he wanted to.

"A coat of paint and a few repairs," he says to Sam. "That's all. You're probably hoping I'll take care of it while you nap, like the little bitch you are." Sam doesn't say anything, but that's okay. Dean wasn't expecting him to wake up in the first hour. He isn't even expecting it in the first day. "But I've got your iPad," he says, "and your passcode's not nearly as cryptic as you think it is. The longer you take, the more chance I accidentally do something terrible with all your stuff."

He makes coffee over the tiny stove, good and strong so the whole place smells of it, and he sits by Sam while he drinks a huge mug of the stuff. Not that he necessarily expects Sam to get over all the trauma of hell and the wall coming down because of a cup of coffee, but Sam does have an unhealthy appreciation for his caffeine fix. Dean wouldn't put it past him.

He doesn't wake up, of course, because he's not much for doing things the easy way. Dean reads to him, then, all the stuff Sam's got on his iPad and never started. Kid hasn't read much since even before Dean made his deal, but Dean's gonna change that. There's nothing after them anymore, nothing they have to do except what they want.

"Within reason," Dean says. He's in the middle of Freedom, which Sam assured him was a really big deal; Dean's pretty sure the whole thing is kinda ridiculous. "I'm retaining veto rights to anything you want to do that's too stupid."

Sam goes on lying there, and Dean goes on reading. For a week that feels like a year that's all there is--he talks himself stupid during the day, curls up around him on the big bed at night. Every morning he thinks today will be the day, and every morning when it isn't, he makes himself wait a little more. Bobby shows up with supplies, and there's pity--so goddamn much of it--in his eyes, and Dean wants to punch him in the face.

"Cas was wrong before about Sam not waking up," Bobby says. "Doesn't mean he's wrong this time."

Dean glances over at Sam, young and vulnerable looking when he's so still, and shakes his head. "He's gonna be fine," he says. Bobby doesn't ask how he knows, and Dean wouldn't have answered anyway.

He says it again before Bobby leaves, says it loud and clear, and when he goes to bed, he says, "Don't make me be wrong, bitch." He shoves his fingers through Sam's hair, all tangled up and freakish, even by Sam's usual standards.. "I'm counting on you, Sammy."

Sam doesn't get with the program the next morning, or even the following one. But he's lying on his side the day after that, hand flung out like he's just sleeping, same way he always has. Dean watches and watches and nothing happens, probably because Sam's a contrary fucker like that. That's almost certainly why he waits until Dean's asleep before coming around. And that's when Dean's finally terrified--or finally let's himself feel it--waking up to the empty bed, the thirty seconds before he finds Sam, barefoot and shivering in the early morning chill.

"Sam," Dean says, and it sounds like he hasn't spoken in days. He can't breathe until Sam looks at him, and then all his breath comes out of him in a rush, so sharp it actually hurts. Sam's eyes are shadowed; Sam's mouth is tight. But it's Sam looking back at him. It's Sam who says Dean's name, like it's the only word his mouth was meant to hold; it's Sam who reaches out, fastens trembling fingers in Dean's shirt.

"There's no need to look so surprised," Sam says, after a second, and the bastard actually seems put out about it. "I told you I'd be okay."

Dean grins at him. "You never did like being wrong," he says.