It could be argued that the flower needs the sun more. Without the sun, it would lie dormant, left to die a seed and nothing more. If it wasn’t for the sun’s gracious rays, nurturing it from the start, coaxing it to break free and reach for the sky, it would be nothing of what it could become.
But maybe, it is the sun that needs the flower more. For what is the sun, if it has no purpose, no reason to rise it’s head every day? What reason would it have to loyally rule the sky, if nothing reached back for it? What is the sense in loving, if nothing loves you back?
Maybe in the end, they need each other with the same ferocity. Perhaps, that’s how the sunflower came to be."
“You don’t need to do this,” Sam reaches for the right words. “You don’t need to die.”
Sam doesn’t know what he was expecting when he got here, but this--this isn’t it.
Dean stares back at him, cold and calculating. There’s no emotion, just a decision made. And once Dean has made up his mind about something, it’s usually too late. But Sam refuses to let Dean do this, to let him take his life when he’s this close to getting the cure from the book.
“Truth is, when I left,” Dean begins apathetically. “I thought the only way out was my death, but I was wrong, Sam.”
Sam wants to find comfort in these words, but there’s an emptiness in Dean’s eyes that makes him sweat profusely.
Sam stretches his limbs outwards and he feels his bones move, his muscles sighing reverently as they pull.
“Keep your eyes closed,” Dean whispers.
Sam doesn’t think he can possibly pinch his eyes tighter, his eyelashes tangling hopelessly together already, his eyes watering slightly from the pressure. He tells himself to relax, it’s what Dean said is the most important thing to remember. And Sam is trying to remember this, again and again, with every breath that circulates within his lungs.
Maybe his arms aren’t long enough yet, maybe his legs aren’t level enough, or maybe like all else, he’s just not meant to succeed at this. And the minute he lets these thoughts walk in, he can feel his body jerk as it inevitably starts to sink again.
He starts fighting and it’s a losing battle, it is every time. He should know this much by now, but apparently he hasn’t learned his lesson quite yet.
There’s a sigh beside him and it’s a patient exasperation. It’s followed by warm pressure on his back, steadying his body and raising him up.
“Relax,” Dean instructs. “You almost had it.”
Sam wants to tell him that he’s just not meant for this. That maybe he’s going to be condemned for the rest of his life to be a failure. Just tally it up on the board of things he already sucks at.
“I’ve got you,” Dean soothes. “I’m not gonna let anything bad happen to you. I promise.”
The words spilling off of Dean’s tongue are warm and comforting. Sam lets each vowel and consonant soak into his skin, lets his chest breathe in deeply and slowly exhale. The sun may very well be out, her crown of rays tickling the length of Sam’s skin, but Dean’s presence will always feel brighter to him. Will always feel warmer. Safer.
With eyes still closed, Sam reaches his limbs out once again and he just lets Dean carry him a bit longer. He focuses on exactly where each calloused pad is burning into the ridges of his spine and it makes the baby hairs on the back of his neck stand up.
Dean is his anchor, his roots. He is the one thing, no--the only thing, that keeps Sam safely planted into the ground. Without him--well, Sam just doesn’t want to think about that.
But Sam does let his thoughts go some place else. He thinks about how Dean has always been carrying him. It’s always been him. Always. Sam doesn’t remember a time when those arms weren’t around him, weren’t holding him up, weren’t carrying him constantly away from danger.
And the deeper Sam goes with his thoughts, the more he thinks about his life and how he hopes he never has to live a day where Dean doesn’t carry him in some form or another. Because Sam knows in his chest, knows it deep to the core of his being, that he won’t survive without Dean there to carry him when he needs it.
Dean’s breath hitches beside him and it’s enough to pull Sam back to the present. He can tell Dean wants to say something, but he’s holding his tongue. And Sam is about to ask why when he realizes:
Dean’s hands are gone and he’s floating on his own.
Sam opens his eyes and he finds himself staring straight up into the proud, clover-green eyes of his Brother. It’s such a beautiful sight, that it completely takes Sam’s breath away. And he doesn’t even realize he’s doing it at first, but he finds himself praying that he can live under the light of Dean’s eyes, just like this--forever.
Take away the sun, the moon, the goddamned stars in the sky. Sam doesn’t need any of it, as long as he has Dean looking at him like this. As if Sam roped everything beautiful in this world and gave it to Dean.
“Sammy…” Dean works out of his mouth.
And Sam doesn’t know if it’s the fact that he’s finally floating by himself in a random motel pool in The-Middle-Of-Nowhere, USA or if it’s because he just realized that his older Brother is the only goddamn sun he’ll ever need in his life, but damn--he feels weightless.
Goddamned weightless. And free.
Sam isn’t sure why it’s that memory that he goes to, not when he has 32 years worth of other shit he could reach for first. It doesn’t seem important in the moment, doesn’t even seem remotely relevant. But maybe nothing seems relevant and/or important in a time like this.
All his life, he’s waited for this moment, which is kind of hilarious when he thinks about all the roads he’s been down. He’s gone out a number of ways along the path to this precise moment in time, and they all seem largely more important than what now stares him in the face. But in the same, perhaps all those other times weren’t as important as this one.
He’s gone out with a knife wedged into his spine, and sometimes there are nights that he still lies awake and wonders what would have happened if Dean never made that deal to bring him back. It could be argued that a lot of good could have come out of him being salted and burned back then, but that’s not how his story goes.
Then, there was that time he sacrificed his life, with the Devil inside of him. An eternity in hell with Lucifer didn’t scare him as much as leaving his Brother alone. That’s why he made Dean promise to go find Lisa. He was content with his choice, was sure in his fate to tango with Lucifer for the rest of his soul’s miserable days. He made his peace with that, a tiny beaded thought in the back of his brain even suggesting that it’s what he deserved. But again, he was brought back.
He was so close to shutting the gates. In fact, he could feel his body shutting down, could tell that it would be his skin and bones that would be the very lock that would keep those gates cemented shut for the rest of time. Another sacrifice, but one he would gladly make, if only the world could learn to forgive all his sins. He was happy to cleanse the earth of evil and truth be told, he knew it included himself, too. But Dean couldn’t let him go.
And now, Sam stands in front of his Brother, his sun, his everything, and for the first time in his life, he’s scared to die.
'Please, I don’t want to go like this.’ He thinks, a shiver of terror sailing across his chest.
Sam wanted a lot of things, but knew not to ask for them. It was something that he understood more and more as he grew up.
But sometimes, Dean would surprise him.
“I know I told you we needed to go to the library to do some research on a case for Dad,” Dean speaks up suddenly, his body humming with adrenaline. His smile wicked, because he was doing something he wasn’t supposed to do, such as going against strict orders. “But I thought we could take a detour today, what do you say?”
It doesn’t take a lot to convince Sam, he was already on board when Dean made the sharp u-turn a few blocks back, that already indicated they weren’t going to the library.
"Where are we going?” He asks, knowing already that Dean could tell him anything and he would be content with it.
Dean just looks over and smiles and Sam feels his chest tighten with something he doesn’t even have a name for. But he smiles back and Dean responds with the loud gun of the engine.
Twenty minutes later, Sam is sitting front row (even though Dean hates sitting that close and will be complaining about his neck for the next one-hundred miles) at a matinee showing of The Lost World: Jurassic Park, with a large popcorn, peanut m&m’s (his favorite), and a large coke. It feels like Christmas. Better than that, really, considering the state of their past holidays.
Sam had been nervous at all the money Dean was forking over, even told Dean that he didn’t need the m&m’s. But Dean bought the m&m’s while Sam was walking away and handed them over when they finally decided on their seats. And there was something in Dean’s smile that told Sam to not worry about it.
Two hours and some minutes later, Sam is watching the credits roll and he feels like he’s on top of the world. He fucking loves dinosaurs, has ever since the first movie and God, this movie was epic!
He’s so caught up in the millions of thoughts flying through his head, that he doesn’t even notice the lights go up or when the theatre is empty except for just them. It’s not until he feels Dean’s hand on his forearm, that he is jolted away from the epic credit music and the reel of images in his mind.
Sam looks over, a million watt smile etched into his face and he’s caught breathless by the look that is written across Dean’s features. It’s a serene look, a look that is unguarded and honest. It’s a look that Sam has found harder to chase as the years pass. And so, it makes these moments even more priceless and Sam wishes he had the ability to freeze time--just so he could capture the undeniable look of happiness on Dean’s face.
“We gotta go, Sammy.” Dean softly says, a look of sadness pooling across his features.
They’re walking past other theater doors, when Sam spots it. He’s so caught up in the day that he forgets momentarily that he’s not allowed to ask for something like that. But the question is off his tongue and in the air before he can stuff it back down his throat.
Dean looks over at the photobooth and back at Sam. And Sam knows he shouldn’t have asked, shouldn’t have been that greedy, shouldn’t have asked for more than what he already got today. It was already too much and Sam knows that with every fiber of his being.
“Nevermind, Dean. It’s fine, forget I asked. Today has already been great, thank you!” Sam tries desperately to fix the situation.
But Dean just throws his arm around his shoulder and leads him over to the photo booth, completely ignoring Sam’s words. They just hang awkwardly in the air behind them and Dean, God bless him, he’s chuckling.
“I’m serious…” Sam starts.
“Sammy, it’s fine. We’re already here and it’s just four dollars more, it’s not the end of the world.” Dean’s already fished out the dollar bills and is shoving Sam inside the booth, making it clear that there’s nothing more to argue over.
Sam stares up at all the options and waits for what seems like an eternity inside the booth. For a second he thinks that maybe Dean is waiting for him to be done, but that’s not what he want--
Sam watches as his Brother pulls the curtain back to allow himself in. Dean sits next to him, his leather jacket brushing against Sam’s bare arms. And when Dean is settled, it’s a tight fit for both of them to be in there. If it was anyone else, it might be uncomfortable, but Sam can’t help but feel completely at ease. Because this is all he’s ever known. He’s always been in Dean’s pocket and he can’t help but pray he never outgrows the space that Dean keeps for him.
Dean presses a few buttons and a countdown appears on the screen. A flash goes off and it’s just them staring at the camera with little to no expression on their faces. The countdown returns and Sam turns to stick his tongue out at Dean. Dean makes a silly face at the camera and the flash goes off. The countdown returns and Dean reaches down to tickle Sam’s side. Sam lurches hard to the right, banging into the side of the booth, laughing with a pained expression on his face and the flash goes off. The countdown returns and Sam catches Dean just staring at him. It’s an intense stare, something different in an unsettling way and the flash goes off. The countdown returns and Sam barely has time to think, before Dean’s hands are at his face, their lips crashing together clumsily and the flash goes off.
Sam will remember this moment for the rest of his life, because it will mark two very important things in his life. The first is, that it’s then that he realizes he’s always been in love with his Brother, he just never knew how to define it until then. And the second is, this will be the first of only a handful of kisses they’ll ever share.
When Dean hands Sam the photo strip, he is blushing slightly and it only makes Sam’s cheeks heat in response. He looks down at the strip and he sees them as they are to the world and how they are to each other.
“I know it’s late, but Happy Birthday, Sammy.”
And just like that, the picture strip becomes Sam’s most prized possession.
Sam tries using his fists to break Dean from whatever spell The Mark has on him, but that only ends with Dean beating the heck out of him, leaving him cowering on the floor.
Of course that doesn’t work, Sam isn’t entirely surprised, but it was worth the shot.
Dean looks down at him and Sam searches desperately for any fleck of hope that may somehow linger in the depths of Dean’s eyes. This can’t be it, this just can’t be how their story ends, not after all of this. It just can’t be.
No. Just no.
“Dean…” Sam tries, but his throat closes up with hysteria when Dean turns his back on him, letting Death step closer.
Sam watches Dean, watches his shoulders bunch up and smooth back out. And that’s enough for Sam to know that Dean is still fighting himself and The Mark.
Death watches Sam’s gaze and turns around, tapping Dean on the shoulder and handing him his scythe. “Please, do me the honor.”
Dean wraps his hand around the wooden length of it and steps in front of Death, staring blankly down at Sam.
There’s an emotion there, something tangible and real and Sam clings to it with everything he has.
But then, Dean says, “Close your eyes.”
There’s many things Sam regrets, but this is perhaps the biggest thing.
He’s staring down at the letter with Stanford’s letterhead and a congratulatory message written below it, with his name in big bold black letters. Of course this isn’t the first time he’s seen this letter, but it’s the first time he looks at it with the heat of his Brother’s eyes burning holes through him. Big, how-could-you-do-this-to-me holes--right into the side of his head.
There’s a lot of things he wants to say, lots of things he wants to promise, but they all somehow get tangled up in the back of his throat. Dean sighs where he sits and Sam feels his breath flow by him and it’s cold, cold and calloused. They don’t have to vocalize it, because they both know that this simple letter has broken something between them. Something big and yet something so delicate, it’s amazing it hasn’t been broken long before now.
“You do what you gotta do, Sam.”
Dean scoots his chair back and the metal screeches across the linoleum of the hotel where they sit. The grating noise, vibrates everything inside of Sam’s body. His ribs, his throat, his heart, his lungs--everything. And he wants to flinch, wants to coil in on himself when Dean uses just the short version of his name. As though, saying Sammy would mean too much and well, maybe that’s exactly what is broken between them.
Maybe it’s just that obvious.
Sam knows what this means to Dean, knows exactly how his heart broke when he found the letter in his things, rather than Sam saying anything to him about it first. It was written in his eyes when Sam walked in. The I-thought-we-didn’t-keep-secrets-but-app
The thing is, there were so many nights that Sam laid awake, staring at the ceiling and listening to the slight hmm’s and mrr’s of Dean’s sleepful breathing. There were so many times he kept himself up, just trying to find the words, trying to find the right ways he could apply pressure to the wound this would undoubtedly cause his Brother. And the more his lungs burned for freedom, the more his heart ached because it meant leaving the only person who ever truly mattered to him--
That’s truly where the root of the issue lies, because how does a shadow walk away from the body it is casted from? How do you train rhythmic feet, to choose another direction, when they’ve only walked one way their entire life? It seems impossible to separate the two, but Sam knows he’s gotta learn how. That they both have to.
Three days go by in painful and excruciating silence. Sam starts to scratch at his fleshy wrists, wanting nothing more than to climb out of the skin that Dean can no longer look at him in. And for the whole of those three days, Sam can’t bare to eat a thing, because everything he brings to his lips tastes like deceit, like letdowns, like heartbreak. There’s enough of those things already circling around in the toilet bowl of his chest, there’s no need to bat the already raging fires.
It’s not until the fourth day that something shifts yet again between them.
They’re holed up in another hotel, approximately three-hundred miles away from the disaster hotel that started this nightmare roller coaster of silence. From the moment the hotel door clicks behind them, there’s something more than just the razor sharp tension filling the air. Sam would be lying if he said that it didn’t make his skin crawl, that it didn’t make his stomach feel like a fishbowl full of startled fish.
There are no words exchanged as they both lose their boots, both pairs thudding to the ground with an unmistakable loudness. Sam’s almost sure that the people four rooms down could hear them hit the ground, sounding more like atomic bombs than just worn out shoes.
Sam’s got the covers halfway down on his bed, when he feels Dean’s presence directly behind him. The heat between them, a familiar spark. And god help him, his hands tremble as they curl around the edge of the flat sheet and haul it down to join the comforter. He doesn’t know what Dean is doing, or even what he wants. And more than that, he’s scared to turn around and face his Brother, to find out.
Rough fingers find themselves in Sam’s shoulder, digging hard, as though they’re trying to bury themselves there forever. As though the indentations they create, will soon be the gravestones for the bruises they will inevitably leave. Sam lets out a shaky breath as another hand finds it’s way onto his hip and it’s that hand that pulls to twist him around, giving him no other choice but to look at the field of green that burns back at him.
Dean is on a mission, Sam can tell that much, and his mouth dries as anxiety chases through his veins. But Sam doesn’t get the chance to think more about what Dean is doing, because he’s being pushed back till the backs of his knees hit the edge of the bed. And even then, Dean is still pushing him, pushing him back onto the bed, pushing him into the bed as he climbs hastily on top of him, pushing him so far into the bed that Sam thinks for a moment that Dean is trying to plant him into the fucking ground.
Hungry and desperate lips claim Sam’s and it makes the entire length of him shudder uncontrollably. It’s a shallow kiss, full of teeth that nip and pull at Sam’s bottom lip. As though Dean is fumbling with the combination lock at Sam’s mouth, trying to find the code that will part his lips and allow him fully in.
There’s a growl in the back of Dean’s throat as his hand finds it’s way up and under Sam’s shirt. And another feral sound when Dean presses his hips down, meeting the friction of Sam’s own.
Sam is helpless in all of this, because fuck--it’s all he’s ever wanted. It’s all he’s ever needed and here is Dean after all this time, here he is giving it to Sam. And perhaps if the heat of Dean’s tongue wasn’t marching past his lips, he might have figured out the angle Dean was playing, before it was too late.
But Sam, he is only human and when he comes in his jeans with the sweet pressure of Dean’s cock aligned with his, he can’t help but white out on the wing of sweet, sweet release. It’s the greatest orgasm of his life and Dean hasn’t even touched him there once. Not one fucking time. Sam can’t help himself from immediately daydreaming about the type of intense orgasm they could achieve if they were completely sans clothes, if their hands could have complete freedom to roam each other’s skin.
Sam comes back to reality when Dean hastily rolls off of him, the lack of his weight leaving Sam feeling hollowed out and empty. Sam reaches for Dean, his fingers still aching from the lack of contact they’ve had with his Brother for the last few days. But Dean just looks down at him with nothing more than a vacant and haunted expression painting his eyes.
“Dean” Sam barely gets out.
“Sam.” Dean echoes, his voice wrecked with emotions.
And Sam winces at his name, because it sounds so foreign coming out of his Brother’s mouth that way. ‘Strike two..’ Sam thinks and he feels the heat of tears prick the back of his eyes, because he hates how broken they both are.
They stare at each other and Dean is telling Sam something without saying it. Almost begging him with his eyes wide open, like he has no other choice, but to beg--just like this. Sam swallows and lets his eyes shamefully travel the length of his Brother, coming to notice that Dean’s pants are still tight around his aching cock.
Dean never came, Sam realizes. He didn’t let himself go that far, didn’t let himself get off on his little Brother, not in the same way Sam got off on him. ‘Freak…’ Sam hears in his brain, because that is what he is after all.
It’s then that Sam understands what this all was for. The sticky wetness in his jeans feeling more and more dirty as the seconds pass. This was Dean’s last ditch effort to get him to stay. As though, if he could give Sam this one thing, the one that Dean always told Sam they couldn’t have, because it’s wrong, so wrong--that maybe he will change his mind and stay.
It’s a surprise to them both when Sam bolts to the bathroom and empties everything he didn’t eat over the last few days into the porcelain confessional. If Sam could literally scrape this need for Dean out of his body, if he could shed it like a snake skin, he would gladly worship the heavens above. Because nothing is worse, nothing is as bad as these pitiful kisses that Dean gave to him, not because he wanted to give them, but because he simply didn’t know any other way to get Sam to stay.
And Sam thinks, perhaps even convinces himself that if Dean had just asked, if he had just been honest, that maybe he could’ve found the resolve to stay. That maybe he could have found the strength to be content with this bloody and cruel life they live. He loves Dean that much, he would sacrifice his ride to Stanford, for Dean. He would do it without question, would do it even though it would mean giving up the longed for normalcy he’s always craved.
But after all of this, after Dean’s cheap kisses still burn into the hollows of Sam’s cheeks, it’s even more urgent that he leaves. Because if they’re ever to love each other as they’re supposed to, not more, not like this--then this is the only way. Staying would only mean letting the beast in his belly grow and if it outgrew him, it would swallow them both whole. It would only make monsters out of the two of them. And Sam tells himself that if he leaves, he’s saving them both. Tells himself that Dean will be okay, that one day he’ll come to understand the very reasons of why he wanted to leave. That deep down, they both needed for him to leave.
Four months down the road, Sam is getting ready to board the bus to Stanford.
To Sam’s surprise, Dean does kiss him true and honest on the lips. It feels like the most real thing they’ve shared in months and for a second Sam feels like that fourteen year old kid in the photo booth all over again. Feels like Dean is his entire world and that nothing could separate the two of them. But then, he looks down and sees his bag at his feet and suddenly he’s somehow an astronaut getting ready to leave for outer space. Getting ready to leave the only home he’s ever known.
Dean leaves him with a rushed good luck and a fierce, protective hug. Sam says he will call and Dean says that he better or else he’ll drive to California and beat his ass. And Sam laughs, because doesn’t he know it.
Sam’s ten miles down the road when his phone buzzes.
Dean: I love you.
And just like that, Sam knows that everything will be okay. The relief of this realization, springs tears into his eyes.
Sam: I love you, too.
Sam is looking up and he can’t help but find it a little ironic. He’s always been looking up at Dean, always. Always chasing his big Brother around, always searching for his light, for his comfort, for the arms that give him a home. And god forbid that little piece of him that finds peace in this. Because if he’s going to go out, then please by all means, let it be like this--as it should be, staring into the blinding light of ‘His Sun’.
Dean is waiting for him to close his eyes, for Sam to get his fill, for Sam to find a way to be somehow okay with this. Even if it goes against every cell in his body, against everything he’s always known. Dean waits for Sam to come to terms with the heavy hand that awaits him.
Because it’s for the greater good. Because it’s right. Because, because, because.
Sam watches Dean tentatively and feels the heat of desperate tears sting the back of his eyes.
“Sammy, close your eyes.” Dean asks again, his voice wavering slightly.
The unspoken words that Dean wants to say, echoing into the air:
‘Sammy please, don’t look at me, don’t watch me do this. Close your eyes, my Brother, close your sweet, flowered eyes and think of us as we were. Think of us as we were intended to be. Not like this, never like this. Close your eyes and see us back in that endless sunflower field back in Kansas. Feel the heat of the sun on your cheeks and remember what it was to take comfort in the simple things. Close your eyes, Sammy. Please, for all that is, close your eyes. If not for you, please do it for me.’
And even though they’re not spoken out loud, Sam watches as they build a bridge between the two of them, a last chance for him to get through. Maybe he’s stupid for trying, but there’s nothing that’s gonna keep him from trying to cross it. It’s all he’s got, there’s nothing left if he fails, nothing to lose if he doesn’t make it across. If this is what it’s like to grasp at straws, then so be it--he’s grasping at straws.
All he needs, is something--something to pull Dean onto this bridge. Something to convince Dean to meet him halfway.
After Sam moves in with Jessica, the flowers start to appear at random points in time. They don’t come on his birthday, don’t show up around Christmas. In fact, they don’t show up during any holiday that other’s would celebrate, no they come on days that only him and Dean would know.
A sunflower is left on his doorstep on October 18th and Jess finds it before Sam gets home from classes. Her cheeks raise when she smiles, so sweetly, as she proclaims that he might have some competition. She rattles on, about how she has a secret admirer, sticking her nose into the single stemmed flower and spinning it as she looks at him over it’s petals.
He doesn’t tell her that when he was barely ten years old, him and his Brother visited a sunflower field in the middle of Kansas for the first time. Doesn’t tell her that Dean sees sunflowers in his eyes. Doesn’t tell her about the time they kissed in the photo booth so many years ago. Doesn’t even raise his eyes when the thoughts of his come soaked jeans, after he got off to the feel of his Brother against him, roll on through his head. Doesn’t even flinch when his heart pulls and whines with that old familiar ache. The one that tells him that he loves Jess, but that he’ll never be in love with her.
Not like he is with Dean. Not like he will always be, with Dean.
Even if it’s wrong and sick, no matter how many times he hears Dean’s gentle whispers, ‘Sammy, we can’t.’ He’ll never be able to love another person the way he loves his Brother.
Call it a blessing and a curse.
Six months go by before another flower arrives on his doorstep. It’s April 24th and he’s just finished his finals before he leaves with Jess for the coast, for spring break. Jess is gone for the evening, having a girls night, and he hates himself for thanking the skies that she’s not around. Thankful, because he closes his eyes and tries to smell the lingering scent of Dean’s familiar leather jacket in the air. Thankful, because tears escape his eyes when his nose comes up empty, when he can’t even feel the presence of his Brother by the doorstep, where he now stands. Thankful, because he presses the flower to his lips and pretends it’s Dean’s lips.
April 24th, is the day Sam first got to sit behind the wheel of Dad’s and Dean’s beloved Baby. Dad probably would have killed them if he knew that Dean had let Sam drive the car when he was barely 13 and still couldn’t see over the wheel or fully reach the pedals. But they had found an empty lot in an old town and Dean got that wicked look in his eyes, the one that Sam waited and lived for, the one that told him that today--he was gonna feel alive.
It was a big deal and Sam was nervous as he pressed gently into the accelerator. But then, Dean’s hand came to rest on his thigh and it was hot and warm, and just enough to soothe the nervousness shooting through Sam’s body. To Dean’s dismay, Sam drives like a grandma and he gives him ninety shades of hell for it. In fact, it becomes an inside joke that would live on for years. ‘Whoa there, Grandma!’ Dean would come to tease.
Yet, it’s not exactly him driving the impala that marks this day as something to remember, even though Sam looks back on it with a fond smile. It’s what happened later that night, when Dean and him had parked the car out in the middle of nowhere, right in the middle of a field, just to watch the stars. Well, and of course, so Dean could light up like he did a lot back then.
Sam had watched Dean smoke a hundred times, his tongue always hungry for the taste of the intoxicatingly sweet smoke that left his Brother’s lungs. But he never dared to ask for it, never moved to take it--no, he just watched and wanted.
So, when Dean took his jaw and brought his mouth within mere inches of his, his eyes dark and glassy as they stared down into Sam’s, it completely overwhelmed Sam as the smoke began to enter his open and waiting mouth. It burned his throat and his lungs, but it was smooth enough to not make him cough.
They both laid on the hood of baby and watched the stars, high and happy, content in being hopelessly tangled around each other, as though neither of them could have a single care in the world.
If only for that one single moment in time.
Sam smiles at the memory, smiles because of course Dean would remember the simple details of their past. And Sam can’t help himself, he calls Dean that night as he waits for Jessica to get home, but Dean doesn’t pick up. Typical. Sometimes, words can only say so much and somehow not enough of the right things. So Sam digs out his old weed tin and gets high by himself, for old time sakes.
More flowers appear, and Sam saves them all. He presses them into a big philosophy book that he studies with. He keeps so many, that eventually his book looks like it’s more about horticulture then it is about the former.
After the fire, after Jess, after everything he built within those few years is lost, he finds his philosophy book sitting in the rubble of his and Jess’ room and to his surprise, it’s completely untouched. Sam cries when he finds it. Big and loud sobs. Cries so violent, it feels like his bones won’t withstand the storm of them. Like he’s not strong enough to weather the destruction they rage within him.
And of course, Dean looks at him and he looks lost, like he doesn’t know how to fix any of it.
Dean stands there, with a hand on Sam’s shoulder, holding him up as he cries. Dean thinks he cries for Jess, but what he’d never know is that actually cries with relief that these flowers remained safe.
When Sam throws up later, it’s not because of grief, it’s because of guilt. It’s because Jess deserved so much more, so much more than a boy who is stupidly in love with his Brother. And he looks down at his hands gripping the toilet and feels the cold of the porcelain burn the pads of his fingers. God, if he could rewind time, he’d never lay a hand on her in the first place.
He should have known that a ‘happily ever after’ was never to be in the cards for him. When you grow up on the road, with Hell nipping at your wheels, it doesn’t matter if you try to run away from it--it will always catch up with you.
Sam swallows the hysteria in his throat and reaches into his jacket pocket.
“Wait...wait.” Sam catches Dean’s gaze and holds him there, silently pleading for him to give him a minute. And Dean doesn’t move, doesn’t give him any indication that Sam has permission to ask for the few words he desperately needs to say. But if this is it, Sam’s taking the time whether it’s his to have or not.
Sam’s fingers find the familiar items in his pocket and pulls them out carefully. Dean watches his hand as it moves steadily and with purpose. Watches as it produces a folded up picture and a ziploc bag with something yellow inside.
“Take these,” Sam offers, showing Dean what they are.
Sam unfolds the photo strip they took so many years ago, the paper now yellowed and creased with time, but still legible, are their young faces. Sam places it on the ground at Dean’s feet and moves to add the second item in his hand. It’s a dried sunflower from the ones Dean used to leave him. When Sam lays it on the ground, he winces, because the fight between them had pulled most of the fragile petals off of it’s head.
“And one day, when you find your way back--let these be your guide. They can help you remember what it was to be good.” Sam’s voice is strong and sure, even though his insides quake with grief.
Dean looks down, looks first at the yellow petals, the ones that used to look more like a sunflower then it does now. Sam watches as Dean’s eyes soften while he looks at it, watches as Dean’s eyes move over to the photograph that Sam’s kept all these years. It’s probably the first time Dean’s seen it since it was taken, he probably never even thought Sam would still have it. Sam watches as Dean swallows, his adam’s apple dipping shakily before returning to its throne in Dean’s throat.
Sam stares up at him and waits for Dean to come back to him, waits for the sun he’s always followed to come alive again, to warm his face with his smile. But Sam sees the clouds in Dean’s eyes, sees the fight on Dean’s face, can tell he’s close to the edge of either destruction or clarity and that it’s a winds blow, that could send him tumbling either way.
And suddenly Sam knows, that it’s gonna take more than the two things he’s already placed on the floor, to bring Dean the rest of the way home to him.
Sam watches as his entire life flashes before his eyes, watches as a million fragmented memories come and go, watches as the history of Dean and him comes pulsing excruciatingly to a halt right before him.
Everything in him knows this was coming, knows it was bound to happen eventually. After all, hope is a light that can burn out, just like faith is a ribbon that can be cut. And here they both go, hand in hand, going out and getting cut.
Sam wishes he could close his eyes and rewind time, to go back to the start of all these messed up roads they’ve traveled upon. To go back to a simpler time, when happiness didn’t feel like a figment of a blind-fool’s imagination. Back when a promise still weighed more than the river of deceit that now flows below both of their feet.
The golden horned amulet tumbles from Dean’s fist and it swings back and forth like a pendulum. Sam watches and waits. Waits for it to disengage from Dean’s hopeless hands, waits for it to go sailing into the darkness of the waste bin below it.
Dean hesitates, or maybe he waits on purpose, just to make sure Sam sees, to make sure Sam gets exactly what is happening. It feels like centuries pass, the tick of the clock on the wall and the crash of broken heartbeats, echoing against the four walls of another uninspired hotel room.
Sam watches and he remembers the day Dean first put it on. Remembers Dean’s trembling fingers as he opened the cartoon newspaper wrapping paper, his fingers aching visibly with want, with the need to have. Dean so starved for simple things, like Christmas gifts, that he would have cherished anything he unwrapped. But when his eyes catch the golden glint of the amulet, his eyes light up brighter than any Christmas tree Sam could have wanted.
‘I love it,’ Sam remembers Dean saying and Sam echoed his reply in his thoughts, ‘I love you.’
Over the course of the next twenty or so years, the amulet doesn’t leave Dean’s body more than a handful of times. It’s there through everything, absolutely everything. A shining reminder, emblazoned upon Dean’s chest, of how much he loves Sam. Of how much they love each other.
Twenty years, and it takes less than one to give Dean more reasons to take it off, than to keep it on.
The second it leaves Dean’s hands, Sam swears his heart stills in his aching chest. As though, it too shivers in the wake of the impending heartbreak that it will leave behind. Sam watches as it falls, watches as the black cord curls and the gold face staring back at him sinks it like an anchor, into the bottom of the trashcan. And if Sam flinches with the loud echoing clang of it finally reaching the bottom, no one would know it but him, because Dean is already gone.
There goes all hope. There goes all faith. There goes Dean. There goes everything.
And it leaves Sam cold and alone, straight down to his bones.
Dean honks the horn with impatience, waiting for Sam to follow him on out, wanting nothing more than to forget this town and everything associated with it. And Sam knows that Dean isn’t beyond leaving him at this point, if he takes longer than necessary. But, he just can’t walk out that door without--
Sam hovers over the trashcan, stares into its jaws like it’s another monster of the week he has to defeat. And he knows Dean doesn’t want it anymore, that wearing it another day would only weigh him down with false hope and faith that doesn’t mean a thing. Knows Dean can’t look at it without thinking about the millions of reasons he took it off in the first place.
But God help him, Sam can’t leave it. He just can’t.
He reaches into the trash bin and lets his hands scoop it up and out. It feels heavy, feels almost too heavy to carry, but he’s beyond caring about the weight of it. He holds it up in his hand and watches as the sun catches it, his eyes squinting at the brightness of it and that’s when he swallows, because the dam of tears he’s been holding back, is starting to give.
Sam settles for putting it in his pants pocket at first, but it feels like it could burn an imaginary hole there. So he pulls it back out and stuffs it in his jackets pocket instead, only to fret that it might fall out and that he’ll lose it for sure. Forever.
Resigned, he holds it up and pulls it over his head, letting it settle onto his chest. It hasn’t been on him in this way, since Dean went to Hell. And Sam has to clear his throat, trying to scare off the tears, because he just can’t think about that time. Instead, he pulls his t-shirt away from his chest and lets the amulet come to rest against his bare skin. At least it will be out of sight there, at least Dean won’t know he retrieved it.
And Sam would be lying if he said his feet didn’t fall heavier onto the floor as he left for the impala. Would be lying, if he said he didn’t feel heavier for years, because of it. Wearing the amulet in secret, hiding it in his things, keeping it out of sight and choosing to bear the impossible weight of their love (for the moment and forever, if needed), so Dean wouldn’t have to.
‘But, maybe one day,’ Sam promised himself over and over again for the next several years. ‘Maybe one day, Dean will want to wear it again.’
And just like that, hope is relit and faith, recomposed.