Blue Memories

Starlight in the Gloom

Dean/Sam, PG - following 3.16 No Rest for the Wicked

 

It's been two weeks of his own personal Hell since Sam watched Dean get torn to shreds. The situation is worse than last time; at least then there had been no preparation. This time, they both went in with their eyes open, hope going down along with Dean.

In his dreams, their last exchange of empty words meant as solace happens over and over again. Then what am I supposed to do? - Keep fightin'. Take care of my wheels. Sam, remember what Dad taught you, okay? Remember what I taught you.

But what Sam can't help but think is, You never taught me how to go on without you.

~*~*~

Bobby's got connections. Mere hours after, as Sam has shut down and is going about his work mechanically, they've got one of those deep-freezers in their hands. Bobby approaches Sam, carefully asking whether he wants any kind of ceremony.

"No," Sam says, eyes hard. "No."

The sting of the cold is no more unpleasant than the sting of coffee burning his tongue as he puts in Dean's body by himself. Feeling Bobby's eyes in his back, feeling the sorrow and Bobby's instinctive knowledge of the fact that Sam hasn't given up, Sam continues arranging Dean in as comfortable a position as possible, refusing to look up.

Dean never gave up on him. It's one of those things his big brother taught him, and Sam's supposed to remember that.

*~*~*

Two weeks into their research, they have found nothing that could help them locate Dean in Hell, not to mention of how to extract him. Sam feels nothing but rage and frustration, anger eating away at him and sizzling the flesh from his bones; his face remains expressionless despite this while he feels himself slip inside.

Ruby's gone. Without knowing where Lilith sent her in her hurry to possess her body, they have no way of finding her. That's their first lead gone, and they haven't been able to dig up much else. Research more and more resembles the search for the proverbial needle in a haystack, except the stack is the sum of all the knowledge humans, demons and anyone else possess, making it virtually impossible to cover it all.

Sam knows only of this one sure-fire way Ruby didn't have the chance to tell him about, but when Sam speaks of using it, Bobby's answer couldn't be any clearer. Are you that screwed in the head that you'll get your brother back with whatever means necessary? Even as Sam averts his gaze, he knows he might not heed Bobby's unspoken Don't, his powers pushing at him ever since Lilith (ever since, ever since), almost a physical urge that needs to be satisfied. By day, he can keep himself under control, sitting by Dean's frozen body and remembering what Dean wanted.

At night, though, things are different. Sam dreams, sees Dean hanging in the Nothingness that may be Hell. There is no fire like they always pictured it, though, just lightning and thunder and indescribable pain along with the hopelessness eating away at you.

Dean hangs in a web of chains, hooks worn through his skin, bloody and screaming. Help! Help! Somebody help me! Sam! SAM! Sam desperately reaches out for him, with mind and body alike, his heart painfully contracting in his chest as it threatens to burst. In this first moment saving his brother becomes the imperative of his life, leaving no space to think of anything else. Dean, he thinks, Dean. I'm gonna save you, and, fluttering the ghost of a caress along Dean's ripped skin, feels power surge through him

He'll do it.

It's this promise that, on the fifteenth day, drives Sam over the edge. Flashbacks to those three months without Dean (not long enough ago, never long enough ago) keep invading his dreams, the pictures they paint bleak and the emotions they bring with them bleaker, especially now that he knows about his powers and feels them under his skin. Sam watches a satire of himself march down into the Beyond and rescue Dean, secure in the knowledge he can take Lilith down, not quite knowing how, but he can. Ruby said it.

Ruby isn't around anymore to show him, though. Sam has to do it himself, not wanting to play into the vision's hand, but feeling like he has no choice. On the first day he's alone at Bobby's house, he tries to flip that switch to focus the thrum of power under his skin. His whole body tense and his eyes narrowed, Sam tries it with all his might, thinking of how Dean suffers and of how he's not supposed to be there, how Dean deserves better, how Sam needs him so - and voilà, it's almost too easy. Flick, the cup of coffee Sam has been concentrating on bursts, scalding liquid splattering all over the kitchen.

Sam doesn't feel the burns on his own skin, too happy about the result. Power is surging through him like electricity, making the hair on his arms stand on end.

That Dean doesn't want to be saved this way is pushed to the back, the imperative of doing it the only thing that matters.

*~*~*

"What the fuck are you doing, boy?" Bobby asks. Sam feels the other hunter's anger zeroing in on him, like the familiar touch of your beloved. Smiling at the knife twirling in the air, he lets the silence hang there, too, and only when it's threatening to explode does he turn around.

"I'm preparing."

Bobby steps forward, but Sam reads his intent. His eyes black over as he concentrates on the various flips in Bobby's mind, searching for the right one. Bobby's foot goes back the way it came.

"Sam -"

"This is the only way, Bobby. Trust me."

"Dean -"

"Don't you dare tell me he wouldn't have wanted this." The ever-burning anger pushes forward. Bobby takes a step back.

"Sam. Stop it. Sam."

Sam can't. The anger is too much to control, overwhelming in its just intensity. Sam doesn't stop until he's pushed Bobby back out of the house and slammed the door in his face.

*~*~*

Now that they are awake, getting his powers under control takes much longer than Sam is willing to give it. Dean's body still looks like it did that day, not bloody anymore, but still ripped to shreds. The wounds Sam cleaned and closed, but they can't heal, serving as a daily reminder of how wounded Dean is going to be when he comes back.

"Can you find me some roadkill? I want to try something," Sam says to Bobby one day, anticipatory and frustrated he didn't think of it earlier.

"Sure," Bobby says. His voice sounds weary and tired.

Five deer and three wild boars later, Sam is happy. They look as they used to, before they had their fatal run-in with a car. Which, really, is all that Sam wanted.

*~*~*

"Sam, I'm not sure what you're doing is right," says Bobby. He sounds apprehensive, as if he's not sure of Sam's reaction.

These days, it's always a close call with the anger and hatred and power so raw under Sam's skin. Sam is never sure how he's going to react these days, either. The more power he accumulates, the deeper he falls.

"It's gonna be fine, Bobby, I swear," he says, a reassurance to Bobby as much as to himself.

Bobby looks doubtful, but Sam has started down this road without a way back.

*~*~*

Sam's first forays into the world beyond are quiet and careful. He doesn't want his presence detected; he just wants to find his brother right the fuck now, his need for Dean growing with each passing day. He doesn't find him the first time, or the second, or the third, though. The space he's in stretches out to the right and to the left, the above and the underneath.

The intensity of his nightly visions doubles, Dean screaming for Sammy to save him. I promised you, Dean. I'm coming to get you. Dean keeps turning and thrashing in the chains, hope lighting his eyes as they stare right ahead into Sam's, but Sam knows without a doubt that Dean's tries not to allow himself to believe for a second. I'm not an illusion, Sam tries to tell him, but he knows he's failed when the light in Dean's eyes dies and he flinches, causing the meathooks to move.

Dean's cry of pain is all Sam needed. The fear of what he is going to become is gone as he cracks under the weight of Dean's anguish. He needs to get his brother, now (it's not too late already, it's not), needs to cradle him in his arms and murmur away the pain.

*~*~*

Taking Dean out of the deep-freezer feels like pulling his heart out of his chest, You cannot fail the mantra on his mind. Sam caresses Dean's face, tracing the line of his jaw while studying the face he knows so intimately. But Dean is too cold underneath his hands, unresponsive to Sam's touch. Single-mindedly Sam turns off the freezer and settles in to sit by Dean's side until he can move him somewhere more comfortable. It takes hours, Sam meticulously monitoring how Dean's skin grows warmer and softer.

When it's time, he picks up Dean and cradles him to his chest like a child, crossing to the room he has prepared: warmth spreads from every surface, the bed is soft and comfortable. Placing Dean on the bed, Sam lingers above him for a moment, relishing in the closeness. Then he tucks Dean in and, with subtle hunger in his eyes, leaves his side.

*~*~*

This time as he goes in, Sam doesn't care who notices him. When before he was clouding his raw essence, now he wears it like a banner. I'm here, it says. Come get me! And they come.

Sam is too powerful for them, though, too driven by his need to get to Dean. The first demons he easily deflects with a flick of his eyes, as if it were nothing. He may be in their territory, but the fight is on his terms; it's him with the power, him with the motivation. More demons keep materialising until an army stands facing him, but the first row is vanquished as quickly as it appeared. Sam's power radiates off him, creating a physical wall shielding him from danger. As one the assembly of demons stop coming at him: Sam can see fear on their faces as they realise they won't be able to destroy him, and a smile spreads across his features.

Good.

Stretching his arms, he begins speaking. The demons listen, nodding.

*~*~*

"Dean. Dean. Oh, God..." Sam collapses beside his brother (the nothingness has changed into solid ground, but there's still thunder and lightning and pain everywhere), tears running down his face as he crumples up, folding in on himself and around his brother. "Dean." Sam touches him where he can, cheeks, throat, chest, everywhere he can reach. "Dean. C'mon, you're stronger than this." Sam's voice is cracking and he's feeling for a pulse, looking for a flutter of an eyelid, anything that might tell him Dean's still somewhere inside this battered body. He feels the demons at his back, watching the two of them.


Sam concentrates for a fraction of a second, placing his hand over Dean's heart. "Dean," he says again, choking.

Dean coughs, his eyes wild and unfocussed as he blinks rapidly. Then his gaze zeroes in on Sam and his eyes go wide. Through his tears, Sam cracks a smile at him.

"Sam? Sammy? What - Where -" Dean coughs again as his shaking hand reaches out for Sam's face.

"Shh," Sam says, eyes clearing. "I got you, Dean. I got you." He almost buries his head in Dean's neck (God would Dean chide him later for that), almost keeps touching him wherever he can. Almost. Before his body does what it needs, however, Sam feels the demons shuffle behind him. He moves his gaze away from Dean to over his shoulder.

A Winchester pays his debt. That's another one of those lessons Dean taught Sam. Which is why he finds himself with an army of demons he can't turn away.

"You owe us," one of them says pointedly, a man about Bobby's age. "We helped you get your brother back. We want you as our leader."

And Sam, still clutching Dean to him, can only nod, overflowing with happiness and not caring about anything else.

*~*~*

"Slow, Dean - dammit, go slow!"

"Let me - Sam, Sammy, I'm fine, let go -"

"No. It's only been a week, Dean, you're not strong enough yet. You need to rest."

"So you deal with this shit alone? Sam, Lilith is gonna come after you -"

"I know, man. Believe me. I just - I want you by my side, all right? I just can't stand to see you so weak. Give it a few more days, okay?"

"Come on, it's only research!"

Sam gives his brother a pointed look. "No, Dean. Please. Just – stay in bed. You can't even stand properly on your own."

After staring for a second more, Dean goes from swaying on his feet to sitting down on the bed, huffing.

*~*~*

Dean never sleeps for more than a couple hours, sweating and thrashing about on the bed.

When he wakes, Sam is always watching him, eternally worried.

"Don't you sleep?" Dean asks him one night, running his hand over his face.

"I do," Sam says, smiling at Dean's tired look: he feels ecstatic Dean can look tired now. Watching his brother makes his heart flutter with pure joy.

"C'mon, Sammy, are you telling me you're sleeping in this piece of shit?" Dean motions to the hard wooden chair Sam's sitting on.

Sam doesn't reply, just keeps watching. He's sure this glow of happiness he's feeling must be showing. He can't leave Dean alone, not now, not ever.

"Man, you gotta sleep sometime -"

"I'm fine here, Dean."

"You don't have to watch me, all right? I'm not going anywhere." There is this faintly pissed-off note in Dean's voice and Sam can't help but grin. Dean glowers suspiciously. "What're you laughing at now?"

"Nothing," Sam says, still grinning. Dean keeps staring, though, and somehow there's something hilarious in this situation: the laughter bubbles over. Sam's bursting out a guffaw, clutching at his sides. Dean turns his head to the side, but Sam catches the small smile playing around his brother's lips. There's no helping it after that. Throwing back his head, Sam bursts into laughter for real, the happiness he's feeling needing an outlet. Dean joins him before long, and soon they're both lying on the floor, clutching their sides as they laugh and laugh and laugh.

*~*~*

Sometimes, when they sit over books trying to find a way to destroy Lilith, Dean shoots Sam sideway glances that Sam can't quite place, but that make a shiver run down his spine.

Sometimes, when they eat lunch, talking about nothing and everything, their knees touch and their legs are pressed together.

Sometimes, when they argue, Dean licks his lip unconsciously and Sam's gaze is drawn away from his eyes. When he looks back up, he sees Dean watching him with this odd look again, and he wonders if maybe right has been turned into wrong and wrong into right, or else he'd feel different. Instead he feels warmth surge through him.

*~*~*

"You can't sleep in that thing again, Sammy."

"I'm not leaving you."

"Yeah, all right, I got that by now, thanks, Captain Obvious. At least... bring a bedroll, or..."

Sam feels Dean's hesitation with every fibre of his being. "Or...?" he prods.

"Or... the bed's big enough. Wouldn't be the first time we slept in one together, right?"

Sam stares, caught off-guard. "Okay," he says after a minute.

He's not sure if it's going to be okay, though.

*~*~*

The rest of the day is tense, Dean constantly bitching over his assigned research. Sam knows Dean wants to do more, now, but Sam isn't going to let him; he's still not strong enough.

"How could you be so stupid, Sam? How? Entering into a contract with one demon is bad enough, but with thousands -"

"Would you rather have stayed in Hell?"

"What if that was the case?"

Dean's eyes are pure challenge, but Sam is going to hold his own.

"It wouldn't change anything now. What's done is done."

"You telling me you don't even want out of this contract? Fuck, Sam, could you stop to think for a second?"

"I've thought about this plenty."

"No, you didn't! You went into this completely blind!"

"I can manage this, Dean. Really."

"That so? 'Cause if that's so true how come your eyes turn black every fucking time you're angry about something?"

Sam rears back at that. "What?"

There is a pregnant pause in which Sam turns back into himself, closing his eyes, pushing the anger down. Now that he's looking for it, he can feel the demon drain away from his mind, back down under, into his belly and beyond.

When he opens his eyes, they're clear.

Dean's face softens. "Man, you gotta get out of this somehow, or else it's going to kill you. You know it."

"Yeah," Sam says, defeated. "Yeah, okay."

*~*~*

That night, they sleep together in Dean's bed, carefully not touching. Sam lies awake for a long time like this: too close to Dean, the need to touch strong within him, but knowing that it's not upon him to take the first step and leap into this, whatever this is.

He falls asleep to the sound of Dean's steady breathing and wakes to his brother clutching at him, terror plain in his eyes.

"Sam -" Dean says, his voice breaking, eyes wild. "Sam -"

Sam remembers the dream he had of Dean calling out for him. He remembers the visions of himself and what he might become. The fear of the future - of losing Dean and of losing himself - returns. He wraps his arms around his brother without a second thought, pulling Dean into him. "Shh, Dean, it's okay. It's gonna be okay."

Dean's grip on Sam's arms is tight, gulping air in big lungfuls, the warmth of his breath colliding with Sam's neck. Shivering, Sam cradles his brother in his arms, rocking him back and forth until he calms down. They fall asleep like that.

Dawn finds them in each other's arms, peaceful like they haven't been in as long as they can remember.

*~*~*

Ever since, waking up has been quick and violent, a harsh reminder of reality. This morning, though, it's slow and soft. There's a hand stroking his hair that makes Sam smile. He snuggles into the body lying next to him, turning his face into the neck and, kissing just below the jawline, breathes in his brother's smell.

The hand stops for a moment, but returns to the movement a second later.

"Sammy," Dean whispers. Sam feels him tug at his hair, causing him to burrow ever deeper into Dean. Sam doesn't want to wake up from this. It's too damn good to be true, and he's scared that if he opens his eyes, he'll find out it's just another dream.

"C'mon, look at me."

Sam growls deep in his throat. "Lemme 'lone."

Dean's laughter rumbles through his chest, straight into Sam's heart. Sam feels like he's floating up, high on love, and this feeling causes him to open his eyes. He's got to know whether this is real or whether it's just another nightmare vision.

Dean is there, staring back at him with shining green eyes. Sam's hand, just like his eyes, searches for his brother's face, cupping his cheek in his palm. "Dean."

Against all odds, Dean leans into the touch. "'S okay, Sam. 'S gonna be fine. We got each other, right?"

"Yeah," Sam replies, wonderingly. "Yeah." Then determination to hold onto this forever replaces his surprise and he's leaning down, pressing closer to Dean, with all his being focussed on his brother. "We got each other."

As he kisses Dean, softly, carefully, he feels invincible.

Whatever the future brings: at least they have each other. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.

*~*~*

The demon army is split in half, some camping on the field beyond Bobby's house, protecting their leader, some staying in Hell to recruit more. They will need all the help they can get when they face Lilith's army.

Those that stay close to the Winchesters see Sam care for his brother. They spread the word, not doubting the outcome of the upcoming battle: they know Sam will care for them. He will lead them to victory.

 

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