Title: A Learning Experience
Author: Dhvana
Series: 1) The Monster Under the Bed, 2) A Little Help From Bob, 3) The Temptation of Dean, 4) Questions Without Answers, 5) Don't Lose Your Head, 6) Retribution and Remorse, 7) The Return of an Old Fiend, 8) Undulating Dynamics, 9) Personal Weirdness, 10) On the Road Again, 11) Doubletalk, 12) The Golden Agenda, 13) The Rescue of Dean, 14) Alone
Rating: PG-13
Pairing: Sam/Dean, but the Wincest is implied and unrequited (so far)
Summary: Life without Dean.


Six months after the battle in South Dakota, a gleaming black 1967 Impala made its way into Fredericksburg, carefully maneuvering around the tourists milling through the streets. The driver was a tall young man with brown hair in bad need of a cut and a right arm that looked soft and pink and a little shiny, like newly formed skin. He was body was lean, though not without muscles, and just on this side of being too thin. He searched the streets with hazel eyes that lingered on the men in the crowds whose blond heads rose above the rest, but each one brought a spark of disappointment to his gaze, and his eyes quickly moved on to the next.

It hardly seemed like any time had passed since Sam had abandoned his brother, but now that he had finally found the courage to return, it amazed him how those six months suddenly felt like forever. He had left Dean lying comatose in that hospital bed having already decided never to look back. If his brother wanted to fuck up his own life, that was fine, but he didn't want any part of it. His abilities made him enough of a target as it was--the last thing he needed was for Dean to invite in any more trouble. He would just end up getting them both killed, and while there had been days when he'd wished he was dead, Sam really wasn't ready to die quite yet.

He honestly believed it was easier for them to simply go their separate ways because, apparently, that was what Winchesters did. It was how they protected each other, and themselves. Should his and Dean's paths happen to cross one day, he had no doubt those paths would merge for only a short while before parting again. Some people just worked better on their own, and in spite of fate paring him with a warrior, Sam figured life couldn't be any worse without him than it had been with him.

Besides, it hurt too much to stay. It was days before Sam could even think about Dean without tears forming in his eyes, and weeks before he was able to sleep through the night without dreaming about him. In addition to his usual repertoire, his nightmares were filled with images of Dean and the monster laughing at him as they fucked, or of the monster killing his family one at a time before his eyes, or of Dean just watching him, face filled with sadness as Sam drove a knife into his heart. The last dream was the worst because he had a strange feeling it didn't belong to him, and that was not something he wanted to think about. As far as he was concerned, Dean had done this to himself.

He did call their father and leave a message on his voicemail giving him a brief outline of what had happened, being sure to include only the most vital details and leaving out the ones involving Dean fucking a demon instead of himself. He let their father know of Dean's hospitalization and where he could find him if he wanted, but if John ever went to look for his oldest son, Sam wasn't aware of it. His father never called him back, and Sam eventually forced himself to stop obsessing over the whereabouts of the tattered remains of his family. Thanks to his travel companions, he had plenty of other things to worry about.

The time he spent with Amanda and Don was alternately engaged with fighting evil and receiving lessons on how to access his powers. With Amanda's help, he was able to get an idea of what his strengths and limitations were, as well as a very general understanding of just what he might one day be capable of. Sam still didn't know what it all meant, but at least his confusion was lightened somewhat, and he did learn a few new tricks. He didn't have quite Amanda's knack for healing, though she said he would improve with practice. His telekinesis, however, was stronger than hers right from the start and she had no doubt that he'd be able to move just about anything when he got the hang of it. The premonitions, on the other hand, were all his own, and continued to come and go without warning, much to his frustration.

Since there was no longer any reason for Don to hide his shapeshifting from him, it amused Sam to learn that Don preferred his wolf form over his human one. The wolf would often sit at Amanda's feet during their lessons and she would constantly have one hand buried in his fur or stroking his head while she talked. When Sam went for his morning jog, the wolf usually ran with him, occasionally wandering away to chase off a rabbit or another dog. Sam found the wolf's behavior both amusing and endearing, though he kept his opinion to himself around the warrior. He knew that half the reason Don joined him was to make sure he stayed safe, and he was pretty sure Don wouldn't be pleased to know just how cute he looked running across a field, nipping at a fluffy white cottontail.

When they weren't battling evil or playing school, Sam spent his free time practicing while Don and Amanda made up for the time they'd spent apart. They tried not to be obvious about it, but it was clear to anyone who saw them that they were very much in love. They worshipped each other and were constantly performing little acts to show their appreciation for one another, such as Amanda picking up a carton of Don's favorite fruit (blueberries) when they stopped at a grocery store, or Don reading to her at night when her head hurt and her eyes were too sensitive to the light after a particularly excruciating day. Whenever they were on a hunt, Don was careful never to let Amanda out of his sight, and while she was more subtle about it, she always kept an eye on him as well. They were a team, and Sam couldn't help envying them.

He watched their easy companionship and their endless adoration and he felt like a part of him was missing. He'd had all these things with Dean, and now that his brother was gone, it was as if half of him had left as well. While it was Dean's fault that even while they had been together, his brother had held himself aloof and kept them from becoming as close as Sam had wanted, he wished now he had even a tiny bit of that old intimacy back. It hadn't been much, but he'd cherished it while they were together.

Too bad Dean hadn't felt the same.

Still, as the months passed, Sam noticed that the hurt which usually surrounded his thoughts of Dean had started to fade, and the anger and the hatred which had burned so fiercely before was starting to cool in his heart. His loneliness fueled by watching the relationship between Don and Amanda, he began missing his brother more and more. He remembered the fun he and Dean used to have together, from the insane stunts they'd pulled to Dean's sometimes dangerous plots on how to earn a few extra dollars. Sam smiled over the memories of how his brother's sudden and random thoughts could make him laugh, and how some of his more bizarre ideas had the ability to leave him speechless with disbelief. He missed having someone he could joke around with, or who would understand the source of his occasional bouts of depression without ever having to ask. He missed having someone who could read him with one look, and having someone he could read in return.

Traveling across the country with Don and Amanda reinforced his awareness of how acutely unique Dean was, and how it was his brother's singular attitude towards the world that made Sam's place in it feel a little less isolated and a little more comfortable. Dean really was a part of him, whether he wanted to admit it or not. He complemented him in ways no one else could and Sam gradually realized just how lucky he had been. As the realization grew, he found himself longing for the sound of his brother's voice, for the solid presence of Dean's body at his side, for the warmth of his arms wrapped around him at night.

Though the pain of his brother's betrayal continued to twist like a dagger in his heart, slowly, Sam began to forgive him, but it was several months before he was able to accept that forgiveness. He just couldn't understand why Dean would do such a thing, why he would give himself to that monster. None of the reasons he thought of ever seemed to make sense, and none of them appeared to be worth the danger, but apparently Dean had found a reason that had justified risking their lives. Sam just wished he knew what. Maybe then he would be able to look into Dean's face and see his brother again.

When the longing for him became unbearable, as well as for the answers he could provide, Sam said good-bye to Don and Amanda and left in search of his brother. Not knowing where else to go, he'd returned to Fredericksburg, hoping that Dean would still there.

The first thing he did after turning the car towards Texas was call the hospital where he'd left his brother. A nurse informed him that after his first month in the coma, Dean had been transferred to a long-term care facility. She passed Sam over to the facility where he was told that after another month, his brother had woken up, but once he'd left their care, they didn't know where he'd gone. He hadn't provided any sort of number or forwarding address--no surprise there--so, basically, Sam would have to go on instinct. He'd start in Fredericksburg and use his connection with Dean to figure out where to go from there.

Much to his amazement, the sensation he associated with his brother was still strong in the small Texas town. He'd expected Dean to have left the second he was mobile, but knowing he'd remained filled Sam with worry. What if he hadn't made a full recovery? What if there was something wrong with his body, or his mind? He hadn't thought to ask any specifics regarding his brother's health--he'd just assumed everything would be okay. He knew he'd wanted his brother to suffer, but not from some sort of terrible trauma that would leave him disabled in any way. If that was what had happened and he'd just abandoned his brother to overcome it all on his own, Sam was pretty sure he'd never be able to forgive himself. They might actually come up even on the guilt factor if that were the case, but there was no use in worrying about it until he knew for sure.

Parking the Impala in the first available spot along the main drag, Sam sat in the car for a moment and reached out with his power to find his brother. Seeking him with closed eyes, Dean's presence was a spark of light in his mind, one that burned strong and warmed him even from this distance. Stepping out of the car, Sam followed the feeling along the street and found himself standing in front of the biergarten he and Dean had frequented so many months ago. He stared at the building, finding it strange to think that for the first time in almost half a year, he was now only within a few feet of his brother, but he still felt like he was miles away.

Gathering his courage, Sam walked up the sidewalk and was surprised to find Fran still manning the hostess stand, but then, things probably didn't change much in Fredericksburg. He was even more surprised when her face broke into a grin and she wrapped her arms around him in a big hug.

"Well, there you are!" she said, standing back to look him over. "We were beginning to think you'd forgotten all about us."

"I got sidetracked," he said, trying to cover his confusion with a smile, "but I'm here now."

"And not a moment too soon. Your brother said the two of you'd had a falling out and not to expect you, but I knew you'd be back."

"You've seen Dean?" he asked, and she laughed.

"Of course. Every day for the past few months, ever since he got out of the hospital," she said, linking an arm through his and leading him into the restaurant. "Now, I know you had to get back to school and everything, but I have to say, it looked kind of odd you just leaving him here like that. Still, he insisted that he'd rather have you finish your education than bore yourself to tears waiting by his bedside, so most of us have forgiven you. But I should warn you, you leave him like that again, and we might not be so forgiving."

"Don't worry," he said with a weak smile, his stomach churning nervously as he searched each room for signs of his brother. "It won't happen again."

"Good to know," she said, and sat him down at a table in one of the smaller rooms. "Now wait here and I'll go get your brother."

Sam nodded, drumming his fingers anxiously against the worn wood of the tabletop as he looked around the empty room. The scent of sauerkraut and sausage filled his nose, and though he knew he'd never be able to eat, he wished he'd picked up a beer to calm his stomach. Maybe this wasn't such a good idea. Maybe he should have started slowly by calling first and worked his way up to seeing him. After all, there was a good chance Dean's first reaction would not be to welcome him, but to punch him in the face, something he would have deserved for taking the Impala, if nothing else--and there was plenty else.

Fuck, Sam thought as he caved to his nerves and pushed the chair away from the table. This was a mistake. He should get out of there while he still--his eyes widened. "Dean."

His brother stood in the doorway, a short apron around his waist, a pen and notepad in his hand. Sam had somehow managed to forget just how beautiful Dean was, and the sight of him now stole his breath away. All signs of the battle six months ago had vanished, the pale waxy skin tanned and glowing with health, the circles under his green eyes non-existent, the muscles straining beneath his gray tee-shirt as smooth and hard as they'd ever been. He appeared relaxed, well cared for, even normal, as if the thought of demons and monsters had never once haunted his mind.

For a split second, an expression of pure joy passed over Dean's face, only to be replaced by one of fierce anger.

Sam's heart fell.

The two brothers stared at each other, the tension in the room building until Sam was sure the glass in the windows was going to crack, and then Dean spoke.

"Where's my fucking car?"

Sam tried not to flinch. "It's here. It's fine. Not a scratch on it, I swear."

Dean nodded sharply, then turned around. "Stay here. I'll bring you something to eat."

The second Dean left the room, Sam's head fell to the table with a bang. At least he hadn't gotten punched. His brother hadn't exactly been happy to see him, but then, he hadn't expected him to. He didn't know whether to feel relieved about the way their meeting had gone, or disappointed. He supposed he should be reassured that at least Dean had spoken to...wait a minute. Jumping to his feet, he ran through the restaurant to where Fran and Shelley were standing at the hostess stand.

"Which way did he go?"

"That way," Shelley said, pointing away from the town's main street. "His apartment's a few blocks over from here. I think he went home."

"Thanks," Sam said and jogged down the street, looking left and right at each crossroad until he saw the lines of Dean's back in the distance and he took off running. "Dean! Dean, wait!"

His brother didn't turn but kept on walking.

"Son of a..." Sam grumbled under his breath and continued running until he caught up with his brother at the door to his apartment. "Dean!"

"Leave me the fuck alone."

"No," Sam said, reaching out a hand to grab onto his arm. "We need to talk."

"There's nothing to talk about," he said, shaking off Sam's hand. "We're through. You didn't want anything more to do with me, and I want nothing more to do with you."


"Enough, Sam!" he snapped, whirling around so that they were facing each other, revealing to him the guilt and the self-loathing reflected in his brother's green eyes, and Sam had to keep himself from looking away. Even though he was finding his way to forgiving him, it was clear Dean had never forgiven himself. Sam didn't want to admit it, but over the past six months, he'd given very little thought to how Dean might have been reacting during their separation. He should have known he'd have been beating himself up over everything that had happened. It hadn't been necessary for him to tell Dean how much he'd fucked up--his brother was fully aware of every mistake he'd made. What Sam didn't know was if Dean knew just how much pain he'd put him through. Dean wasn't the only one who was suffering; the damage had been severe on both sides.

"If you came back to yell at me some more, to tell me how much you hate me and how much I disgust you, don't worry. I got the idea, and I have every intention of leaving you alone from now on. Go back to school, Sammy. Go back to your normal life. I won't bother you ever again."

School? Is that where Dean thought he'd been? But then, what else was his brother supposed to think? It wasn't like he'd called and let him know that he was still hunting. He supposed it was only natural that Dean would assume his first reaction would be to return to school.

"I can't do that," Sam said, keeping his voice calm, rational. The last thing he wanted to do was get into an argument with him, not when he was trying to make things right. "I can't leave this life, and I can't leave you."

He paused then, looking into his brother's eyes. He wanted to make sure he wasn't wasting his words, and so far, Dean seemed to be listening. Maybe there was hope after all.

"You're my brother, Dean," he said softly. "My warrior. It's who you are. You're a part of me, and nothing either of us says or does will ever change that."

"Not even me fucking a demon?" Dean asked harshly, and Sam shook his head.

"Not even you fucking a demon, though I admit, I've wished more than once that it could. Just the thought of you with that thing..." Sam's eyes narrowed as his power rose uncalled to the surface, sparks of white light crackling between his fingertips. Dean's eyes widened and he took a step back.

"What the--"

Realizing what he was doing, Sam soothed his power and let it settle back into place. "A little trick Amanda taught me, one of many," he said, steering the conversation away from Dean and the monster so it wouldn't happen again. He'd forgotten how easily spooked Dean was by his abilities. "I've still got a lot to learn, but you should see some of the things I can do. She taught me how to block the pain that comes with the premonitions, though I still don't have any control over them. She taught me how to keep things like that psychotic doctor from getting inside my head. And," he added with a smile, "she even taught me how to bend a spoon."

Dean almost smiled back at him, but he was too suspicious to relax just yet, and Sam's own smile faded, his eyes growing serious.

"Even if I wanted it, understand I will never have that normal life. This power is inside of me. It's with me all the time; there's no escaping from it. I can't turn it off. I can't ignore it. I can't pretend it's not there. I just have to accept it, whether I want to or not."

"And by accepting it, you have to accept me, whether you want to or not," Dean said with a scowl. "Well, far be it for me to push you into doing something against your will. Find someone else to be your damn warrior. I don't want the job."

"It doesn't work that way. You don't have a choice in the matter--none of us do. Besides, I don't want anyone else." Taking a deep breath, Sam stepped towards his brother until there remained only a few inches of space between them. "Dean, I want you."

Dean shook his head. "No--"

"I'm not going to let you run from us, not this time. If you want to help me, if you want to keep me safe, love me as you want to love me. Love me as I want to be loved." Sam lowered his head until his mouth was next to Dean's ear. "Love me," he whispered, "and let me love you in return."

He raised his head, brushing his cheek against Dean's as he did so, and a shiver ran through his brother's body.

"Sam," he said with closed eyes, the word falling almost unbidden from his mouth.

Sam leaned forward again until their lips were nearly touching. "Love me, Dean," he repeated and waited there, unmoving, for his brother to take the next step. When he'd offered himself to Dean in Sleepy Hollow, he'd been rejected. If Dean pushed him away now, Sam didn't know what he'd do. He just knew that Dean needed to accept all of him or this would never work.

As they continued to stand there, Sam started to lose hope, but then he felt the warmth of his brother's breath caress his lips.

"You left me," Dean whispered.

"I had to," he said, his body sighing with relief that Dean hadn't pushed him away, though his heart ached at the pain in his brother's voice. "I needed time to forgive you."

"You said you would never be able to forgive me."

"I was wrong."

"You said you didn't care."

"I do care. I tried not to, but you're a part of me, and I will always care about you."

"Do you love me, Sammy?"

"Yes, I love you."

"And I love you," he said, and pressing his mouth against his brother's, closed the space between them. The kiss was soft and bittersweet, their lips barely able to find a way through all the pain that surrounded them, but as Sam pulled away, he was smiling.

His smile fell, however, when he saw the anger in Dean's face.


His brother reached out and pushed him away. "Now get the fuck out of my life," he snarled and disappeared into the apartment, slamming the door shut behind him.


Next story in series - A New Life.