Pairing: Sam/Dean, Sam/Dean/Ross
Rating: R for violence and language
Word Count: 8597
Summary: Ross Winchester knows three things to be true: his father, John, is a hero; he’s going to be the best hunter in the goddamn world; and his two older brothers are in love with each other. An AU-version of seasons one and two where the Winchester Brothers mean Dean and Sam and Ross, where John is still missing, where Mary and Jess are still dead, and where Dean and Sam are still obsessed with each other.
Warnings: Prepare for angst.
A/N: This is the last chapter. However, I do have an epilogue or final-final-final chapter to post, (this story needs more brother-on-brother-on-brother sex for one thing) but this chapter is already too damn long. So here it is, the sort-of last chapter. I think after 5 years of writing this thing, "at last" doesn't even begin to cover it ;-)
The gorgeous and very sexy banner below was made by the awesome violateraindrop This is dedicated to my dear friend, andreth47
Sam stands in front of a mirror, or maybe a window. He’s not sure because that’s not his reflection looking back at him as it would be if this were a real mirror, it’s Ross. He blinks and Ross blinks back at him. He winks and Ross winks back at him. So, maybe it is some sort of mirror, a magical mirror.
“I thought you were supposed to be the smart one,” Ross says.
Sam makes a face at him, which Ross copies. “Stop doing that,” he tells him.
“Stop doing that,” Ross mocks.
Ross is a teenager again, maybe around twelve or thirteen years old, and he’s wearing the costume they both had to wear for the production of Lord of the Flies they were in during junior high. Ross has red lipstick gashes on his cheeks and charcoal around his eyes. He looks like a little savage, but that’s okay, because he’s supposed to look like that. Sam glances down at himself and realizes that he’s wearing the same costume as Ross. He touches his cheek and Ross copies him. His fingers come away sticky and red, and he stares down at them, seeing the way the red seeps into the lines and furls of his fingerprints. He glances at Ross again, who is also staring down at his own red-stained fingers.
Ross raises his head and gives him an accusing look. “This is your fault.”
“What do you mean?” Sam says.
Ross rolls his eyes and makes a gesture between them. The glass of the mirror ripples like the surface of a lake. “Duh, this, Sammy. You’re the one doing this freaky mirror thing, trapping me in here, like – like in that movie with the girl in the TV!”
“Poltergeist?” Sam says with a frown.
“No, the other one, the scary one, with the girl crawling out of the TV. You know the one. You, like, totally pissed your pants when you watched it.”
It’s both deeply and depressingly typical that even in this strange dream-like scenario Ross manages to be just as annoying as he is in everyday life.
“The Ring,” Sam says. “And you’re full of shit as usual.”
“Whatever, man. Just ‘fess up. What did you do to put me here?”
“I didn’t do anything!”
“Jesus, keep your fuckin’ panties on,” Ross says, “I just wanna know what you did to my reflection and why I got to look at your stupid face every time I look in the mirror.”
“Yeah, well, I’m not happy about this neither. Where the fuck are we anyway?” Sam says.
Ross shrugs and stretches out his hand. The surface of the mirror ripples and Ross’s hand emerges through the glass.
“Huh, cool effect,” Ross says. “You think I can come all the way through?” He waves his hand around, making rude hand gestures, ending up with his middle finger raised and that annoying smirk on his face.
Sam sighs. “Quit fucking around, Ross.”
Ross sticks his tongue out at him and beckons Sam forward. “Hey, c’mere.”
“What? Why?” he says, but he does take a step closer, leaning in toward the mirror. “What are you doing now?”
“Closer,” Ross says.
Sam gives him a suspicious look, but he leans in closer anyway, close enough for Ross’s fingers to brush his forehead. Ross bops him on the nose with the end of his finger.
“Rise and shine, Sammy!”
Sam awakes with a jolt.
He’s in an unfamiliar room, he’s lying on a single bed, and he’s alone. He can feel his heart beating fast in his chest and cold sweat on his skin. It feels like he was having a nightmare, but he can’t recall it right now. Considering some of the things he dreams about, he figures that it’s definitely better that way.
He sits up slowly, wincing at the pull in his tight, stiff muscles. He feels sore, like he’s been in a fight. His stomach aches with cramps, like he’s just thrown up, and he lifts up his shirt to peer down at himself. There are a couple of bruises on his torso, one high up on his right side, under his armpit, the other lower down, just to the left of his navel. He pokes them both gingerly then winces at the answering throb of pain. It’s nothing out of the ordinary for him, but he can’t recall right now where he got them. He can’t remember any fights---or not recently at least. His memory seems hazier than it usually does when he wakes up, but he knows the important stuff: he knows his name and date of birth and that he has two brothers called Dean and Ross. He knows that they’re hunters and they were on a hunt. He just can’t remember what the hunt was.
He swings his legs to the floor, sits on the edge of the bed, and looks around. He’s in a bedroom with two matching single beds, the other one piled high with old books. There’s a dresser and a bookshelf with more old books, a desk in the corner and a chair. It’s all very normal and domestic, and he wonders where the hell he is.
He gets to his feet and goes to the door. He’s half expecting it to be locked, but the handle turns normally, and he steps out onto a sunlit landing. He recognizes it immediately; he's been here before with Dean. It’s Ross’s mother’s place, the living quarters over the roadhouse bar. They spent the night here a few months ago, back when Ross had run away to go stay with Sarah, just after Dad died.
The thought jogs something in his mind, and for a moment he's overwhelmed by the memories flooding back: Ross and Sarah and the Dallas Hilton, the demon, Ross possessed, Dean calling Bobby, and then leaving on his own to go after his little brother. He’d gotten here just in time to see the demon still wearing his little brother and about to kill that crazy hunter, Gordon Walker, and then...
That’s it. There’s nothing else. He doesn’t remember what happened next. He doesn’t remember what happened to Ross.
“Oh my God!”
He whirls around, arms going up instinctively to defend himself, but it's just a kid. It’s that teenage kid, Ross’s little brother, the one with the model airplanes, the one Dad took to baseball games and on fishing trips, the one that definitely isn’t a Winchester according to Ross’s mother, but still manages to look like one. He’s standing at the top of the stairs, clutching the rail and gaping at him.
“But you - you..."
Ross’s mom, Angela, he silently corrects himself, emerges from behind the boy, moving around him on the stairs. She clamps a hand down on his shoulder and steers him around.
“Go downstairs,” she tells him.
The boy ignores her, still gaping at Sam, trying to pull his arm out of his mother’s grasp.
“George,” she repeats, her voice harder. “Go downstairs. Go help Bobby.”
Reluctantly George drags his eyes away from Sam and glances up at his mother.
“It’s okay, baby, just go on now. I’m gonna talk to Sam.”
The boy nods at his mother and clatters back down the stairs. Angela gives Sam a strained smile and says, “Sorry about that, it’s been a crazy couple of days. How are you feeling?”
“Where are my brothers?” he asks.
She hesitates and licks her lips. It’s a stalling habit that reminds him suddenly of Ross. His stomach gives another twist.
“Please, just tell me. Are they dead?”
She shakes her head. “No, no, Sam, they’re not dead.”
He exhales and laughs shakily, feeling the hot tears well behind his eyes. “Good. God. I thought.” He breaks off, and pushes his hand through his hair. “God, what happened? With the demon and Gordon Walker? Is Ross okay? Is Dean.....he got here okay, is he okay?”
“They’re both okay,” she says. She’s still smiling at him, but it’s brittle and tentative, and when he glances down at her hands, he notices that she’s trembling.
“Are you okay?” he asks.
It’s a stupid question because she really doesn’t look okay. She looks on edge and nothing like the confident woman he remembers from the last time they were here. He can see close up just how exhausted and worn-down she looks under her make-up. She turns her head to look up at him, and he has another visceral flash of Ross, looking up at him with the same big dark eyes.
“It’s been a crazy couple of days,” she says. “That demon - the one who took your brother - he was……Well, let’s say, he was no stranger to me. But enough about that. I don’t know about you, honey, but I could really do with a drink.”
They take the same booth he and Dean shared when they ate those amazing burgers here six months ago. Angela seems to remember that too because she gives him a wry smile as she pours them two generous measures of Bourbon.
“I remember watching the two of you play footsie under the table,” she says. “I could see how wrapped up you were in each other. It was nice.”
He raises his eyebrows at her. “Nice? Never thought of it that way before.”
“We gotta take love where we find it, honey. Life’s too short,” she says, and once again Sam feels that ripple of anxiety rock through him.
He takes a grateful swig of the booze, feeling it burn as it slides down his throat to settle heavily in his gut. “Why aren’t they here? Where did they go?”
“They went out,” she says. She takes a swig of her drink and rests the glass against her bottom lip. “And before you ask, I don’t know where. They were just…kinda antsy, worrying about you. They needed to get out for a while, clear the head. You know how it is.”
“I guess. So, what happened to the demon? Is it gone?”
She puts the glass down and sighs heavily before she answers. “We exorcised the sonofabitch.”
“With an exorcism.”
He frowns at her. There’s something he’s missing here. He touches the side of his neck, and immediately winces at the soreness under his fingers. The image of Ross’s face rears up in his mind: black eyes, spittle flying from his lips, a cruel, twisted sneer ripping apart the features he knows so well. He sees his brother raise his hand and squeeze his fist, grinning and revelling at the dark, demonic power, at the screams of agony wrenched from his own mouth as his insides grind together. Except it wasn’t Ross. None of that was Ross. It was the demon.
“It was torturing me,” he says slowly. “I remember.”
“It was trying to kill you, Sam,” she says.
“But Ross overpowered it.”
“Yeah, he did.” Her mouth twists again; this time her smile is faint and sad, but a little proud too underneath. “Long enough for him to get it back into the devil’s trap and for me to exorcise the bastard.”
“Oh,” he says. He takes a sip of the bourbon. “Is that what happened?”
“Yeah, you were already unconscious, honey. For a while there, we thought you were gone for good.”
Ice flickers through his veins; he swallows before he raises his head again. “How long was I unconscious?”
She takes another sip before she answers. He hears the glass chink back on the table. “It’s been two days.”
“Shit,” he exhales. He leans back in the booth, grateful for the stiff leather behind him to hold him up.
“Dean’s barely left your side. Until now of course. He’ll be so happy you’re back with us. So will Ross.” She drains the contents of her glass and sets it back on the table. “You should eat something. I’ll put some burgers on the grill.”
They both look up when they hear the sound of heavy footsteps on the wooden floor. Sam’s pulse jumps and he starts out of his chair, expecting to see Dean or Ross, but it’s Bobby who appears in the middle of the bar. His heart sinks in disappointment but he forces a small smile, spreading his arms as he gets to his feet.
“So, I’m back,” he says. Bobby doesn’t say anything for a moment, regarding him with a look that Sam can’t quite make out, the words echoing lamely in the tense silence of the bar.
“So you are,” Bobby says at last. “George said something about you being awake again, but I had to come see for myself.”
“Wow, was it that bad?” Sam says, trying for a jokey tone of voice.
Angela laughs harshly and Sam swings his head around to look at her. She quickly forces her face back into an apologetic look. “Sorry. It's just that... Well, it wasn’t looking good there for a while, Sam.”
“Oh,” he says.
“How are you feeling?” Bobby asks
He shrugs. “Sore, tired. But okay, I guess. I just want to see Dean and Ross. They’re okay, right?”
Angela’s said so of course, but he’s still not sure if he can completely trust her. She might be Ross’s mom by blood, but she’s not Ross’s family. Bobby has known him most of his life, he can trust Bobby.
“Still all kinds of stupid and reckless, but yeah, they’re okay,” Bobby says. He still hasn’t taken his eyes off Sam, and it’s making Sam feel a little uncomfortable.
“Do you think they’ll be back soon?”
“Son, I have no freakin’ idea, but if you’re at a loose end, then I got a funeral pyre to build.”
“I can’t believe you’re going through with that,” Angela says.
“You gotta honor your dead, and the guy was still a hunter, he doesn’t deserve to rot in the ground. Besides, you know what can happen if we don’t burn the remains.”
Angela snorts and picks up the glasses and bottle and stalks across the floor to the bar. “Don’t expect any eulogies from me.”
“Gordon Walker,” Bobby says to Sam, by way of explanation.
“Oh, right,” Sam nods. “Yeah the demon... I remember that.” He can hear the sickening crack of Gordon’s neck, the gleeful demonic smile on his little brother’s face. He swallows back the roll of nausea in his belly and says, “Well, I got nothing else to do, so I’ll give you a hand.”
The pyre’s almost built. The kid’s standing there, tossing the few last twigs and branches onto it when they emerge from the bar. He turns around and stares at Sam again, eyes narrowed in wary distrust. He steps away from Sam as he approaches and moves closer to Bobby.
“Your mom won’t want you watching this,” Bobby tells him.
“He’s already dead,” George says. “I saw him die.”
“Yeah, you weren’t supposed to see that either,” Bobby says. He exchanges a look with Sam, shaking his head. The corner of Sam’s mouth flicks up. He recognizes that bullish stubborn set to the kid’s chin and the glint of defiance in his dark eyes - it’s exactly the same as the look Ross gets sometimes, and he knows that there’s no way the kid’s going back inside now.
He watches Bobby thrust the burning branch into the piled up logs and twigs. The sun’s starting to go down, just beginning to crest the horizon, casting red and orange shadows around them. It’s beautiful but eerie, adding to the weird, anxious atmosphere that’s been lingering since he woke up. He blinks as the firelight scorches his eyes, the smoke making his eyes water. He thinks about his father’s funeral pyre, about helping Bobby to build it and then watching Dad’s body burn away to nothing. He remembers how lost and scared he’d felt at the time, Dad was dead and Ross was missing, and nothing seemed certain any longer. Except Dean of course, he’s always been certain of Dean.
He misses Dean suddenly and fiercely, his body yearning for his brother’s closeness, for Dean to step up behind him and knock their shoulders together and put his hand on the small of Sam’s back in that familiar gesture of ownership. It feels like a long time since he’s seen him, which is ridiculous as he’s been unconscious for all that time, but he feels strange and out of place here, unmoored without his brothers’ familiar presence.
He knows that Angela isn’t giving him the whole story, and that Bobby too is keeping something to himself. It’s the same urgent feeling of wrongness he felt three days ago in the Dallas Hilton, only that time he knew that the wrongness was connected to Ross. He’d felt something come unhooked inside him, like a hinge coming undone, the connection between him and Ross - the freaky psychic twin thing as Dean likes to call it - damaged so he was unable to sense his brother at all. Not that he’d really been aware of sensing Ross before that; it was just an all encompassing overwhelming sensation of loss. It doesn’t feel like that now, but it doesn’t feel right either. It’s as if his brother’s been imprisoned behind a sheet of glass, like he’s on the other side of the mirror.
The thought jolts something in his mind: the image of Ross’s bloodstained fingers sliding through the mirror and reaching for him, the pane of glass shimmering like the surface of a lake. He shivers and stares into the flames, feeling them burn and flicker across his vision, and he knows that something is dreadfully wrong.
The first blow catches Ross on the edge of his jaw, too fucking slow to duck. His teeth slam into his bottom lip and the salty, coppery taste of blood fills his mouth.
“Motherfucker! What the fuck!” he screams, ducking out of the way of Dean’s swinging fist. He raises his hand to his aching jaw, and spits blood on the ground, blinking at Dean through blurry vision. “What the fuck are you doing?” he yells at Dean.
Dean doesn’t answer. He lurches forward, grabbing and snatching for Ross. He fingers punch into Ross’s muscles and he wrenches him around, his eyes wild and teeth gnashing like a rabid, crazy thing.
“Stop it!” Ross screams again, trying to wrench out of his brother’s grasp.
Dean’s fingers just dig in harder. He shakes Ross, and it feels like Ross’s fucking teeth are clanking together and his bones rattling. Dean looks savage, like, totally deranged, his eyes burning as he spits in Ross’s face.
“It was supposed to be me! God-fucking-dammnit! It was supposed to be me! Fuck you, Ross! What have you done? What the fuck have you done?”
He pushes Ross away and stumbles to the ground, turning his back on Ross and bowing his head like he can’t bear to look at him.
Ross feels his feet slip, his legs buckling underneath him as the earth rears up and his palms scrape the stones to break his fall. He kneels in the dirt and digs his fingers into the ground, feeling his chest tighten and breath come rough and panted. He thought Dean would be out for longer, that he’d be able to put Dean into the back of the car and drive them back to the Roadhouse – back to Sam. When Dean came around, Sam would be there, alive and well and smiling down at him, and Dean would be so fucking happy to see Sam that he wouldn’t ask these stupid questions, he wouldn’t get mad at Ross because Sam would be alive again and nothing else would matter. He should’ve known that Dean would never make things that easy for him.
Dean’s still not looking at him, kneeling in the dirt with his head bowed, like he’s given up, and Ross aches to see what he's done to his brother. He can’t remember ever seeing Dean this angry before, especially not with him. Dean never gets like this with him. Not even when Dean found Sam lying dead in his arms, not even when Ross pawed at him, blubbering and weeping and begging for Dean to understand that he didn’t mean to, he was trying to destroy the demon, he didn’t mean to hurt Sammy. Even then Dean hadn’t looked like this, like he can’t bear to look at Ross.
He watches Dean’s shoulders shake, his hands coming up to clutch at his face. “Why’d you do that?” Dean says, and it’s barely a question, just a choked up sentence. “Why, Ross? It was supposed to be me.”
“No. No, it wasn’t,” Ross says.
“Listen to me,” he pleads. He swallows the thick sourness at the back of his throat. He can still taste the demon on his lips and feel the faint tang of sulphur on his tongue from her kiss. “How long did she offer you?”
Dean says nothing, just keeps staring dumbly down at the ground.
“How long? How long was it, Dean?”
“One year. Bitch wouldn’t give me the ten. She could see how much I wanted it.”
He licks his lips and says softly, “Yeah, I thought so. One fucking year. What would you have done with that time, Dean? And what would me and Sam have done after you’d gone? What would we have done without you?”
“I can’t just let him die. I can’t.”
“Yeah, I know, I know you can’t. D'you think I can? D'you think I'm willing to just let Sammy die?” He brushes the hot tears out of his eyes. “But that’s a shitty deal.”
“It doesn’t matter.”
“It does to me!” he screams, surging to his feet. He barrels into Dean and grabs onto his collar, yanking him up. Dean’s startled face flashes in front of his eyes, Dean’s hands moving to push him away. Ross grabs his brother’s wrist and tugs, pulling him off balance. Dean stumbles into him and Ross grabs his face. He frames it with both hands, bringing their faces closer.
“But what about me? What about me, Dean? God, you can’t do that to me. And Sam said – he said you got to stop Dean, Ross, that’s what he said!” He releases his hold on Dean, and takes a step back, hands falling uselessly to his sides. Dean’s staring at him, unblinking, eyes wide in horror., “I had visions, dreams, whatever, I don’t fucking know, but Sammy was there and he told me what I had to do. I had to stop you, I was the one. This is what he meant. This, Dean. You know what deal I got: ten years. I got the full ten! And you know why?” Mutely, Dean shakes his head. “‘Cause they want me. They want what I got." He thumps his chest. “Here. They want this - whatever it is - they want it. They’re scared of me and that means we got all the cards. We can work this out, I know we can. That's a better fuckin' deal than what you got!”
“Ross, no,” Dean takes a step towards him, “no, Littlest Bro, that’s not what Sam meant, he would never want that.”
“And he’d want you to bargain away your life? Oh yeah, he’d be so fucking thrilled that you got one year left together before you go to hell ‘cause of him. Oh yeah, Sam would fucking love that! Jesus, you’re such a dumbass sometimes. He’d never forgive you. He’d spend all that time you have left trying to get you out of it. It would break him. This way,” he shrugs and spreads his hands, “he gets to keep you. You two get to be together, and I can… well, if one of us gotta die, it makes sense that it’s me.”
“Ross, no, I would never let that happen. I thought you got that.”
Ross shrugs; his chest feels like it’s bursting. He stares at Dean’s white, crumpled expression, at the tears rolling down his face unchecked. “It’s ten years. I’ll be thirty three when my time’s up. Could you ever picture me at thirty three? I ain't never gonna get there, man. Not in this job, or in this life.”
“This isn’t about you dying, you stupid prick. You’re going to hell! You've gone and damned yourself forever. Don’t you get that?” Dean pleads.
Ross shakes his head and pushes out a frustrated breath. “No, Jesus Christ, Dean, you don't get. You aren’t listening to me - like always! I ain’t going to hell. No fucking way. I got no fucking intention of that. I’m gonna break those sonsofbitches instead. I’m gonna find a way to destroy every last fucking one of them. I can’t break the deal, but I can break them.” He heaves a breath, locking his eyes with Dean’s. “But, Dean, please, you gotta quit beatin' yourself up about this and help me out here, man! I can’t do this without you and Sammy, and that means… Well, it means that you gotta get the fuck over yourself and be okay with this. I know you got that fuckin' martyr complex and you think that it's always gotta be you, that you're the one who's gotta look after us all the fuckin' time. But I'm a big boy, I ain't just your kid brother nomore, and I can make my own damn decisions. I just gotta know..." he hesitates and slides his hand around to cradle the back of Dean's neck. "Are you with me?"
Dean makes a broken, choked sound at the back of his throat and tries to shake his head again. "Ross, Littlest Bro..."
"What?" Ross says.
"Dean lifts his head and stares at Ross. "Fuck, Ross, you're always gonna be my kid brother. That’s never gonna change."
His shoulders heave up and down for a beat and then he's grabbing Ross and pulling him in, wrapping his arms tightly around Ross to pull him in close. Ross exhales and closes his eyes, pushing his face into the crook of Dean’s neck and breathing him in deep. Dean feels just as solid and dependable and big-brotherly as he always has. There’s nothing to tell that Ross has just broken him.
“You stupid little bastard,” Dean breathes, the words vibrating against Ross’s cheek. “You're not gonna die,” Dean says, voice hitching. Ross hears him swallow, and when he speaks again, his voice is stronger, more determined. “Listen to me: I won't let you die. That’s not fucking negotiable.” One of Dean’s hands drops to his head, his fingers card through Ross’s hair. “I'm not letting them take you."
Ross closes his eyes and keeps holding on.
Time passes and Ross doesn’t know how long they stand there, wrapped around each other. It feels like ages, but it’s probably not that long. He knows he has to pull away at some point. There’s Sammy to think about. If the bitch held up her side of the bargain, he’ll be waking up right now, wondering what the hell happened to them. Dean is still mindlessly patting his head, ruffling his fingers through his hair like he used to do when Ross was a kid, and as much as Ross is happy to let that go on for a long, long time, they really have to get moving.
He sighs and pulls away from Dean. He bows his head to wipe away the sticky tears and looks at his brother.
“You’re not going to hell,” Dean says again, this time more firmly and with that determined look on his face that reminds Ross of their Dad.
“I got no intention of it,” he says.
“Good.” Dean says. He turns and starts walking towards the Impala. Dean pauses by the driver’s side, lays his hand on the roof, and looks across at Ross. “Littlest Bro, we don’t tell Sam, okay?”
Another secret, always with the fucking secrets in this family. After all this time, they should've learned better. But it would be hypocritical of him to say that out loud. The decision he took kneeling over Dean's unconscious body only ten minutes before is still so present in his mind, the lie he concocted with the demon's rotten sulphur taste still lingering on his lips. He's lying to his brother even now, but it's okay, because Dean isn't ready for the truth yet and Ross is going to protect Dean until the day the demon comes for him.
He should give Dean this at least - let him decide what they tell Sam. He already took away Dean’s big self-sacrificing gesture; he needs to give Dean the illusion that he’s still calling the shots.
“You know he’ll find out anyway.”
“Yeah I know. Just… not yet, okay? I want things to get back to normal first.”
“Yeah, sure, normal.”
Dean gives him a warning look.
“Alright, whatever, we don’t tell Sam.”
The pyre’s almost burned down by the time the Impala finally pulls into the roadhouse, the sun disappeared over the horizon. Sam’s heart skips a beat at the familiar roar, and the flash and blur of the headlights over the side of his face. He turns his back on the smoldering fire to jog towards the car. The front doors lurch open in tandem and Dean and Ross spill out. Sam hesitates, glancing between them. Their expressions immediately light up, looks of complete wonder and relief flooding over them both that Sam can’t help but grin back, feeling the kind of ridiculous joy that he can’t remember feeling in a really long time.
He throws out his arms and laughs, saying, “Rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”
Their faces fall in a way that is almost comical. Ross is the one who recovers first, and then he’s striding around the car and launching himself at Sam, throwing his arms around him and dragging him in close. Dean comes up next and hooks his arm around Sam’s neck, pulling him down into a kiss. Sam thinks briefly about Bobby and George standing and watching them, but Dean is close and alive and Ross is alive and Sam really doesn’t care right now. They’re all okay, he has the proof right here in front of him, and it’s a much better outcome than they could’ve expected, all things considered.
“Dude, what happened?” Ross says when they finally break apart. “When we went out you were still all, like, unconscious and shit?”
“I don’t know. I just woke up,” Sam says.
Ross rolls his eyes, and exchanges a glance with Dean. “Wow, anti-climax, much. Trust you to be such a freakin' buzzkill about almost fucking dying.”
“Shut up,” Sam tells him.
“So, how are you feeling?” Dean says.
“People keep asking me that, but I’m fine, seriously. I’m just…I guess I’m kinda hungry.”
“Dude, me too,” Ross says. He jerks his head towards the sign outside the bar, the one that says: BEST BURGERS IN THE STATE. “Let’s go see if the sign lives up to its promises.”
They pack up the next day, Dean and Ross making noises about getting out of there and getting back on the road. Sam stands on the landing and looks through the window at Dean and Ross standing by the car, smoking.
“Will you talk to him for me?”
He turns around. Angela is standing beside him, staring out the window at his brothers. She turns her head and looks at him; her mouth twists wryly and she shrugs. “I don’t expect miracles. I just want him to know the truth, everything I told you and Dean about the fire and the demon. I know now that I was wrong. I should never have listened to John. I should’ve gone with my own instincts. But your dad…” she breaks off for a moment and sighs, wistful and sad. “He knew Ross and I didn’t. He told me Ross was happy.”
“He was, we were,” Sam says. Then he pauses, makes a face as he amends, “Well, as much as we could be. Considering.”
She smiles sympathetically and nods. “Ain’t that always the case, honey?”
They stand in silence for a moment, then Sam says, “For the record, I think Dad was wrong. He should never have kept you apart from Ross. That wasn’t fair, for him or you. If I'd ever found out that my mom was still alive…” he trails off, swallows hard. “I - I would want to know. I wouldn't care what she'd done, I'd still want to know her. Maybe I wouldn't be able to forgive her, but... I'd still want to get to know her. I’d want to have that choice at least. So, yeah, I'll talk to him. I'll tell him what you told us. He should know.” When he glances at her again he can see tears in her eyes, threatening to spill.
"Thanks," she whispers, her voice choking up.
He doesn’t respond, just keeps looking through the window. Ross and Dean seem to be fighting about something, Ross gesturing with his cigarette. Dean throws his hands up into the air and puts his back to Ross, stalking off to the back of the car where he pops the trunk and bends down. Ross tosses away the butt of his cigarette, shoves his hands into his pockets and walks back toward the bar, his shoulders raised and a scowling expression on his face.
It's obviously time to get the hell out of here. Sam shoulders the duffle in his hand and turns back to Angela, holding out his hand.
“Well, I guess this is goodbye for now.”
She takes his hand. “Keep in touch.”
“Yeah, okay. But I don’t promise anything.”
Her grip intensifies and she tilts her head to stare up at him, her dark eyes wide and sincere. “You will forgive him, won’t you?”
“What for? What did he do?”
She hesitates, gaze darting back to the window, back to where Dean is now standing by the car, staring listlessly into space. She licks her lips, that delaying tactic again, the one that reminds him so strongly of Ross.
“The demon. It wasn’t his fault.”
“I know, I know that,” he says, a little exasperated and even insulted that she would ever think he would blame Ross for being possessed.
“And wear those charms. Don’t take them off. Ever,” she adds.
“Believe me, I have no intention of that," he says feelingly. If it’s one thing they have learned over the course of this entire sorry mess, it’s the importance of anti-possession charms. In fact, he’s been thinking about getting something more permanent done.
She drops his hand finally and crosses her arms, hugging herself as she nods at him. “Good. That’s good, honey.”
“Right,” he says awkwardly. He shifts and turns around, adjusting his grip on the duffle. “Well, okay. Thank you... for everything. And yeah, we’ll be in touch.”
"Goodbye, Sam," she says.
They’ve been going for about two hours when Ross finally speaks up. He's spent the last two hours intermittently scowling out the window and cracking his knuckles. Dean has been steadily raising the volume on the music to drown him out.
Sticky Fingers finishes and Dean tosses the box of tapes at Sam and orders him to pick something.
“For the record, you two sons of bitches are totally not off the hook for lying to me about my mom.”
Sam almost jumps at the sound of his little brother's voice. He drops the copy of Disraeli Gears in his hand back into the box and looks up. Ross's tone is deceptively light, though Sam doesn’t miss the undercurrent of real anger underneath. He thinks about his uncomfortable conversation with Angela, and wonders if this is the right time to “try to talk to him.” He decides it probably isn’t.
Dean alters his grip on the steering wheel and darts Sam an unreadable look. Sam decides to take it as his cue.
“We were gonna tell you.”
“Right. Sure you were.”
“Yeah, we were,” Dean says. “It’s just that things… You know how things can go. Fucking demons and other shit.”
“You had ages to tell me before then.”
“Dad just died, we didn’t want you to get upset,” Sam says, feeling what a sorry-ass excuse it really is. They’re just as bad as Dad. Deciding what’s best for Ross like they have the right to keep something like that from him. He’d said to Angela himself: If I ever found out that my mom were alive... I'd want to know. And still, he and Dean had lied. “We were wrong about that. I know that now.” He can feel Dean glancing at him and frowning.
“Yeah, whatever,” Ross says. “So nice of you to consider my feelings like that.”
“Yeah well, you’re a big boy now, I figure you can handle it,” Dean says.
Sam gives him a surprised look, but Dean’s expression has gone hard, his eyes locked on the driver’s mirror where he’s looking at Ross.
“So, do you want to keep in contact with her? I know she’d like to get to know you,” Sam says.
Ross shrugs with one shoulder. He doesn’t look up at him, gaze still fixed out of the window. “Fuck, I don’t know.”
“Whatever you decide, we’ll back you up,” Sam says.
“Speak for yourself,” Dean snorts. Sam gives him a surprised look but Dean doesn’t elaborate. In the back seat, Ross is silent.
“So what was all that about?” Sam demands as soon as they stop. Dean’s filling the gas tank, leaning against the car and idly watching the digits on the pump.
“You know what. You being such a bitch to Ross about his mom. He was right; we shouldn't have lied to him."
"We didn't lie."
Sam heaves a frustrated breath. "Dean, you know what I mean. We didn't tell him. It's the same thing."
"It's really not the same thing," Dean insists.
"Okay, whatever. But we should've told him that she was still alive. He has a right to know.”
Dean sighs irritably. “Dude, give it a rest. He’s dealing, let him deal.”
“Not now, Sam.” Dean turns his back on him, shoulders raised, and Sam knows better than to persevere.
Instead he leaves him to it, and wanders into the rest-stop after Ross.
Things are weird between Dean and Ross. They’re constantly bitching at each other, sniping and making these little digs, and Dean seems to have developed this sudden mania for letting him make his own stupid decisions, which is so completely opposite to how things have been between Dean and Ross since, well, since the dawn of time, that Sam’s spidey sense is working on overdrive.
He takes a shower, and when he steps out into the room there’s another uncomfortable silence. Dean is buried in Dad’s journal, again, (another weird thing: he’s been reading it back to back over and over again recently), and Ross is outside smoking.
“Okay, so you gotta spill: what the fuck is going on between you two?” he says after a fight over pizza. Dean pitched a fit at Ross for getting olives on all the pizzas when Ross knows, he fucking knows that Dean hates olives. Dean spent the last half hour painstakingly and dramatically picking the olives off all the pizzas and throwing them at Ross.
“What the fuck you mean?” Ross snaps.
“You two. You’ve obviously had some big fight ‘cause you’re acting like a bickering married couple. It’s getting seriously old. So spill.”
Ross snorts. “Right, we’re keeping secrets from you. Makes a nice fucking change. You two have kept secrets from me for years. What’s your excuse for that?”
“Jesus, get over it,” Dean says, thrusting the pizza box away with its half-eaten crusts, and getting to his feet. “I’m going for a smoke.”
Predictably, Ross glares after him, and then gets to his feet and follows him outside. Sam watches them through the window; they’re standing by the car, and Dean is gesturing at Ross, smoking cigarette in one hand while Ross has his mouth open, yelling back at Dean. Ross finishes whatever he was saying, pivots on his heels, and strides across the parking lot back towards the room. Sam opens the door and crosses his arms, filling the entire doorway.
“You’re not coming back inside until you tell me what’s going on,” Sam says to him.
Ross narrows his eyes on him. “What?”
“You heard. I want to know what’s going on. You’re not getting back inside until you tell me.” Over Ross’s shoulder, he can see Dean standing by the car, glaring at both of them and smoking angrily.
“Ross. Tell me.”
Ross huffs and worries his lip. He glances over his shoulder at Dean. When he looks back at Sam, he looks determined. “You died,” he says.
“Back at - at the Roadhouse. You died. The demon - me - it was me. I killed you.”
Sam blinks at him; he’s not sure he’s hearing this right. “Come again.”
Ross pushes out a breath. “I don’t know how else to say it: you died, Sam. You were dead. For two days.”
“But I’m not dead. How – how did I come back?” He stares at Ross, then drags his gaze away, looking past him, at Dean. Dean’s looking back at them and there’s something in his gaze, something in the slow way he starts to walk towards them – the walk of the condemned man - that rocks a shiver through Sam. “No,” he whispers, “no, Dean, please. What did you do? Dean, what did you do?”
Dean halts beside Ross, his eyes on Sam, dark and desperate. “It wasn’t me, Sammy. I didn’t do anything, it was him.”
“Ross?” Sam jerks his head towards his younger brother.
“I made a deal,” Ross says.
“He sold his soul,” Dean says. “To a demon. I’m sorry, Sammy.”
“No.” The word catches in his throat. He’s read about this. Of course he has. Crossroads deals and selling your soul to the devil in exchange for your heart’s desire. But it isn’t true. It’s just an urban myth.
There’s a lump at the back of his throat. He shakes his head, feeling his stomach twist and lurch and curl into knots.
“No,” he whispers again. There are tears rolling down his cheeks, and he can’t even remember when he started crying. Dean and Ross are staring at him in horrible, awful symmetry.
“Sam,” Dean says. He reaches out for Sam and Sam jerks backwards instinctively, stumbling over the doorway and into the room.
“I don’t want this! I don’t want him to go to hell because of me! You should’ve left me dead.”
“That wasn’t an option,” Dean says.
Sam shakes his head and turns his back on them. He can’t look at them. He can’t think about it.
“You’d have done the same thing, if it was one of us,” Dean says.
He whirls around to confront him. “But it’s Ross! How could you do it? How could you let him?”
“I didn’t let him!”
“He was gonna do it instead,” Ross says, “I had to stop him. He was gonna do it and he was only gonna get one year… one fucking year, Sammy! I had to stop him from doing it. That’s what you told me.”
“I…what? No, I didn’t, what are you talking about?” He rounds on Ross. His heart is beating furiously, and underneath all this horrible, dreadful truth, he’s starting to feel angry. “I didn’t ask for this! I would never want this!”
“I got ten years,” Ross says, and his voice sounds unnaturally calm as he stares at Sam, eyes wide and sympathetic, like Sam is the one suffering here, Sam is the one staring hell in the face. “Ten years before my time is up. That’s a long fucking time, man, especially for us. You gotta see that.”
Sam stares back at him, shaking his head. “That’s so not the point.”
“Yes it is! Just think, Sam, think about everything we can do in that time. We can change everything!” He grabs hold of Sam, and yanks him close, putting his hand on Sam’s cheek and turning his face so their eyes meet. “You and me, man. We can destroy them all, all those fucking demons, just like we destroyed that yellow eyed bastard who killed your mom and your girl. It’s all here.” He brings Sam’s hand to his chest, and presses it against his heart, twining their fingers together. “Right here. Do you remember what we did to that demon in my head?”
“No, I don’t – I don’t remember."
“It was gonna kill you! But we stopped it. Together. You and me. We killed it with the power of our fucking brains, dude! It killed you then – which was my fault and, like, a really fucking fucked-up side effect. But I think I know why that happened and I think that I might be able to change that next time. I’m getting stronger; I can feel how different things are now. And you’re stronger too. You must feel it, don’t you?”
Sam shakes his head, uncomprehending. “I don’t know, Ross, I don’t…”
“Yes, yes, you do. You know you do,” Ross insists, and his dark eyes are blazing in a way that’s reminding Sam of their dad at his most fiery and fanatical. He looks nothing like the punkass little kid Sam spent so many years bickering with, the needy little brother who yearned for Dean’s attention and Dad’s approval like they were the only things keeping him going.
This is a different Ross, he thinks. This is the Ross who has powers that they know nothing about, powers that have twice killed powerful demons. Angela had all the answers about Sam’s powers, about Yellow-Eyes’ plan for him and all the other kids like him, about the fire that killed their mom and the tainted blood Yellow Eyes fed him. But Angela had no explanation for what Ross can do.
You will forgive him, won't you? she'd said, and he knows now what she was talking about. She'd known all along. She'd known that he'd died and that he should've stayed dead. He doesn't deserve to be here anymore, not when this is the price. Ross's soul.
His stomach churns and he can feel the bile at the back of his throat, the lurch and ache of nausea and self-loathing deep down in the pit of his gut. He wishes he could throw up, to purge it all away. But even if he does, this one fact won't change...
Ross is going to hell because of him.
“Sammy, dude, please, you gotta be with me on this,” Ross pleads. He curls his fist in Sam's shirt and pulls him in so he's staring right into Sam's eyes. "Please," Ross says again.
Sam shakes his head. He can't think properly, he can't get it right in his head. He's not sure what it is Ross even wants from him, he just knows that they have to do whatever they can to keep Ross safe, and if Ross is talking about them using their freaky psychic powers, then so be it. Whatever it takes.
"Yeah, yeah, okay," he says at last.
"Yeah, that's what I'm talkin' about!" Ross says and he flattens his hand on Sam's chest, splaying his fingers over Sam's heart. "What's in here, man. There's so much good shit we can do too. We're just scratching the surface! It ain't just about huntin' evil and killing bad things and saving people anymore! This is in us and it's going nowhere. It’s part of us whether we like it or not! So I figure we make the best of it! We quit fucking ignoring it like a pair of pathetic jerks and we fight back. We take the fight to them!" He pushes out a breath and turns his head towards Dean. "Deano, you too. You gotta be with us. We need you. It's gotta be the three of us or nothin'."
Sam holds his breath, looking towards Dean. They're both waiting for the okay from their big brother, waiting for Dean to call the shots, waiting for him to tell them that it’s all okay again as he always has.
“Yeah, okay,” Dean says finally. "Okay, Ross, you win."
Ross's face falls a little, but he recovers quickly, pasting on his best shit-eating grin. "Damn fuckin' straight. And you'll see, man, you'll see how it'll be, Dean. We'll be okay, won't we, Sammy?"
Sam drops his hand to cradle the back of Ross's neck and watches Ross bow his head, lean forward into his body to drop his forehead to Sam's shoulder. He feels Ross exhale against his neck, feels the throb of Ross's pulse through his fingers. Ross did this for him. Ross sold his soul and bargained away his future. For him. Ross damned himself. For him. He never realised Ross cared that much. He never believed his little brother loved him that much.
He swallows over the ache in his throat, feeling the tears slip free and roll down his face. He slides his hand up into Ross's hair, carding through it. It's longer than his own now, and it makes them look even more alike. He can feel Dean's eyes on them, and when he turns his head to look at his brother, Dean's watching them with tears rolling down his cheeks.
"I'm sorry," Dean mouths.
Sam bites his lip, nods briefly. He tugs at Ross's arm, getting him to raise his head again.
"Hey," he says. "Hey, listen. I'm with you. Whatever you need. Dean too."
"Yeah, course, ain't nowhere else we wanna be," Dean says, taking a step toward them and pulling Ross back against his own chest, wrapping his fingers around Ross's bicep.
Ross turns his head to peer over his shoulder at him. "Really? You're gonna quit giving me crap?"
"I wouldn't go that far," Dean says.
Ross snorts and relaxes back into Dean."Shut up. Winchesters against the world, right?"
"Right," Sam agrees.
"Right," Dean echoes.
Sam steps forward, dropping his hand to Ross's hip, pinning him there in between them, the three of them practically molded together, chest to back to chest. Ross presses his face to Sam's shoulder again and Sam looks up, meeting Dean's gaze for a fraction of a second. Dean schools his expression almost immediately, but he's not quick enough, and Sam's been reading his big brother for too long not to recognize what's there: not just the fear, but the resignation. They have no choice now. The fucking demons took that from them. They took Mom and they took Dad. They took him for a short while, and now they’ve gotten their hooks into Ross.
Well, there’s no way Sam is going to let them take anything else from them. If it’s the last thing he does, he’s not going to let them take Ross. He’s not going to let his little brother go to hell because of him.
The demons better start running because the Winchesters are coming for them.