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09 December 2015 @ 06:38 pm
But the Days and Nights are Long (Part 2)  
"Tuh-tuh-tuh-tastes so guh-good, Sammy," Dean says after he swallows his first mouthful of cheeseburger.





But the Days and Nights are Long



Part 2



 photo BTDANAL HOURGLASS 4_zpsv87lczc5.jpg


NOW

"Tuh-tuh-tuh-tastes so guh-good, Sammy," Dean says after he swallows his first mouthful of cheeseburger. He jams a fry in, gnawing it down as he goes and shakes his head in pure bliss. "Ah lahhhbbit" he says with a see-food smile. Dean may not be the man he once was, but one thing hasn't changed—the sonofabitch still loves his junk food.

The clock on the wall ticks in the background, and Sam mechanically chokes down his own burger, taking no pleasure in it whatsoever. Dean's delight makes up for the both of them, though. Of course that only sets off Sam's shame and remorse all the more. His brother's the happiest Sam's seen him in months, and all it took was his favorite foods. He should've allowed him all the fucking fries he wanted. It wouldn't have made any difference in the end. They still would have wound up where they are.

Sam doesn't say any of this, though. He produces a small, broken smile. "Leave room for pie. Don't forget."

"Naw gahn fuhh-fuh-fuh—" he stumbles over the word, tracks it down again. "—fuh-fuh-fo'get."

They eat in silence until words flow from Sam's mouth, unbidden and uncensored. He doesn't even realize he's speaking aloud until he's halfway through. "There's something else I don't want you to forget, okay? Don't forget I tried everything. Dean. Remember that. Remember I didn't want this for you."

Dean's brows corrugate as he presses another french-fry into his mouth and chews thoughtfully. After he manages to get it down, he says, "Duh-Don' haffa tuh-try Sammy. I tol' yuhh-you. Mmm'ok-kay. Eh-ehh-everythin's ohh-okay."

Sam's hamburger turns to ash on his tongue, and he lets it plop back onto its wrapper. He rinses his mouth with a sip of beer, swallows the bitter liquid. Things are as far from okay as they can get, but all he says is, "Eat up."

Dean doesn't answer. He stops chewing mid-bite, drops his hamburger and stares at Sam with wide, frightened eyes.

"What?" Sam asks.

"Nuhh…duh-d-don', Sammy. Puh-puhh-please stop. Duh-don' like it wuhhh-when your fuh-face duh-does that."

"Does what? I'm not doing anything with my face." He swipes a napkin across his chin, thinking maybe there's something on it.

Dean shrivels in on himself, avoids eye contact. "Duhhn-don' Sammy. Don' like it."

"Dean, I'm not doing anything. I promise. Look at me." Dean shuts his eyes tight, turns his head. Sam grips his shoulder. "Hey, hey, hey Dean. It's okay. Look at me."

Dean doesn't want to, but he obeys. He opens his eyes, looks at Sam and lets out a relieved sigh—whatever it was, it's passed.

And it's not the first time this has happened, either. They've been dealing with this for the past couple of days, another random symptom of Dean's TBI or a side effect of the Keppra he's on to control his seizures, maybe. Lucky them.

"Better? Okay?" he asks.

Dean nods. "Buhh-better. It wuh-was scuhhh-scuh-scary. Don' like it wuh-w-when y'face goes cuh-crazy."

The fit soon passes, and a minute later Dean's happy again, tucked into his pie, making yummy sounds as he relishes every bite.



 photo BTDANAL HOURGLASS 4_zpsv87lczc5.jpg

THEN

After Halloween, they transfer Dean to a long-term care facility, and the move triggers a cluster of seizures in Dean. His doctors have to increase his meds and keep him sedated for that first week.

And they can call this place whatever the fuck they want, spout phrases like ‘frontiers in rehabilitation' and ‘groundbreaking treatments', the place is nothing more than a state-run warehouse for those poor bastards who can afford no better. It's filled with incontinent, drooling, senile people who caw like crows from their four-point restraints. The smell alone is enough to knock Sam over the moment he walks in the door. It's hell.

Dean's the youngest person in the building. Sam's sure of it. There's some guy in his forties down the hall who's been in a coma for the past three years after a motorcycle accident, but that's it.

Bobby finds them there after his latest chase. He palms Dean's cheek, kisses his forehead and gives him some finger poppers and a puzzle that takes the form of big, plastic nuts-and-bolts that he has to fit together. Bobby tells them Shelly recommended the games last time he saw her, said they'd help develop Dean's bilateral coordination. He also gives Dean a new baseball cap since he no longer has to wear helmets. The bones in his skull have healed well enough that the extra protection is no longer warranted.

"Looking good, kid," Bobby says as Dean cocks his head, peers past the bill of the cap, fluttering his long lashes in pleasure.

"Yuhh-you luh-lookin' good tuh-tuh-tuh-too, Buh-Bobby."

Sam doesn't think so, though. Bobby's lost weight. He's pale and careworn—and, holy shit, there's a whole lot of anger percolating just below the surface. The old man's pissed as hell. Once he gets Dean working on his puzzles he aims a smoky glance at Sam.

"She was a black witch. You sent me to a black witch, Sam. But I'll bet you knew that, didn't you?" He keeps his voice steady, but he doesn't try to hide his contempt. And Sam's defenses kick in.

"Yeah, so? Can she help?"

Dean stops playing with his puzzle, swivels his head from Bobby to Sam as they spar.

"As it turns out, no, but that's not the point! Are you listenin' to yourself? You got any idea what in the hell you're doing here? You gotta stop this and stop it now."

Sam scoffs. "Stop this? I'm just getting started." He squares his shoulders, gets up close to Bobby and glares down at him.

Bobby doesn't budge. "It ain't right to keep doing this, Sam. Think what this is doing to your brother."

"I am thinking of him. That's all I'm doing is thinking of him."

"No you're not. You're trying to hang onto something that's as good as gone"

"Don't you say that, Bobby! I'm not gonna lose him like this. Not like this! I'm not!"

"That ain't your say-so, Sam."

"He shouldn't'a done it!" Adrenaline surges through him and he punches the wall behind Bobby. Dean squawks in the background, but Sam doesn't stop—can't stop, and he doesn't edit himself, either. "It's not my goddamned fault, Bobby! I didn't ask him to save me; I wouldn't have wanted it. Not at this cost, no way! But I had no say in the matter! He put himself in danger! He played the overprotective brother and now look where we are!"

"Suh-suhhh-Sammy?" Tears stand in Dean's eyes and his chest heaves.

Sam has no idea if Dean understands or if it's just Sam's anger scaring him. At this point, he doesn't care. He's incapable of being gentle or reasonable. He reels on his brother.

"You shouldn't have saved me, Dean! You shouldn't have butted in! This is your fault!" He spits the hateful words at his brother.

"Enough!" Bobby shouts, goes to Dean and wraps his arms around him. He scowls at Sam, disgusted. "You shut your mouth, boy. I ever hear you talk to him like that again, I'll take you down so many pegs your ass will be sweepin' the floor."

Sam's cheeks flush with shame. He's gone too far. He knows it. Fucking hell. He slumps into the chair, pinches the bridge of his nose. "I'm sorry, Dean. Fuck, I'm sorry. I didn't mean it."

Dean says something through his tears, but not even Sam can decipher it.

Bobby caresses Dean's shoulders, wipes his face and whispers soothing nonsense to him. When Dean's quiet he says, "Dean has always put himself between you and trouble. Every time. And he'd do the same thing today, even knowing how it'd all end up. You know that."

"I know." Sam says and stands up, legs planted wide apart, arms folded. "So now it's my turn. I'm fixing this."

"So, what…you're gonna keep on with this madness, even if you blacken your own soul in the process?"

"Blacken it—lose it—I don't care. Whatever it takes Bobby. You understand? Find someone who wants to buy the damn thing and it's theirs just as long as they fix this! Do it, Bobby!"

"I won't, son. Dean wouldn't want that—doesn't want it—and you know it. You need to listen to reason. Sometimes you just gotta accept what's what."

"No! I don't! I'll never accept this. Now get back out there and do your goddamn job!"

"I'm sorry Sam. This is where I put my foot down. I've looked. I love him. Hell, I love you too—even hell-bent as you are. But Sam, I'm warning you; you go down this black road and I ain't riding shotgun. I can't. I won't. I care too much about you boys. I'm not gonna lose you, too."

Sam explodes. "Then leave! Stop lecturing me like I'm a goddamned child and do it already! Leave!"

Bobby staggers under the shock wave of Sam's anger. They say nothing else. After staring each other down while Dean sobs in the background, Bobby slumps and turns away. He picks up his hat, puts on his jacket and gives Dean a hug, tells him not to cry. Sam opens the door.

Bobby pauses on the threshold. "Sam, don't do this. Don't do this to Dean."

"Get out—and don't come back."

"All right. I'll keep my distance. And I'll keep looking, too. I will. But for Dean's sake I won't go down a dark path with you, boy. I doubt there's anything out there that'll change this, but if I find anything, hear of anyone who can help without doing more damage than is already done, I'll call you."

"Just go," Sam says as he looks at the ceiling. Bobby's shoulders fall, and he walks out the door.

His departure leaves Dean inconsolable, and an hour later he has another seizure. When he wakes up the next day, he doesn't appear to remember what happened. Sam counts his blessings.



-

Without Bobby to follow up on leads, Sam sneaks Dean out of the nursing home. Their getaway is uneventful. Sam straps Dean into his walker, says he's taking him outside for some fresh air, and that's it. They're gone.

Dean remembers the Impala and he's over the moon when he sees her.

"She muhh-mm-missed me. I can tuh-tell. I muh-muhh-missed you, too, buhh-Baby!" he tells her and strokes her vinyl, exploring her contours with his good hand.

"Get a room, you two." Sam jokes as he starts her up, and Dean laughs and laughs until he chokes.

However, the next few days prove bumpy. Dean misses his room, misses his routine—the stability that institutionalized life provides. That place had been a shithole, but Dean'd felt safe there, and he has trouble acclimating to his new surroundings.

Of course, it doesn't help that Sam isn't prepared to be a full-time caretaker, either. He makes the mistake of driving all day and all night that first night, something he and Dean had done a thousand times before the accident. But by morning Dean's so stiff and cramped he can't stand, can't walk. And just like the Dean of old, he refuses to admit when he's in pain. Sam doesn't notice anything's wrong until Dean exhibits classic signs of shock: shivering, shallow breaths, clammy skin, racing pulse—the works—all the while insisting he's fine. Sam learns his lesson after that, and he makes a point to take plenty of rest breaks to give his brother a chance to recover.



-

His first stop is to a crossroads in Alabama. Sam prepares the necessary items, digs a hole in the ground and waits. When nothing happens, he spends the next several hours trying to bait a demon, to draw it out: I'm here you fuckers! You wanna Deal? I'll Deal! But no demon shows. At daybreak he gives up and decides to head to Nebraska to talk with a hunter who has some talismans and charms that may help.



-

They'd left the nursing home with nothing but Dean's souped-up walker; he has none of his medications. So it doesn't take long before Dean's having seizures every day. Sam takes him to a free clinic in Arkansas, tells them Dean's injuries are the result of a car accident a couple of years ago, says he's lost his Keppra. They leave with a refillable prescription, but Sam doesn't dare ask for anything else for fear they'll insist on admitting Dean to a hospital.

The seizures diminish in frequency after that, but Keppra does nothing for the spasticity in Dean's leg and arm, and being cooped up in the car day in and day out only exacerbates the problem. At night, Sam spends time massaging Dean's limbs, has him soak in warm baths. Still, it doesn't take a genius to see Dean's deteriorating. Without professional care, he's regressing both physically and cognitively.

So, Sam does what he can. He stops allowing Dean any junk food for one thing—no burgers, no fries, not even pudding. He might not be able to save him, but by hell he will get his brother sorted out nutritionally. Providing good, clean foods gives Sam something to focus on, gives him a sense of control in all the chaos. Dean, of course, hates it, and he drops several pounds he can ill afford to lose.



-

They're on the road one day about two weeks after Thanksgiving when Dean asks when Bobby's going to come visit him again.

Sam picks his way through the minefield, twists the steering wheel in his hands. "Bobby's pretty busy, Dean. He might not have time to come see us for a while."

Dean focuses his soulful eyes on him. "Ss-so you stuh-stuh-stuh-still mad at'im?"

Sam freezes. He had no clue Dean remembered the incident. "It's complicated, Dean."

His brother nods and his gaze wanders out the windshield. "He wuh-wan's y-you tuhh stop tryin'a fuh-fix me."

"Not fix you, fix the situation."

"Don' you luhh-luhhve me?"

"Dean, what kind of a question is that? Of course I love you."

"Nuhhh…" Dean shakes his head. "Nuhhh, you luh-luhve the ol' me, not thuh-the nuh-new me. Yyuh-you wanna tuh-try and m-mmuh-make me luh-like I use t'be."

Sam does a double take between the road and his brother. "You think that's what this is about?"

"Mmm hmm…"

"Dean, it's—it's not like that, man. You don't understand."

"Duh-do too. I unn-unn-unnerstan' I ussa be s-s-smart."

"You're still smart, Dean. You injured your brain, that's all."

"Nuhh, I'm naw smar'." He smiles a crooked smile. "Stuh-still duh-duh-damn good lookin', though."

Sam snorts. "If you're into that kind of thing." The joke falls flat, though, because Dean's gone pensive again. "Hey, you okay?"

Dean draws in a long breath. "I muh-memmer I ussa hun' muh-monnsers, ussa fuh-fuh-fight ‘em. Took goo' cuhh-care of m'lil lover—I muh-mean buh-brother," he says. Sam's glad he's learned to correct himself there, at least.

"You did. You were fighting a monster when you got hurt. And you saved me. But that's not what I'm—"

"I'll aww-alway suh-suh-save you, Sammy." Dean interrupts him. "Even with shuh-sh-shit for brains, I'll aww-always have your buh-buh-back."

"I know." Sam blinks, refuses to let his emotions get the better of him. "I know you will."

"So why you wuh-wuh-wuhh-wh—" He can't find the word. He swallows and tries again, "—wuhh-why you wuh-wanna fix me? M'okay, Sammy. M'happy. Wuh-woul' be hap-happier if—" he swallows again, "—if-if-if you wuhh-were huh-happy, too."

"No." Sam shakes his head, resolute. "No. You don't understand, and I can't—" He stops himself before he loses his temper like he did last time Bobby was there. He counts to ten before continuing, "—Look, there are things you don't remember, and things can't stay the way they are, okay? You have to trust me on this. They just can't. That's all there is to it. I'm not gonna lose you like this. I'm not."

"But I'm right here, Sammy." The words flow from Dean's mouth so clear and unencumbered it shocks Sam. He looks at his brother, but Dean's watching the Amish farms of Ohio fly past him. He says nothing for a while then turns to Sam. "Memmer wuh-when I ussa duhh-drive m'baby?"

Sam draws a deep breath, relieved Dean's lost the thread of their conversation. "Of course I do. You never used to let me drive her."

"Tha's ‘kuh-kuhh-cause Baby luh-luhvs me best." Dean runs his good hand along the dash. "I miss duh-duh-d-drivin' her."

Sam's quiet for a moment, still watching his brother as much as the road. He grips Dean's good arm, draws him close. "C'mere." Sam sets his brother's left hand on the wheel, throws his own arm around Dean's shoulder, and together they steer the car.

Dean's face is a perfect blend of concentration and joy. "Suhh-ss-see Sammy? Jus' like ol' tuh-times."

"Just like old times," Sam says. He sticks AC/DC into the tape deck, steps on the gas while the opening bars of Back in Black roll over them. An answering rumble from Dean's best girl reverberates around and through them as Sam and his brother drive down the road together.



-

They spend Christmas Eve in Massachusetts—Sam's following a lead in Boston, some blind Kabala mystic, but the man says Dean's issue is beyond his abilities. The old rabbi places his palm on Dean's head, recites a Hebrew prayer of protection and asks God to take mercy on him. That's when Sam tells the old man to piss off and grabs Dean by the collar, forcing him up before he's got his balance. He storms from the house all but carrying both his bewildered brother and the walker.

The next day, Sam doesn't say anything to Dean about Christmas. They spend the day on the road, heading toward Santa Fe where Sam's meeting a Jicarilla Apache medicine man. Dean taps his fingers—way off rhythm—to Led Zeppelin for a while before he falls asleep.



-

The year slips away and a new one begins. And Sam's no closer to saving his brother than he was eight months ago. It's a weight pressing upon him, as heavy as a brimstone boulder, every minute of every day, making for some excruciatingly long days. Toward the end of January, he goes to see yet another Hoodoo priest in Shreveport. It's mostly a bust, but he comes away with a small, leather pouch he hopes he never has to use.



-

By early spring they've crisscrossed the country more than a dozen times. Rummaging through a rare bookstore one day, Sam finds what he believes to be a Black Magic spell-book. There's no way the woman who owns the store has a clue what she's got, and when she's off helping another customer, Sam steals it. Then he spends more time learning the obscure dialect it's written in. He talks to more people, shows them the book, but everyone tells him there's nothing in there that can help, not for this. He keeps it with him at all times, though. Studies it every night.

Easter comes and goes and Sam grows cold and detached, lost in his obsession. He robotically follows every flimsy lead. Most aren't legitimate leads at this point, but that doesn't stop him. And Dean's wasting away next to him, neglected, gaunt—confused at Sam's behavior. Every day he backslides a little further. His dysarthria and apraxia worsen, make him all but incoherent, even to Sam. His balance is poor. At the rate they're going, Dean's going to have to start using a wheelchair soon.

None of that stops Sam, though. He pursues lead after lead, and when he's exhausted them all, he tries again to summon a crossroads demon and again he's left standing in the dark. Three more times he knocks. Three more times no one answers. And it isn't that the demons can't help him, Sam's sure of that. It's that they won't. The bastards won't even let him plead his case.

After his last attempt to sell his soul, Sam flies into a rage, drives to a park and drinks himself into a blackout. The next morning, he wakes up in the bushes with the mother of all hangovers, and he's halfway back to the Impala before he realizes with a jolt that he must've left Dean alone in the car. By the time he gets to him, Dean's in a postictal state. He's had a seizure at some point during the night, and he's covered in piss and vomit. Dean sleeps the better part of the next two days.

Sam holes up in a motel room, taking care of Dean while he recovers. And of course Dean remembers the whole goddamned thing, too—because it's not like Sam can catch a break here—fucking short-term memory as inconvenient as ever. Apparently, during Sam's binge, he'd ranted and raved, accused Dean of playing the big damn hero and ruining everything! He'd gone on and on, verbally abusing his brother until he'd stomped off swinging a bottle of whiskey. Dean's traumatized by what Sam said to him and he tells him he's sorry for whatever he did that made Sam hate him. It takes a lot of work for Sam to convince him it isn't so—that he does love him—that Sam was the one being an asshole and that it won't happen again.

Toward the end of April, right about the time Dean's emotions stabilize and he's back to normal—normal for him anyway—something snaps in Sam. Shards of reality pierce him like flying shrapnel. He knows the whole damn thing is futile. He can't fix this. An entire year gone. An entire year spent searching, fighting, begging, praying—trying to sell his own goddamned soul—and it's all been for nothing. Dean's stuck, and there's no undoing this.

After that, Sam makes what last few preparations he can.



-

A couple days later, Every Which Way but Loose comes on one of the local TV stations. They sit side by side on Dean's bed, feet up, settled in. Dean's seen the movie before, of course—several times—but he doesn't remember it. Sam's glad he found it, though. Dean loves it every bit as much as he did when they were kids, and he laughs uproariously every time Ma calls Clyde a goddamn baboon!—something about a petite old lady being a foul-mouthed spitfire tickles Dean like little else can.

They're halfway through the movie when Dean throws his head back and laughs at something Sam didn't even think was all that funny. But he snorts at his brother's antics and laughs all the same. It's not until Dean's spastic arm lurches up and hits him in the chin that he realizes Dean's not laughing—he's seizing. Of all the fucking nights.

Dean's muscles stretch so tight his legs hover above the bed, wobbling back and forth like a windup toy. His arms cross one against the other, fingers pointing in every direction at once. Sam pulls Dean's lower lip out from under his teeth before the skin breaks, and he shifts him so he doesn't hit the headboard.

Thirty seconds in and the clonic spasms take over. Sam knows the drill, knows to leave Dean where he is unless he's in danger of hurting himself. He has to make one adjustment when Dean flails too close to the edge of the bed, but other than that, he lets the seizure take its course. It's a long and brutal one, though, one of the worst Sam's seen. After four agonizing minutes the seizure ends, and Sam's left shell-shocked. Hopeless.

This unwinnable war he's been fighting has beaten him down, left him exhausted and ruined beyond all hope of ever being whole again. And for the first time since this fucking thing started—for the first time since that horrible night one year ago when his brother saved him—Sam cries. He cries with unbridled abandon, mouth frozen in a rictus of misery, long wailing sobs wracking and twisting him until his diaphragm burns and his voice is shot. He cries for what he's lost and what he's losing. And he doesn't stop until he's laying half-conscious on the floor.

Time passes and Sam sits up, staggers to his feet. The movie's over, some infomercial's on. He switches off the TV then goes over to the bed, gathers his brother in his arms and moves him to his bed since Dean's is soiled. Sam wraps him in his bedspread, kisses his brow.

He goes and takes a long shower, washes away his tears and snot and Dean's piss still clinging to him. After toweling dry, he dresses in clean clothes and then wastes more time just leaning against the doorjamb, watching his brother sleep.

He can't square this circle. He can't save Dean from this horrible fate. He knows it. And so there's only one thing left to do.

Searching through his duffel, Sam finds the leather pouch he got from the Hoodoo priest in Shreveport and sets it on the table next to him. He spends the rest of the night sitting, gun in hand, woodenly inspecting and cleaning it, oiling every component and then starting all over again until long after the sun has risen.



 photo BTDANAL HOURGLASS 5_zpsljf7cb8f.jpg

NOW

After he's eaten, Dean licks his fingers and beams his appreciation at Sam. There's a greasy blob of hamburger juice and a puddle of apple pie filling on his shirt, so Sam changes him into a light tee and a hoodie. He tries to take his mind off things by keeping Dean amused with some of his puzzles, but as the night winds away Sam has trouble staying focused. His hands shake, and he can't fit the fucking plastic yellow screw into big green bolt any better than Dean can. And Dean's too worried about Sam to give any thought to the game.

"Wuhh-wha's wrong, Sammy?" Dean says from where he's perched on the bed.

"I'm fine. Why don't you take a nap or something?"

"Nuh-nuhh-not tired. Slep' all duh-day."

"Then work your puzzle or something. I need to think." Sam falls silent after that, and for the next hour he wracks his brain, trying to come up with a last-ditch solution—find a way out of this—a way to fix it, but as the minutes tick away, he knows he's out of options. This ends tonight.

He can't keep still, and he prowls the room, back and forth—back and forth, fiddles with the lamp, bolts the doors and windows and double checks the salt-lines. He walks up to the starburst clock on the wall, checks it against the time on his phone to see if it's accurate. It is. With his phone in hand, he breaks down and flips through his contacts to see if Bobby ever called or left a message. He didn't.

"Fuck." He throws the phone on the bed.

"Wha's wrong, Sammy?" Green eyes scope him, take their measure as Dean tries to figure Sam out like one of his puzzles.

Sam paces between the door and window, flicks one of the blinds down and peers outside.

"Suh-Sam. Wha's wruh-wrong?"

"Nothing, Dean. It's gonna be okay," Sam says and lets the blind snap back into place. He cracks his knuckles and stares at the clock. Fuck. He has no clue how he's going to get through this. But somehow he will. He will get through it. He has no choice.

"Sammy?" Dean plays with the ties of his hoodie, bunching the strings in his good hand and giving them a nervous tug. "Suh-Sammy?"

"Hmm?" Sam says, but it's a token acknowledgment. He doesn't know what Dean's said or what he wants. Sam goes to the table and picks up the pouch lying there. He balls it in his fist then stuffs it into his pocket.

"Whu-wassat?"

Sam's too busy grabbing one of the chairs from the table and wedging it under the doorknob to answer.

"Sammy!" Dean fumbles his way to the edge of the bed, biting his lip like a lost child.

Sam ignores him. He paces the floor, all twitchy energy—tense and sweaty—like a thoroughbred spoiling in its paddock. He looks at the clock again. "God, fuck!" He pulls the gun from his waistband. It'll all be over soon.

"It'll all be over soon," he says aloud, not knowing he's spoken.

Dean stands up but he's unsteady and his walker is out of reach. His core wobbles and he has to work to balance himself. "Y-yyou're scaring me, Sam. Ww-what are y'doin' w'the guh-guh-gun?"

Sam glances at the weapon. He grips it tight, bounces it to test the weight in his hand, trying to find the courage to face this. He shrugs. "It's nothing. Sit down before you fall down."

"Is it vuh-vampires? Shuh-shuh-shifters? Whuh-whuh-what?"

"I told you it's nothing, Dean! Sit down!" He crosses the room in two strides and grips his brother's shoulders with adrenaline-fueled hands and pushes him back down on the bed. He doesn't mean to be so rough, but he is, and it's too much too fast. Dean loses his balance, and he flails toward the foot of the bed. When he can't regain his equilibrium, he topples onto the floor with a cry. He hits hard, and his spastic foot somehow hooks the lamp cord. The momentum of his fall yanks it from the wall socket, and the room is plunged into darkness. Sam hears his brother weeping in the shadows.

He kneels, crushes Dean to his chest and holds on for dear life. "Oh, God…oh, Jesus. Shhh…I'm so sorry, Dean. God, I'm sorry. Don't. I'm so sorry for it all. I ruined everything. I tried to fix it and I can't.

Dean fists Sam's shirt with his good hand, anger and hurt radiating from him. "I tuh-tol' you. Yuh-you, don' nuh-need to fuh-fuh-fix me! Why don' you luh-luh-love me the wuh-way I am?"

"Shh—shh—shh. No, that's not it. Oh fuck, Dean, that's not it. I do." He looks at the clock. "Fuck!" He repositions Dean so his back is to Sam's chest. Sam holds him steady with one arm while adjusting the gun with his other. He flicks off the safety. "I'm so sorry." He says and kisses Dean's soft curls at the nape of his neck.

The starburst clock on the wall is too cheap to chime, but the mechanical arms whir when they come together and strike midnight. It's the only warning Sam has before Dean stiffens in his arms and cocks his head, listening to something Sam can't hear.

"Duh-duhhh-Doggies," he whispers in the dark.

"Don't." Sam holds him tighter, rocks him back and forth. "Don't…don't…don't." He repeats the words like a prayer.

"They're muh-muh-mad, Sammy. Why?"

"Dean…shh…shh. Don't listen to them." Sam pulls the corded pouch he got in Louisiana from his pocket, uncinches it and spreads the goofer dust in a circle around them. He resettles Dean against his chest, tightens his grip on the gun. He hears nothing, but Dean does, and Sam knows they're close.

"Wuh-why they so muh-muh-mad?"

Sam wraps his legs around Dean, using all his spare limbs to hold him fast. He extends the gun in his free hand, frantically switching his aim from window to door, not knowing which poses more threat. When Dean focuses his attention on the door, Sam does too. He rises to his knees, pulling Dean with him. They both jump when the door shudders and the scratching begins.

"I'm scuh-scared, Sammy." Dean trembles in his arms. "They're gruh-gruh-growlin'. Whuh-what duh-do they wan'?"

Sam can't let it end like this—with Dean not knowing, not remembering. "Dean. Look at me." He nudges him when Dean's attention remains fixed on the door. "You look at me, now."

Dean squeals when there's a tremendous crash on the door. Sam can't hear the hounds, but he hears the door shudder when they fling themselves against it, hears claws scratching the floor as they start digging their way through. "Look at me, Dean."

Dean can't tear his eyes away from the door as it buckles and bends from the strain. "Whuh-why? Why're they huh-here?"

"Listen to me, Dean. Listen to me!" Sam physically forces Dean to face him. "It's not over. You hear me? I'm gonna get you back. I promise you."

"Buh-back?"

There's another boom followed by a salvo of pounding. The chair Sam wedged under the knob shivers and creaks. It won't hold much longer. This is it. It's happening.

"The Deal, Dean! The Deal! The goddamned deal you made three days before the fucking ghost slammed your head into that gravestone. I told you there were things you didn't remember."

Dean shakes his head, still not comprehending. "Whu-whut deal?

"Your soul, Dean! You sold your soul to save me! One year ago tonight. Jake killed me at Cold Oak, and you sold your soul to bring me back. And now we're both damned. I didn't tell you because I thought I could get you out of it, Dean. I really did. And I tried. All goddamn year, I tried."

"No, you whuh-whuh—" Dean's face twists in an effort to get the words out, "—were truh-tryin'a fuh-fix my brain."

Sam has to shout over the cacophony to be heard. "No! It wasn't about fixing your brain—it was about saving your soul! I tried! And Bobby tried, too, until he couldn't do it anymore. And I'm sorry Dean. I'm so fucking sorry. Please forgive me."

Dean caresses Sam's cheek with his good hand. "Nuh-nothin' to fuh-fuh—" A resounding blow shatters the door, cutting Dean off mid-stutter. Splinters of wood fly toward them, scattering the salt and goofer dust.

"NO!" Sam screams and throws himself over Dean in an attempt to shield him, to keep him safe as long as he can.

Sam isn't aware when Dean's taken from him, only that he is. And when he looks up, an arterial spray coming from a gaping wound on Dean's right shoulder hits him in the face. Invisible claws leave grisly slash marks on Dean's left leg, and he writhes in agony, trying to get away from foes Sam can't see. Sam lunges for him, but the beasts drag Dean away like a coveted bone they refuse to share.

Dean struggles and screams and screams and screams, and Sam does, too. He wails for them to stop, to take him instead. He chases the hellhounds around the room on his hands and knees as they continue to drag Dean along, always just out of arm's reach, shaking him like a chew toy. He takes a chance and shoots at them a couple of times, but the bullets uselessly lodge in the walls. The gun doesn't stop them. Nothing can.

The hellhounds flip Dean onto his back and set to work on his chest, clawing and mauling until nothing but a pulpy slop of bone and muscle and gristle remains.

Sam closes his eyes against the horror of it, and they both scream until Sam's the only one left screaming.

When he realizes he's alone, Sam opens his eyes to a quiet scene too gruesome to process. His stomach revolts and he vomits next to what his brain distantly identifies as one of Dean's kidneys. The path to Dean is laid with a gory, red carpet of entrails and organs and undigested burgers and pie. Huge swathes of blood paint the room. It drips from the walls. It puddles on the floor. It spatters the bed, the drapes—even the fucking ceiling. And Sam's covered, too. There's a piece of white tendon on his shirt, and beads of blood drip from his bangs and onto his nose. He's drenched, and he'll never be clean of it. Never. Never.

He crabs his way to his brother's lifeless body. Dean's empty eyes communicate nothing beyond the agony of his last horrific moments.

"No…" Sam chokes on the word. "No…"

He cradles his brother, lifting him until Dean's head tilts back, eyes still staring—still dead.

"Dean…Dean…" he pleads, but it's no use. It's over. Sam's failed. His brother's in Hell.

They both are.



-

Epilogue:

FOUR AND A HALF MONTHS LATER

It's warm and humid for mid-September in Pontiac, and the sleazy honeymoon suite has no air conditioning. Sam's hot and sticky, and though he lingers under the jet until the water runs cold, he still doesn't feel clean. But there's not enough water in the world for that.

After having no luck finding the demons he's been tracking, he spent the rest of the afternoon in bed with Ruby—the demon who came to him after his brother died—too late to save him, of course—but offering Sam a path to revenge. She's helping him get strong. Bobby'd kill him if he knew. Hell, Dean's probably spinning in his grave, but Sam doesn't care. He knows what he's doing and he's got it under control.

Besides, indulging in some mindless sex is no big deal all things considered. It gives him something else to think about other than…you know…hellhounds ripping his brother apart and dragging him to Hell right in front of his eyes. No amount of help from Ruby can make him unsee that. In fact, the stronger he gets, the more ‘help' he consumes—the sharper his senses become—including his memories. So, yeah sure, the summer's flown right on by, but being treated to Technicolor replays of Dean's death whenever he closes his eyes has made for some really long days and nights. He's cruelly aware of each and every age-long second that passes without his brother. So, he has no problem fucking himself numb now and then.

He turns off the water, towels dry and throws on some clothes. He's sure the pizza's here, because he can hear Ruby over the music in the next room bitching at the delivery guy. He figures he better go save the poor bastard before she kills him—literally.

He threads his fingers through his wet hair and walks out of the bathroom. "Hey is th—" he says and stops short, unable to move or speak because the door's wide open and Dean's standing there, unassisted—tall and healthy and alive. Dean's there. And the only thing separating the two of them is Ruby's diminutive meatsuit.

Sam's brain seizes for a moment; his eyes stutter from Dean to Bobby and then back to Dean. He more than half expects the image to flicker and disappear, some heartless, fucked up side effect of the demon-blood, maybe. But Dean doesn't flicker, doesn't disappear.

His brother smiles a thousand words, but he says only two. And there's no hint of apraxia or dysarthria in his voice when he speaks—no, not a trace.

"Heya, Sammy," Dean says.

The End—

 
 
 
Jo: Default Apieceofcakeapieceofcake on December 11th, 2015 12:23 am (UTC)
That was heartbreakingly good!! I too thought it was about fixing Dean, not Dean and the deal.

Well done and Merry Christmas! xx.
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on December 11th, 2015 10:41 am (UTC)
Yeah, I kind of pulled a fast-one on the reader, there. I was *hoping* people would think it was about fixing Dean. Heh.

Thanks so much. Merry Christmas to you, too!

Kat
I do not think it means what you think it means.: impalatcs1121 on December 11th, 2015 03:25 am (UTC)
Well done! Of course you got me and you handled that twist masterfully. I will probably read it again knowing what i know now. Awesome job.
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on December 11th, 2015 10:44 am (UTC)
Thank you so much! Yes, if you ever re-read you'll find that I was very careful about my wording. I was scared at some points that it would be too obvious (Dean's hallucination when they're eating being one point I might have given it away). But I'm really glad that it worked.

Thanks again. :) You made my night.

Kat
lidia1991_anlidia1991_an on December 11th, 2015 05:09 am (UTC)

One word: awesome!!!!!!!!!!

sharlot1926sharlot1926 on December 11th, 2015 10:45 am (UTC)
One word: Thank you!!!!!!!

Wait...that's two.

Dammit.

;)

Kat
jennyjennygeee on December 11th, 2015 08:47 pm (UTC)
Oh my goodness I adored broken Dean! I mean really adored him! "...took good care of my lil lover" How adorable is that!

You had me good and proper that's for sure, I really thought he was trying to fix Dean and it didn't even click when Sam had that little bag that he hoped he wouldn't have to use, I thought he was going to kill himself and Dean! That was so clever, you are a genius my friend and I love your fic, I don't realise how much I miss it until I read a new one.

I really, really didn't want this to end, not one little bit. I will most definitely be reading this again and again especially now that I know what Sam was trying to fix.

Thank you so much for this early Christmas present :))

I hope you and your husband have a wonderful Christmas.

Any chance of any more from you in the New Year?
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on December 12th, 2015 01:28 am (UTC)
Thank you so much, Jenny! I'm so glad you liked it. Yes, I definitely used a lot of misdirection in this piece...I'm glad it worked on you! Hee!

I hope you have a wonderful Christmas, too!

And...sure!...I always have other stories in my head. One story that I still want to write, I've had in my brain since 2011 when I was doing research for Killing Me Softly. Heh. And I have a long, multi-chapter story that I have done a lot of research for and even wrote the first chapter to about a year ago. I still intend to finish it. I do. And I have a couple of one/two-shots that I would like to bust out soon.

It's just a matter of sitting down to it. I'm rather lazy. :P But I'll get around to them, all. I'm sure!

You take great care!

/hugs

Kat
roxymissrose: xmas Sam and treeroxymissrose on December 13th, 2015 09:25 am (UTC)
I'm glad I didn't know what the twist was. That was incredibly well-done, and not once did I think it was anything but Sam being consumed by the desire to save Dean.

When he had that breakdown and left Dean all alone in the car, I thought, 'That's the way he gets, so obsessive, he'd have been this way about the deal if Dean had let him.' And there you go. As angry as I was at Sam for wasting his time looking for a cure for Dean's trauma--so I thought--I also thought that if he could just let it go, he'd make Dean happy and he'd also take such good care of him. They probably would have had a good life....

It was weird. The ending was a good ending, I guess, Dean back all healthy again, but it was sad too, because if it follows canon, Sam's about to throw his brand-new chance to have his brother back away.

This was excellent, a tough read but worth every sad second. :)
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on December 13th, 2015 11:43 am (UTC)
Aw, yeah you know...I hear you! Of course...it could have been much worse. I've had this story in my brain for over two years now...and my original plan, the whole time, had been to end the story WITHOUT the epilogue. Oh yes. Right? I didn't consider writing an epilogue until after I'd written the hellhound scene and thought..."I'mma be mobbed by a bunch of pitchfork and torch wielding fangirls for this."

But you know...the end is as happy as it gets for the Winchesters...which is to say...not all that fuckin' happy. Heh... but at least they are alive and fit to fight another day. That's all we can hope for them at this point.

Thank you SO much for reading and for your lovely comments. I can't tell you how I appreciate that.

Kat
Somersomer on December 13th, 2015 05:52 pm (UTC)
LAKFHGSKLFJGHJHFLJ!!!!!!!!!! Nuuuhhh, man! THE END! THIS WAS SET IN SEASON 3!!?!?! Fuck! And Sam was searching for...and he was...and maaaaan! Wow!

And I tried. All goddamn year, I tried.

JESUS CHRIST!! *shudders* Sam!!

And poor Dean. He was HAPPY! I think this was a brilliant AU setting. Despite everything - his seizures, his illness - he. was. happy! BUT OF COURSE SAM COULDN'T STOP! He wanted to save his brother. God, I had it all wrong. And when the hellhounds came? Damn, you managed to make it worse than the actual season 3 final. Just wow!

Okay! Yes. Brilliant and perfect! I loved this so much!!
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on December 13th, 2015 07:09 pm (UTC)
Bless your heart. Thank you so much for this. Though painful, I'm glad it worked for you! In a weird way...your pain totally makes my day. And I'm not even a sadist. Honest! ;)

Seriously, though...thanks for reading and chatting. I appreciate it.

Kat
jpgr: XMas Ornamentjpgr on December 14th, 2015 01:37 pm (UTC)
You just said early seasons and I admit I didn't think of the deal. You even said the end would return to canon. Shows how involved I was in just reading.
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on December 14th, 2015 03:16 pm (UTC)
Yep yep...you fell right into my little trap. /wiggles chubby fingers maniacally.

Glad the story gripped you enough to make you forget every warning I gave. ;)

Hope you have a fantastic holiday!

/big ol' hugs

Kat
Emma EardleyEmma Eardley on March 26th, 2016 10:38 pm (UTC)
Wow that was amazing. Seeing Dean like that in my head was horrifying and poor Sam. I did so not see the deal part coming into it that Dean sold his soul for Sam back in season two, that was a turn of event. The way it was done was ace. So I guess Sam was alright with Dean like that, well as good as you can be in that situation.
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on March 27th, 2016 01:42 am (UTC)
Awww, thanks so much! Yeah, Sam was more worried about Dean's deal than he was about his physical disabilities. I'm so glad you liked this!

Kat
onehotmama199onehotmama199 on June 15th, 2016 06:24 am (UTC)

I don't even know what to say. It was gut wrenchingly painful and beautiful, and then it turned into something completely different than what I thought it to be. I don't even know what to say.

sharlot1926sharlot1926 on June 15th, 2016 12:16 pm (UTC)
Thank you for reading!
rosa_72_sallyrosa_72_sally on June 16th, 2016 09:12 pm (UTC)
A little bite late, but wow, let me tell you that this story is wonderful! Great, great job!
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on June 16th, 2016 09:54 pm (UTC)
Awwww, thank you so much for reading. I'm so happy you liked it.

Kat
rosa_72_sallyrosa_72_sally on June 16th, 2016 10:16 pm (UTC)
No, thank you for writing it, really :)
(Anonymous) on October 17th, 2016 09:30 pm (UTC)
So good!!!
This is amazing I love it! I was crying in some parts and and I never saw the twist coming and just asfjalhafldhlhd!

Good job, good damn job :p
sharlot1926sharlot1926 on October 18th, 2016 12:20 am (UTC)
Re: So good!!!
Yay! I'm so, so glad you liked it! You made my night. :)

Kat