Disclaimer: Supernatural and its characters do not belong to me. No money is being made.
Rating: PG-13, for language.
Characters: Dean, Sam (mostly).
Spoilers: For all aired episodes. Sort of a tag for 4x16.
Comments: Yes, please.
A/N: This is dedicated totru_faith_lost – girl, you rock so hard Dean would be lucky to have you in the passenger seat. Also dedicated to mtee,lapis1961, pippii, pinkphoenix1985 , and an unknown commenter. You know who you are.
Summary: All he wanted was rest. A little bit of time to catch his breath and pull himself together. Instead he has to carry the weight of the world on a back that's already broken.
Dean took a deep, relaxed breath and stretched. He winced a little at the cricks in his back, and readjusted his sunglasses over his eyes. He took another slow breath and lay back in his seat, closing his eyes.
It was a perfect day. The skies were a piercing blue, dotted with a few fluffy, white clouds. The sun was out, and it was just warm enough to be pleasant, not too hot. A cool breeze blew over from the lake, making the fine hairs on his arms stand on end, but in a nice way. Sea gulls cried in the distance, flying around looking for food, and ducks swam lazily in the water.
He sat near the end of a boardwalk which extended over the lake. The sound of the water lapping at the pier was soothing. Dean crossed his ankles on the beach chair and sighed in contentment. The sound of the gentle waves and the warmth of the sun lulling him to sleep. He didn’t fight it. The place was quiet, serene. Safe.
He had a cooler by his side, stuffed with bottles of beer and a few packs of M&Ms. His old walkman sat on top, in case he wanted to listen to some tunes. He had nowhere else to be, nothing else to do but sit here in the sun and relax.
Dean crossed his arms behind his head, breathing in the smell of salt water. He had a fishing pole in the car, in case he wanted to fish, but for now he was happy just sitting there, doing nothing.
And then a large shadow blocked the sun. Dean frowned and opened his eyes to see a hazy figure looming over him. He blinked, and the figure focused itself into the form of his younger brother. Dean groaned.
"Go away, you're blocking my sun," Dean growled halfheartedly.
"Dean," Sam sounded like he was choking, and Dean frowned again, raising his sunglasses and squinting up at his brother.
"Dude, what's wrong?"
"Oh, God, Dean," Sam said past the lump of tears stuck in his throat. "Thank God you're okay."
Dean's frown deepened and he sat up straight in the beach chair. "'Course I'm okay. Why wouldn’t I be?"
"Dean, you have to wake up," Sam said. Dean raised a brow. "This isn't real, Dean. I need you to wake up," Sam pleaded.
Dean took a look around at the water, the boardwalk, even turned back to look at the impala – black and shiny and parked nearby. "Looks plenty real to me, Sam," he said.
"Well, it's not. Trust me, Dean, this isn't real," Sam said adamantly.
Dean stared at him for a long moment before letting out a sigh. "Yeah, I know," he drawled. The look of relief on Sam's face was almost comical. He nodded.
"Good. So are you going to wake up now, or what?" Sam said, no making it a question.
"Nope," Dean said lightly and reached for the cooler, taking out a bottle of beer. "Want a beer? I got plenty," he offered, but Sam was too busy looking shocked and scandalized.
"What do you mean, 'no'?" Sam demanded.
"I mean just that. No." Dean took a slow swig of his beer, letting out a content sound at the taste. "You sure you don't want one? They're awesome."
"Dean, you gotta wake up!"
Dean made a face. "Says who?"
Sam's eyebrows disappeared under his hair. He looked lost for words, but that didn’t last long. Never did with Sam. "Says me!" He said.
Dean shrugged, spreading his hands in a universal 'what can I do' gesture.
"Seriously?" Sam demanded. Dean just shrugged again and took another sip of beer.
"Hey, you wanna take a walk?" Dean offered before Sam had the time to explode.
"What?" Sam shrieked. Dean raised an amused brow at that, but went on.
"We can walk up the boardwalk. It goes like this for about half a mile, and then there's this bluff, man, it's beautiful. You'll like it."
Sam gaped at him.
"What?" Dean asked, the staring starting to become weird. "I have a beer mustache or something?"
"Are you all right?" Sam asked slowly.
"Yes, Sam. We already covered that part, didn't we?" Dean asked snappishly.
"And you know this is not real, right? This place, it's only in your head. You get that, don’t you?" Sam pushed. Dean took a long pull from his beer, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand when he was finished. "Then if you know this isn't real, why won't you wake up?" Sam asked.
"Why should I?" Dean deadpanned.
"What is there to wake up to, Sam? Hell?" He let out a flat laugh. "Yeah, I think I'mma stay right here, thank you very much."
It was Sam's turn to frown now. "Dean… You're not in Hell, don't you remember?" He asked softly, but Dean ignored him. "Dean…" But Dean turned his back on his brother and started walking down the boardwalk, his bare feet making no sound against the planks.
It took longer than Dean had expected before he could hear Sam's hurried footsteps behind him, a moment longer before his brother reached out to grab his arm, stopping him. "Don’t you remember?" He asked, "Don’t you remember Castiel? He pulled you out of Hell, Dean. You're not in Hell anymore."
"Says you," Dean said flatly. He shook his arm free and kept on down the boardwalk.
"I gotta hand it to him, Alastair's reputation is well-deserved. It's a good trick, having you show up here," Dean said offhandedly.
"What? No, Dean, Alastair didn't do this. He didn't send me here. Dean, Alastair is dead," Sam said softly. Dean froze for a moment, but then just kept walking. "He's dead, I saw it myself," Sam added.
"That another part of the dream?" Dean asked, and then turned to Sam with a smirk, "'Cause it's a damn good one."
Sam frowned, shook his head. "No, Dean, Alastair is dead. For real. I swear. Just… just wake up. Please…"
"There's nothing for me to wake up for, Sam," Dean said, and he sounded more tired and resigned than Sam had ever heard him.
Sam grabbed his arm again, hazel eyes searching for his brother's. "What about me?" Sam asked, his voice quivering despite his efforts not to let it show.
Dean covered Sam's hand with his own and gave it a little squeeze. "You're not real," he said gently, and then started to walk again, slower this time, waiting for Sam to follow. "If I leave here, if I wake up, I'm back in Hell, and you're not there."
But Dean didn't let him continue. "And if those angels got me out," Dean went on, his voice filled with doubt and something else Sam couldn’t put his finger on. Not exactly contempt, but a definite dislike. "If that really happened and that…" Dean swallowed, shook his head. "If that's reality, if that's true, then the Sam I know isn't there. The Sam I know is… I dunno. Dead or something. And there's someone else there that looks just like him. But it's not him. It's not Sammy."
"Dean, it's me. It's still me," Sam said. "I'm still your brother, and I'm asking you. Wake up. For me," Sam pleaded. Dean gave him a small smile.
"No," he said, "That Sam…" he shook his head again. "That Sam is not my brother. That Sam is a stranger. And he's stronger, smarter. He's a better hunter than me. I'm holding him back."
"Is that what this is about?" Sam snapped, "Dean, how many times do we need to go over this? That was the siren's venom. That's not…"
"You know what the funny thing is?" Dean interrupted. Sam sighed and shook his head in exasperation, waiting for Dean to go on. "Funny thing is, he says he tried everything to bring me back. He says it was so hard for him, being without me -"
"It was! God, Dean… I did everything I could think of, you know that! God, if there was anything, anything…"
But Dean just went on. "He said he tried so hard, but when I was finally back," Dean smiled bitterly. "When I was finally back, I cramped his style. I got in his way. Made him uncomfortable. Held him back. It's like… like he wasn’t even my brother, just some stranger sharing my car and motel rooms," he said, and this time Dean's voice quivered, too. He tried smiling again, but the smile never reached his eyes. "So you see, there's nothing for me to wake up for," Dean finished.
Sam shook his head. "No," he said. "No, Dean. I'm still your brother. I am your brother, and I love you."
Dean nodded. "Yeah, I know. I know you love me. That he loves me. He just doesn’t like me," Dean said. "Truth is, I don’t really like him, either."
am had a wounded look on his face, the one that always got him anything he wanted from Dean. "Dean… You don’t really believe that, do you?" He asked in a small voice. A tear escaped his eye and trailed down his cheek.
"You know what I was thinking about just before you got here?" Dean asked, "I was thinking this place could sure use a chick," he chuckled and shook his head. "Man, my head is totally messed up that instead of a hot blond with big boobs, I got you."
"Ha ha," Sam said bitterly and wiped his eyes angrily. Dean shrugged.
"Anyway, nice chat. You should really go now," he said.
"Dean!" Sam snapped. "Look, this isn’t real, you have to wake up. Now!"
"Make me, sasquatch," Dean snapped back, and the next thing he knew, Sam pushed him off the pier and into the water. The freezing water.
"The hell?" Dean cried when he resurfaced. "What'd you do that for?" He demanded, swimming back towards the pier, shivering from the cold of the lake.
"Wake up, or I'll just keep pushing you into that lake," Sam said.
"Damn it, Sam, this isn’t funny!" Dean snapped, "This shit is cold! And you made me lose my sunglasses, you idiot," Dean muttered.
"This isn’t real, right?" Dean asked as he lifted himself onto the pier. Sam helped him up.
"No, it's not, Dean. So you have to wake up."
"If this is all in my head, then I can make you disappear, right?"
"Dean," Sam said, a note of caution in his voice.
Dean wiped his hands on his wet jeans and took his wet shirt off, tossing it to the ground. Sam was nowhere to be seen. "Awesome," Dean said, shivering in the breeze.
And then he noticed something he hadn’t noticed before. A white row boat waiting not far from him. The lake was mostly calm and bathed in sunlight. Dean looked at the boat again, a smile spreading on his lips. "Awesome," he said again.
The boat rocked softly on the waves. Dean was inside, sleeping in nothing but his shorts, the wet jeans left behind along with the wet shirt. The wind had died down a little, the warmth of the sun drying his wet skin as he slept.
He woke up with a yelp when the boat nearly capsized and spent a confusing few moments trying to figure out why and how to stop it.
"Damn it, Sam!"
"I can't help it that you're in a freaking boat. You don’t even like boats!" Sam accused.
"I'm not the one that gets sea sick. Now stay still, you gigantic oar!"
Sam finally found a place to sit and froze until the boat until the boat was calm again. He clapped a hand over his mouth, trying to hide his gagging. When he had that part under control, he raised a brow at his brother. "An oar? Really? That the best you could come up with?" He asked, amused. Dean rocked the boat in return. "Alright, alright, I'm sorry! Now would you stop doing that?"
"What are you doing here, Sam?" Dean demanded.
"I told you," Sam said tiredly, "You have to wake up."
This time it was Dean's turn to push his brother into the cold water.
"What the hell did you do that for?" Sam demanded as he tried to get back in the boat.
"I told you to leave!" Dean snapped at him.
"Yeah, you jerk. That friggin' hurt, too!" Sam snapped back. "Now help me up," he demanded.
"Nuh uh," Dean said, "You get sea sick, remember?" He said and picked up the oars. "See you back on the pier. I'll be the one drinking beer."
"Don’t you dare row away with that boat, Dean!" Sam cried. "Dean!"
"You can be a real jerk sometimes, you know that?" Sam glared at his brother, who was back in his beach chair, wearing a damp pair of jeans and sipping beer. Dean ignored him. At least until Sam took his own shirt off and wrung the water out all over Dean's head.
"Hey!" Dean cried, jumping out of the chair. "Dude, if you wanted a beer, all you had to do was ask! Damnit, Sam!"
"Shut up," Sam spat back. "I had to use every ounce of dream root we had left to get to you the last time, you stupid ass. Why the hell'd you do that?"
"If you had to use up all the dream root we had, how come you're still here?" Dean demanded.
"Because! Cas told me where I could get more, alright?"
"Castiel," Sam explained, "You remember him, don’t you? The angel, the one that brought you back?"
"No such thing as angels, Sam." Dean deadpanned. Sam just stared at him disbelievingly for a moment, and then threw his hands up in the air.
"How can you say that, Dean?" He demanded, "You still have his handprint on your shoulder!"
Dean glanced at his shoulder. "I have a scar in the shape of a handprint. That means the guy's an angel?"
"What else can he be, Dean?" Sam pushed, "He's not a demon. You tried trapping him in a Devil's Trap. Hell, you tried stabbing him with Ruby's knife. It didn’t work," Sam said, "He's an angel."
Dean shook his head. "So, just because what we did didn’t work, he's an angel?" He asked, "Yeah, because that way of thinking really helped us figure out Dad was possessed."
"What else is he then, Dean? Huh?"
"A demon," Dean said. "A different kind of demon, I'll give you that, but that doesn’t make him an angel."
"You said he had wings."
"So he's hopped up on Red Bull or something," Dean shrugged. "You have no idea what kind of monsters I saw in Hell, Sam. They're not all as skanky as Ruby."
"Don’t bring her into this," Sam said quickly.
"Get out, Sam."
"Castiel pulled you out of Hell. He brought you back, Dean."
"No he didn’t!" Dean snapped. "There's no way he pulled me out of Hell. Not if out of Hell was like that. Not if Sam…" At that, Dean clammed up, looked away from Sam. "If that was real, if that's what's become of you, then no," He turned to look back at Sam, "If that's real, then I'm still in Hell."
"They're going to break another seal if we're not there to stop it," Sam tried.
"I'm sure the guys at Sea World would get really upset about that," Dean snarked, lip curling upward, and then he looked away again.
"I can't do this without you," Sam said softly.
"Sure you can, Sam. You always could. You never needed me. Not really. Not once you figured out how to make money on your own," Dean answered in kind. Sam moved closer.
"You're my big brother, Dean. I'll always need you," he said. "Help me stop the seals from being broken," Sam pleaded. "C'mon, man. Help me save the world," Sam pushed. "Just think of how impressed the chicks would be when you tell them you stopped the Apocalypse," Sam tried again. That got him a smile and a look.
"Yeah, that would be an awesome pickup line, wouldn’t it?"
"Come back with me, Dean. Just wake up," Sam said. Dean bit his lower lip and lowered his eyes. "Dean?"
"What's the difference?" Dean asked quietly, "I'm gonna end up back here anyway, what difference do a few more souls on my conscience make, Sam? I'm going to spend eternity in Hell, torturing souls, what's a few more?"
"So you're just going to let all these people die?" Sam asked, his voice rising in anger.
"We can't save everyone, Sam," Dean answered, resigned.
"We’re supposed to try! Damn it, Dean, we're supposed to at least try!" Sam cried.
"Maybe not everyone should be saved," Dean said. Sam gritted his teeth, clenched his jaw.
"Are you talking about me? About the demon blood, the psychic thing? That what you're getting at, Dean? You want to hunt me?"
"Well, far be it for me to burst your bubble, little brother, but not everything is about you."
"You may be older, but you haven’t been bigger since I was fifteen," Sam said. "Told you to eat your vegetables," Sam tried to lighten the mood, but Dean just reached for another beer.
"Not everyone should be saved. What do you mean by that, Dean?" Sam asked after a moment.
Dean took another sip of beer and licked his lower lip. "I'm tired, Sam," he said softly. "I'm so freaking tired. I spent forty years in Hell, and I'm going to spend forever there, too. Can't I just… can't I just catch a break?"
"Would you knock it off with the doom and gloom? Man, just… Let's just… Let's just think of one thing at a time, okay?" Sam reached out for a beer of his own, but didn’t open it, just held it in his hand. "I get that this thing feels like it's a few sizes too big, okay? You've said that from the start, and I get that. So let's just focus on the smaller things, okay? Just wake up, man, that's all I'm asking you to do right now."
Get back with you, and stop the seals from being broken," Dean said flatly.
Don’t think about that, man, okay? One step at a time."
Get back with you, and stop the end of the world, stop the goddamned Apocalypse."
And when that's done, go straight back to Hell. Do not pass go, do not collect two hundred bucks."
No one said that. You don’t know that," Sam said emphatically. "We stop Lilith, and maybe… The angels brought you back, Dean, that's gotta mean something. They wouldn’t just… You're not going back to Hell."
"Because the angels have something good in store for me? A second chance?" Dean asked, and he could see the faith in Sam's eyes as he nodded. Dean smiled. "Well, I don’t believe that. There's no such thing as miracles Sam," he added.
Sam ran his fingers through his hair and drank from his beer. They were silent for a moment, before Dean went on.
"Do you know why they pulled me out of Hell, Sam?" Dean asked, and Sam looked at him like he used to when they were kids, like Dean had all the answers.
"Because you're special. Because they need you," Sam said, but it felt flat, even to his own ears. Dean snorted.
"Right," he said, "Because good things happen to good people," Dean went on and Sam gave a slight nod. "Since when, Sam? In my experience, bad things happen to good people all the time!"
"Well maybe this time it's different!" Sam snapped. "Maybe someone somewhere realized all the things you gave up all your life, realized how you kept sacrificing all you had for anyone but yourself. Maybe God decided you're too good for Hell."
Dean stared at his brother for a long moment before smiling a small smile and giving a curt nod. He raised his beer bottle, but stopped before it reached his lips.
"I went to Hell because I deserved it, Sam. I shoulda died a long time ago. I was supposed to die a long time ago - "
"Would you stop – "
"But you didn’t let me," Dean finished. "You used faith healers and demons to get me back. But the thing is, what's dead should stay dead Sam. You know that."
"Well that's kinda hypocritical coming from you, isn’t it?" Sam asked bitterly.
"If I'd died when I was supposed to, this wouldn’t have happened. None of it." Dean bit back.
"You don’t really believe that, do you?"
"If I'd just died when I was supposed to, Marshal Hall would still be alive –"
"You don’t know that!" Sam cut Dean off, "He still would have died, Sue Anne still would have killed him, he would have just saved someone else. That's all!" Sam said quickly.
Dean stared blankly at him. "If I'd just died when I was supposed to, Dad would never have had to make that deal. He never would have been sent to Hell," Dean went on calmly.
"You've met Dad, right?"
"Dad would have watched over you. He wouldn’t have let the Yellow Eyed Demon get to you. You never would have died, and this never would have happened," Dean went on.
"You don’t know that!" Sam insisted.
"Dad was wrong, you know," Dean locked eyes with his brother, "When he said one day I'd have to kill you. He was wrong."
"I know you think that, Dean," Sam said somberly.
"I don’t just think that, I know that, Sam. He was wrong to say it to me. He should have said that to you."
"What?" Sam breathed, shocked.
"What's dead should stay dead, Sam," Dean repeated. "And if I only stayed dead, none of this would have happened."
"You're right," Sam said in a choked voice. "Because if you would've died, I never would have talked to Dad again, and the demon still would have gotten to me. Hell, it might even still be alive today because you weren’t there to kill it," Sam went on. "And all the people we've saved? All the people you've saved? They'd all be dead, too."
"The Apocalypse is my fault, Sam. The end of the world. It's all my fault," Dean's voice was barely above a whisper.
Sam stared at him, shocked and appalled for a moment, before he burst out laughing. "Megalomaniac much?" He asked.
"I was the first seal," Dean said in a small voice. Sam frowned.
"Me, breaking in Hell. That was the first seal. That was the beginning of the end," Dean explained, "I wasn’t strong enough. I broke, and now everyone is going to die," he said.
"I don’t believe that," Sam said.
"That's what your angel told me," Dean said. "That's what Cas said. I was the reason the world was going to end. And to think you were worried about turning evil," Dean chuckled. "Go right ahead, Sam. Go darkside. Maybe it'll make things better for you."
Sam rubbed a hand over his face, all the color draining from him. "Dean, you need to wake up."
Dean shook his head. "I started it," he said, "So whatever happens, all the people that died or got hurt, all the people that are going to die… it's all on me," he said, and a tear rolled down his cheek. He wiped it away angrily. "Those people? Their families? They're all on me, Sam," he went on, "So even if we stop it, what, you think I'm getting a free pass? All that blood on my hands? You think I'll ever see the outside of Hell?"
Dean wasn’t the only one crying now, even though both brothers ignored it. "No," Dean shook his head, swallowed. "We stop the end of the world or not, I'm going to end up right back on that rack. I'm gonna end up in Hell, where I belong."
"I don’t believe that," Sam said adamantly.
"Well, I do," Dean said.
"Just go, Sam. Go. Fight, don’t fight, screw Ruby, whatever, man. Just go."
"I can't," Sam said, biting his lower lip to stop it from trembling. "You have to wake up, Dean."
"Why?" Dean demanded breathily. "Goddamn it, Sam, why?"
"Because I need you," Sam replied. "I need my big brother, Dean."
"No, you don’t," Dean said with finality. "You're better off without me."
"Am I?" Sam demanded, "You might have been the first seal, Dean, but what if I'm the last? What if I end up doing something, and you're not there to stop me?"
"Then someone else will." Dean answered.
"What makes you think I'd let anyone else stop me?" Sam demanded, and Dean looked away. Sam waited, but Dean still said nothing. Finally he just smiled and nodded. "Well then, hey, maybe I'll be in the rack next to yours. Or, you know, maybe they'll just give me yours," he said bitterly, "I mean, you did graduate to torture, right? Hey, maybe they'll let you torture me. Good times, right?"
"Sam –" Dean said, turning to look at his brother, but Sam was no longer there.
The harsh white light was a contrast to the piercing blue of the skies. The smell of antiseptic a sharp contrast to the smell of salty water. The mechanical sounds of a hospital were a painful contrast to the sounds of the waves lapping at the pier. And still, Dean opened his eyes.
Three relieved faces stared back at him – two of them belonged to his family, the third to a relieved- looking angel.
Dean took a minute to assess the situation, to catalogue all the hurts and pains. And then he ripped the IV out of his arm and sat up.
"So there's another seal about to get broken?" He asked in a hoarse voice.
"You must reserve your strength. You will need it soon." Castiel said.
"Screw that," Dean said, wincing as he climbed off the bed on shaky legs.
"Boy, don’t be stupid," Bobby said, but there was no real rebuke in his voice.
"Where are my clothes?" Dean demanded.
"Dean, you've been out for more than a week. Maybe you should take it slow," Sam suggested. Dean glared at him.
"You wanted me out, here I am," he snapped and turned his eyes to Castiel. "There a seal needs saving?" He asked. Castiel gave him a curt nod. Dean nodded back. "Fine. And before anyone says anything, I'm driving."
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