“I swear, I end up feeling empty, like you've taken something out of me
and I have to search my body for scars.”
― Richard Siken
This is it. The moment they’ve fought and bled for their whole lives. Only it was never supposed to go like this. They had the demon. Finally . But it had one of them, too. For Sam, there couldn’t have been a more perfect solution. A guilt free way to take care of John and the demon. Tie it off. Start a new story. Dean would be free. The two people, two things responsible for stealing their lives just gone .
But Dean . Dean is on the floor and there’s so much blood, he can barely move. He’s ripped up inside and out and still, he uses the last of his strength to say it.
“Sam, no. ”
Sam’s face screws up with frustration and indecision. His finger twitches on the trigger. John, of all people, is giving him the go ahead. Begging for it. But is there any point if Dean can’t forgive him? Decision made, he lowers the Colt. John looks at him like he’s looked at him most of his life. Angry. Disappointed. None of that matters. John’s expectations are meaningless to Sam. Have been for a long time.
“Dean?” Sam asks, crouched by his side. “Are you with me?”
Dean groans as he fights to keep his eyes open.
“Hang on, okay? I’m gonna get you help.”
“Dad,” Dean breathes.
“He’s alive.” Sam turns and looks back at John. “Can you get to the car?” He asks him.
“Yeah,” John grunts as he pulls himself up, keeping weight off his leg.
Sam scoops Dean up unceremoniously and steadfastly ignores the pained groan from his brother. Ignores the warmth and wetness of Dean’s blood seeping into his shirt, sticking to his skin. Fuck.
He settles Dean in the back seat as carefully as he can and drives. John can’t even wait until they’re safe to give him hell for not killing the damn demon. Says what he’s always said. ‘Killing this thing comes before everything.’ Sam looks at Dean in the rear-view. Slumped against Baby’s frame, face devoid of all color, except the dark blood slowly trickling from his mouth. He slams his hand against the steering wheel in impotent frustration and shakes his head.
“Not before everything.” He says.
“Dean would rather die than let the demon go!” John follows Sam’s glance. “Same as me. Seems you’re the only one not on the same page.”
“You’re wrong. What’s the point of getting this thing if we all die doing it?”
“The point is revenge, Sam. Kill the thing that killed your mom. I don’t care what it takes,”
“You’ve always made that perfectly clear. Since-,”
The next thing Sam knows, he’s waking up in the Impala, everything around him tangled and broken. There’s another demon, but it’s gone soon enough. Not the damage it already managed, though. John doesn’t answer and neither does Dean.
The medics won’t tell him anything, not even if his family is still alive. There’s a hospital ten minutes away; Sam knows because that’s where they were headed. But there’s a helicopter and they’re flying them somewhere else. Somewhere better, because of Dean. He knows that much at least, because they load Dean first and there are more people swarming around him.
It hasn’t been nearly long enough since he’s been here. In a hospital being told by a very sorry, very serious doctor that his brother doesn’t have long. Last time was a miracle. A horrible, sick miracle; he knows he won’t get one again.
After he finally gets to see Dean, which doesn’t help at all, he finds himself with John. John who is fine. He has a cut on his face and the gunshot to his leg is through and through. He’ll live. Barely even suffer. Sam has known since he was able to conceive of the idea that the world is far from fair, but it still stings. Dean isn’t the Winchester that deserves to be on death’s door.
John asks about Dean, but it’s cursory. Something to get out of the way. Sam can see the wheels turning in John’s head. Planning what’s next. Next is “Where are the weapons? How’s the car? Get me my stuff so I can start tracking this thing again.”
Sam could strangle him in his hospital bed. But as he imagines doing just that, John hands him a list of items. And Sam has to take this slow and figure out his next move, so he goes to Bobby like John asks and learns what it is John wants those things for. He’s going to summon the damn thing, right there in the same hospital Dean is dying in. To hell with the consequences. But Sam knows what he’s up to now. He can make his own plan.
He returns to the hospital with everything he needs. He manages to talk to Dean, sort of, and knows time is shorter than he thought. A fucking reaper.
Sam has never summoned a demon before. But John unwittingly gave him what he needed and it goes more smoothly than he imagined it would. The demon shows, grins as Sam lays out his offer, and accepts. It’s over in less than a minute. Sam doesn’t worry about why it was so easy.
John tries to play dumb when Sam throws his requested items on his bed and glares. He says it’ll work, they can walk out of here, finished with this once and for all. Doesn’t even mention that Dean won’t be walking out with them. In that moment, Sam knows without a doubt that he made the right choice.
He only hopes Dean can forgive him.
Dean wakes with a gasp, panic clawing at him as he chokes on the plastic in his throat. His first thought is ‘Can’t breathe.’ followed immediately by ‘I’m not supposed to be here’ . He doesn’t know why, but he knows this is wrong.
He coughs and winces as he tries to breathe on his own ten minutes later. The doctors look at him with awe. Sam looks at him with guilt. John looks at him with confusion. His dad knows it, same as he does. Something about this isn’t right.
John dismisses Sam as soon as he can to talk to Dean alone. It makes Sam’s skin crawl to think of why. He can’t imagine anything good.
John starts off with questions. “What do you remember from when you were unconscious? Do you remember the reaper? How did you get back?”
Dean doesn’t have any answers. John’s frustration with him is evident.
“Listen.” John says gruffly. “Obviously things went sideways. We’re all still here, but it was close. I need to tell you something. Just in case.”
“Okay…” Dean says warily.
“Your brother. He’s...he was contaminated, Dean. Demon blood. He’s why Mary was killed. It’s all about Sam, not your mom. I think...I think he might go bad. I don’t know if we can do anything about it, we’ll try. But if we can’t, if I’m not around, you have to take him out.”
Dean gapes, at a loss for words just for a second before what John said really hits him. “No. No-,”
“I’m not askin’. I don’t know why the demon wants him, but it does. When it comes to it by then, he won’t be your brother. You promise me now.”
Dean shakes his head, staring at John with wide eyes. “I can’t,”
“Damn it, Dean!” John growls as he grabs Dean’s hospital gown. “I didn’t raise you to be soft. Your mom...does she even mean anything to you anymore? You’d just let this thing win to save your brother, even if he’s not really even there?”
Dean shakes his throbbing head and tries to breathe. However he came back, he didn’t come back completely healed and this is taking a toll. “Dad… just-, just wait. How do you even know? What makes you-,”
“How I know isn't your concern. This is an order, Dean.”
Dean is so tired. Tired of this life. Tired of being scared. Tired of the thirst for revenge. Tired of John slowly destroying who he is, twisting him up until he can’t look at himself in the mirror. “I won’t do it.” He says, defiant.
“You won’t do it?” John asks with an ugly smirk and dark laugh. “You won’t-,”
John’s punch lands, quick and hard. Dean’s head jerks to the side, his lip split. He should’ve seen it coming. He never sees it coming. Not from John, anyway. He still lets his guard down. He drags his thumb over his lip, looks at the blood. An aborted laugh passes his lips. “Hit me again." He says. "Beat me bloody. Send me out on the streets to fund your addiction. Kill me if you want. I won’t ever do it.”
John steps forward, seething.
John and Dean both look to the door. Sam’s eyes are burning, his voice is so cold and so hard it wasn’t recognizable.
John hesitates, not one to be ordered around. But even he can see this isn’t the time or place to escalate this. His eyes narrow as he stares at Sam before turning back to Dean, pointing his finger in his face. “We’re not done with this.”
When John is gone, Dean’s shoulders immediately drop and he groans as he lets his head fall back.
“Are you alright?” Sam asks, making pointless adjustments to Dean’s pillow.
“Yeah,” Dean winces, takes the tissue Sam offers, and cautiously dabs his lip.
“I can’t believe him-,”
“Really? Seems just like ‘im to me.” Dean interrupts.
Sam sighs and sits down. After a moment of silence, he says, “Hey, Dean?”
“Yeah.” Dean answers, eyes closed.
“Do you think…you think we can do it without him? Find the demon? Kill it?”
Dean looks at Sam carefully, mind drifting back to what John had said, what he told him to do. “Yeah, Sammy. I think we can.”
Knowing it was coming, even being the cause of it, doesn’t keep Sam from being shocked when he actually sees John on the floor. Dean watches alongside Sam from the hall as the doctors try to bring John back. He has that same pit in his stomach he had when he woke up.
He thinks back to that moment in the cabin. Sam was going to shoot John, taking the demon with him; would have, if not for him. In his gut he knows now he should’ve let him.
It’s all wrong, and there’s no going back.