AN: Got a hankering to write more Wyoming!verse fic. This follows the other stories in the series chronologically.
Have a happy Thanksgiving!
All I Wanted Was to Hold You
It started with something stupid.
Dean was cleaning and sorting the gun collection in the storage room when he realized that one of Dad's was missing. As far as he knew, no one had touched the stored guns since the last he cleaned them, and he wouldn't put a gun anywhere else except its case, especially not one of Dad's.
So Dean went looking for Sam, who was standing in the laundry nook tucked next to the kitchen, throwing articles of clothing into the washer one by one. Dean noticed right away that his brother's shoulders were tense, movements clipped and angry, but he decided to ask about the missing gun anyway.
"What?" Sam said, snapping the word without looking at Dean or pausing.
"Have you seen Dad's Taurus? The one with the blue finish? It's not in the store room."
"You're the one who messes with those guns, not me. If you forgot where you put it, that is not my problem."
"What crawled up your ass and died?" said Dean. "I didn't do anything to you. And you know what, you should care about that gun because it's Dad's. I didn't lose it because I never put any of those guns anywhere except where they belong, so you must've done something with it."
Sam turned around, nostrils flaring, raising his voice and gesticulating with one arm. "I haven't touched that gun since we moved into this house!"
"I don't lose things that matter! And you don't have to be a dick to me for no reason, when all I did was ask you a simple question!"
Sam picked one of Dean's dirty shirts off the top of the dryer and threw it at Dean's chest, too fast for Dean to anticipate and catch it. The shirt fell to the floor, and Sam stared at Dean in that stance Dean knew all too well, the one signaling Sam was about to start swinging or tackle him. Dean bent down and picked up the shirt, a flannel with dark red, green, and purple stripes on a beige base.
"Is this supposed to mean something or are you just fighting like a three year old now?" he asked.
"That's YOUR shirt, Dean. Your dirty, bloody shirt."
That's when it hit him, and all his irritation and rising anger evaporated into a single Oh, shit. He meant to wash the shirt himself or throw it out, but it got buried in his hamper over the last couple weeks. He completely forgot about it.
"Where the fuck did the blood come from?" Sam demanded. "You went hunting, didn't you? Two weekends ago when you were gone for three days. You weren't clearing your head in Montana. You went on a fucking hunt and lied to me about it!"
"You swore to me you were done hunting, unless we talked about it and agreed to take a job together."
"I knew you would hate going along, and you'd give me shit for going without you," Dean said. "An old contact called, wanted my help specifically, I told him I was retired and tried referring him to active hunters, but he didn't want anyone except me. So I took Kendall—"
"Kendall! So you can be honest with her but not me."
"It's not like that. Jesus. I didn't want to go it alone because I knew you'd hate that, and she's the only other hunter I can call for back-up on short notice. I didn't even know if she'd say yes."
Sam turned his back on Dean and started tossing the rest of Dean's dirty clothes into the washing machine, his body stiffer than before, his shoulders angrier.
Dean hates it when Sam shuts down in the middle of a fight. He'd rather get clocked in the face or screamed at any day. Sam drops out of the action like that, and Dean's built up emotion has nowhere to go.
"Look, I'm sorry I didn't tell you," Dean said, taking a step toward his brother with the bloody shirt still in his hand. "Sam."
Sam faced him again and said, "Who does that blood belong to?"
His voice was quiet again, his tone seething with anger.
Dean looked at him, considered lying, swallowed, and said, "It's mine."
Sam told him to get out.
Dean grabbed his jacket off the coat rack by the front door and left.
He drives into town, stops at the gas station, and buys a bottle of Jack Daniel's. He knows that he's falling back on old habit, bad habit, but he doesn't give a single fuck. He sits in the Impala with the brown paper bag between his legs on the seat, locks his door, and turns on the car's electric without starting the engine, so he can listen to music. For a moment, he just leans his head against his window and feels like crap.
He hates fighting with Sam. And he hates feeling like the bad guy.
When the Winchesters settled down in Wyoming, it was supposed to be the beginning of their new life as ordinary people. No more hunting, no more interfering in cosmic drama, no more living on the road and scamming for money. They agreed not to help other hunters remotely either, unless an old friend called and had absolutely no one else who could give them an answer. They don't turn away hunters who come to their door for shelter, medical attention, weapons, or information, but they make every single person who does swear to keep their location a secret. They locked up the bunker in Lebanon, put the word out on the hunter grapevine that they were retiring, and promised each other that they would never go on a hunt again without discussing it first.
They started talking about retiring together years before they did, but when that day finally came, Dean still needed convincing. He wanted Sam to be happy and he wanted them to stick together and he even wanted some peace for himself, too. But hunting was all he'd ever been, since he was a kid. He was damn good at it, and he didn't know if he could do anything else as well. The job had robbed him of everything he cared about, inflicted pain on every part of his being, pain that should've destroyed him, but it had also given his life purpose and meaning. It was a connection to his parents, albeit a screwed up one. He loved hunting. He fucking hated hunting. He was one foot out the door, right behind his brother, and one foot in the salt and monster guts.
Sam begged him. For the first time in their lives, he explained to Dean why he wanted to quit, why he'd longed for the normal person's life since he was a kid. "I want to be safe, Dean," he said, voice raw and breath ragged, eyes glassy with tears. "I want us to be safe. Please. Please—don't make me live without you. If I stop and you don't…. one day, someone'll knock on my door and tell me you're dead, and I can't. I can't deal with that. Don't do that to me."
Dean gets it. That speech made everything clear to him, and he understood Sam the way he'd always wanted to. He could look back on Sam's life and everything Sam had ever done and understand what it had really been about. Every family member and friend Sam had, every woman he'd ever been in love with, had all been ripped away from him because he was a hunter. Because he was Lucifer's vessel. Because he was a Winchester. Every time he had tried to build a home for himself, a safe and loving space, it was wrecked. Every time he tried to do the right thing for the world or the people he cared about, he committed an unforgivable sin, made a horrific mistake, slid deeper and deeper into the darkness inside him.
Dean gets it because on most points, Dean's right there with him. But the brothers had never talked about what they'd lived through in terms of the damage done to them emotionally, mentally, spiritually. That wasn't their way. And they never got a break, one dramatic mess after another piling up on them, no time to reflect or recover from the past because there was always some new terror on the horizon.
That day in the bunker, Sam broke Winchester code and just unloaded everything he'd kept to himself for years. "I kill everyone I love," he whispered as tears began to roll down his face. "Or I have to let them go. Every time I try to be happy, nothing works out. And I'm the only common denominator. I know that. Maybe I'm—maybe I'm cursed. Maybe it's the demon blood or my punishment for almost ending the world. Maybe I don't deserve a home or love or a decent life. I don't know. But I can't do this anymore, Dean. I can't. I'm so tired."
Dean nodded, squatting down in front of his brother and resting his hand on Sam's knee. "It's okay, Sam. You're done. It's going to be okay."
"No, it's not," Sam said, shaking his head and looking into Dean's eyes. He leaned forward and took Dean's face in both his giant hands. "I love you. And I've lost you so many damn times…. Sometimes, I wake up in the middle of the night for no reason, terrified that you're gone. That you never came back from Hell and everything since then was just a hallucination. You want to know why I didn't look for you when you were in Purgatory? Because I was afraid I wouldn't find you. Or I'd find you and it'd be too late. And it would feel like losing you all over again."
Dean takes a pull of whiskey, remembering the way he pulled Sam into his arms, the salty smell of his brother's tears and sweat, Sam's hands clutching his back.
He quit hunting. And he's happy with his life here, in Wyoming. He has no intention of giving all this up to go back on the road and hunt full-time. What he told Sam was the truth: a friend of theirs needed help and didn't trust anyone else. Dean wasn't looking for a hunt. He's not looking for one now.
Did he have fun killing a wood devil in the Idaho wilderness? Absolutely. For a minute, he felt twenty-five again, invincible and badass and alive. It was intoxicating. He forgot all about the gash in his shoulder, he and Kendall had the hottest, adrenaline-fueled victory sex in the backseat of the Impala on the side of the highway, and he drove back to the motel in town with a smile on his face. It was the perfect vacation.
But all Sam knows is that Dean lied to him, broke the big promise between them, and got hurt.
Dean closes his eyes and sighs, holding the bottle of Jack Daniel's on his left thigh, his free hand resting on his other thigh. Journey's singing "I'll Be Alright Without You" on the radio. His throat and belly are whiskey warm, the liquor taste tainted with guilt on his tongue.
Sam packs his duffle bag with a few days' worth of clothes, gets into his truck, and heads for town. He can't be in the house he shares with his brother right now; he's too pissed off and sensitive. He's going to stay with Leah until he calms down.
He doesn't know what he hates most: Dean lying to him, Dean breaking The Promise, or Dean getting hurt and keeping it a secret. Sam thought they were past this: deceiving each other, hiding things from each other. He can't understand why Dean felt the need to cover up the hunt in the first place. Sam never told him he was unilaterally forbidden from hunting again, just that they had to talk about it first and reach an agreement. If Dean had just been honest with him from the start, Sam would've been okay with it. Hell, he might've even gone with his brother.
Sam tries to remember if there were any hints of Dean's injury over the last two weeks. He can't believe that he didn't notice. The amount of blood in Dean's shirt means his brother probably needed stitches. How the hell did Sam miss them? Dean may not walk around in his underwear on a regular basis, but they live together and sleep in the same bed some times and cuddle several days a week. Sam knows Dean. If there was a limp or a stiff gait or careful posturing whenever Dean was seated or reduced movement in one arm or shoulder, if Dean was in enough pain to take medication or stay in bed more than usual, Sam would've noticed. Should've noticed.
He scrubs his hand over his face as he reaches the outskirts of town, driving to Leah's house on autopilot. The skies over Wyoming are mostly clear, but the day is dim, sun hiding behind the mountains already. It's cold enough for Sam's quilted jacket but not so cold that he needs a scarf and gloves and a heavier coat. The radio's playing quietly, and when he starts to pay attention to the music, Steve Perry opens a Journey song, "I'll Be Alright Without You." The words hurt in Sam's chest. Pretty soon, the chorus hits, and it's the kind of hook that Dean would belt soulfully behind the wheel of the Impala. Sam wants to switch it off but doesn't.
Fuck his brother. Stupid, lying bastard. Probably didn't even feel bad about what he did until Sam confronted him. Probably would've kept the hunting trip a secret the rest of their lives, if Sam hadn't found that blood-stained shirt.
Sam pulls up onto the curb in front of Leah's house and parks. He takes his phone of his pants pocket, sees that nobody's called him or texted him since he left home, and considers calling Dean just to yell at him until he feels better. Instead, he sticks the phone back into his pocket, grabs his duffle off the passenger seat, and gets out of the truck.
Dean, only a little soothed by the whiskey, drives to Lou's Garage where he works and leaves the Impala there, deciding he needs a walk to clear his head. He zips his leather jacket, turns the collar up, and sticks his hands in the pockets. The streets are quieter than usual because it's Sunday afternoon. One car passes him by, heading in the same direction. He sees a few teenagers standing around outside of Hot N' Cold, the combination ice cream parlor/coffeehouse. One of them's smoking a cigarette. He stops in front of The Brown Owl Diner and looks into one of the big square windows. Joanie, the pretty brunette waitress in her twenties, is on shift. He debates going in for a piece of pie and coffee but moves on after a half a minute.
He just feels so low down and awful about himself. He still has most of the Jack left in his car, but it's too early in the day to get wasted. He doesn't know what to do or where to go. Maybe he should leave town altogether and just get a motel room in Casper for a couple days, until the worst of Sam's anger blows over. He would call Cas and ask to meet up with him, but Dean knows that if he tells Cas what he did, his friend will just side with Sam and tell Dean to apologize, which will make him feel worse.
He knows he screwed up. And until he can talk it out with his brother and receive forgiveness, Dean's going to feel like shit. In the past, he would've been a lot more defensive and self-righteous. He would've dismissed Sam for overreacting and shifted the blame on his little brother for making him feel the need to lie and cover up the hunt in the first place. But Dean's learned to respect Sam's feelings, no matter how ridiculous, and how to take responsibility for hurting them. Maybe it's part of growing older or maybe it's a result of their relationship maturing. Who knows. He just wishes like hell that he would've told Sam the truth weeks ago, as soon as he got home from Idaho. Sam would've been angry, but not as much as he is now.
Dean doesn't know how he got here, but he's suddenly standing on Marianne Welch's doorstep. He blinks and looks around at the street behind him and the house and the yard and the neighboring homes. He stands there for a minute, not knowing what to do, almost turns and leaves—then rings the bell.
She opens up after ten seconds and looks surprised to see him, peering through the screen door. "Dean?" she says.
"Hi, there," says Dean, smiling too well for how craptastic he feels. "I hope this isn't a bad time."
"No, not at all. Would you like to come in?"
"Yeah... I think I would."
She pushes open the screen door, and he steps inside, the warmth of the house instantly enveloping him. It smells like potpourri and baked goods. The rooms are tidy and full of color. Marianne, a widow in her seventies, lives alone with her two dogs. When the Winchesters moved to the area five, almost six years ago, Mr. Welch had already been dead for a year and a half. She still has pictures of herself with her husband framed all over the house, along with photos of their children and grandchildren. She doesn't have family in town, but her oldest friends live here, which is why she stays.
Dean gave one of her little grandsons a ride in the Impala, when he was here with his parents for Christmas a few years back. Every once in a while, Sam will meet her in the park, so that Shooter can play with her dogs. The brothers always see her in church on Christmas Eve, and Dean buys a bunch of her pies every spring during the annual town bake sale.
He follows her into the kitchen and sits at the table, unzipping his jacket.
"Where's Sam?" she says, pouring two glasses of chilled water at the kitchen counter. "I swear, I never see you two apart—though I admit, I don't get out much."
Dean clenches his jaw and grimaces. "He's, uh—he's home. I think."
Marianne comes to the table and sits next to Dean, setting the two water glasses in front of them. "Something's wrong, isn't it?"
He glances at her and tries giving her a tight smile, but he can feel his face giving him away. "We're kinda in the middle of a fight," Dean tells her.
"I'm sorry to hear that," Marianne says. "I'm sure it will work itself out soon. You and your brother are very special to each other. I can tell."
Dean swallows, staring into his water glass. "Marianne….. When you were married, did you ever do something you knew would hurt your husband?"
"Hmmm... Well, I never cheated on him, if that's what you're asking. But I was with David forty-three years, and only God himself could love someone that long without hurting them, deliberately or otherwise. I'm sure I did, though I can't remember."
Dean nods. "You ever lie to him?"
"Of course," says Marianne. "Usually to spare his feelings. But a big lie? A self-interested one? I don't think so. I wanted an honest marriage, so I tried my best to be an honest wife."
Dean can't even count how many times he and Sam have told big lies to each other, how many times they pulled shit that they knew full well was wrong and hurtful when they did it—though most of it happened during their hunting career. He's not proud of his track record, and he knows Sam isn't either.
"Did your husband ever lie to you?" he says to Marianne. "He ever break a promise he made you?"
She thinks about it for a moment. "Early in our marriage, I found out he'd been lying to me about our finances. We were a young couple. Our first baby wasn't more than six months old. I thought we were more secure than we really were. David didn't want me to worry. I knew that was his reasoning as soon as I discovered the truth. Frankly, I think he was also ashamed because he thought he should've been earning more for our family or something like that."
"Were you angry?"
"I felt betrayed," she says. "And hurt. The lie gave me the impression that he didn't trust me. He hadn't treated me like his equal, and that was something I knew I couldn't live with in the marriage, if it was going to last."
"So, what happened?" says Dean, genuinely interested now.
"Well... After the fuss died down, we had a conversation about why he'd kept the money issue a secret and why I was so upset that he had. He told me that he lied because he wanted me to feel safe, and I told him that I felt so much safer when I knew there was only truth between us, when we trusted each other completely. And I put my foot down. I made it clear to him that I would not stay married to a man who lied to me or kept big secrets. He promised me he would never be dishonest again, and I believe he kept that promise."
"And you got over it?"
Marianne smiles. "If you mean, did the hurt go away, yes. It always does, if you let it go. Did I trust him again? Of course. I knew I couldn't have a happy marriage unless I trusted him."
"He could've betrayed you again," Dean says. "Could've lied again."
"That's right. He could have. But that's what trust is, Dean. It's putting your faith in someone or something—and faith is belief without reason. Anyone can believe in something proven. That doesn't require any trust at all."
Marianne drinks several swallows of water and wets her lips.
Dean checks his watch. "I should get going," he says. "Thank you for the talk."
"Anytime," she says. "Tell your brother I said hello."
Sam lies awake in the dark with Leah asleep next to him. Her company, her touch, her compassion gave him some relief the last several hours, but now, he has no distraction from his thoughts and emotions. His phone's on the night table on his side of the bed in case Dean sends him a text, even though Sam isn't ready to talk to him. Sam half-hoped that Dean would call him by the end of the night to ask him to come home so they could talk—but that didn't happen.
He feels so alone when he's disconnected from his brother. The longing for Dean—for all things set right between them—fills Sam's whole body and leaves him hollow. Without his anger, all he has is the bone deep hurt of his brother not trusting him, the memories of he and Dean running away from each other in circles, always reaching for each other and shrinking away, their lies and betrayals like burn scars.
And Sam knows that his history of sins against Dean is so much longer and darker than Dean's. Sam knows how many times he failed his brother in the past. He's tried so hard, since they retired, to earn Dean's trust. To prove, one good deed at a time, that he will spend the rest of his life being good to Dean. He's tried to show his brother that he's loyal and always will be, that Dean can be vulnerable with him and Sam will respond with respect and care and gentleness.
Sam's been chasing safety all his life, but it took settling down in Wyoming to realize that he wants to be a safe place for Dean.
They've come so far, but if Dean thought he had to lie about going on a routine hunt, what does that say about his level of trust in Sam? What does that say about how safe Dean feels being honest with him?
Sam turns onto his right side, away from Leah, and closes his eyes. He sees the blood in Dean's shirt. He sees Dean dying a thousand times in Broward County, bleeding in that motel parking lot where Sam couldn't wake up, shredded open by hell hounds, flat lining in the hospital, vanishing into thin air. He sees too many close calls. Everything he thought he left behind when he quit hunting and took his brother into this wilderness.
He opens his eyes as he takes a breath. Lies there for a beat, then carefully gets out of bed and pads out of the room for the kitchen.
Maybe whiskey will help him sleep.
Dean does not expect to see his brother come home the next day. When he finally drove back to their property at eleven-thirty last night, after closing down the saloon and wasting a few more hours working on one of the cars at Lou's Garage, the house was empty except for the dog. Sam didn't leave a note. Castiel had no idea where he went or how long he meant to stay there; didn't even know the brothers were fighting.
Part of Dean was grateful to have the house to himself. He didn't want to argue with Sam again or worse. Didn't want to be around Sam's silent anger either. But as soon as he walked in the door and looked into the darkness of the house, all of his dread and remorse gave way to loneliness, even as Shooter crowded his legs with a happy tail. He knew it was best not to make contact with Sam when his brother was so pissed, so after he got off the phone with Castiel, Dean washed up and went to bed, the dog curling up against his back as if knowing that he needed the company.
In the morning, he goes to work early. He skips breakfast and gives Cas a ride into town. No overnight texts from Sam. All day long, Dean worries and hopes that Sam will show up at the garage unannounced, but five o'clock rolls around with no sign of him. Dean resists the urge to drive past the hardware/gun store, where Sam works part-time. Instead, he goes to pick up Castiel at the parish daycare, leaning up against the Impala in the church parking lot with his hands in his jacket pockets. He wonders if he looks as forlorn as he feels. He gets his answer when the first words out of Castiel's mouth are, "You look like you need a hug."
Dean barely talks on the drive home. When some country song comes on the radio called "You Put the Hurt on Me," he doesn't change the station—just stews in the words and sad tune. He thinks to himself how he's going to finish the rest of the Jack tonight and eat frozen pizza for dinner because he just doesn't have the energy or the appetite for anything more.
But when he drives up to the big house he and his brother share, he sees Sam's pick-up parked outside and Sam himself sitting at the top of the porch steps. Dean pauses in the Impala for a moment, unsure what to expect or what he should say.
Sam doesn't look pissed. He looks sad. And tired.
"Talk to him, Dean," says Castiel. "Let him talk to you."
Dean gets out of the car and stands at the bottom of the steps, trying his best to put on some kind of game face. Castiel goes inside to his own house next door with no more than a glance and a nod to Sam.
"I thought you'd be gone longer," Dean says to Sam.
"So did I," says Sam.
"If you want me to find somewhere else to stay for a while, I can."
Sam shakes his head. "I want us to fix this."
Dean's quiet for a beat, then says, "I'm sorry. For lying to you and breaking my promise. I'm sorry for keeping the hunt a secret. I didn't want you to find out the way you did. I should've just told you."
"I have some questions," says Sam.
Dean nods. "Shoot."
"Where did you go and what were you hunting?"
"Malad, Idaho. There was a wood devil in the forest outside town."
Sam frowns in confusion. "I thought those only lived in New Hampshire."
"Okay," Sam says. "Tell me about getting hurt."
"Son of a bitch cut the top of my shoulder open," says Dean. "The right one. It was deep enough that I needed stitches. They came out about a week ago."
"That why you been distant with me lately?"
Dean nods, knowing just what Sam means. He was careful not to let Sam catch him without a shirt on, shied away when Sam tried to give his shoulders a rub down, stopped working out in the barn with Sam.
"Why'd you lie to me, Dean?" Sam asks. "Really. I want to know. If you can't be honest with me, part of that is my fault."
"You can't blame yourself for my dishonesty," says Dean. "You didn't do anything wrong. I did. I know that." Dean puts his hands on his hips and look away into the distance, then back at his brother. "I got the call and couldn't turn it down. I didn't have time to waste, and I was afraid you would argue if I told you about it. I was going to go, no matter what, Sam. Even if it pissed you off. But I hate when shit's wrong between us. I really do. I guess I thought if I could just go take care of it and come back without you knowing, it'd be smooth sailing."
Sam nods, looking a little hurt and a little guilty. "I never said you couldn't hunt again," he tells Dean. "If somebody needs you and you want to go, you can go. You just have to be honest with me, Dean. I won't get mad. I promise."
"I know how important this life is to you," Dean says. He waves one hand in front of him, gesturing at the house and the land. "We decided we were done hunting, and we decided that together. I'm not going to leave you to go back on the road."
"I know. I know you're happy here."
"And I also know that hunting is a part of you. It's a part of me. I know you miss it sometimes, and that's okay. I know we might have to go back out there and take care of something, and I don't mind. I really don't. But when you do things behind my back, it puts distance between us, Dean. And it scares me to think about you putting yourself in danger without telling me."
"Yeah," Dean says, his voice rough and raspy. "I get it."
"I want you to trust me," says Sam, his tone pleading. "With everything."
"I do trust you. More than anyone, Sam. This was not about trusting you, okay?"
Sam lowers his gaze to the ground, and the brothers are quiet for a beat.
"You know I forgave you for all the messed up crap that happened when we were younger, right?" Dean says.
Sam looks up at him.
"We're past that. I'm not going to drag our old life into the one we got now. It doesn't matter what you did fifteen years ago, Sam. All that matters is who you are now. I trust you. No one sees me more than you do."
Sam's eyes are suddenly swimming as he stares at Dean.
Dean kneels on one of the steps in front of Sam and holds eye contact with his brother. "I'm sorry," he says again. "Do you forgive me?"
Sam nods, his mouth pinched.
"From now on, if a hunt comes up, you'll be the first person I tell. Okay?"
Dean offers Sam a hand and pulls them both up to their feet.
They go inside, hang their jackets on the coat rack by the front door, and Dean takes off his two shirts to show Sam the healing gash in his shoulder. It's a long, raised, pink line that will scar, starting on the back of Dean's right shoulder and ending on his collarbone.
"Want me to put some ointment on it?" Sam says.
"Sure," says Dean.
Sam turns to head for the master bathroom.
He stops and looks at Dean.
Dean grips a fistful of Sam's flannel and pulls him into a hug. Sam wraps his big arms tight around his brother and closes his eyes. It feels like they haven't touched in eternity, much less hugged like this. Sam presses his palms into Dean's warm, bare back, and Dean breathes in Sam's scent from his shirt.
"I love you," Sam says.
"Love you too," says Dean.