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Burden

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“How’s the kid? He go dark side yet?”

The very question rose fury within Sam’s, jaw clenched as he waited for his brother to reach the bottom of the stairs to the bunker.

He turned around, the blank expression on his face enough to tell Dean that Sam wasn’t in a good mood.

“Nope,” Concealing his annoyance at Dean’s complete obliviousness, Sam responded bluntly, “he’s, uh, he’s pretty messed up, though.”

“You’re telling me,” Dean snirtled, although he felt that ‘messed up’ was an understatement.

“No, Dean. He’s messed up because of you.”

Dean furrowed his eyebrows at his brother’s statement and took note of how Sam’s voice was more defensive now. He wasn’t really surprised at Sam’s words. These days, Dean was always getting blamed for something and he had gotten used to the betrayal of his own brother, Sam, being his accuser.

“Dean, you said you’d kill him.”

“It wasn’t exactly like that,” he justified. This weird feeling kept tugging on him, though, bringing his mind back to when he had caught the kid doing the most awe-striking thing. And still, despite all he was feeling at that moment, he still couldn’t refrain himself from saying what he said.

“Then how exactly was it?” Sam challenged, still disappointed in what Jack had told him Dean said to him.

“I told him the truth,” Dean shrugged non-chalantly, receding an eye roll from the younger of the Winchester’s. “See you think you can use this freak, but I know how it ends, and it ends bad.”

The words bit at Sam. Painfully. Because whether Dean noticed or not, everything he was saying had applied to him once, not too long ago.

“I didn’t.” Sam replied.

“What?”

“I didn’t end bad when I was the freak.” Sam’s voice was quieter, almost small. “When I was drinking demon blood.”

“Come on, man,” Dean groaned, shaking his head. “That’s totally different,” but deep down, he knew it wasn’t.

“Was it? Because you could’ve put a bullet in me.” Sam said, his voice strong, but shaky in memory. “Dad told you to put a bullet in me, but you didn’t. You saved me. So help me save him!”

“No, no,” Shaking his head and frowning, Dean couldn’t believe the words coming out of his little brother’s mouth. “You deserved to be saved. He doesn’t.”

“Yes, he does, Dean! Of course he does!” The words that left Dean’s mouth shocked him.

“Look, I know you think that you can use him as some sort of interdimensional can opener, and that’s fine... but don’t act like you care about him because you only care about what he can do for you. So if you wanna pretend, that’s fine. But me? I can hardly look at the kid. Cause when I do, all I see is everybody we’ve lost.”

And even though in a way, Sam couldn’t disagree, he was not giving up on Jack. Not after everything they had all gone through. “Mom chose to take that shot at Lucifer! That is not on Jack.”

“And what about Cass?”

“What about Cass?” Sam frowned. What more did Dean have to rant about? What more could he put on the innocent Nephilim’s shoulders?

“He manipulated him, Sam!” The loudness of Dean’s voice set Sam back. He knew he was angry, but not to this extent. “He made promises. Said ‘Paradise on Earth,” and Cass bought it. And you know what that got him?”

Silently, Sam absorbed all his brother was saying, his mind tied between Dean, who wasn’t making invalid points, and Jack, who had already been given the burden of so much guilt and pain for the little time he’d been in the world.

“It got him dead!”

Sam’s attention was drawn by Dean’s yell, and he stared at his brother.

“Now you might be able to forget about that, but I can’t!”

The taller boy stepped back slightly, not used to Dean’s emitting so much anger and hatred— at least not toward him.

“What if he were me?” Sam spoke up after minutes of silence, his voice tired and wan. “What if Jack were me? Would you still feel the same?”

Dean stared at his brother, taking in the sight of pain and sadness that filled Sam’s hazel, puppy-dog eyes. The pain and sadness he was causing.

“We already went through this, Sammy. He’s not you,” Dean ran a hand over his face, exhausted at coming home from a hunt to get into an argument with his own brother. His tone was intentionally much softer now in hopes of reducing the sorrow he had provoked. He could tell by the way that Sam once again brought up the topic of him and Jack being the same, it was a sensitive topic to him. “He’s a burden. He’s Lucifer’s son.“

“By blood...” Sam’s voice was suggestive and hopeful. “And you could say that, technically, by blood, I’m kind of related to demons.”

The fact that Sam even suggested that told Dean how much this meant to his younger brother. He shook his head sympathetically at Sam.

“But you don’t think of me any different, right? You and mom— you’re still my family.” Sam continued, taking Dean’s quietness as an opportunity to speak again. “You may find it hard to believe, but he’s human like the rest of us— he gets scared and he has nightmares.... he’s just a kid and he’s suffering, Dean. You never left me to suffer when we were kids and I was scared or had nightmares, right? Just give him a chance. Please.”

Dean muttered something under his breath that came out incoherent.

“What was that?” Sam asked, knowing Dean well enough to know that the unclearness of his response was intentional. He also knew better than to push his luck, but after this long conversation, Sam knew that Dean probably felt guilty by now and wouldn’t go any further with the discussion.

“I said fine, Sammy,” Dean mumbled again and he turned away, walking toward his room. Quiet but comprehensible.

“Thanks, Dean,” Sam’s words dripped with appreciation and gratefulness. Sam had been trying to give the kid a good life, or at least a not awful one like he and Dean had. His brother finally agreeing not to be so cruel to the teenager meant a lot.

“Yeah, whatever, Bitch.”

Chuckling, Sam watched his brother walk away, before, as according to routine, uttering, “Jerk,” and he went his own way.

Rubbing his neck, Dean kept his eyes on the floor. Though he’d never admit it, all that Sam had said really did get stuff moving in his mind. He sighed tiredly, knowing that this was going to be on his mind for a while.

He was grateful for the strange, quiet noise from across the hall that snapped him out of his thoughts, though seconds later he came to notice that the noise was coming from Jack’s bedroom.

“Sammy,” Dean stepped back and whisper-shouted to where he had just come from.

After a minute or two of waiting patiently and once again being pulled back into awareness when he heard soft sniffles, he groaned, realizing that he was going to have to deal with this.

“Son of a bitch,” Dean sighed. This was Sam’s thing! But he couldn’t just leave the kid like this, could he?

Giving in, he slowly pushed the door open. He stared at the bed on which Jack was lying on his side, his back toward Dean.

“Kid?” His voice was expectant. He had to force himself not to sound irritated or angry.

Tapping his foot impatiently, he received no answer from Jack.

“I know you’re awake, kid.”

He unfolded his arms when Jack slowly pulled himself up into a seated position on his bed, hugging his legs to his chest and briefly looked at Dean with glazed eyes.

“Everything okay?” He asked, skeptically.

“I... I had a bad dream,” Jack’s voice was shaky and he avoided eye contact with the man.

Dean frowned, half-heartedly saying, “then why didn’t you go find Sam or something?”

The kid should’ve been used to going to Sam with a nightmare, by now. Sam had been the first one that panicked-Jack had gone to, thinking he was having a ‘night vision’ and alerting Sam that they were all in danger. Ever since then, any time Jack had a nightmare that the tall man hadn’t woken him up from, he’d gone to Sam himself seeking comfort or someone to talk to.

“I didn’t want to be a burden...”

“Dammit,” Dean murmured under his breath. He suddenly felt a tiny bit guilty about the fact that the Nephilim had probably gone looking for Sam in the first place. When he heard what the brothers were talking about, he must’ve gone back to his room with an even heavier heart.

“I’m sorry.”

“For what?” Dean shook his head. He wouldn’t say it out loud, but he tried to imply that he could not think of anything the Nephilim should’ve been sorry for. “Sam’s probably asleep now...” Dean cursed under his breath once again.

Dean knew how all of this was supposed to go... but with Sam. Not with Lucifer’s kid.

He turned his attention back to the boy who was still sat on his bed, staring at the wall ahead of him.

Jack couldn’t stop the images of his dream from flashing in his mind every single time he blinked. But he realized how annoying it must have been for Sam to have to look after him every night because he couldn’t go back to sleep or because he couldn’t breathe after a dream. The teenager had never considered it pathetic or like a burden until tonight, so he wasn’t about to cry— especially not in front of Dean— and he wasn’t about to go and wake Sam up for nothing more than a dumb bad dream.

Sam had reassured Jack multiple times that he was glad that he had come to him. That everyone had nightmares— including him and Dean. But something that never occurred to Jack was how Dean and Sam never went to someone for comfort or consolation after a nightmare. So, why did Jack crave reassurance whenever his sleep had been plagued by a monster or all the people he couldn’t save or that he hurt— or that he might hurt.

Dean’s eyes were glued to the motionless boy who truly seemed scarred by whatever he had dreamt about. Dean sighed, running his hand over his face before standing up straighter.

“Alright, lets get you some water.” He motioned for Jack to get up and follow him. “Come on.”

Dean walked at the sound of Jack’s feet slowly padding the floor behind him.

The walk consisted of no exchange of words, which Dean was glad about, to say the least, but when he turned his head slightly while walking to make sure that the kid was behind him, his eyes landed on sad, red rimmed eyes.

Thankfully, the trip to the kitchen lasted no more than a minute or so. Jack stood by the wall while Dean went to the sink to fill a cup with water for the kid and to get a bottle of beer for himself.

“Here,” he handed the kid the cup of water and took a swig from his own drink. “You wanna tell me what your dream was about?”

Jack’s eyes remained on the cup of water, his lips pursed like they had been the whole time.

“Look, you don’t have to tell me but whatever it is, I’ve probably dreamt it— hell, I’ve probably seen it face to face.” Dean chuckled, not just for the sake of getting out of the awkward silence but also to help the kid stop tearing his mind apart.

Somehow, his attempt at breaking the ice came to bite him in the butt. He frowned, putting his beer down on the table and stepping back a tiny bit without even noticing. He groaned at the fact that Jack’s eyes had filled with tears (literally out of nowhere!) that were threatening to slide down his cheeks.

Dean suddenly being, well, not a jerk, was unusual and Jack didn’t know how to take it. The teenager had never had so many thoughts and felt so many things— about his mortifying nightmare, about all the harsh things Dean had said about him and about how Dean was acting toward him now— attacking his brain and chest and he didn’t know how to respond or stop any of them. It felt like the whole world had collapsed on his shoulders and he couldn’t stop the shameful tears, that he’d so desperately been trying to hide, from beginning to descend down his face.

“Woah, woah, woah. Stop that-“ Why the hell was the boy crying? “Don’t do that.”

“I’m sorry,” Jack whispered and looked down at the floor in ignominy, though it didn’t stop the tears.

Dean bit his tongue. “Stop apologizing, kid...”

Dean took the glass out of the crying Nephilim’s hand and placed it down on the table.

“Come here,” he sighed, reluctantly opening his arms.

Jack’s eyes darted between Dean’s eyes and facial expression, the odd feeling that this could be some sort of trap giving him anxiety, and Dean noticed, so instead of getting annoyed, he patiently waited with his arms welcoming.

The sympathy and understanding look on Dean’s face must have given Jack some sort of trust, though, because soon he found himself walking towards the man and sinking into his embrace. Incognizant to his actions, Dean was rubbing the boy’s back.

And for a minute, to Dean, it felt like he was holding Sammy.

Strangely, unlike his behavior, Dean was warm and Jack felt safe in his arms. Safer than he’d ever been. He didn’t feel alone or scared or broken. He felt like he did when the shapeshifting therapist posed as his mother and he got to hug her for the first time, or when he was still unborn and his mother would sing to him. He felt at home.

“You and Sam and Castiel a-and my father— you were hurting me,” his body jerked as he cried into Dean’s shoulder. “Every time- every time I thought— I would just die— I wouldn’t. I’d just keep reliving it over and over. Y-you wouldn’t stop.”

Unexpectedly, Dean’s heart clenched at the sad, barely audible, hitched words that left Jack’s mouth while his body jerked as he cried.

“Look, kid, about what I said... you’re not a burden, alright?” He looked up at the ceiling, shaking his head ever so slightly; not in disbelief of the fact that he was comforting Lucifer’s son, but because he felt guilty about what the kid had gone through. Sam was right. About everything. Not too long ago, this was his Sammy in his arms.

Dean pulled away from Jack despite the way the kid unknowingly tried to hold on to the warm hug. Dean sighed and stared at him. He pretended not to notice the redness of his eyes, the tears that still cascaded freely down Jack’s cheeks, or the wetness of his shoulder.

He handed the kid his water and urged him to drink it all to calm down.

“I just— I’m not used to caring for anyone but Sammy, alright?” Dean admitted. “And Lucifer- he put me and my brother through way too much.”

Jack just listened.

“I’m just trying to say... I’m sorry I put all that on you.” He smiled apologetically— whole heartedly. “Only Lucifer deserves the blame for what he’s done.”

Jack slowly lifted his head up, and his tired, puffy eyes met with Dean’s emerald ones, and finally, for the first time, he didn’t see hatred and anger in them.

He saw family.