Category/tags: drama, all the feels, family, h/c, big brother!dean, co-dependent like whoa, so many tears, hurt!Sam, epic bromance, loving mother, concerned Castiel
Spoilers: SEASON 12
Characters: Sam, Dean, Mary, Castiel
Summary: This was it; no demons to fight, no apocalypse to stay, but it was the biggest fight of Dean’s life—and his only weapons were his voice and a lifetime of shared memories.
A/N: 1.Takes place sometime after 12x03 – so this goes AU after that. 2. Title lyrics from “Brother” by NeedtoBreathe.
Also can be found on AO and DW.
Outside, the church bells rang announcing it was Christmas day. Snow fell lightly on the midnight hour and the air felt crisp and pure.
Inside, the chipped cement floors were stained with blood and broken dreams. The walls of the long abandoned asylum were scarred with immeasurable layers of despair, and the air was so thick with the tortured cries of souls past all who entered feared to breathe it in—feared that inhaling the echoed suffering would make it their own.
Hope had never touched this place.
Until someone brought it in.
A single working light swung from the ceiling in an otherwise dark room. It screeched with every swing it made—revealing those that had dared to believe.
Green eyes opened.
Sprawled across the unforgiving floor on his stomach, glass pinched flesh through Dean’s clothes. The spell had been a powerful one and had thrown him across the room, but one thought and one thought only reached for him; consuming him—just as it had been for nearly two months now:
Stumbling to his feet, Dean searched the room. “Sam?” To his left, Castiel and his mother were picking themselves up off the floor, but his brother was nowhere to be seen—only a charred mark remained within the circle where they had simultaneously summoned, expelled and killed the creature that had taken over Sam’s body weeks ago.
“Sam?” he called more frantically, making his way through scattered remains of old, forgotten medical equipment. Shoving aside a large machine on wheels, the light finally reached what it could not before.
“Sammy.” It had been far too long, and hope had faltered far too many times.
Sam was on his side, back nearly against the wall. Breathing hard, the left side of his face was pressed into the floor. His eyes were open, but vacant.
Rushing to his side, Dean fell hard to his knees. “Sammy?” Reaching out he gripped Sam’s cold, upturned wrist with one hand and cupped the side of his face with the other. This was it. If he failed now all would be lost. Sam would be lost.
/ “Immediately after the spell is complete and he is free, you must help him find his way back to you, or let him go,” the priest cautioned in a worn, raspy voice.
“Back? From where?”
The elder man closed his eyes. “A pain, a darkness so vast…no person alive, or not, can bring words to fathom.”
“Are you saying no one has survived this?”
“No, boy,” he admitted softly, meeting his eyes again. “I’m saying none were glad they had.”/
He told Dean they’d both be better off if he’d just let Sam die. He told him the kaelpie creature would leave nothing of Sam behind.
/“It strips away all the good,” he whispered gravely, “even as it feeds off the bad.”/
He told him this creature would dredge up every horrible thing that had ever happened to Sam and everyone else it had ever fed off of and drown him in those moments—trapping him in a tragically magnified empathetic loop until nothing of the vessel remained.
/ “It leaves nothing but a shell.” /
He told him that even if they were able to bring back his body, it would likely be impossible to bring him back whole.
Dean curled his fingers into Sam’s.
The priest was wrong.
What was impossible was letting him go. What was impossible—and had been all of their lives, was giving up on Sam. He couldn’t do it. He wouldn’t.
“Sammy, I’m here,” he said roughly. He had survived the cage, the trials and how many other possessions and horrors. He could survive this, damnit. He could survive this.
But his brother showed no indication that he had heard him. His eyes were just as vacant as the moment before and he didn’t grip back when Dean squeezed his hand in desperate encouragement.
Cas came up behind him and Mary knelt at Dean’s other side. The priest wouldn’t be returning. After helping them prepare for the spell, he had said a prayer and left.
/“It is not me he will need when you are through.” /
Dean tightened his grip on the cold fingers.
“Dean?” Mary’s voice was thick with concern.
“He’ll be okay,” he answered as if by rote, refusing to believe anything else.
Cas knelt next to Sam and with a gentle touch over his temple healed whatever physical injuries had befallen him while under the kaelpie’s control. The creature did not just have fun with his mind. They never just had fun with their minds. “Dean, you must hurry,” he warned.
Sliding closer on his knees, Dean slid an arm under his brother’s shoulder and pulled him into his lap. His breathing had slowed some, but his usually expressive eyes were still vacant.
Mary took one of his lax hands in hers.
/ “You must reach him before the darkness claims him for good; if it has not already.” /
The priest’s gray eyes held Dean’s. “By calling forth the light.”/
The “light,” he was told, was what Sam might grasp onto in his darkest moments: memories, feelings, people….
Dean didn’t even feel ridiculous, or the need to make movie references. What he felt was desperation. And a desperate big brother would, as he always had—do anything to save his little brother.
This was it; no demons to fight, no apocalypse to stay, but it was the biggest fight of Dean’s life—and his only weapons were his voice and a lifetime of shared memories. Holding his brother in his arms, Dean didn’t know where to start.
So he started at the beginning.
“When…when you were a baby,” he began slowly, hesitantly, “…you just loved the sound of paper ripping,” he told him. “I mean loved. A single rip and you’d wheeze and laugh until your chubby, little baby cheeks would turn bright red….” A small smile tugged at the corner of Dean’s mouth. Somehow he had forgotten about that. “Even dad thought it was cute.”
Once Dean started talking, he didn’t stop. And the snow continued to fall quietly and patiently outside while he used every memory he could think of to draw his brother out of the dark.
“You were three when you first learned how to ride a bike. You asked me if that’s what it felt like to fly….”
Tears filled Mary’s eyes as Dean’s words washed over her—as she got beloved glimpses of Sam’s childhood. It was a beautiful picture Dean was painting; one much brighter than John’s journal had. For the first time she understood that though demons and monsters had been a large part of their lives…so had love.
“…snuck away to set off fireworks. Dad was pissed, but it was worth it. You were so happy….”
Sam’s hand was cold in hers and she rubbed her thumb back and forth across his thin knuckles trying to warm them. As soon as she learned he was missing, she had joined their exhaustive search. Dean had been driven. Castiel had been reckless. Both men were in pain. And it was different for her this time. When she first came back from Heaven and Sam was missing—she didn’t know the man she was searching for. She didn’t know left from right and was still reeling from the loss of her family in Heaven. Still, she fought for the man named Sam as if he were her baby Sam—because he was.
This time there was no reeling, no confusion. There was just one thing on her mind, one goal: Get my boy back.
As the days and weeks passed, though—without any clue as to Sam’s whereabouts, their desperation grew. She could see how the weight of his absence affected Dean and everything about him. She could see how intricately woven together the two were—because each day that had passed without finding her youngest, she witnessed her oldest unravel a little more.
“Sammy, can you hear me?” Dean’s voice wavered—his thumb moving lightly across Sam’s cheek. He received nothing in response and hopelessness and doubt started to fill his heart. “Damnit, Sammy, come on,” he choked when his brother just continued to stare dully.
“Dean—” Castiel started.
“Don’t.” He warned him off, warned off his condolences. He didn’t need them. This was going to work. He was going to get his brother back. He’s held onto that belief for weeks. He wasn’t going to let go now.
He knew what he was going to say. He was going to say that it was time—it was time to cast the spell to release Sam. A blood-bond spell kept the kaelpie victims tethered to life despite the creature stripping all else away. Some would see it as a tether of hope. Some...just another form of torture.
Sam was essentially in a vegetative state—possibly still locked in the horrors of the kaelpie’s doing.
But Castiel was asking Dean to do the one thing he had never in all of his life been able to do:
Let Sam go.
“Sam wouldn’t want this for himself, or for you, Dean. Either of you,” Castiel reminded them, voice strained under the emotions he was barely containing. “I am sorry.”
Clenching his jaw, Dean shook his head as tears filled his eyes and denial filled his heart. “No.” This couldn’t be it. After everything they’ve been through, it couldn’t end like this; in a dark, cold basement on Christmas day. He searched his brother’s face for any signs, for any flicker of hope. Still, there was none.
Dean looked to their mother. Her face was wet with tears, but there was determination yet in her eyes.
“You know, I saw it even then,” she said softly.
“What?” he rasped.
“Even as a baby, I could tell Sam wasn’t going to be a mama’s, or even a daddy’s boy,” she told him gently. “…because he was already his brother’s.” She smiled and cupped Dean’s cheek lovingly, catching a tear with her thumb as it fell. “His eyes…oh, they would light up when he saw you, and his little arms and legs would move wildly like he just couldn’t contain all of the excitement bubbling up in his little body.” She caught another tear as it slid free—thick with an unbearable mixture of grief and love. “He absolutely adored you from the very beginning.”
Swallowing painfully, Dean looked down at the man in his arms; his little brother that had outgrown him in every way possible—from height, to heart, to courage. “You know…” he started hoarsely, taking in every inch of his face; every scar, every line, “when you guys told me I was going to be a big brother…” he said to their mother, “I was excited to say the least. Do you remember?”
“You asked nearly every day if it was the day Sammy was coming home.”
Dean’s smile was sad as he smoothed his thumb back and forth across Sam’s temple. It had always soothed his headaches away when he was a kid. “Believe it or not, it wasn’t just because it meant I was going to be a big brother. I felt like…” His throat grew tighter at the memory, at the truth. “I felt like I had been waiting all of my life for him, ya know? And finally he was coming home,” he admitted, his words breaking along with every other part of him. “Finally.”
Another tear slipped free, slowly tracing the lines of his face. “Weird, huh?” He brushed his brother’s ever wayward bangs aside—a habit he had never been able to break over the years when Sam was hurting. “I was missing him before he was even born.”
Castiel was an angel of the Lord, but he knew that not even godly powers would be enough to deliver comfort to the grieving mother and brother before him. The two boys had been made for each other—in every literal sense of the phrase. They had always been destined to be brothers—always two halves of a whole.
But never could it have been foreseen that their bond would become so indestructible that it would defy destiny itself.
Never could it have been foreseen that it would be impossible for one to live without the other.
Dean didn’t notice his mother’s warmth against his shoulder. He didn’t notice that his legs were going numb under his brother’s weight. He didn’t notice that he had started to shiver from the cold and pressing grief. He just continued to talk to his brother and will him home.
Everything he had always held in his heart was up for grabs and used to call his brother back to him. It was probably the biggest chick-flick moment of his life. He just wished Sam would snap out of it and make fun of him for it.
He couldn’t say how much time had passed, how many memories they had shared, how many times they had called Sam’s name, had called Sam to them…but still Sam remained…gone.
“I can’t…I can’t lose him,” Dean choked, pulling Sam up higher against his chest and resting his chin on top of his head. “I can’t. He’s –”
“I know,” Mary said brokenly, wiping tears from her face and wrapping both of her boys up in her arms. “I know.” She tenderly brushed her fingers through Sam’s hair. They had closed his eyes—unable to bear the vacant look any longer. “Is there anything else we can try?”
Dean shook his head. “Nothing Sam would ever want,” he answered raggedly.
They knew Sam might be suffering. They knew they had to either save him, or let him go. And soon. Eyes full of a pain so absolute beseeched hers and nearly tore her heart in two.
She realized then that that’s exactly what would happen if they lost Sam. She squeezed her oldest son’s trembling shoulder and said through a seemingly endless stream of tears, “Just a little bit longer then, hmm?”
The night pressed on. Castiel even offered his own fond, but mostly awkward memories that would have made Sam smile. And before they realized it, daylight had started to filter down between the barred windows. Still they fought to keep Sam with them. They had no way of knowing it—not until Sam shifted in Dean’s arms, that Sam was fighting too.
“Sam?” Dean pulled back slightly to find his brother looking at him—actually looking at him. “Hey.” His voice shook even as the pain he had been carrying around in his chest for weeks lessened.
“He squeezed my hand,” Mary exclaimed.
“Come on, buddy, you can’t keep making us do all the talking here,” Dean encouraged eagerly. He frowned when a tear slid free from the corner of Sam’s eye.
“Sammy, sweetie?” Mary called softly, brushing it away. “Can you hear us?”
“We are all with you, Sam,” Castiel promised.
Sam, who hadn’t taken his eyes off of Dean, glanced at Mary then Castiel before steadying on Dean again. “I…I followed it,” he whispered, hazel eyes full of such adoration and wonder that it brought a lump of emotion to the back of Dean’s throat. It reminded him of when they were kids. It reminded him of when Sam thought he could do no wrong.
“What?” His voice was sounding as weak as Sam’s—overused, and now overcome with relief.
“Your voice.” The corner of his mouth quirked upwards. “Y’never shut up.”
Dean huffed out a laugh, even as his throat grew impossibly tighter and he had to scrub a hand down his face to clear away the wetness. His brother was back. He was back. “Yeah well, you’re welcome,” he retorted, barely resisting the urge to brush Sam’s bangs aside again.
There were tears in Sam’s eyes, but a soft smile on his lips as he said in a single overflowing word everything Dean had been voicing all night. “Jerk.”
It had been a long and hard fought battle—not only to find Sam, but to pull him back from the darkness. Dean didn’t think he’d be letting him out of his sight anytime soon. Eventually, it was going to annoy the hell out of Sam.
He couldn’t wait.
Sam’s attention shifted to Mary when she smoothed down the coat that Castiel had draped over him hours ago. “I heard you, too,” he said to her.
Castiel placed a hand over Sam’s shoulder. “They never gave up on you, Sam.”
An odd look slid across Sam’s face and he looked up at the angel. “Not supposed to tell Dean we put spinach in his pie,” he teased weakly.
“Uh, yes, I realized my error a little too late.” Castiel glanced nervously at Dean, who was scowling.
Sam grunted in amusement even as his eyes began to drift close.
“Come on, let’s get you home.” Mary stood to help him up.
But exhaustion pulling at him, he yawned, “Thought I was.”
It took Dean a moment to find his voice—to speak past all of the fear and doubt that had been plaguing him for weeks. “Yeah, ya are,” he finally declared thickly, tucking Castiel’s coat around him more securely. He watched his not-so-little brother’s breathing even out, and felt him fall asleep—warm and safe in his arms before repeating softly, “Yeah, ya are.”
Outside, snow fell lightly on a new day. The air felt crisp and pure.
Inside, what was lost was found, what had been broken was again whole, and the tortured cries had at last hushed—some good in the world had been restored.