Rating: R (language, violence)
Length: under 30K total; this chapter, 994 words
Spoilers: through the end of Season Four
Summary: What if Sam and Dean knew one crucial piece of information about the future before Dean's deal came due? Would it have changed everything, or would the end result have been the same? AU version of Season Four, written for spn_30snapshots . Master table is here. Prompt for this chapter: twilight.
I'll be on holiday hiatus after this chapter...there's more coming in the new year!
The hardscrabble town in western Nebraska where they ended up that night was one of the bleaker places Sam could remember staying in. The lifeless surroundings were more than appropriate, given that he'd tried to kill his brother less than twenty-four hours ago.
After Bobby left them that afternoon, Dean had driven for six hours without a word or a note of music to break the silence. Then he'd disappeared into the shower while Sam headed back out, going for food on auto-pilot, even though anything he ate was going to taste like ashes.
He'd gone so far over the line, siren's poison or not, that it was a wonder Dean hadn't left him by the side of the road. All Sam could see was himself throwing Dean across the room, or holding a knife to his brother's throat and liking it. Liking the power he held, liking that Dean's life was completely in his hands and that the older man knew it.
Sam had tried so hard to pay attention to the power growing within him and watch for signs that it was changing him. But obviously, he'd blown it.
So at some point during the day, Sam had made his peace with what he had to do. More to the point, with what Dean had to do. He didn't trust himself not to chicken out at the last minute. But after what he'd almost done to Dean, surely Sam could count on him for this one last thing.
The sun was almost down when Sam walked back into the motel parking lot, purple shadows stretching across the gravel and the lone car in the lot. Sam reached out and caressed the Impala's hood as he passed. Take care of him, he thought, swallowing the sudden lump in his throat.
When he entered, Dean was sitting at the rickety table, Sam's laptop open in front of him. Sam hesitated, the greasy fast-food bag in his hand swinging back and forth as he stood indecisively. Maybe it would be better if Dean had dinner first—but no, Sam couldn't sit here and wait when he knew what was coming.
So he set the paper bag on the table and then slowly, keeping his movements visible, pulled the gun out of the back of his waistband and carefully laid it next to the food. Then he drew in a deep breath. "Here you go."
Dean looked at him quizzically. "You can clean your own gun, Sam."
"You made me a promise." Sam spoke deliberately, willing his brother to understand. "It's time for you to keep it."
The dawning light in Dean's eyes told him that he understood, but he looked back at the laptop and said, "I don't know what you're talking about."
"Damn it, Dean!" Sam exploded. "I think using my powers to try and kill you qualifies as going dark side!"
"It wasn't you, Sammy," came the calm reply, so calm that Sam wanted to punch his brother. "It was the siren."
Exasperated, Sam leaned forward, dropping his hands onto the table, which swayed precariously underneath his weight. "It wasn't the siren who held you down with his mind. It wasn't the siren who pinned you to the wall like a demon. It was me. It was me and my freaky powers."
"They're just a tool." Dean looked up as he reached out and tapped the Taurus with a finger. "Just like this. Just like Ruby's knife. It's not the powers, it's how you use them. And they weren't under your control."
Sam stared at him. "So demonic powers don't kill people, people kill people?"
"Something like that," Dean agreed.
Sam finally shook his head and stood up, reaching for the gun. "If you won't do it, then—"
Dean moved lightning-fast, his hand closing over Sam's in a tight grip that pinched his fingers against the metal of the gun. "Like hell you will, Sam." His voice was cold and sharp.
They stared at each other. Finally, Sam relaxed his hold on the gun and let Dean pull his hand away. "Good," Dean muttered, reaching out with his other hand to grab the Taurus and tuck it away. "You can have it back in the morning."
"Are you kidding me?" Sam stared at him.
"Nick was right about one thing. I haven't been your big brother lately. Now, the way you're beating yourself up, you obviously haven't gone Darth Winchester, but it doesn't mean you don't need me watching your back."
"Yeah," Sam said softly, feeling a faint spark of hope for the first time in ages.
"The thing is, Sam…I looked at you in that motel room, and I wanted to hurt you. I wanted to—" Dean broke off and swallowed hard. "I don't ever want to feel like that again. I don't ever want to feel like I wouldn't give my life for yours.
"Me either," Sam replied, his voice shaking.
"I don't know how to do this," Dean went on. "I don't know if we can, but…" He gave a helpless little shrug. "One day at a time, right?"
"Yeah," Sam agreed. He paused before grabbing the grease-stained paper bag and lobbing it into the trash can. "There's, uh, a diner down the street," he said hesitantly. "The sign in the window says their cherry pie won a ribbon at the county fair."
"Now that's what I'm talking about," Dean said, and if his smile was a faint shadow of its usual self, it was still so much more than Sam had seen in months that it made him want to fall to his knees in thanksgiving.
Instead, he let Dean order bacon cheeseburgers for both of them and steal as many fries as he wanted to off of his plate.
When Sam got up early to watch the sun rise the next morning, he saw it as nothing so much as a gift from his big brother.