12 April 2012 @ 02:57 pm
fic: Worth Saving Me [4/7]  



Masterpost

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The rough ground digs into Dean's knees where he's crouched behind a bush that's just starting to dry with the summer heat. His attention is focused on the back porch of the bar, just far enough away that he won't be seen. He'd heard about the hunter's bar from Caleb a couple of weeks ago. His friend mentioned how the woman who runs the place helped get him the info he needed on the werewolf he'd been tracking in some city in northern Nebraska. But Dean hadn't been able to spare the time to come before now. He wants to kick himself now that he knows his little brother is here. Has been here long enough to be calling that Ellen woman "Mom".


Harvelle's Roadhouse looks different than Dean imagined it would. The hunter's bar is a lot larger than he'd been anticipating. It doesn't look like much from the front where he'd parked the day before. Just like many of the back roads bars he's frequented, all beat up wood and smoky windows. But the back, he's found out, is extended more than any bar he's been to. Two stories high, with a back porch. Complete with an old porch swing where Sam sat down with Bobby a couple minutes before.


Dean watches Bobby squeeze Sam’s shoulder, heart heavy and clenching in his chest at the easiness - the familiarity - the two share. He hasn’t seen the man he’d considered his uncle, family, for more than half of his life since the man chased John out of his salvage yard with a threat of shooting him full of buckshot if he ever stepped foot on his property again. His Dad was confused and pissed but told Dean in no uncertain terms that if Bobby was through with them, they were through with Bobby. It’s one of the few times he’d disobeyed John without a second thought - even after the man let Sam run away, too drunk to know his ass from his elbow, Dean still did what his father told him to do until he was old enough to gain his own independence - but he wishes he hadn’t. Calling Bobby only to be ignored was bad enough. Having his uncle pick up once to tell him to lose his number hurt almost as much as losing Sam.


Now he wonders how long Bobby has known about Sam - where to find him, that he’s even alive - and kept it from them. Refused to pick up the phone even to tell Dean that his brother is okay, all because of something John did to make the man, who’d once told him that family didn’t end with blood, hate the both of them. But that was just like John; he’ll do whatever the hell he wants - whatever he thinks is the right thing - and damn the consequences, even the consequences his own flesh and blood will have to face in the aftermath.


Sam looks shaken up and keeps rubbing at his eyes, wiping away tears before they get the chance to fall. Dean recognizes the gesture, has used it himself more than once since his little brother disappeared without a trace. He wants nothing more than to rush out of where he’s hiding and make everything better for his little brother - make Sam stop crying - but he has to wait this out. Wait until he gets the chance to talk to Sam where Bobby or the woman who thinks replacing Mary is acceptable can’t interfere while he gets the answers he needs.


It doesn’t take nearly as long as he thought it would. Mere minutes later his little brother - not so little anymore, definitely getting taller than him the little brat - is swiping his eyes one last time and stranding, stretching his arms high over his head and arching his back like an overgrown cat in the sun. The kid – though he’s barely a kid anymore, gotta be eighteen by now – looks over his shoulder through the door leading back into the space behind Harvelle’s Roadhouse and Dean thinks his opportunity for the day has passed and he’ll have to come back again in the morning. But Sam says something over his shoulder that he can’t make out from his distant spot behind the bush and then he’s facing forward and walking down the porch steps and onto the grounds.


Without a second glance, his brother shuffles away from the Roadhouse. His shoulders are hunched forward, making him look smaller. Dean wonders how his little brother feels about being so tall now after having always been the small fry he was, smaller than all of his classmates and constantly needing Dean to show the other little punks what happened to people who picked on Dean Winchester’s little brother. It looks like he’s still growing into his lanky limbs but it’s obvious from when Dean first saw him that he knows how to be comfortable in his own skin. Something Dean doesn’t think he ever saw of the little brother he remembers who wanted nothing more than to be normal, like the other kids whose parents didn’t drag them around different motel rooms and new schools where he was always the new kid and never got to have any friends for more than a few months. He hates that he didn’t get to see his Sammy grow up into the man he is now, but he can’t help but be grateful that the kid got the chance to grow up, to get comfortable in his skin like Dean always hoped he would.


Dean waits until Sam is passing by his bush to stand, knees creaking in a way they shouldn’t yet at his age. He holds his arms up, hands palm out facing his brother, trying to look as non-threatening as he can. Sam doesn’t spot him right away but Dean sees the moment he does in the way his brother trips and stumbles before righting himself, eyes wide and panicked, whole body looking like it’s been frozen in place, paralyzed.


"Hey Sammy." Dean doesn’t fight the relieved smile threatening to break out across his face. It’s almost surreal, standing in front of the little brother he hasn’t seen in nearly nine years.


Sam keeps staring at him, blinking hard twice like he isn’t sure Dean is real, in front of him and talking to him. His throat bobs up and down and his grimace makes it look like swallowing sandpaper would have been more pleasant than the possibility of seeing Dean standing in front of him.


That hurts almost as much as seeing Bobby and Sam together had.


"Dean?" He sounds just as uncertain and hesitant and shocked as he had when Dean first walked into the bar and saw him laughing with that girl.


"It’s…. It’s really good to see you, Sammy."


Sam’s face pinches, lines crinkling his forehead in such genuine confusion that Dean doesn’t hesitate to step forward and grab his brother in a solid hug. The look on Sam’s face, like he honestly doesn’t understand that his brother is relieved - happy- to see him, alive and well, is too much, too wrong and Dean refuses to let that be okay.


"W-why are you hugging me?" The question comes so quietly, barely a whisper of breath. But Dean doesn’t have to strain to listen - his body has always been attuned to what Sam needs and even all those years apart don’t seem to have dampened his, as a six year old Sam once called them, super big brother abilities.


"How can you even touch me?" Sam continues, trying to wriggle out of Dean’s hold. But Dean has gone eight years without his little brother and like Hell is he going to let the kid go now that he’s got him. Especially when Sam isn’t making any sense.


"You’re my brother Sam, why wouldn’t I hug you?"


Sam doesn’t seem to hear him, body trembling in Dean’s arms like he’s terrified. He’s still talking. "God, how can you just… say that? What are you even doing he —? I'm wrong. You know, you know I'm wrong and f-fucked up and tainted and why…?"


The full weight of Sam sagging against his chest barely fazes him, even with Dean still reeling over what he’s hearing. How can his little brother think that about himself? There isn’t a bad bone in the kid’s body; wasn’t when he was ten and still isn’t now - not if he’s so scared about being wrong that he thinks his brother shouldn’t even be touching him, like it’s contagious. Like he’s diseased. Or is the disease. The sleeve covering his shoulder is suddenly wet and the realization that Sam is crying on his shoulder, so silently that he wouldn’t have known without the wet patch growing where the kid’s head is hidden away from sight, snaps him back to reality.


Curling his fingers around Sam’s shoulders, he gently pulls away and tries to catch his brother’s eye. "God, is that… is that why you ran away, Sam? Because you gotta know it’s not true."


Sam’s head snaps up and it’s the first time his brother has looked him in the eye deliberately since he surprised him. His eyes are wide, glistening and wet and his cheeks are red and blotchy from crying on Dean’s shoulder. The lanky muscle under Dean’s hands tense but Sam has stopped trembling; he looks like what Dean said has shocked him still.


"I… I didn't… Dean?"


"Didn’t what?" Dean prompts when Sam just keeps staring at him like he’s never seen him before.


"Is this a joke to you?" And suddenly Sam’s jaw ticks, eyes narrowing and cheeks flushing. He looks furious and stands up straighter under Dean’s grip. Dean feels the stretch of his arms and marvels at how much his Sammy has grown; the kid is just as tall as him and looks like he isn’t done growing yet. "Act like you care just to, what? Throw me away again?"


"What the hell are you talking about?"


The distant squeak and slam of a door barely registers with Dean, who feels like he’s becoming more confused by the second.


"I didn’t run away!"

*


His chest heaves faster with each breath. It feels like Sam's been running, air cold and harsh and catching in his lungs. He rips away from Dean's hands, heart tearing along with it because how can Dean ask that? How can his brother stand there, watching Sam with wide eyes like he doesn't know exactly what happened to Sam eight years ago?


Dean looks so much like Sam remembers him. Older, maybe a little rough around the edges, with frown lines he'd already been working his way towards getting at fourteen years old. But the hurt in his eyes when Sam shoves away from his grip, the confusion in his eyes is so familiar and even though Sam's head is telling him that he can't trust this man, his heart is telling him - reminding him - that his brother was the only one he could trust before he'd been tossed away, before he'd found a new family of his own. That has to count for something.


The sound of footsteps rushing closer are dulled by the blood rushing in Sam's ears, the throb of his chest so hard and fast he's afraid it might just burst through his ribcage. Some of the anger he'd built up rushes out of him, face feeling less hot as his expression softens, stance losing some of its tension.


"I didn't run away," he repeats quietly, voice more even than it's been in Dean's presence since he was ten.


Uncle Bobby steps next to him and Sam can see in the corner of his eye how wound up the hunter is, red-faced and ready to bark at Dean to get the hell away from them as fast as his legs can carry him but he grabs the man's arm and holds him back with a quick tug and small shake of his head. He doesn't even look at Bobby, can't bring himself to take his eyes off of his brother who's staring at the man at Sam's side with shining wide eyes, gaze flitting back and forth between them until they finally rest on Sam. "Then what the hell happened?" he rasps and it sounds like he's been swallowing glass, painful and sharp in Sam's ears.


"John sold me." It's easiest to just say it and Dean's always preferred the 'rip off the band aid' method more than easing into things.


Dean flinches, mouth dropping open in an 'o' of shock that would be humorous in a lighter situation. His throat bobs once, then twice, before he tries to speak again but it manages to come out even raspier than before. "What… He… What do you mean?"


"What's it sound like he meant, boy –"


"Uncle Bobby," Sam interrupts softly, tugging the man's arm again. Dean looks like he's close to passing out, hands on his hips as he bends slowly at the waist, breaths starting to come as fast as Sam's when he's on the verge of an attack. He lets go of Bobby and takes a slow step forward, ignoring the way Bobby tenses, preparing for some unseen attack behind him. Dean watches him the whole time, eyes wide and pleading and so unlike the cocky, collected, unfazed-by-anything brother he remembers.


"You really didn't… know?"


He sounds as vulnerable as he feels, a flicker of hope sparking in his chest even while he tries to warn himself against it.


"Sam," Bobby warns quietly, but the hunter sounds just as hopeful as Sam feels and that flicker in his chest flares, glowing bright and warm when Dean shakes his head. His brother looks lost, like someone's ripped the carpet out from under him – crestfallen – and Sam knows he'll feel guilty about putting that look on the man's face later, for not believing his brother would love him even when he doesn't deserve it. But right now all he can do is step right into Dean's space and hesitantly hold his arms out, curling his fingers around them hem of Dean's over-shirt. He squeaks in surprise when Dean pulls him forward, wrapping him in a near bone crushing hug that Sam melts into once the initial shock wears away.


Dean doesn't hate him. Dean didn't know. Dean still wants to be his big brother.


Sam doesn't think he's been this happy since the day he accidentally called Ellen 'Mom' and she looked at him like he'd made the sun rise.


Even if he doesn't deserve it, he wants to keep this feeling forever.

*


The world around him fades away when Sam reaches out, face open and free of the worry lines and crinkled eyebrows. Dean doesn't hesitate to grab Sam and hold him against his chest, too afraid that something – Bobby or Ellen or some freak accident - will rip his brother away from him if he takes too long. He can't think about this new revelation right now, with Sam in his arms. Even after all these years apart and all the inches Sam has grown, he still feels right. Sam still fits.


"Sammy," he chokes out around the lump in his throat. He closes his eyes against the sudden wetness building up, a heavy pressure Dean refuses to let out in front of people, let alone his little brother who has to have gone through more, and worse, than anything Dean could have imagined. And especially not in front of Bobby, who obviously hates him as much as he hates John. It can wait until he gets a moment to himself – something he hopes isn't for a long while yet. He'd be content to stand here hugging Sam for the rest of eternity.


When he hears Sam's answering "Dean", it's almost impossible to hold it in. It's everything he's needed to hear since he found out Sam had run away – but he didn't run away, not really and Dean can't think about that right now; not when he's having trouble keeping it together already. Sam sounds as choked with emotion as Dean is and it would almost be comforting if he wasn't so wound up.


The sound of more footsteps and a quiet gasp snap Dean out of his thoughts and Sam startles against him. They pull back at the same time, looking over at Jo who's standing next to Bobby and staring at them with her mouth agape. Sam wipes at his eyes, though Dean can't see any tears that have fallen yet, and shakes his head; silent answer to an unasked question. Dean's heart clenches in his chest again, knowing he and Sam used to be like that and wishing for the millionth time that they hadn't been separated, no matter how it happened.


"S'ok, Jo," Sam says, brushing his hands across his thighs. He smiles wide, flashing those ridiculous dimples and straight, white teeth. Jo raises an eyebrow and looks Dean up and down warily, but her shoulders seem to relax at the look on Sam's face. "Go tell Mom that I'll be in, in a little while. Okay?"


"You sure?"


She's not even looking at Dean anymore, all of her attention focused solely on Sam. There's no chance she's older than him, but everything about her screams 'protective' and for the first time he's thankful that if Sam didn't have him, he found people who care about him enough to protect him from the person they thought hurt him.


"Quit worrying so much, it's not good for you," Sam nods his head to Bobby, "Uncle Bobby will be out here to keep an eye on things."


"Okay," Jo draws the word out slowly, obviously still reluctant to leave her… brother with a person she's never met and hasn't nearly earned her trust. But when Bobby gives her a quick nod as her eyes flick to his, she nods back, wrapping delicate looking fingers around Sam's wrist for a brief moment before turning and heading back to the Roadhouse. The three of them are quiet, silently watching until she steps through the screen door and out of sight.


"Dean."


He can't stop the flinch, however small, when Bobby's voice breaks the silence. It doesn't sound angry or harsh like he'd tried to prepare himself for, the way the hunter had sounded when he told Dean to lose his number four years ago.


"I didn't know," Dean whispers, eyes on his boots. He can't bring himself to look at Bobby. The man he still thinks of as an uncle, no matter how short and sharp he'd been back then. What if he doesn't believe Dean?


"Come here, kid."


Before he knows what's happening, Dean is being pulled forward and crushed in his second hug of the day – more than he's had in longer than he cares to think about. He ignores the natural instinct to pull away and make light of the situation, like he's always done when things have gotten to be too much. Instead, he throws his arms around Bobby in return, still refusing to give in to the burning need to cry - can't let go of that last piece of control he's clinging to as tightly as he is to the hunter in front of him.


"I'm sorry."


"Ya got nothing to apologize for, idjit."


Bobby pats his back, a gruff sign of affection Dean didn't realize he'd missed just as much as the man himself. He moves to step back but Bobby doesn't let him go. Dean tenses unconsciously, unsure what he's expecting to happen, but it certainly isn't what Bobby tells him.


"I'm the one who's sorry." His voice is quiet and Dean sneaks a glance at Sam to find his brother has backed up enough that they can have this little moment in peace. He's even looking over his shoulder at the Roadhouse rather than directly at them. His brother always was better at understanding the importance of privacy, even at a young age; something Dean hadn't given much thought to growing up the way John raised them. "Family don't end in blood and I ain't letting you go again, you get me boy?"


Dean huffs a surprised laugh, and if it comes out a little broken and wet Bobby doesn't call him on it. "Yeah," he breathes in relief, feeling the last of his worries seeping out of him, "I get you."


And Dean does. It hurt, losing Sam and then what felt like the rest of his family. John, being unable to forgive him for letting Sam go. Then Bobby, with that phone call. But if he'd thought beyond a doubt that Bobby had done to Sam what they told him John did, he would have done exactly the same thing. Probably would have done worse.


Thank God his little brother had someone there for him when Dean couldn't be.


He feels Bobby's nod more than sees it and the man pats his back one more time before letting him go. It's nice, he thinks, not letting the moment feel awkward or embarrassing with only Sam there to witness it.


"Now we best get inside before mama bear comes out with her shot gun."


Sam rolls his eyes, stepping back into Dean's space and Dean doesn't bother fighting his grin or the urge to throw an arm over his little brother's shoulders. "You know she hates it when you call her that," Sam says with a laugh before tossing a look at Dean over his shoulder, "He's right, though."


They've barely taken a step toward the Roadhouse when the outline of Ellen becomes visible through the screen door, arms crossed in front of her and obviously holding herself back from coming out herself.


"That's a helluva mom you've got there, Sammy," he offers quietly.


Sam turns to him, eyes wide in surprise before his expression melts into a look of understanding. He bumps his shoulder into Dean's with a small smile. "You have no idea."

*


"What the hell happened, Sammy?"


They're sitting across from each other on Sam's bed upstairs. Mom herded them all into the dining room behind the bar for dinner. Dean sat on Sam's right, so close their arms brushed whenever he moved, and Jo took the seat on his other side while Mom and Uncle Bobby sat across from them. It was quiet for the most part and Sam appreciates that no one ragged on Dean or treated dinner like anything was different. There was still tension around the table that he isn't used to feeling anymore, but they all ate and Mom filled the somewhat awkward silence with stories about the bar that they've all heard more times than Sam can count.


When they'd finished eating – Mom giving him a pointed look with one of her thin eyebrows raised high in expectation when Sam started pushing his food around on his plate until he gave in with a small sigh, ignoring Jo's snort and the way Dean's eyes darted from Mom to Sam, an almost wistful smile on his face – Mom sent him and Dean upstairs and put Uncle Bobby and Jo to work, washing the dishes and setting up the bar for the night.


"What do you want to know?" he offers quietly, wanting to avoid Dean's eyes but unable to make himself look away. It's been so long – too long – since he's gotten to just look at his brother and he doesn't want to miss a second of it. He refuses to take this time with Dean for granted, the way he'd done the first ten years of his life.


"What…" Dean pauses, eyes turning glassy and wet but Sam knows better, even now, than to acknowledge it. And he knows what it's like fighting tears, feeling like letting them out was wrong. He'd felt that way a lot before the Harvelles, even back when he'd still been a Winchester and John made it clear that emotions were useless in their job. A weakness that Sam's always carried in spades and worn on his sleeve. "What made you think I was in on it?" He says it like it leaves a bad taste in his mouth, a grimace twisting his face into an expression Sam hates seeing, knowing he's partly responsible for putting it there.


"He told me. Or… he. He said we. That you both thought I was," he tries to keep his voice from cracking, but it's nearly impossible to talk around the lump in his throat and try to keep all of his emotions in check at the same time, "worthless."


Sam shrugs, wishing he hadn't taken what John said and believed every word of it. One word. That's all it took to keep him separated from his brother all these years. "I didn't have any reason not to believe him, but I shouldn't have. I'm so sorry, Dean, I should've –"


"Don't you dare finish that sentence, Sammy. Don't even think it. You were a kid, Sam, and you were thrown into something confusing and horrible and even when you could finally think straight it was just like you said. You didn't have any reason not to believe anything he said."


Dean grips his shoulder, firm and unwavering strength in his eyes that Sam tries to grasp himself. His chin quivers and he bites his lip to stem off another breakdown – just one in a long line of them that Sam wishes he could control - until they're done here.


"What happened after?"


The hand on his shoulder doesn't let up and Sam tries to draw the strength to bring these memories to the surface when all he'd ever wanted was to bury them down deep and never think about how it was his life, his experience.

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