The Truth Shall Set You Free

By: Ridley

Rating: T-for slight language

Disclaimer: Nothing Supernatural is mine, I'm afraid. I also didn't win the lottery, but I still have delusions of both happening some day. Bg.

A/N: Okay, I wrote this while spending the weekend with my best friends Tidia, Williamson, Mog, and Leslie, who flew in to watch the season premiere of Supernatural with me. It was such a great episode, and spending time with them inspired a lot of this little piece-the whole idea of what we will do for one another. Even ride big, scary Ferris Wheels and monstrous roller coasters. I miss you guys already. There are spoilers for In The Time of My Dying, as this is a missing scene. One of many that I wanted to see. Others may have already done this, but I hope I can add just a little bit to the already excellent beginning of our favorite show. Please let me know what you think. Also, both my betas were exhausted from travelling so please forgive the errors they're all mine.

He had told his brother that things hadn't been the same without him, and it was true. One of those smack- you-in-the-face, kick your ass and make you its bitch kind of truths. The kind that rang gut-wrenchingly genuine with the sentiment that the truth may set you free, but by God, it would sure as hell piss you off first.

And Sam had been pissed.

Pissed at his father. Pissed at the demon. But mostly pissed at himself for being so fucking blind for so fucking long.

Dean was his anchor. His center. Sam's protector.

He was the one constant in his life, had always been there, even when hundreds of miles had separated them.

And until his presence was no longer visible and his voice silenced, Sam had been living in a lovely, self-protective place called denial, comfortable and secure in the knowledge that he was not alone. Dean had it all covered.

But the horrible choking sounds his brother was making now as he fought for each beautiful, life-affirming, breath was yet another reminder that the young psychic could no longer harbor himself in that secluded, deceptive paradise. Now Sam was standing in the middle of the freeway, in the dead of the night, with the blinding, on-coming lights of a semi headed his way.

Dean choked and gagged again, and the youngest Winchester recovered his own breath. "Help! I need help in here!"

The sound of running feet heralded a temporary sense of control and Sam turned back to his brother. Dean's eyes were open, frantic and wide. He was reaching for the intubation apparatus now and Sam barely managed to catch Dean's hands in time to save them both from finding out if a patient could actually remove the tubing on their own. He didn't need that disastrous image to add to the others.

"Dean…Dean! Take it easy. You're okay," Sam spoke calmly, although he felt anything but. He fought for control over his own emotions and for a temporary physical submission from his brother. "Dean. Stop."

His brother was still fighting, struggling against the intrusion that forced air into his lungs. And when the older hunter's gaze finally fixed on his, the pain and fear had Sam staggering like a sharp punch to the solar plexus. Sam nearly let him go, so afraid that he was doing more damage- risking further injury. Dean had been hurt enough. "Please, just calm down. I'm here. You're okay."

A voice came from behind him. "What's the problem here?" Dean's doctor strolled through the doorway, his manner as calm and irritatingly collected as before when he'd explained to Sam that Dean might not wake up.

"He's choking!" Sam snapped, feeling helpless, almost as powerless as he had been when he had awoken in the Impala to complete silence. "Do something. Help him."

Doctor Gloom stepped to the other side of Dean's bed, placing both of his hands on his patient's face. "Mr. Winchester, you need to relax. Don't fight. Just breathe with the machine."

Sam rolled his eyes. Telling his brother not to fight was like trying to reason with a frenzied shark in bloody waters. "Is he okay?"

The physician glanced to the younger Winchester. "You need to talk to him. Let him know you're here - that he's in a safe place."

Safe. Was his brother safe now, or was that just another lie? "Mr. Winchester? Did you hear what I said?"

Sam realized the doctor was speaking to him this time, not to Dean. "Talk to him," he stated again.

A nurse had materialized by his side, taking a firm hold on Dean's wrists, so that Sam could step closer to the head of the bed.

He was glad when the doctor let go of his brother. For some irrational reason, Sam didn't want anyone touching Dean, maybe it was because he seemed so vulnerable. "Dean?" he pleaded, resting his hand on his brother's hair. "It's me. Sammy. You're in the hospital, but you're okay. The doctor needs you to be still. You're going to hurt yourself."

At first, Sam was afraid his brother hadn't heard him - hadn't understood, and a dozen possible horrific scenarios flashed through his mind as the injured man continued to choke. Maybe there was some kind of permanent damage. What if Dean didn't recognize him? But then Dean blinked, sending the pooled water gathered in his eyes down his cheeks in what looked deceptively like tears. Of course, that wasn't possible. Dean didn't cry. Ever.

Sam felt his own eyes sting. Another lie he'd told himself. "Hey." He used his thumb to brush away the damning evidence. "It's okay. Just relax, bro."

Another blink and this time the younger Winchester saw recognition flicker in the moss green gaze. The look was more confused than scared now. There was even a hint of frustration and impatience that almost made Sam smile. He glanced to the doctor as his brother settled beneath his hands and his breathing evened. "Can you take that thing out?" It sounded more like an order than a question, which was exactly how Sam had meant it.

The physician shook his head. "Give me a minute to check him over, and we'll see what we can do."

Sam sighed in exasperation, wishing he had a free hand to shove through his hair. "Please step outside, sir," the nurse spoke kindly, while firmly trying to nudge Sam into the background. She'd almost managed when Dean reached out and caught his jacket sleeve, his fingers twisting desperately in the material, his head shaking back and forth, as he became agitated again.

Sam froze, his mind registering the completely foreign presence of fear hovering about his brother. It wasn't the same kind of alarm he'd witnessed when Dean first awoke. That had been a panic familiar to that of awaking from a bad dream, unaware of where one is or what is going on. Add in the foreign object lodged in his throat and his brother had every right to be scared, but the look now was different.

The younger Winchester sidestepped the nurse, moving closer to the older hunter. "Dean?"

Dean's fingers tightened around the material and his brother's eyes conveyed his thoughts to Sam as well as the Ouija Board had done for him. Dean was terrified, and Sam would have done anything in that moment to fix it. Just like he would have done anything in the Impala to get his brother to wake up, to talk to him-to bitch about the state of his precious car or crack some joke about his shitty driving. His brother wasn't suppose to be unconscious.

Dean wasn't suppose to be afraid. Or hurt. He was the one that took care of things-chased the fears away. "Take it easy. I'm not going anywhere." Sam shot the nurse a quick look that let her know he meant what he said. He'd not been able to help his brother when the demon had attacked him, he'd been fucking useless after the crash, barely able to stay conscious let alone help his brother, but he could damn well stay with him until he was calm. Until he was Dean again. Which was more than he could say for their father. Where the hell was John?

Dean needed his calming presence, his hard as nails exterior. Their father was a rock-the youngest Winchester had to give him that much. Sam sucked in the reassurance department. He always had. Maybe it was because he never needed to be comforting or reassuring. That was his brother's strong suit. In fact, for a long time he really had believed his brother wasn't afraid of anything, but then there had been the county fair trip when Sam was six.

He'd begged their Dad to go to the stupid carnival after seeing the signs while staying at Pastor Jim's. John had finally caved, paid a very put upon Caleb Reaves to do the job. The seventeen-year-old had taken he and Dean on a balmy Saturday night in June, and pretty much left them to their own devices as he pursued other adrenaline, testosterone-charged entertainment.

The Ferris wheel had caught Sam's attention immediately, with the same intensity that the scantily clad teenage girls had captured Caleb's. He was instantly mesmerized by the flashing lights, the hand-painted fire-engine red seats with scenes of dancing elephants and fierce tigers. And the fact that it boasted being the highest ride in five counties sealed the deal that Sam had to experience it. It would be like being on top of the world. Even better than climbing to the upper most rafters of Jim's barn.

There was only one problem. Dean refused.

But Sam had begged-pleaded- used every trick in the secret handbook of little brother manipulation.

His brother had been clever in his counter-measures. Dean offered endless cotton candy, caramel apples, and even promised to play every game in the place to win Sam the biggest stuffed animal he could find. But still…the shiny, flashing metal siren in the center of things sang to the daredevil in Sam. That part of every little boy that yearned to fly and leap tall buildings in a single bound called to him. The kid was determined to tame the steel beast, his big brother be damned.

"Please, Dean!" Sam tugged at his brother's sleeve, pulling him closer to the short line of people waiting to ride the Wheel of Wonder.

Ten-year-old Dean Winchester wondered how long it had taken them to come up with the lame name, or even better, how long it had taken them to rapidly assemble the rust-covered death trap disguised as a fun time. It looked shadier than the group of kids that Caleb had run off with, and the guy running it looked like he could have easily been on the county jail work release program.

"Come on, Sammy. How about the carousel or even the Tilt-a-whirl. It'll make you so dizzy, you'll want to puke. You love that. " At this point, Dean could handle anything, even a barfing six-year-old, as long as he didn't have to go up in the circle of death.

"No," Sam shook his head, brown-eyes large and pleading. "I want to ride the Ferris Wheel. I've never done it before."

"Then how do you know you'll even like it?" Dean asked in exasperation. His palms were starting to sweat. "Look…it doesn't even do anything but go round-in-round ."

Sam bounced on his toes, pointed to the top most bucket that was now stopped at the very tip-top, at least sixty feet above them. "But it's so high up. We could see everything, Dean."

High up. Right. Really high, with nothing beneath them but the unwelcoming ground. "No, Sammy. We can do the other rides, play some games, but we're not doing that." He made to pull the little boy away , but Sam jerked his arm free.

"Why, Dean? You promised. You said I could ride anything I wanted."

And damn it, he had. The ten-year-old raked his hands through his short dark-blond hair cursing his stupidity. His kid brother had never been to a fair, hell neither had Dean, and he wanted it to be fun. Sam's recent birthday hadn't been that great, and this would kind of make up for it. Sure, he'd banked on the spinning stuff, the mini-coasters, and even looked forward to them, but the stupid Ferris Wheel wasn't something he'd thought about.

Dean wasn't afraid of much. He'd witnessed things that would send other kids his age screaming and crying for their mommies, but he hated heights. The lack of contact with the solid earth, the loss of the sense of being grounded, the absence of the illusion of being in control was probably a big part of that, even though his pre-adolescent mind didn't understand the concepts that shaped the core of who he was. What he did know was that it terrified him. Dean didn't want to be sixty feet in the air in a tiny swaying seat, and he sure didn't want to fall. But more than that, he sure as hell didn't want to disappoint his brother-especially now.

"Who-hoo!" Sam shouted, obviously recognizing the look of defeat in his brother's green eyes. The little boy grabbed Dean's hand again, the tugging commencing. "Wait to we get to the top, Dean. We'll be like birds."

Well, Dean felt like a bird, all right. But not one of the graceful, soaring variety. No. He was struck with the sudden affinity to the egg-laying, corn-pecking chickens on Jim's farm. Even Sam's constant prattling on wasn't distracting him from the growing distance between him and the ground.

The swaying of the cart, and the dangling of his feet was bad enough, but every time the wheel stopped to let some new victim on, Dean felt his heart speed up, his stomach flip-flop in nervous protest. And then they reached the top and Sam squirmed this way and that, trying to get a better look at the tiny people below them, the miniature figures moving about like busy worker-ants. Each movement seemed to tilt the bucket back at a dangerous angle, and Dean's grip, which was already white-knuckled around the safety bar, tightened further. "Dang it, Sam! Stop moving!" He had made sure to read the sign to his brother. The one that clearly stated, 'No Rocking the Seats!'

"Hey! I think I see, Caleb!" Sam pointed excitedly, seemingly unfazed by his brother's command. He leaned forward, tipping the two of them precariously forward. "CALEB!" He shouted.

Dean found the strength to release one hand from his life-line and grab his little brother's shirt, pulling him firmly back against the seat. "Fuck! Sammy, stay still. You could fall." As much as he was afraid of falling himself, watching his brother plummet to his certain death below was even scarier.

If Sam hadn't noticed before, the tone in his brother's voice now had his full attention. His eyes narrowed, brow furrowed, and his protest of the reprimand died on his lips as he took in the pale, sweating features of the boy beside him.

"Dean, what's wrong?" Sam tilted his head, worried his lip as his brother tried to catch his panting breath. "Are you sick again?"

Dean closed his eyes, shook his head. The lack of a reply only increased the youngest Winchester's concern. Gone was the excitement and the rapture of being freed from the captivity of gravity. It was quickly replaced by the unfamiliar and unwelcome feeling of uncertainty-of being on a suddenly crumbling ledge. "Dean? What is it?" Sam reached for his brother's hand that was wrapped around the silver bar in front of them. The blanched skin was cold and clammy to touch-like the frogs Sam often caught at the pond. "Are you okay?"

The ten-year-old swallowed convulsively, felt his fried-chicken dinner try to make an encore appearance, before he could force his eyelids to cooperate. The fear in his little brother's voice overrode the temporary paralysis. "I'm…it's…" Shit. He clenched his jaw, slammed his eyes shut again, when the bucket jerked as the operator dropped them one level down to let on another passenger. "Oh, God."

"Dean," Sam wasn't sure what was wrong, but he was old enough to recognize fear when he saw it-just wasn't use to seeing it reflected on his big brother's face. His mind jumped to the only logical conclusion. Dean was hurt, maybe even dying.

That meant Caleb had lied to him. The doctor hadn't helped make his brother better. His Dad hadn't gotten them to the hospital in time after the snake had bitten Dean. "Please open your eyes, Dean. Don't go to sleep!"

The familiar words hit Dean like an unexpected summer downpour and he looked at his kid brother. They were of the same mantra that Sam had whispered to him over and over again only a few short weeks ago. "I'm okay," he pushed the words past the lump in his throat. "Don't cry, Sammy."

Sam wiped his arm over his face. "Why are you breathing funny? And your face is white and sweaty. Why's your skin all cold and sticky?"

Dean fought another wave of panic as they swayed again when his little brother shifted. "I'm just not that in to the whole Wheel of Wonder, kiddo," he bit out, as calmly as he could, realizing that Sam was adding up two and two and coming up with five.

The six-year-old's frown deepened. "What do you mean?" Sam looked around as if something with them in the bucket could be hurting his brother.

Dean sighed. "I don't like being up here, Sammy. All right? Just sit still, and I'll be fine just as soon as we're on solid ground again."

Sam blinked owlishly, his head tilting once again, and then a light of understanding shone from his watery eyes. "You're afraid," he whispered in awe. "You're scared of the ride."

"Shut up," Dean snapped, but couldn't stop the gasp of panic as the wheel started to turn at a faster speed now, no stopping at the bottom, as it was filled to capacity. He had the irrational urge to jump when they cascaded past the ground, and felt Sam's fingers tighten around his hand -heard him shout to the operator to stop the ride.

His eyes opened again at that and he shot the six-year-old a quick look. "I'll make them stop, Dean. We'll get off."

"Sammy…" Dean felt his stomach lurch as they crested the top like a wave and then shuddered as the bottom seemed to drop from beneath them as they plummeted back towards the ground again. He growled under his breath.

"Hey!" Sam screamed at the attendant. "Stop! Please! Let my brother off!" Tears streaked his face. "Stupid idiot!" He shouted again, into the overshadowing roar of the wind, when the worker merely smiled and waved as they swooshed by.

The desperation and anger in his kid brother's voice killed some of his own panic, and he let go of the safety bar long enough to turn his hand so that his palm was face up now, and he could clasp the little boy's fingers. "Shhh, Sammy. It's… okay. It'll be… over soon." He prayed to God that it would be over soon. "I'm not going anywhere."

His little brother shook his head. "But you're scared. I don't like it when you're scared. I'll fix it." Sam's lip trembled and Dean pried his other hand free, allowing him to hold onto his brother-pull him tight against him.

"Hey," he whispered into the boy's hair, forcing his voice to steady, "who died and made you the big brother?"

"It's my fault," Sam wrapped his arms around the other boy. "I made you get on this ride. I'm sorry."

"You really think you can make me do something?"

Dean felt the boy nod, and a nervous laugh escaped him. It was a sad truth, but Sam could make him do just about anything. Even face his biggest fear. He closed his eyes, swallowed hard, and held Sam tighter as the ride continued to torture him. "Then you're not as smart as I thought, Geek Boy. This isn't your fault."

The ride slowed, and once again they were hanging from the top, delivering those lucky bastards below them to Earth once more. Sam pulled back when he felt his brother tremble. "Don't be afraid, Dean. I've got you. I won't let you fall."

Earnest sincerity was clear in the molasses-colored eyes as Sam clung to his hand, and Dean had to blink a few times to clear his vision. "I'll save you this time," Sam added, faithfully.

Dean snorted, let his head fall back against the metal seat. "Okay, just this once, Boy Wonder." He sighed, kept his eyes closed as he felt Sam run his fingers through his hair, mimicking the comforting gesture he'd used a thousand times on him. "But no driving the Bat-mobile."

Sam smiled, getting his footing back, feeling the solid ground beneath his feet. "Okay, Dean."

"And Sammy," Dean opened his eyes, raised a brow, suddenly realizing that his heart-rate had calmed and that he could actually talk without gasping for breath. "If you tell anyone about this, especially Caleb, they will never find your body. Got it?"

The six-year-old giggled. "Don't worry. I won't tell anyone you're afraid of big, scary Ferris Wheels, Dean."

It was years later before Sam realized that his brother hadn't been afraid of the fair ride, but terrified of heights, instead. That overwhelming fear translated into things like his dislike of flying and rock climbing when he was older, but it never failed to amaze him that Dean would face those fears whenever a risk to Sam presented him with the choice of either plowing on into the bowels of his own personal hell or abandoning his brother to uncertainty.

The truth was that Dean would do anything for Sam-for his family. And Sam would be damned if he let a little thing like complete and utter terror stop him from returning the favor. He could do what Dean needed, despite his own phobia of failing. He would save him this time.

He turned angry eyes to the doctor, as Dean's struggles started again, and his hitching breath continued through the clueless physician's exam. "Take it out. Now!" Stop this fucking ride! "I'm listed as his next of kin. I'll take responsibility. I can sign a waver, but you're going to get him off that damn machine." He's on this thing because of me-and I'm ending it.

Doctor and nursed shared a look, and the dark-skinned man wrapped his stethescope around his neck with a heavy sigh before nodding his consent. He took hold of the intubation tube and instructed Dean to cough, and it was over in seconds.

His brother gagged and coughed a few more times before resting against the mattress once more. Sam stepped to the bedside again, placing his hand on the other hunter's shoulder. "You're okay," he assured, meeting the watery green gaze. "I'm here. I fixed it." Dean nodded slightly, licked his dry lips and looked like he wanted to say something.

"These will help his throat," the nurse appeared again, holding a cup of ice chips. "Go slow though," she added, giving the glass to Sam, with a pat to his shoulder.

The doctor leaned against the railing, giving the youngest Winchester a hard look. "He's going to have to go to Radiology for some tests. I'll order them and have some Techs come up to get him ."

Sam nodded. "As long as I can go with him."

"That shouldn't be a problem."

Sam waited for him to leave before he faced his brother again, offering him a spoon-full of the soothing ice.

Dean winced as he swallowed, brought his hand up to rub at his throat. "What…" he croaked, hoarsely. "Sam?"

"What do you remember?" The youngest Winchester probed, understanding what his brother was asking. He offered Dean more ice.

His brother licked his lips, and frowned. "Car wreck," he sighed, and then a slight panic flared in his eyes and Sam quickly placed a restraining hand on his chest before he could move. "Dad! Is…he okay? Fuck." Fear clouded the mossy irises. "Are…you?"

"I'm fine," Sam assured him, putting the cup down, sitting on the mattress beside his brother. "Dad's good, too. He's in another room, just down the hall." At least that was the last place Sam had seen him.

"Thank God," Dean breathed, but then frowned again. "And me?"

Sam's face hardened as he thought about that question, as he relived the times since the crash. The way Dean had been slumped against the passenger side window in the back seat of the Impala, covered in blood. He hadn't moved, even when Sam had pleaded with him to please wake up. Then the paramedics had come and taken Dean from him, whisked him away without a word.

Then there was the scene where he watched the doctors shock his brother's lifeless body, to pull him from the clutches of the most current Reaper hell bent on taking Sam's world away.

"Sammy?" Apprehension marred the nickname, and Sam steeled himself against his own heart-pounding fear.

"You're okay." He wasn't sure if his brother remembered what they had been through the last twenty-four hours. The astral plane hunting, the Ouija board conversation, but those things could be discussed later. Right now, he just wanted to take away the haunted, frightened look from his brother's face. "Just take it easy, okay. You bashed your head pretty good, but you're going to be fine. I'll make sure of it."

Dean's lip quirked slightly. "Oh yeah? Who…died and made you the big brother?"

Sam shook his head, smiled for the first time in days. Damn it was good to have Dean back. "You did, Jerk."

The frown returned to his brother's face, but Sam bravely reached out and covered the other hunter's hand, squeezed it. "But you're back now. So, I kind of hoped you'd take the job back, too. Scares the shit out of me." The truth of the matter was that Sam was not big brother material. Honestly, he never wanted to find out what it would be like to fill those shoes on a permanent basis.

He never wanted to have to chase his brother fears away again, never wanted to witness his pain, but he would if it came to that. Because the truth might set you free, but it only left Sam with the overwhelming feeling of free-falling-of being dropped from the top of the highest Ferris Wheel in five counties, and he was suddenly developing his own aversion to heights. He wanted to keep the ground beneath his feet-had to ensure the solid presence of his brother by his side.

"Don't be afraid, Sammy," Dean met his gaze as if reading his thoughts. His voice was still rough with disuse and medical-induced trauma, but the words sounded almost as painfully beautiful as his brother's first gasping breath had only moments earlier. "I'm not going anywhere. I promise."

That was good, because now that Sam new the truth, he wasn't sure he would survive the long drop if the worst was ever to happen. No. Gone was the overwhelming desire to be free from his family. Losing his brother once was enough. "Then that makes two of us."

Dean tilted his head, but didn't have the chance to say anything more as a two technicians entered the room with a gurney in tow. Sam watched his brother tense, and he gently squeezed his fingers once more, before letting go and standing up. "It'll be over soon. We'll be back on solid ground before you know it." In fact, Sam was already there.

"Are…you sure... you didn't hit your head, little brother?" Dean rasped.

Sam grinned. "No, I'm good. But we might need to talk about the Impala when you get back from Radiology."

The diversion worked and Dean's face scrunched up in the type of horror that Sam could handle. "Oh, shit. How is she?"

Sam hung back as his brother was loaded and maneuvered out of the room. "Sam?"

"We'll discuss arrangements later."

"Arrangements?" Dean growled, trying to catch another glimpse of his brother as he was wheeled away.

Sam followed, pointedly ignoring the question. If his brother was pumped up enough to be concerned about the car, he wouldn't be thinking about the tests, or what had happened to the rest of his family. The youngest Winchester, not so lucky to have the distraction, glanced down the hall towards his father's room, wondering again where the man had disappeared to in the middle of the night.

Only one answer made since, but it hurt to consider it. John had promised him he wouldn't hunt the demon. But then again, his father had never been good at keeping promises. Not like Dean.

And that truth was just another slap-you- in-the-face, piss you off, bitter little pill that both he and his brother were going to have to swallow.

October 2006