“Not Ready To Make Nice” by Ridley C. James

I’m not ready to make nice

I’m not ready to back down

I’m still as mad as hell

And I don’t have time to go round , and round, and round.

It’s too late to make it right.

I probably wouldn’t if I could.

I’m mad as hell.

Can’t bring myself to do what it is you think I should. ~ Dixie Chicks

Stanford, November 2003

Music played loudly in the background. The sports commentator from the T.V. hosting the latest football game seemed to be competing to be heard over the drums and steel guitars and the easy conversation flowing like the booze. Bottles clanked at the latest touchdown, glasses tapped the table, spilling tequila onto the cards. Raucous laughter filled the small room like an electric-charged buzz. And it was all amazingly drowned out by the tiny shrill of one small cell phone.

Sam Winchester’s head whipped to the desk in the corner, where he’d tossed Jessica’s keys when they‘d come back from picking up pizza. His phone was laying there, too, wobbling on the scarred surface as the vibrating mechanism joined in on the third unanswered ring.

He extricated himself from the heated game of poker and moved to pick it up, wondering if his roommate Pete had missed his ride…again.

But it wasn’t Pete.

The name on the ID brought memories surging forward, and he almost didn’t answer.

Dad’s Cell. What the fuck?

Everything faded to background noise, except for the song blaring from the CD player, it’s haunting words seeming so fitting, as Sam forced himself to answer.

Forgive?….Sounds good.

“Hello,” Sam breathed.

The familiar voice on the phone wasn‘t the one he‘d expected, but it still brought an echo of an old ache, and a wave of anxiety. “Sam? That you, boy? It’s Jim.”


None of the extended family from his old life had ever contacted him. Not even the pastor that he and Dean had been so fond of. Of course he hadn’t made any effort on his end either. It was kind of like that feeling you got when you were running from something, and you were terrified that if you even looked back over your shoulder for one brief second , it would catch up with you.

“I’m sorry to call this late. I know you’re probably studying.”

Sam glanced up at his friends, but it was his old friend fear he recognized unfurling in the pit of his stomach as he watched the game continue without him. He knew this call would come…someday.

“It‘s just...” Jim hesitated. Sam could imagine him pulling at his long silver hair-making himself look like the crazy professor on that movie with Michael J. Fox. What was the name of it? Back to the Future-that was it. God, he’d loved those movies as a kid.

“Sam-it’s your brother, son.” Here it came. Sam …was waiting for it. He felt his knees weaken, his heart quicken. “Forgive me for doing this over the phone…but he’s been hurt.”

And the music grew louder.

Forget? I’m not sure I could.

“Does Dad know you’re calling me, Jim? ” He didn’t’ mean for that to be the first question. It leapt from his chest and through his lips before he could stop it.

When Jim didn’t quickly confirm that indeed John had asked him to call, Sam sighed. “Forget I asked that.” After all, it didn’t matter.

“No, I borrowed his phone. Knew you‘d answer that way,” Jim told him, his breath was heavy and heart-felt. “It’s just your daddy’s way, Sam. He sees things through a haze of anger sometimes. It's true he doesn‘t know I‘m calling you, but don’t let that stop you. You need to come here. Dean has asked for you.”

They say… time heals everything,

Sam squeezed his eyes shut.

It still only seemed like yesterday…the pain…even though it had been over a year.

The sound of his brother’s name spoken out loud brought it all rushing back. Made it real. The loneliness. The sense that something very important, essential, was missing from somewhere deep inside of him. The name he hadn’t heard except as a whisper in his own memories, in sacred dreams at night. It shattered the illusion of his false reality.He focused his eyes on the dark windows of his dorm room, instead of the friends gathered around the small card table.

“He won’t want me there. He said to never come back.” Sam was still speaking of his father, though his mind was elsewhere.

“Time changes things, Sam. And your daddy isn‘t the only one here. I‘m here. Caleb‘s here.” Dean’s here.

But I’m still waiting.

Over a year had past. Fifteen months to be exact. He hadn’t talked to the man. Not a letter, not a card, not one damn phone call.

Not from his father, at least. Dean had sent letters, left a few voicemails on his birthday, at Christmas, even Halloween-knowing how Sam hated that fucking holiday. But he was still waiting for his father to come around. So, he never replied to anything Dean sent…never returned a call.

I’m through… with doubt.

“I’m sorry, Jim. I can’t play his games anymore. You know that.” The teen sighed. “You helped me make this decision. Remember? There’s no turning back. This is my path. ”

If Sam were honest, he would admit he was afraid to see his family-afraid of all those emotions laying wait in the darkness. Waiting to suck him back under.

“Have no doubts, Samuel. This isn’t a game!” The tone was harsh and so foreign in Jim’s voice. "And don't twist my advice to include shutting Dean out of your life. That was never my intention."

There’s nothing left for me to figure out.

Sigh sighed. “I can’t come back.” It wasn’t hard to figure out. The butterflies swarming in his stomach understood. Why couldn’t Jim? There wasn’t anything left for him in the past. “There’s nothing for me there.” He said softly.

I’ve paid… a price

and I’ll keep paying.

“Your brother is here!" Jim snapped again, losing patience with the hard headed boy, who was too damn much like his father for his own good.

Sam rolled his eyes to the dingy ceiling. All the scars…all the traumas that Sam had endured…

Even from a hundred miles away his father could still hurt him.

It would never stop.

The pastor‘s voice was soft again. “And he might not make it this time.”

Sam closed his eyes as his heart clenched, black spots danced before his eyes as a thousand memories flashed through his mind. And those butterflies stopped.

“Do you really want anger to keep you from seeing him? It may very well be your last chance? Should Dean really have to pay the price for your father‘s stubbornness?” Jim didn’t have to say it, but Sam heard the accusation…For your pride?

“No. I don’t!” Anger was slowly gaining on that racing panic. They were nearly neck and neck now. This wasn’t his fault. Damn it.

I’m not ready to make nice.

But he knew who was to blame.

“What happened? Where was Dad?” He was almost shouting. He didn’t mean to take his frustration out on Jim, of all people. But…

I’m not ready to back down.

“Your daddy didn’t mean for this to happen, Sam.”

Sam rolled his eyes. The hell he didn’t.

More excuses. There was always plenty of those to go around. A plethora of people willing to defend the almighty John Winchester.

“Damn it, Jim. Just tell me what happened to Dean?”

“He and your dad and Caleb were hunting some damn thing or another, I’m not exactly sure of the details, a boy was killed and Dean…well, he’s not in good shape.”

It really didn’t matter what it was-what the specifics were. After a while all the baddies blended together into one horrific nightmare. A nightmare Sam had tried so hard to forget.

I’m still mad as hell…

Sam felt his fist clench reflexively, that old familiar fear winding around his pounding heart, threatening to cut off the oxygen he so desperately needed. “Where?”

“Not too far from you.”Jim rambled off a small town name that might as well have been in fucking New York. Sam had no way to get there.

And I don’t have time to go round and round and round

He’d have to borrow Jessica’s Jeep, and contact his professors. Maybe Pete could turn in his paper.

Sam raked a hand through his hair, not paying attention to the fact that the boisterous laughter from the poker game had quieted. His friends were watching him with a mixture of concern and uncertainty.

He turned his back to them, clutching the phone tighter. “All right, Jim. I’ll call you from the road.”

It’s too late to make it right

“What the hell are you doing here?” John’s voice was like the hiss of a snake as he stood up from the chair he was sitting in. Caleb was leaned against the wall next to him and Sam saw the younger hunter tense up, as he pushed away from the washed out block..

It was exactly the kind of welcome that he’d been expecting. It still stung.

“I called him,” Jim admitted, from his stance by Sam. He’d met the boy in the lobby. “Dean asked for him.”

“Yeah, well Dean was delirious.” John glared at Jim. How could the man go behind his back like that? “This wasn’t any of your business. You shouldn’t have interfered.”

“He was hurting and scared and wanted his brother here with him. No, make that needed his brother. I made that happen, and I will not apologize to you for helping that boy, John Winchester.”

You should have called me,” Sam spoke up then, stepping around Jim and closer to his father. “God…How could you let him think I was dead?”

Jim had explained to Sam that somehow during the attack, the boy that the hunters had been trying to rescue was killed-and Dean injured. Somehow, in the throws of his pain and confusion, Dean had imagined that it was Sam that had been killed. He thought it had been his fault. Nothing could convince him otherwise.

“Or were you hoping he’d keep thinking it? That would solve a lot of things for you-wouldn‘t it, Dad?”

God. John wanted to throttle the boy. Was pretty damn sure that’s what the problem was. Thanks to Dean he hadn’t ever laid a hand on his youngest son. And apparently that whole spare the rod, spoil the child thing was right on the money.

But he’d found other ways to deal with Sam.

I probably wouldn’t if I could

“Maybe it would be better that way. It might give him some peace in the end. He wouldn‘t be distracted-worrying about your ass all the time.”

Because I’m mad as hell,

Sam felt the words like a quick sucker punch and he saw himself , as from a great distance, lunge towards John. All the what if's and should have's he'd berated himself with on the trip from California finally pushing him over the edge. “I’ll kill you. Do you hear me? You did this to him! You !”

Strong arms grabbed him, holding him back as he tried to go after his father. His vision swam in a red sea of fury. His ears rung like he’d been clocked in the head, and every muscle strained against the hands on him.

Can’t bring myself to do what it is you think I should.

“Sam!” Caleb growled into his ear. “ You need to calm down.”

“Let me go!.” Sam screamed at him. “My brother is dying, you son of a bitch! And it’s all his fault!”

“Stop it!” Caleb tightened his hold. “Not here, Sammy. Not like this, kid. Think about Deuce.”

Jim had stepped between them now, too, his hand on John’s chest, keeping him in place as Caleb pulled Sam a safe distance away.

The younger hunter finally jerked free, and Caleb used his body to block him from his father. “Dean wouldn’t want this, Sam,” He said, effectively stealing the wind from the younger man’s sails. “Sit.” Reaves pointed to a chair.

And Sam collapsed into it and in on himself, burying his head in his hands. “Dean,“ He choked.

I know…You said

Sam could not remember feeling more like he'd let his brother down, except maybe for the night that he’d told Dean about Stanford. They finished a hunt, both crashing from an adrenaline rush. His brother had needed stitches, and Sam had taken advantage of the pain meds and brought up the award letter he received earlier in the week.

He would never forget the moment when the words filtered through the pain and the codeine haze. Couldn’t erase the pleading, almost desperate look that never belonged on Dean’s strong Devil may care rugged features.

You’re leaving?”

Sam nodded. Dean flinched in pain, from the sutures or the answer, Sam was never sure. “ You can't just leave.”

The seventeen-year-old tried to explain about his dreams…about why he didn’t want to hunt anymore.

Can’t you just get over it?

But Dean only saw one thing.

Dad’s been an ass before, Sammy. I know he was rough on this gig, but just let it go, man. It‘ll get better.”

But Sam couldn’t let it go-couldn’t wait for a change that would never come. It was too late. It was too damn late for a lot of things.

It turned…my whole world around

If you leave, don’t ever come back,” John shouted weeks later when an argument had come to a head and Sam told him about college. His father had pointed to the door. “I mean it, Samuel. If you do this, you‘re not welcome here.”

Those words clenched it. Changed everything. They cut the cord with their sharpness, severed the last thinning ties binding him to his family. And Sam was free.

And I kind of like it…

And as painful and gut-wrenching as it was…it was also liberating.

After the homesickness, the weeks of adjusting, brooding and licking his wounds…Sam rebounded. He was happy.

So many times he wanted to write and tell Dean so many things. How Stanford was everything he wanted.

How the classes challenged him and how his professors talked to him, talked, about books and politics and the world…God, a world that wasn’t single-minded and wasn’t cast in eternal darkness and certain damnation.

He wanted to show Dean the beaches, the coffee shops, the museums that held treasures that weren’t hexed or cursed. And the libraries, that Sam could stay lost in for weeks at a time, reading about things other than supernatural mysteries. More than anything he wanted to share all the things he loved with the person he loved most.

Especially Jessica. Dean would like her. Not just because she was beautiful, but because she was smart. Damn funny-with a dry humor and almost perverse sense of practical joking that his brother could appreciate. She liked cars, and thought anything less than full contact was a pussy sport-just like Dean did. She cheated at cards any chance she got, would do almost anything to win, and she had a secret passion for Southern Rock-that Sam lived to piss her off about.

Made my bed … And I sleep like a baby

As if his thoughts had conjured her, Sam’s cell vibrated in his coat pocket. He glanced up to see Jim and his father still talking heatedly across the room, before hitting the talk button.

“Hey, sweetheart?” Jess’s voice called to him like a siren over the phone, lulling him from the darkness. He yearned to be in the California sunshine then, back in her quaint apartment, curled around her in the sanctuary of bed, lost in a dreamless sleep, where no nightmares dared to tread. Where his brother wasn’t struggling for his life…threatening to up and leave him alone with the likes of their father.

But hadn’t Sam done the same thing to him?

“You okay, Sam?”

He tried to catch his breath, block the images and the feelings by squeezing his eyes shut. “I’m okay. Just miss your beautiful face, is all.”

No. Sam had done the right thing. The only thing he could at the time.

“Your brother? How is he?”

“Dean’s…God, Jess…” Sam couldn’t stop the choked reply, cursed the sob that nearly escaped as he imagined his girlfriend’s initial shock being consumed by concern for him.

“Sam? Should I come? I can be there in a few hours if I take the next flight out.”

With no regrets…And I don’t mind saying.

“No,” Sam caught his hitched breath. He’d chosen his path, right or wrong, and it didn’t intersect with the road he’d came in on. “I’m okay. Dean will be fine. He’ll be okay.”

Having Jessica here would be too surreal-his old world colliding with his new one. How the hell would he explain Jim or Caleb? Or John? “I’ll be home soon.”

How in the world can the words that I said send somebody so far over the edge

Sam said his goodbyes, glancing back up at his father, who was now making his way towards him. He couldn’t imagine how one night so many months ago, one heated exchange of words, had brought them to this.

All he said that night was that he didn’t want to go on the hunt. He didn’t want to kill yet another shape shifter, or werewolf or vanquish a spirit. Sam wanted to go out with his friends, with his brother, for his eighteenth birthday. That was all. Was it too much to ask…for one night of normalcy.

He gathered quickly from the flinch on his brother’s face when he said it, that it was indeed too much.

From the way Dean caved to their father‘s commands, the apologetic look he shot his brother. From the way he said, “I’ll make it up to you tomorrow, Sammy. The restaurant will still be there, so will those steaks with our names on them.” Sam guessed it was way too much to even hope for.

And suddenly it all became overwhelming-an unbearable burden to carry. And Sam had snapped.

Not just bent, and bowed, like all the times before. No-this time he was damaged beyond repair.

We’re going out for my birthday, god damn it! And not to some fucked up graveyard!” He’d screamed at his father.

You will do no such thing. You will shut up and do your job! Do what I say…or so help me!” John wrapped his hands in his son’s shirt then, and shook him, even as Dean had tried to wedge himself between them. “I’m in charge here.”

I’m not ready to make nice!

Sam remembered telling him to go to hell. A cold fury had taken over. To Sam it seemed as if the temperature in the room had plummeted like it had just been invaded by countless supernatural entities. “And while you’re at it …” Sam had shouted. “Take this job… take this job and everything in this God-forsaken fucked up life with you! I don’t need you and I don’t need any of this. Not anymore. ”

Sam swept out an arm in a wide, encompassing gesture to include their shabby, rundown rented house, and when he did his eyes met his brothers. In that moment he saw worlds fall. Saw the raw hurt and betrayal. He wanted to make Dean understand that he hadn’t been talking about him. God…not his brother. Everything…but him. Dean was the only good thing left.

I’m not ready to back down!

But he couldn’t back down. Couldn’t show any weakness. Not then. Not with his father standing there. Not when he was so close to getting out. He had been prepared to gnaw his fucking leg off to escape, but not to rip his brother’s heart out to ensure his liberation.

He crossed that line and there was no turning back. He’d learned nothing from his father if not that the battle for survival brought casualties of war. Left men broken and bleeding in the aftermath. And sometimes those that fell at your feet might just be a brother.

I’m still mad as hell And I don’t have time to go round and round and round

John was standing right in front of him now, Jim and Caleb flanking either side, like some odd, mismatched set of bookends.

“How dare you come in here and question me about how I handle your brother. You lost that right when you abandoned him. When you left us high and dry. You don’t get a say in family matters any more. You got that. If you wanted things done differently, then you should have been there. I was trying to run a mission. I was doing a job. Maybe if I hadn‘t been down a man on the team, then no one else would have been compromised.”

Sam stood, all the worry and past recriminations pushing to the forefront in desperate need of a physical target. “What the hell?” Sam shook his head, let his fingers pull at his long hair. “He’s your son! Not your soldier. And this isn’t a mission, and you’re not in command. This is our life, and our family.” Sam stepped closer to the man, until they were nearly nose to nose. “And you want to blame this on me?”

It’s too late to make it right!.

“Hell yes!” John roared. “You left, Sam. You!”

I probably wouldn’t if I could!

“I’m glad I left you and hunting,” Sam shot back. “I wouldn’t change anything I’ve done.” But that wasn’t exactly true. Sam wished he could have convinced his brother to go with him. Maybe if he’d just asked. Which he hadn’t….And that he regretted that.

Cause I’m mad as hell

“God! What is wrong with you people? This is a hospital. People are dying.” Caleb didn’t have to say it. Dean was dying. Sometimes he only felt half human, and even he realized what they were doing was wrong.

Sam and John both looked at him. “And what the hell do you think I should do, Caleb?” John snarled, motioning towards his youngest son as if he had no control of the situation. As if Caleb might have some magical answer.

“Stop being an ass for one,” Caleb told him, shoving him hard then, effectively separating him and Sam. “God, everything is not about you.” He then glared at Sam. “Or you, college boy. For a damn good start, I think both of you should get the hell over yourselves.”

I can’t bring myself to do what it is you think I should

Jim spoke before either of the hunters could. “Caleb’s right, instead of tearing each other apart, you need to provide a united front…if only to help keep Dean together. He deserves that much.” The pastor didn’t get it. He witnessed so much evil and so many atrocities. He’d watched the Winchesters go through hell, had marveled at the things that they had survived. But the love between them, the love for one another, was choking on its last breath-and he wasn‘t sure he could bare to stand witness. Not to this sin.

I’m not ready to back down.

“Talk to him, Jim. He’s the reason we’re here.” Sam pointed to his father.

“That’s right, Sam! I did this.”

I’m still mad as hell…

“Damn straight, you did.”

And I don’t have time to go round and round and round.

The pastor sighed, as he heard someone enter the small waiting room. “This isn’t the time for you two to go round and round over who is at fault,” Jim pointed a finger at both men.

Dr. Lamons cleared his throat, waited for all eyes to come to him, and walked into the room. “Dean is out of recovery.”

“How is he?” Sam beat his father to the punch. The other man growled deep in his throat, as the doctor turned to look at the younger man.

“I’m sorry. You are?”

“I’m his brother.”

The physician nodded. “He made it through surgery which is amazing considering the amount of blood he lost, and he’s awake, which is nothing short of a miracle.”

“So, he’s going to be okay?” John managed around the bitter taste of regret.

Lamons nodded. “I think we’re past the critical stage. He’s a fighter, that’s for damn sure.”

“Can we see him?”

“Are you Sammy?”

Both Winchesters looked at the man in surprise. “Sam,” the younger man nodded.

A weary smile crossed the physician’s face. “He keeps asking about you? Seems to think you were injured in the bear attack.”

Sam looked at his father. John nodded, glanced away. “Go on.”

It’s too late to make it right.

Sam felt his eyes tear up as he walked into the room. He felt his guilt and remorse slip away, wiping a quick hand over his face before making it to his brother’s side. He forced a smile instead. “Hey?”

“Sammy?” Dean’s voice was weak. He had to blink a few times before his gaze focused on his brother.

Sam wrapped his long fingers around his brother’s wrist, careful of the I.V. “You were expecting someone else? Hot nurse, maybe?”

A faint smile, then a grimace of pain. “I…thought you were dead.”

Just to Dad. “You kidding?” Sam held his grin in place with a burst of determination. “You’re still breathing, aren’t you. No one’s going to take out Dean Winchester’s little brother while he’s still kicking.”

The grin came back, stronger, more cocky and Dean-like this time, despite the drugs. “Damn straight.”

“Where’s Dad?” Dean strained to look around his brother, and Sam put a steadying hand on his shoulder, not wanting his brother to move his upper torso that was swathed in a mass of bandages, and tubes. “He and Caleb get out okay?”

“They’re fine.” Sam frowned. “They’re out fighting over who was the biggest bad ass this time around.”

Dean relaxed, closed his eyes, and licked his dry lips. “Haven’t they learned that the one with the…most stitches wins.”

Sam laughed. “That would be you, then.”

Dean opened his eyes again. “Yeah. I win.” When Sam tilted his head, his brother just grinned. “I’m glad you’re home, Sam.”

Probably wouldn’t if I could

Before Sam could explain that he wasn’t home, before he could tell Dean that nothing had changed, his brother’s eyes had drifted shut again, his breathing started to even out.

And Sam could do nothing but pull up a chair and wait.

Because I’m mad as hell

He was so tired of seeing his brother hurt -trampled by his father’s full-steam ahead approach to finding the demon that killed their mother. Sometimes his heart was so consumed with anger for John, that he forgot about how strong the other feelings were. The feelings he had for the man lying in the bed, looking so broken.

Can’t bring myself to do what it is you think I should…

“You should go now.” John’s quiet voice had his youngest son looking up from his brother’s face. The flash of worry and concern he saw reflected in those eyes so much like his own almost had the eldest Winchester regretting his next words. “ It wouldn‘t be good if you‘re still here when he wakes up.” John’s voice was hollow. “I don’t want you to upset him. You know he‘s going to be okay, so you can leave again.” Before it gets harder to let you go.

What it is you think I should

Sam started to argue, because it was his first instinct…to disagree with his father. To do just the opposite of what the man wanted. Just for spite.

Then he remembered the way his brother had looked at him when he’d realized he was there, alive and breathing, in the flesh. There had been a spark of hope in those glassy green eyes, and hope was a dangerous thing.

Still…his soul ached to stay…to talk with his brother when he was more coherent. Dean might not even remember he was there at all.

But then he recalled another time when he‘d seen such hope in Dean‘s eyes. When he watched that hope die.

It had happened when Dean had rushed out into the rain after him that fateful night when he left for Stanford.

Don‘t go, Sammy. Not like this, man. Please.”

He‘d witnessed what it cost his brother as he reached out and grabbed Sam‘s wrist, tightened his fingers around it. Sam looked down at his own hand, where it lay grasping his brother‘s wrist. .

Damn. You’re going to make me say it aren’t you…” He smiled then…Dean’s lopsided smile… “I need you, bitch-all right? I don‘t want to do this without, baby brother.”

But Sam merely said nothing, looked away. Dean had let his fingers fall away. Let him go.

And for once, Sam knew he should listen to his father…And only for his brother’s sake, he let go.

Forgive?….Sounds good.

“I’m so sorry, Dean.” Sam stood, ran a trembling hand through Dean’s short hair, leaning his own forehead against his brothers. “I wish…I wish things could be different.” He swallowed the lump that had sprung to his throat, pressed his lips against Dean’s hair…breathing in the scent of his brother.

Forget? ….I’m not sure I could.

“I’d do anything for you , big brother….but I just can’t do this .”

They say…Time heals everything.

“I love you, Dean. ” He whispered. Maybe someday that will be enough.

But, I’m still waiting….

He looked at his father and saw a mixture of anger and hurt-maybe a hint of regret.

Forgive his father? Sam stepped forward. Maybe.

John moved back. Their usual dance.

Sam looked at Dean once more. Forget his brother? Never.

John held up his hand, started to say something, but Sam turned away. Closed the door.

Not yet.

He wasn’t ready to make nice.

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