Rating: R (language, violence)
Warnings: attempted suicide
Length: 1,077 words
Spoilers: through 5.03, "Free To Be You and Me"
Summary: AU coda to 5.03. Dean goes to Oklahoma after hearing about Sam's encounter with the hunters. What he finds when he arrives horrifies him.
A/N: This was written for the spnwriterlounge Fic Olympics and in response to a prompt at spn_hurtcomfort . Title from Bruce Springsteen's song of the same name.
You want courage
I'll show you courage you can understand
Pearl and silver
Restin' on my night table
It's just me Lord, pray I'm able
--"Nothing Man," Bruce Springsteen
"Sam?" Dean had already knocked on the motel room door twice, but the clerk had insisted that the tall dude hadn't left all morning. Figuring Sam was asleep or showering, he swiftly picked the lock and slipped inside.
Ellen's phone call two days ago had sparked a cold rage that was only going to ease when he saw Sam with his own eyes. To hear that hunters had retaliated against Sam for the death of one of their own had shattered Dean's resolutions about staying apart. Sam might have made mistakes, might not be totally reliable right now, but no one messed with Dean's little brother and got away with it.
"Sam?" he called again. The single bed had obviously been slept in, but the room was silent.
Then Dean saw a familiar shoe poking out from the far side of the bed, and his heart skipped a beat as he drew his gun and moved forward.
As he rounded the bed, what he saw stole his breath right out of his throat.
Sam was sprawled on the ground, eyes closed, chest still. The only reason Dean knew the color of the shirt he was wearing was that he'd seen it on him dozens of times. Otherwise, the blue would have been completely lost in the crimson saturating the front. Sam's arms were at his sides, the bloody knife in one a perfect match for the slashed fabric over his heart.
Dean dropped to his knees, caught between terror and stunned disbelief. He reached out shakily, laying two fingers on the long throat, exposed where Sam's head lolled to the side.
There was no pulse.
Dean shifted his fingers, praying to someone he knew wasn't even there. Maybe he didn't have the right spot. Maybe—
There. Something fluttered under his fingertips. Dean closed his eyes, relief weakening his limbs. "Thank God," he muttered and then pulled apart Sam's shirt to see how bad the wound was.
Beneath the blood-soaked flannel, Sam's chest was unmarked.
Dean's eyebrows hadn't finished furrowing before said chest heaved, and Sam's eyes shot open. "Sam!" Dean exclaimed. "What the hell happened?"
Sam blinked, raising his head to look at his chest. Then his eyes widened. "Goddamn it!"
Before Dean could speak, Sam looked up and saw him—and promptly freaked out. He crab-walked backward until his head came up against the wall, eyes never leaving Dean.
"Sam, it's okay, it's me," Dean said, holding out a hand as if he was calming a wild animal.
Sam stared back, and then his features settled into something too calm. "No, it's not," he said bitterly. "Tactical error on your part, too."
Dean frowned. "What are you talking about?"
Sam jerked his chin in Dean's direction. "That form. I suppose you figured since Jess and Dad didn't work, you'd try someone still alive?" He shook his head, eyes wild. "It's not gonna work. Dean wouldn't come for me, not anymore. You promised no tricks. Guess you really are the Prince of Lies."
The venom in Sam's voice sent Dean rocking back on his heels. It took a second to process what he'd said. "Sam, I'm not the devil," he said carefully. "It's me. For real."
"I'm not. Saying. Yes." Sam leaned forward with each word. Then he reached up and grabbed the Taurus on the nightstand that Dean hadn't even noticed was sitting within reach.
Dean started to hold up his hands. Those hunters had really done a number on Sam's brain. The poor kid thought—
Then Dean's thought processes stopped entirely as Sam brought the gun to his own head.
"Whoa!" All pretence at calm vanished as sharp fear washed over Dean. There was no trace of a bluff in Sam's hard features. "Sam, you don't want to do this."
"No, I don't," Sam replied, his voice frighteningly flat. "But maybe if I blow my head in enough pieces, you won't be able to put them back together again."
"I don't know what you're talking about," Dean said, his voice slightly shaking. "Why don't you give me the gun and—"
"Why are you trying to stop me?" Sam asked. This time there was genuine emotion behind his voice, despair and anguish that broke Dean's heart. "Just leave me the fuck alone!"
"I'm not gonna do that." Dean swallowed hard, remembering the past few weeks when he'd done just that. "Listen, whatever those hunters did—"
Sam snorted. "The hunters? They're nothing. I wish they had killed me before you found me."
And then he set his finger on the trigger.
"Sam, please." Dean held his breath, measuring the distance to Sam's hand clenched around the gun and knowing there was no way he could reach it fast enough. His voice broke as he tried again. "Please, don't."
Sam's eyes lowered to Dean's chest, and a furrow appeared in his brow. "You don't have the amulet," he said hesitantly.
Dean didn't have to look—he felt the missing weight around his neck every moment of the day. "Cas still has it," he said carefully, sensing that it mattered to Sam for some unknown reason.
Sam stared back. "He wouldn't know that," he said, almost to himself. The hand holding the gun trembled. "Dean?"
"Yeah, bro, it's me." Dean shifted forward. "Can you put the gun down?"
Sam pressed back against the wall. "It doesn't matter," he said brokenly. "He's not going to let me go, and there's nothing you can do." He swallowed hard and then, finally, lowered the gun to his side. "You should get away from here before he comes back, Dean."
"I'm not leaving you," Dean said firmly.
Sam's face crumpled. Knees drawn up, he wrapped his arms around them and buried his face.
It took one well-muffled sob for Dean to come forward, carefully retrieving the Taurus before wrapping his arms around those broad shoulders and hanging on. This was obviously a lot worse than some dumbass hunters taking out their frustration on an innocent man.
Dean set his jaw and tightened his grip around Sam's shaking figure. He could put together enough of the pieces that he didn't have to ask what had happened here. The realization of what Sam had been trying to do stoked into a raging fire the anger that had had been building inside of him since Ellen's phone call. Lucifer was so going down.
Fallen angel or not, no one messed with Dean's little brother.