Sam loved Dean more than pretty much anything else. It was a fact he’d come to accept after Dean died and went to Hell; Dean was his family, and it is what it is, a floundering, overwhelming connection. Ever since Magnus tried to keep Dean as a pet, Dean’s been easier to be with. Things are just… simpler. Dean jumps, Sam jumps with him. Dean needs something, Sam is more than willing to do whatever needs to be done. Because Dean’s word, it’s something… important. It’s always been important. It’s more than that, now, though; it’s a need. Sam… he needs to know what to do. He feels physically and mentally starved for it.
It’s harmless little commands at first. There’s a hunt a few miles out – a vamp’s nest. Dean tells Sam not to leave the bunker, voice stern, and Sam sits down at the table with a nod. “Sure thing, Dean.”
“… No, Sam, come on. I’ll need back up.”
Sam rises to his feet without complaint. Dean rubs a heavy palm over his chin, quiet for a moment. There’s something reflecting in his eyes, a kind of darkness swirling there caused by the taint of the Mark, starkly pink on his flesh. “Magnus’ powder worked… Just needed a little tweaking, but…”
“Hm?” Sam asks casually, packing his laptop up.
Dean plans the hunts, and the hunts go well. Sam never says a word to it, and even if he tries, it simply takes a single command for the overgrown hunter to shut down, tuck tail and sit still, quiet, obedient. This is for the best, though. Somewhere in Sam’s still functioning mind, he wants to scream, wants to fight it. With every disapproving wrinkle of his brow, there’s Dean’s voice shutting him down. But then, he deserves it, doesn’t he? He always needed a chaperone; he always makes bad choices; he always ruins things.
“Keep your thoughts to yourself; this is for your own good, Sammy,” Dean says one night, the veins around the Mark a purple-pink that ripples and slithers. Dean’s drank too much, his alcoholism always there in the foreground enough that Sam’s tongue struggles, thick, against the roof of his mouth. Stop drinking so much, Dean, you’ll kill yourself, and then who will tell me what to be?? What to do? “Stop trying to grab my drink.” He stops. “You don’t get it, do you? This is how I keep us ready. All I have to do is tell you to walk away and forget about me, and you’d do that. Get it? It’s for protection.”
Sam screams and screams and screams, all voiceless and unheard, mouth shut.
The Mark gets worse. Always worse. Dean commands Sam to hold a shifter still while he buries the blade in the monster’s spine. “This is for your own good,” Dean says, high off of something Sam can’t comprehend. But he’s probably right. It’s probably important. Dean is always right, isn’t he? He stares down at the hair interwoven in Dean’s hand from the corpse, blood-spackled and twisted. “Don’t say a word, Sam. Not a word.”
When he tries to leave the bunker in the middle of the night, Dean commands him into a room beside his.
And then… Dean dies, and becomes a demon.
It would have been easy for Dean to have walked away, if Sam weren’t a compliant plaything. It would have been. Sam has faith in his brother that he would have walked away if he could; it’s all he can think to keep even a fraction of his sanity now. His brother snaps his fingers, eyes onyx, a milky black that floods his eyes. The bar is rundown, Dean sitting in one of the old chairs and ushering Sam with his words. Sam obeys, getting on his hands and knees so that Dean can put his feet on Sam’s back to rest them.
Crowley’s eyebrows raise, and even he is caught off guard. Startled by the sight. “Fancy training, I see.”
“It’s fantastic. No wonder Sammy’s wanted a dog for so long.” Dean reaches down and pats Sam’s shoulder, and Sam craves the old Dean enough to pretend it was truly his brother reaching out to him. He closes his eyes as Dean continues, “Got it all down. Even had him cut his own tongue out so that he’d stop trying to throw the touchy-feely crap at me.”
Three years, and Sam listens. He kills when asked, he stands alone in the dark and waits, he prays silently in his head.
Castiel eventually hears his prayers and finds him sitting cross-legged in an old abandoned apartment complex, while he’s waiting for Dean. His hair is unkempt and his clothes wrinkled, eyes dully lit. “Oh, Sam,” Cas says, voice soft. He puts a hand on Sam’s shoulder, and god help him, Sam just wants to melt into the warm touch.
The angel uses what he can of his depleting wilted grace to fix Sam’s tongue, but the man never says a word. Not when Castiel cures Dean, not when Dean’s eyes melt from that inky black into the green he’s familiar with. Doesn’t speak when Castiel tells him it’s done. Sam simply sits, forehead on his knees, back against a wall. Dean’s shadow falls over him – terrifying and relieving all at once, as Castiel speaks, voice almost leveled and free of righteous judgment, of anger (but not quite, not quite). “I fixed his tongue, but I can’t remove the spell you put on him.”
“Sammy,” Dean’s teary voice cracks – for the first time since the spell. “Sammy, I’m so sorry. I don’t know what happened… I don’t…”
“Don’t,” Sam rasps, his own throat thick with emotion, arms tightening around his legs. “Don’t say anything.”
And Dean obeys, letting the silence trickle in.
Sam looks up, smile forced and heavy and twisted, and asks, “What do I do now?”
Dean rushes out of the room, leaving Castiel, fists clenched, and Sam, unsure of who he needs to be.
Sam hates that after all of these concussions, all of these possessions, all of these fucked-up things that had happened to his head… a spell by his brother is what does him in. Granted, it was an accumulation of horrible things he doesn’t want to ever, ever talk about. It was killing human beings at Dean’s command. It was not so much as pissing without his brother’s word. It was being used as a step-stool, or to guard Dean’s door in silence, night after night from anyone who could try anything funny. It was Dean, Dean, Dean, and all the while without a voice, without anything. And now… now Dean wants him to just be him. How is he supposed to do that? He’s still under Dean’s fucking finger, whether he likes it or not. The spell isn’t gone. It probably never will be.
He stands in the kitchen, staring at the fridge, when Dean walks over reluctantly to his side. He hasn’t been doing too hot lately, bags under his eyes and this beaten look on his face like Sam was the one hurting him. Frustrated tears sting his eyes, and his stomach growls angrily. He’s so hungry, but he isn’t supposed to ask for food, to talk about it, and the spell is strong in the wake of Dean’s being cured.
Slowly, guiltily: “Eat whatever you want, Sammy.”
He wishes he wouldn’t call him that. The fact that it’s a command makes his skin crawl, and he shivers before he wordlessly moves to retrieve food from the cabinets. His hands are shaking while he works, his brain screaming, stomach shriveling. Dean just watches him for a moment as he starts to eat ravenously.
“You don’t need my permission to eat, Sam,” Dean says quietly, looking at the floor. He sounds rough, and maybe even a little bitter, but maybe Sam’s imagining that. It’s hard to accept this Dean right now when the one from not so long ago was… well. He was something else, an entirely different breed of monster from one day to the next. “I’m sorry. Don’t starve, okay? Just — if you’re hungry, eat.”
“Stop telling me what to do,” Sam says quietly, with no punch to it. He’s already said it many, many times since things went back to ‘normal’, even though they both know the effects of the spell require commands in order to correct some of the damage done. They haven’t been on a hunt in months, and it’s clear why: Dean would have had to tell Sam what to do. How to kill something. The thought makes him want to vomit up all of the bread and cheese and meat he’s managed to choke down.
It’s hard. It’s so hard. He has a hard time looking Dean in the eyes anymore, and not even just because he was never supposed to under the demon’s (Dean’s) command. They sit in silence, Sam with a warm cup of coffee in his hands. His skin feels dirty. It hasn’t stopped feeling dirty since Castiel came for him. Dean clears his throat as softly as he can, and Sam twitches.
“I’m… We’ll fix this, Sam. I’ll make things right.”
Sam closes his eyes. “Don’t.”
“What the fuck else can I do, Sam?” Dean asks, eyes vibrant with frustration and hurt and uncertainty; it makes Sam angry to know that still impacts him, makes his chest ache. Dean makes his hands into fists on the table. “What can I do? You don’t even fucking look at me. And I get it. I understand that, okay? But I’m not sure how to make things right, how to get your forgiveness. Tell me what to — ”
He cuts himself off, before he can give an order.
It’s quiet, tense. Sam takes a small sip of his coffee, headache throbbing in his temples.
“You can’t. You can’t always… get forgiveness. You can’t always get what you want, Dean.” His voice is small in the kitchen, doesn’t echo or rise. “This isn’t… First it was Gadreel, and now it’s this. And this was… it was so much worse. I knew I couldn’t completely forgive you for Gadreel. And I know I can’t forgive you for this. Not this.”
His breath stutters, but he fights back the tightness in his throat.
“Sammy… I need you, man. I can’t fight this thing on my own. This Mark… It’s making me something horrible. I never would have…”
“But you did,” Sam cuts, like a knife, “You did this. You don’t excuse a drunk driver for killing people when he was under the influence. He still goes to jail, Dean. He still made mistakes. You don’t just get to say it wasn’t you, like that wipes it all away.”
Dean rubs at his eyes, and part of Sam gets overwhelmingly pissed that Dean’s decided now of all times to look like a reprimanded, scared child. Because he’s not. And God fucking help him, he’s he’s a grown-ass man who needs to fucking let go, because it’s ruined everything Sam thought they had. His hands are shaking again, every inch of his body pleading for him to run. He can see Dean’s black eyes, hear the sound of flesh squelching in his mouth as the demon massacres his tongue, feels the heaviness of his knife in a man’s chest cavity; the whoosh of air as a lung is pierced, followed by the gurgle. He feels Dean’s hands shoving him into a dark room and closing the door.
Before he knows it, he’s sobbing so hard he’s nearly retching, his arms thrown over his head and his coffee poured out across the counter top. And Dean is there next to him wrapping his arms around Sam — and Sam wants to shove him, scream at him, bite and claw him, because he has no clue what to do with all of this pain festering like a cancer inside his guts. Instead, he curls his hands in the back of Dean’s jacket and cries into his shoulder, red-faced and undignified. Everything is pouring out of him, a grenade going off, letting the contents of his mind explode out from his skull. He’s wanted nothing more than to feel Dean embrace him and mean it, and even though everything is broken apart and nothing will ever be the same, he can’t help but grope for anyone, anyone at all, even for the person who broke him in.
“You’re a fucking asshole, I fucking hate you,” he coughs.
“I can’t do this; I can’t forgive you for this, it’s too big — ”
“It’s okay, Sam. It’s alright.”
He doesn’t ask him to stop crying. The demon had.
When he’s finally hollowed out, he pushes away slowly from Dean, rubbing his face. He thinks about leaving. All he has to do is ask for Dean to tell him to leave. And he could leave. It would be hard, but he could… go to Jody, if she’d have him. Ask Castiel if he wouldn’t mind staying with him, until he got his head sorted out. Go to California and restart. Could leave behind the bunker. But Dean’s still in danger, and the Mark is still pulsing with life on his arm.
And Sam, despite everything, couldn’t leave Dean to struggle with that.
“I need to take another shower,” Sam says numbly.
Dean seems to know what Sam’s needing. There’s blame, there on his shoulders. “… Go — go take a shower.” His eyes are soft. Maybe Dean’s breaking, too, but Sam doesn’t have the luxury of trying to care for the both of them at once right now — not when he has to use what he has to try and heal Dean’s curse. He leaves, showers until his pink skin hurts, and then starts to pull any books he can from the library. Sets up the laptop delicately.
And then he gets to work on cracking the Mark.
The bunker is dead silent, save for the sound of Sam’s fingers, moving fast across the keys.