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The Wanting Comes In Waves

All Sam/Dean, All The Time

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Rankle & Gall - Part 1 of 7

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Don’t think. Just keep chopping.  Don’t dwell on what he said, there’s no point now. Do I still have enough tomatoes left for this? Should have just said it last night, should have broken down his door instead of letting him close me out. I hope this ricotta is still okay.  He wouldn’t understand anyways, who could forgive something like this? Not even Sam could.  Doesn’t seem like enough mozzarella, I’m putting in the whole thing, I don’t care what the recipe says.

He’s startled out of his internal conversation by his phone buzzing on the table on the other side of the kitchen. He puts down the knife and wipes his hand on his apron, crosses the room, and flips open the phone, hitting the speakerphone button. “Yeah?”

“Hey, Dean, just calling to say hey. And to say thanks.”

Dean’s shoulders draw in on themselves, imagining being squashed in one of Garth’s still kind of uncomfortable hugs. “Garth, ‘m surprised to hear from you.”

“Well, I just wanted to tell you again, …uh,  that I really appreciate what you and Sam did for us. For me and Bess. I know you didn’t have to and all. And I just…well, I wanted to say it again.”

“You stay on the straight and narrow and we’ll call it even, okay buddy?” Dean’s finger hovers over the button to hang up, impatient to get back to the cooking at hand.

“You got it, dude. Oh, one more thing,” Garth inserts quickly, apparently sensing that Dean’s ready to cut him off.

“What’s that?” Dean asks reluctantly, rolling his eyes to the ceiling even though Sam’s not there to give him a hard time about it.

“I was thinkin’ about you and Sam and your, uh… issues. And I remembered about the stuff you said when we were on that hunt last year in Missouri. Ya know, with the cursed penny, when the spectre had you and you almost killed Sam?”

Garth sounds like he’s trying to pussyfoot around something, and it’s pissing Dean off; he just wants him to get to the point already. So he asks impatiently, “What about it?”

“You talked to Sam about it, right?”

“Talked to him about what?” Dean asks, picking up his knife and chopping the white onion on the cutting board.

“All those things you said when you were tryin’ to kill him.”

“Why would I? What the crap are you talkin’ about, Garth?” Dean asks, setting down his knife to pick up a head of garlic. He starts peeling the cloves meticulously, one by one until they all sit naked, waiting for the knife.

“Oh, man. Dean, do you even remember what all you said?”

“Not really,” Dean says, bringing the knife down harder on the garlic than is strictly necessary. But it’s cathartic, and Garth is poking at a tender place he doesn’t want to think about right now. Not on top of everything else.

“It was nasty. I mean downright terrible,” Garth says, sounding a little shaken just at remembering what he’d witnessed between the brothers.

Done with the garlic and almost done with Garth, Dean asks sharply, “And your point is?”

“Just, c’mon, Dean, he heard all of that, took it onboard straight up, and then what? Got back in the car with you? No fightin’, no nothin’?”

“Well, a little, I guess, nothing unusual. Not for us anyways,” Dean admits, yanking the leaves off a bunch of fresh basil.

“Now, I might be pushin’ it a little bit here, but let me just say this, okay?”

“Hit me,” Dean says with real reluctance, rolling his eyes once again.

“I can hear you rollin’ your eyes at me over the phone, man. This is important, this is Sam we’re talkin’ about. Kevin and I talked about him, and how he was before the Trials and the Angel Fall. And all that stuff you said to him did not just roll right off of him. It stuck, and it’s festering.”

“Festering?” Dean asks, squinching up his face as he pictures well, anything festering. He asks himself, what was Bobby’s saying, Do Not Fester, To Fester is Bad? This is probably what the old man was talking about.

“Yeah, I could tell when I saw you guys that somethin’ was real off. But I was so worried about my family and all, I didn’t have a chance to try and say anything while you were here.”

“Say anything about what?” Dean smashes the flat of the knife onto the pile of the basil leaves and then chops them into bits, gritting his teeth to avoid yelling at Garth to get to the damned point already.

“Now, just to be clear, I’m really not tryin’ to be Bobby or anythin’ like that. But I know you two don’t have many friends to talk to. And if my partner had said to me the things you said to Sam, I’d have needed some help processing it. I’m bettin’ Sam never said a word to you, or anyone else for that matter.”

“Sam’s a big boy now, I’m sure he’s fine, Garth.”

“Oh sure, he’s fine, as in clearly being clinically depressed fine.”

Dean drops the knife and stands up straight, all his attention suddenly zeroed in on the phone. “Who? Sam?”

“Yeah, him. I’m serious here, Dean. He needs some help, and I know you two are struggling with something big between you right now, it was pretty obvious whey you guys were here. But with Kevin gone now, he’s only got you to talk to.”

Dean sighs and sags against the edge of the counter, bowing his head at what he suspects will come next. “So what do you suggest?”

“Start with the stuff you said when the spectre had ahold of you. Because if you didn’t counter all of it back then when you said it, he’s likely convinced himself that you deep down believe every hateful thing you spewed at him.”

“No way,” Dean says, mouth hanging open in disbelief, eyes automatically shifting to the hallway door to check that he’s still alone.

“You think Sam believes you completely trust him? Because you were yelling about how he betrayed you and lied to you.”

“Well, he did. And now I did. So we’re even or something,” Dean shrugs even though no one can see him, to shake off the feeling that Garth was right.

“That’s another story. You deal first with what you said, because I think all this other stuff is just laid over that wound. Festering, like I said.”

“He does hold onto stuff,” Dean muses, trailing off considering the very long list of stuff Sam’s got to hold onto.

“No kidding, really? Wonder where he learned that?”

“You being sarcastic with me now wolf-boy?” Dean fake-growls towards the phone on the counter.

“Don’t call me that, that’s jus’ plain rude. And yes, ya caught me, I am bein’ sarcastic. Privilege of friends, right?”

“Yeah. Thanks, Garth,” Dean answers with true warmth in his voice. Garth might be annoying, but he’s sharp, and probably right about all this Sam-stuff.

“Thank me by actually talking to Sam. Catch you on the flipside.”

“Not if I catch you first,” Dean answers with a pained laugh.

Dean hangs up and goes back to assembling the sauce for the lasagna. Apologizing by cooking Sam’s favorite dinner is probably not really the way to go, but he’s been putting off continuing the conversation they’d had last night. That’s the problem - they’re not finishing the discussions that do get started. And at this point, it’s going to be a long one, one that they’re both hesitant to start, much less stick around and finish. At least he figured out that avoiding being in the same room as Sam and drinking himself into a stupor wasn’t going to work this time so he didn’t even bothering trying that. He’s even cooking dry, no Julia Child action for him, nosiree.  And now there’s this stuff from Garth to think about.

It doesn’t take much thinking really; he knows it’s gotta be done, because he saw for himself that Sam was really ready to die. That heartbreaking “So?” from Sam at the church still echoed in his mind on an unstoppable grim repeat. But Dean knows there’s something he’s missing, the reason why Sam’s so ready to die, that still doesn’t make sense. After everything, he thought they were finally on the same page. But after what Sam said yesterday, they’re farther apart than ever. He finishes off the sauce, assembles the lasagna and gets it into the oven, going over what he needs to say to Sam to try and make things better. Or at least understand a little better what Sam thinks is really the problem. It beats talking about their conversation from last night, because he’s not sure he ever wants to know where that came from.

“Sam, you in here somewhere?” Dean hollers, coming up the stairs from the kitchen.

Sam calls back quietly, sounding a little surprised, but it’s the first thing they’ve said to each other today. “Yeah, down in the war room.”

“Hey, uh, just heard from Garth,” Dean says, standing across the room, not sure if he’s welcome to be in Sam’s space quite yet. Sam’s still holding onto the book he’s had his nose buried in, knuckles going white around the pen he’s holding in his other hand.

Sam drops the book and the pen onto the table. “Yeah? He really called you?”

Dean nods, starting to walk a little closer. God, how he hates having to tiptoe around Sam and the emotional minefield between them. “Yep. Wanted to thank us for helping his family and leaving them be.”

Sam’s eyes go a little soft, probably because he’s thinking about one of the few good things to happen lately. “Huh, how ‘bout that. At least one hunter gets to be out of the life and most of the way happy, even if he had to become a werewolf to do it. I’m glad for him.”

Relieved to see Sam’s reaction so far, Dean takes the last few steps and sits down across the table from Sam. “Me too. Uh, so, he asked me something about that hunt we all did down in Missouri last year, the one with the Confederate spectre hooked up to the cursed penny, you remember?”

Sam looks at Dean for more than a few beats, like he’s considering ignoring the question entirely, then he answers in a clipped, near-sarcastic voice, “Of course, you almost shot me, Dean. Kinda hard to forget.”

Pushing past the usual responses to any of Sam’s sarcasm, Dean shoulders on into the fray. “Well, he reminded me of the stuff I said to you, when the spectre was using me.”

“Uh huh,” Sam says with an eerie flatness that matches the stillness of his body and the non-expression on his face.

Feeling himself flailing inside, he wants to reach across the table and slap his brother to get him to at least react or dramatically stomp off and slam some doors. Instead, Dean takes a short breath and answers with a calmness he does not feel, but an insistence that he damned well does. “Uh huh? Well, we never really talked about it. And he thought we should.”

Sam leans back in his chair, crossing his arms, mouth set in a flat line, and asks with exasperation, “What is this? You’re taking advice from Garth now?”

“Hey, he had a point - we don’t have many people to talk to, and the stuff I said to you under that thing’s influence was really awful.”

It’s a slight movement, but Dean doesn’t miss it. Sam’s arms tighten in on himself, like he’s having to squeeze a little harder to hold himself together. “Yeah, it was. So?”

The ‘So?’ isn’t nearly as heartbreaking this time around, but the echo of that one in the church still stirs Dean’s protective instincts. “So? So, I remember it, and that afterwards you said you thought I meant all of what I said. And I was mad and I didn’t follow it up with you. But I didn’t, Sam, I didn’t mean it at all.”

Sam reacts with a not-quite bitchface, and a visible struggle to not roll his eyes. This is progress, thinks Dean, but then Sam’s voice slays him more than any eye roll ever could when he says with complete and final certainty, “Yeah, you did.”

“How can you say that?” Dean bursts out with a vehemence he feels down to his toes; how can Sam not know this? Have they not been living the same life together all this time? Dean slams his fists onto the table, opening his hands towards Sam like a beggar who’s offering up his last morsel.

Focusing on Dean’s open hands lying on the table between them, Sam breathes deeply a few times before he answers, “Because you said almost the same stuff right before you left me alone with Crowley to do the third Trial, Dean. Almost the exact same shitty list.”

“What?” Dean asks, stomach sinking as he remembers that day, - that fucked-up day, wasting time chasing after angels when he should have been there with Sam.

Sam scoots his chair forward, and leans on the table with his arms crossed in front of him, meeting Dean’s eyes, like he needs to see his reaction. “I had to confess, remember? As part of the ritual? And you offered up a whole bunch of helpful suggestions. All of which were the same things you said when the spectre had you. So tell me, Dean, what exactly did you not you mean?”

Staring at Sam, Dean gets lost for a second in seeing his brother’s hurt pouring off of him; he’s not hiding it for once, and all Dean wants to do is make it stop. The kid deserves a break at some point. The only thing he has left to give is the honest truth, since Sam wouldn’t accept a hug at this point.  He wishes he was touching Sam somewhere, so that the truth could make it through the conduit of their bodies like it usually does. “I didn’t mean the stuff I said about all those things being your choices. Because they weren’t, and I know that. I swear, Sammy, I know that, okay? And the reason I said them to you when you were looking for something to confess, well, it was because I know they’re the things you beat yourself up about. Haven’t ever forgiven yourself for, even though you shouldn’t really blame yourself for any of them. Believe me, I know that kinda self-blame bullshit when I see it.”

Sam pauses for a few moments, absorbing Dean’s answer, looks like he wants to get up and walk away. But Dean sees him push himself physically into the seat of the chair, like he’s making himself stay. Sam finally answers, “True, you would. I guess I get it, but I was really surprised that stuff poured out of you so easily like that. It seemed like you had a list all ready to go for the spectre to grab onto. ‘Here’s the shit Sam’s done to me that I say I’ve forgiven him for, but I really haven’t.’”

Shifting in his seat, uncomfortable with all the raw truth slinging across the table from his brother, Dean straightens up and flexes his hands on the table, still open, pointing towards Sam. “I have, though. That’s the thing, it was like it scooped me out, all my memories and stuff, and it threw everything at you, - all the old shit mixed in with the new. I swear I am telling you the truth here, I do not hold any of that stuff against you anymore. If I’ve said I forgive you, I really have, Sammy.”

Sam laughs sarcastically and rolls his eyes. He leans forward and spits the words at Dean across the table. “But what about the crap about leaving you to rot in Purgatory for a girl, and Benny being a better brother than I ever was and not ever letting you down?”

The vehemence of Sam’s words feel like a physical push, so Dean falls back against his chair and pulls his hands in to fall in his lap.  “Well, honestly, I still don’t get the while I was in Purgatory thing; you didn’t ever really tell me what the deal was with that. And as far as Benny goes, God, how do I say this? He was my brother-in-arms, like we’d been in war for a year, - day in day out, constantly fighting everything side by side.”

“Like we used to,” Sam answers in that same flat tone, sounding even more broken now.

“Yeah. But it was different than that, more… I don’t know, stripped down, basic. I’ve got all this history with you, and a lot has happened. We’re more complicated. Our entire lives have been twisted up in one big can of worms. But in Purgatory with him, it was cut and dried, black and white, easy in a way. Pure.”

“And I’m sure as hell not easy. Or pure,” Sam laughs across the table into Dean’s surprised face. He’s not sure if Sam’s laughing at himself being pure or easy.

Dean looks down at his hands resting in his lap, picturing that killing tool he held all that time, fighting at Benny’s side.  He still misses the thing and knows he can’t explain this any better to his brother. What he can do is try and fix this with Sam, to somehow stop that horrible, broken laughter that doesn’t even sound like him. “That’s, oh c’mon that’s not what I said. You are easy. Stop laughing, not that kind of easy. See, I know you, better than anyone, and I don’t always agree with your choices at first, but I get you. And you get me, you’re the only one that ever has. Benny was a better substitute for you than I deserved.”

Sam throws his hands up in sudden frustration. “Oh would you cut it out, of course you deserved him. You deserved some damn help, Dean. I mean you basically had just saved the world again, remember?”

“Yeah, of course I remember,” Dean says, eyes coming up to meet Sam’s when he reminds him about the world saving that they’re always doing.

Sam leans forward in his seat, forearms resting on top of his book on the table. Hands twisting together where Dean can see his anxiety given form. He sees Sam take a big breath like he’s readying to yell at the top of his lungs, but all that comes out is a quiet voice that doesn’t want to be heard. “I’m glad you had him though. That you had someone there to rely on. To get you out and back here to me. And I can’t explain about what happened while you were gone other than I thought you were dead. And I fell apart. It’s not an excuse, it’s the truth. I wasn’t myself. I was just pretending.”

“Pretending?” Dean asks, leaning forward so he can be sure to catch each of his brother’s quiet words.

Sam’s head dips further towards his chest, voice at a near whisper. “That I could make it without you. And then you came back and you were so mad at me, and I didn’t have any big reason to give you. Nothing that woulda counted anyways. I didn’t leave you there to rot. Dean, I didn’t know you were even alive to be there. And I didn’t choose Amelia over saving you. She saved me.”

“She did? How?” Dean asks with a true note of surprise, he had no clue about any of this. Amelia had loomed large in his imagination, as some perfect future Sam had chosen for his new life without Dean.

Sam clears his throat and sucks in another deep breath. He clenches his hands together on the table, knuckles going white, then blows all the air out in a rush along with his words. “Yeah, when I hit that dog? It wasn’t an accident. I was driving towards a cliff.”

Eyes riveted on Sam’s hands, they’re clenched so tightly as if they’re the only thing holding him at the table, Dean holds up a hand and asks, “Hold on, you were what? Trying to kill yourself?”

Sam finally looks up, eyes meeting Dean’s briefly, then flicking off to stare into one of the corners. “Not consciously, but yeah, from what I remember, I’d kinda given up on everything. Nothing made sense or mattered. Because you were gone. I just couldn’t do it by myself anymore. There wasn’t a point. But I was drinking, I hit Riot, and that led me to Amelia, and she gave me enough reason to stick around.”

“And then I came back and yelled at you for months,” Dean says, heart sinking further than he’d known it could go. So much of it comes back to this misunderstanding. He starts kicking himself mentally for not pushing the issue and asking Sam last year.

Sam nods and finally releases his hands, flexing the fingers several times, watching the redness flow back to normal. “Yeah, pretty much.”

Dean shakes his head at his own stupidity. “No wonder.”

“No wonder what?” Sam asks, looking up at Dean like he’s mad about Dean’s comment.

Now that Sam’s finally looking at him, Dean tries to connect, pull him in and hold his attention. Sam has always listened best when their eyes are locked together. “Well, I didn’t understand what you meant by ‘So?’ in the church. Now I think maybe I get it. You really did believe all that stuff you were saying about letting me down and not trusting you.”

“Yeah, I meant it. It wasn’t just little-brother whining, I couldn’t get it across to you what you were asking me to do, what I’d be giving up. Not just closing the Gate, but proving myself to you,” Sam answers, pointing one long finger across the expanse of the table between them. He’s aiming it right at Dean’s heart.

Dean half-smiles and shakes his head. “You don’t gotta prove yourself to me Sammy.”

“Apparently I do. Still do. Always will have to,” Sam shrugs, withdrawing his pointing finger to run it along the edge of his book.

Dean shifts in his seat, feeling the urge to get up from the table, but forcing himself to stay in this, no matter how hard it gets hearing all this from his brother. “Well you can think that if you want, and maybe it’s just being brothers or something. But I don’t think you have a thing to prove to me or anyone else Sam. You talk about me saving the world by goin’ to Purgatory, well what the heck did you do when you jumped in the Cage?”

“It’s not about us being even on world-saving or some shit like that. It was about you trusting me to get the damn job done,” Sam says, a little louder, more force behind the words, pointing again at Dean on the ‘you’ and at himself on the ‘me.’

Dean focuses on the pointing finger, eyes lifting up to Sam’s once he figures out how to respond. His own hands rest on the table surface and he stretches them out towards Sam, not exactly reaching to touch him, but just to feel closer again. Talking about this stuff without touching is so much harder. “I did trust you though, I knew you were going to get the job done. That’s why I had to stop you, because I found out finishing the Trials would mean you dying and I knew I couldn’t deal with that. I knew we had other options for once, thanks to all this.” Dean gestures around the big room, meaning their inheritance of all the Men of Letter’s knowledge.

“Yeah, I know. But the price being me dying wasn’t a big surprise, Dean. I’d kinda worked that out already. But what was actually a surprise was that you’d want to stop me,” Sam says, and closes his eyes after he finishes, like he can’t look to see his brother’s response.

Dean stops what he was about to answer from coming out of his lips, withdraws his hands from their closeness to Sam and pulls back into himself. He looks up at the furthest corner of the ceiling, refusing to meet Sam’s eyes.  He slowly rubs one hand over his heart as if he’s soothing a bruise deep inside.  After several deep breaths he finally lowers his eyes to Sam’s which are open and wide with some mixture of emotions he can’t identify. “And when I was in your mind, when Gadreel showed me how you were talking to Death. That was what you were thinking about. Why you were choosing to die?”

Sam nods slowly. “Yeah, pretty much.”

“Even after the stuff I said to you in the church, to get you to stop that last Trial. What, you didn’t believe me?” Dean asks, starting to get a little heated because he feels so misunderstood, and so lost at sea without Sam’s usual easy understanding as his anchor.

Sam nods again, and leans all the way back in his seat, hands dropping to his lap. “I did. I do. I guess. It was just all of a sudden, like I said it was a surprise. After months of hearing the opposite from you. It didn’t magically all make sense and balance out immediately.”

“And you still feel like that, now?” Dean asks, leaning forward to make up for the space Sam’s made between them. Why is this table so damn wide anyways?

“Well, what you said in the church, it turned out not to really be true,” Sam says slowly, as if he’s being patient in reading to a pre-schooler.

Dean makes an irritated face at Sam’s question, more than annoyed at his slow patience. “What?”

Sam sits up straight in his chair, and scoots it in as close as it will go to the edge of the table. He looks straight across the space dividing them, his face beginning to go dark with anger. “Dean, you saw me making that choice, to go with Death. And you still let that angel possess me, and now Kevin’s dead. You should have just let me finish the third trial. At least the damn demons would be locked up.”

Dean leans over the table as far as he can and still stay seated, examining the anger on Sam’s face, trying to figure out where it’s coming from and where it’s aimed. Dean’s never sure if Sam’s angrier at him or himself. He tries to not ramp up to meet Sam’s anger, to stay the calm one for once, to get them through this conversation. “Is this the whole ‘my life isn’t worth more than anyone else’s’ thing?”

Sam rolls his eyes to the ceiling overhead and answers, “Yes, because it’s true.”

Dean waits a few beats until Sam finally looks at him again. He shakes his head firmly. “No, it isn’t. Sammy, you are worth more than anyone in this whole sorry world.”

“According to who?” Sam asks, putting both hands up in question.

Dean sits up straight, proud to have maybe figured this out. He points a thumb at his chest. “Me. And it’s not because I’m selfish, or that I can’t be alone, or whatever bullshit you want to say again. You are worth everything to me. And that used to count for something.”

“It does count for something, of course it does,” Sam insists, then pauses. He looks up with a half-smile. “It’s good to …uh, hear it, you know, out loud.  But can you see why I’m mad, though?”

“Yeah, of course I do. But I had to choose, split second, you livin’ and maybe bein’ mad at me forever or you dyin’. And I’m always gonna choose you livin’, no matter what, you know that.”

“But an angel, Dean! Of all things, you let an angel inside me,” Sam cries out, hitting himself in the chest with both hands, then clasping them together on the table with a thud.

“And a demon too,” Dean says, in what he knows immediately was a very poor choice of an attempted joke. He cringes to hear Sam’s response before he’s even finished.

Sam flings his arms wide open and laughs. Sounding sarcastic and angry once again. “What a party, huh? Hey, Sam’s wide open, let’s all go hang out! Why didn’t you invite more people, or come on in yourself?”

Dean flinches in the face of that response, then puts up both hands, pressing them forward in a stopping motion towards Sam. “Listen. I know it was a terrible solution. I do. I know that bein’ possessed by anything is pretty much your worst case scenario. And I’m sorry that I didn’t have another way of helping you. But Sam, c’mon, after what we said to each other in that church, how could I have done anything else if there was even the smallest chance of it workin’?”

Sam shakes his head several times, makes a sound like he’s growling in frustration. He leans towards his brother again, making the distance between them seem much smaller with the restrained vehemence in his words. “Dean, it wasn’t your choice to make. That’s what you don’t get. You overrode my choice to go with Death.”

“But Sam, it wasn’t the only choice that you made! When I was there, in your head, I asked you to trust me, to trust in the plan that I had. That’s the choice that you made, Sam. And you chose to believe me. You chose me. Again. And that’s what I’m holdin’ on to at this point. Because that’s what we do, we choose each other.” Dean slumps back into his chair, he feels so drained at this point. Like he doesn’t have anything else to offer to Sam. All this conversation suddenly feels so pointless if Sam doesn’t understand.

Sam’s silent for a while, seeming to digest what Dean’s just said. He nods to himself like he’s made a decision. “I hadn’t thought of it that way. That I chose to trust you.”

Hearing the note of acceptance in Sam’s voice, sensing that that was maybe a breakthrough, Dean sits up straight again. “I wasn’t sure you were going to, but you did.”

“You also said ‘there ain’t no me if there ain’t no you’.”

“Yeah, I guess I did. It was true then and it’s still true now,” Dean says, not willing to clarify that it was the angel that pulled it out of his mind to say. The feeling is all his, but being able to say it wasn’t anything he’d ever been brave enough to admit to anyone out loud.

Sam’s eyes are roaming all over Dean’s face, like he’s a new puzzle to be figured out. “Dean, that was pretty much the only thing you could have said to make me not go with Death.”

Dean nods in acknowledgement, it’s absolutely true. “I know. ‘S why I said it.”

“And that’s what Gadreel used as consent. When I chose to believe in your plan. You said something like that because you knew what it would do to me, what it would mean to even hear you say that. That’s what hurts the most. That’s probably the most honest thing you’ve ever said to me and it was all a lie.”

“But it wasn’t Sam, it wasn’t a lie. How can you even say that? Yes, I was at the end of my rope when I said it, but it’s what I believe, and what I know to be true. There ain’t no me if there ain’t no you. There, I said it again,” Dean says, feeling like he’s throwing down the gauntlet on the mostly empty table between them.  “You’re right, it is the truest thing I’ve ever told you.  Maybe you don’t want it to be true for me for some reason. Maybe you don’t want that burden or whatever.”

“I don’t want it to be like that for you. I don’t know if I can take that weight anymore, being everything for you. I’m not whole enough to do it, not after my mind’s been messed with so many times now. And I guess I want to believe that you’re whole enough to want to be alive even without me.”

“Well, maybe you don’t want me to be the way I am, and I guess that’s fine, whatever. I’ll work on not putting so much on you.”

“No, stop.” Sam puts up a hand in the stop position. “That’s not what I meant, Dean. We need to work on this together. Which we’re doing right now, having this conversation. And I’m telling you that I’m having issues with my mind because of all the possessions or head trauma or everything else, which you probably can’t do much about at this point.”

“That’s why it was so hard all this time not telling you what was going on with Gadreel. I knew the more time that went by, the worse it would be. I could see how much it was messin’ up your head. and by the time I figured out he wasn’t who he said he was, it was too late.”

“Too late for Kevin,” Sam says.

Dean’s eyes drift over to the spot where Kevin had been killed, remembering having to find something to cover up those horrible, burned-out eyes. “Yeah.”

Sam looks over in the same spot. “That’s my new nightmare by the way, thanks for that.”

“Yeah, me too,” Dean says, trailing off as the memories of standing by Kevin’s hunters pyre all alone assault him.

“Still wish you’d just let me go. World would be better off still having a prophet.”

Dean shrugs, because they both know this is just a ‘what if?’ game at this point. “Coulda woulda shoulda. Remember way back when I got zapped and almost died, and you found me that faith healer?”

Sam tilts his head a little, like he’s wondering if Dean’s trying to change the subject or just going off on a tangent. “Of course, that was the first time we saw a reaper.”

“Well, I remember that I said I wished you’d just let me die. If it had been left up to me, that’s what I would have chosen at the time,” Dean says, shifting in his seat, suddenly uncomfortable with the prickly thought of Sam ever actually making that choice.

Sam leans forward in his chair, eyes taking in Dean’s sudden discomfort. “But I didn’t know that Darla or those other people would die.”

Dean’s eyes flash with sudden intensity, he knows he’s got this point in their debate. “Yeah, and I didn’t know Kevin would either, did I? But let me ask you this, would you still have done it? Dragged us off to find the faith healer, even if you’d known that some random dude was gonna eat it at the swimmin’ pool?”

Sam twists his hands together on the table in front of him for a few seconds. Then he flattens them out against the table pressing down until his fingertips go white. “How do I say this? Back then, yes, definitely. And I think we had this argument, and you were mad at me, tellin’ me how you didn’t count any more than anyone else. But now, after we’ve done this so many times, it doesn’t feel like the right thing to do anymore. Not when there’s another choice.”

“What, choosing to just give up and die?” Dean asks, throwing his hands up in a tossing off something unimportant gesture. This can’t be what Sam really thinks now, it just can’t.

Sam nods slowly, as if he wants to ensure that Dean can’t possibly miss it. “Yes.”

Reaching out across the table towards Sam with an open hand, Dean asks, “What about the light at the end of the tunnel stuff you were tellin’ me about back when we were arguing about who was doin’ the trials? That all just b.s.?”

“No, of course not,” Sam answers, staring at Dean’s outstretched hand.

“And not that long ago, you were saying that for the first time in forever you were happy with your life,” Dean persists, emphasizing his point by moving his hand towards Sam like he can push the truth close enough for Sam to grab onto.

Sam’s eyes flash with sudden anger. “Well, that was before I knew all of this shit that you did, Dean!”

Dean holds both hands up in a stopping motion, holding back the tide of Sam’s anger rolling towards him across the table. “Yeah, I know, but what’s really different?”

“Um, I don’t know, how about all that supposed happiness was based on you lying to me for months?”

“Not really though, - think about it, Sammy, c’mon, you were having fun working cases with me again. We were back in the rhythm, back in the game together, kickin’ ass, gettin’ used to having this place to come home to,” Dean says, hoping he doesn’t sound like he’s begging, even though that’s what it feels like. He concentrates on keeping his hands open on the table between them, Sam will hopefully see the body language for what it is. Take this truth from me, what we have together, it is a good thing that we both need.

“It wasn’t all you trying to keep me distracted so I wouldn’t notice the angel I had on board?”

“What? No, I was just enjoying it, enjoying just plain hunting with you,” Dean says, truly perplexed at Sam’s line of questioning here. Wasn’t it as good for Sam like he’d said it was? Or was that Gadreel talking?

“Enjoying what, watching me walk around like a dumbass, not knowing?” Sam asks, with a true note of hurt coloring his words.

Dean can hear that hurt and finally gets it, Sam’s thinking that he somehow enjoyed putting one over on him. “No! Having you around, alive. Even though I was worried about the angel being inside you and lying to you about it; just you being here, being with me again like we’re supposed to be was good. Really good.”

“As long as you ignore the angel stuff, I guess it was,” Sam finally admits.

“Thanks,” Dean says, smiling widely.

Sam tilts his head a little, like he’s trying to figure out what the hell Dean is smiling about. “Thanks for what?”

“For sayin’ that. I’m glad you agree that it was good for awhile there. Listen, I’m not apologizing for doin’ what I did. And I know you’re not expecting that, because you know me. I’m sorry for what happened to Kevin, of course I am. I had to burn his body without you, it was worse than with Bobby or Dad even, ‘cause it was all my fault.  And I’ll never forgive myself for it.” Dean stops because he can’t go on for a moment, overcome with the emotion of remembering Kevin and all the crushing guilt he’ll never be without. He takes a deep breath and looks up at Sam. “But I do apologize for lying to you. I should have known Gadreel was up to no good the second he told me I had to keep you in the dark about everything.”

“Dean,” Sam says, sounding like he’s winding up for a scolding.

Onto Part 2