Summary: Sam, still grieving over Jess' death, gets unexpected insight into Dean's fears. This story is set shortly after "Bloody Mary."
Characters: Sam and Dean.
Rating: PG-13 (Genfic.) A bit of cussing.
Disclaimer: Don’t own them. Not making money off of them.
Author’s Notes: Huge thanks to Marina Rusalka for an awesome beta read. She helped whip this story into shape, and her expertise is greatly appreciated.
In Want and Sympathy
I jerk awake to darkness, momentarily confused about where I am, and whether I’m in danger. Whether Dean’s in danger.
Then I notice the ceiling above me, and remember that this is a motel room, one we checked into a few hours ago. We’re not being chased, or doing the chasing. We’re just catching up on some much-needed sleep.
Two sneezes to my left, and my attention shifts to the other bed, where I can just make out the curve of Dean’s back. Hearing him try to stifle a low groan, I prop myself up on my elbows.
“Dean? You all right?”
“Charley horse,” he grates out, squirming slightly but remaining on his side. “It’s almost gone. Go back to sleep.”
I hesitate. He had charley horses fairly often when we were little, and every time, he’d scrunch his face up as he tried to keep quiet. Always the stoic one, my brother. I never could stand to see him suffer, though, and I’d inevitably run and get Dad, who’d come massage his leg until the pain passed.
But Dad isn’t here, and Dean’s an adult. I doubt he’d let me --
“Sam,” he says, voice tinged with weariness and hurt. “You’re not touching my leg, you perv.”
Snorting, I lie back down. “I didn’t offer.”
“You were thinking about it.”
“Goodnight, John Boy.”
I look away, back at the ceiling, and my thoughts drift to the day’s events. We battled a nasty pair of poltergeists who left us bruised but not bloodied. Dean got the worst of it, distracting them so I could dig up their remains and send them straight to hell.
I can still see the flames flickering, can still smell that unique combination of salt and bones and fire.
Fire, burning deadly bright, its color and mortal power all too familiar.
Before I can derail that train of thought, the ceiling morphs into one I know well, and Jess, my beautiful Jess, is pinned to it. Warm drops of scarlet trickle down my face, and then a roar of heat consumes her. Squeezing my eyes shut, I wish it all away. The vivid, cruel memories and the ache that I fear will never fade. Taking a deep, shaky breath, I hold it for a moment before releasing it, hoping Dean won’t notice my distress.
“Stop staring at the ceiling, Sammy.”
Opening my eyes, I sigh. It’s not the first time he’s said that to me. It probably won’t be the last. “Go to sleep, Dean.”
I shift away from him and stare out the dingy window, at the soft moonlight drifting down. She loved the night sky, with its twinkling stars and moonbeams. Sometimes, when she couldn’t sleep, we’d walk around campus and soak it all up, talking about everything and nothing.
Wincing, I roll to the other side, away from the moon. Away from the past. I try to relax, to quiet my thoughts, but I know I probably won’t get much sleep tonight.
Not when she’s so close to me.
Not when she’s so far away.
It’s a little after 6 a.m. the next morning when I drag open dry, gritty eyes. By my estimation, I got maybe four hours of sleep, which is about average for me lately. Looking on the bright side, it’s more than I was getting the first few days after Jess died. It’s not enough, though. I suppose our recent encounter with Bloody Mary is largely to blame.
A huge yawn sneaks up on me, making my jaw pop, and I grimace.
I’m so tired of being tired.
Turning on my side, I spy Dean sleeping deeply on his back, his Metallica shirt rumpled and a soft snore issuing from parted lips. All traces of his usual wariness are gone, and he looks downright peaceful. It’s that serene expression on his face that strikes me, setting off a surge of envy that I wasn’t at all expecting.
Ever since I can remember, Dean has taken whatever crap life has thrown at him and faced it with a bravery and defiance that I have yet to master. He’s dealt with his problems quickly, sometimes shrugging them off entirely, and moved on.
This is not to say that he doesn’t feel things deeply. Mom’s death hurt him in a way I’ll never fully comprehend. To me, she’s pictures and anecdotes, but to him, she’s sight and sound, time-faded but still tangible.
Dad’s disappearing act has also taken its toll on him, keeping him up at night more than once as he’s fretted over the old man’s possible whereabouts.
And yet, despite what’s happened with Mom and Dad, or the countless awful things we’ve seen and killed, Dean has never seemed tortured by any of it. He’s never looked as utterly broken or lost as I feel right now.
God, I envy him that. I wish I had his strength and resilience.
He stirs then, with a soft sighing sound and a shifting movement until he’s facing me. His forehead creases and then smoothes before his breathing deepens again.
I stare at him a moment longer before forcing myself out of bed and trudging into the small, dimly lit bathroom. Once there, I ease the door shut and peel off my boxers and T-shirt, catching a glimpse of the bruising along my left forearm, where red is slowly giving way to blue. Turning around, I start the shower and adjust the temperature to where I like it before climbing in and letting the weak spray of water envelop me.
And for a few precious minutes, I’m just another guy starting his day, instead of a man whose life now revolves around fire and death and darkness.
Dean’s sitting up in bed when I come out of the bathroom, the sheet pooled around his waist and his hair sticking up haphazardly. He’s holding the television remote in one hand, channel surfing. When he turns toward me and lifts his chin in greeting, I’m surprised to see that he’s so bleary-eyed. I didn’t notice much tossing and turning on his part while I was awake.
Tightening the towel around my waist, I stop by my bed and bend over to retrieve my duffel bag. “You have trouble sleeping?” I ask, fishing around for some clothes.
“Isn’t that my line?” He mutes the TV and tosses the remote on his mattress.
Smiling wearily, I head back into the bathroom but leave the door cracked open. “You look beat, man,” I call over my shoulder as I hang up the towel and start getting dressed.
“I slept fine, Sam.” He sounds a touch irritated. “Just woke up that one time.”
He sneezes twice and I frown, shimmying the jeans up over my hips. He sneezed last night, too. Is he coming down with something? It’d explain why he looks so wiped out. Yanking a dark green T-shirt over my head, I push my arms through the sleeves and open the door. Crossing the room to stand next to his bed, I peer closely at him. He’s a bit pale, but it could be the weak daylight being unkind to his complexion.
“You’re not getting sick, are you?” I ask.
Snorting, Dean shakes his head. “C’mon, man. You know I don’t get sick.”
“You mean you don’t ‘do’ sick.”
Rolling his eyes, Dean shoves the sheet aside and gets out of bed, grimacing and touching his side. I wince sympathetically, knowing just how much bruising is hidden underneath his T-shirt, since I had to check him over last night to make sure nothing was cracked or broken. The damage starts a couple inches beneath his left armpit and extends to the middle of his thigh.
Gesturing toward his side, I remark, “It’s always worse the next day.”
He opens his mouth to say something, but a sneeze interrupts him. Before I can comment on it, he holds up an index finger. “I’m not sick. The room’s just dusty.”
I glance around our not-so-spacious accommodations. The room might be small, poorly decorated and badly furnished, but it looks fairly clean. Cleaner than most of the motels we’ve stayed at over the years.
“You have any nightmares?” Dean asks.
I wonder when he’ll stop asking that question every morning.
He frowns. “But you didn’t sleep, either, did you?”
Shrugging, I grab the remote and sprawl on my bed. “Can’t have everything.” I start clicking through the channels, skipping a badly produced yoga show on public television and settling on the local news. I need a distraction, a way to avoid those penetrating eyes that sometimes see much more than I’d like. God knows he means well, but sometimes the best way for me to get through the day is to not talk about her.
“It’ll get better,” he says quietly.
So much for not talking about her. Resting the remote in my lap, I look up at him. There’s a trace of bitterness as well as weary resignation in my response. “Time heals all wounds, right?”
Dean’s mouth tightens and he suddenly finds the floor interesting. An awkward silence settles over us, broken only by sounds from beyond our room. A car pulling into a parking spot. A door popping open and slamming shut. Pipes in the wall humming as someone starts a shower.
Dean’s head tilts back toward me, his expression both uncertain and apologetic. “Look, man, I … I don’t know what to say here. Words aren’t really my thing.”
My lips quirk up as he continues.
“I just want to help. You know … If I could change what happened, I would.”
Sighing wearily, I nod. “I know. But you can’t. You can’t change the past, and you can’t make everything all better. But that’s okay.”
His posture stiffens. “No, Sammy. It’s not.”
“Yeah, it is,” I say firmly but gently, knowing how it grates on him that he can’t fix this. That he can’t make my world whole again. “Just being here with you helps.”
Nodding, his shoulders relax. “Yeah. It’s probably good that you have something to focus on. Finding dad, and killing the bastard that did this to mom and Jessica.”
“That’s not what I meant, Dean.”
His brow furrows.
“Do I really have to spell it out?” My lips quirk into a small smile. “I know how much you hate the ‘chick-flick’ stuff, but if you need me to say it … ”
He studies me for a moment and grins. “Aww, you love me, Sammy. You really, really love me.” Holding out his arms, he puckers up. “C’mere and gimme some sugar.”
Snorting, I roll my eyes. “Bite me.”
Still smiling, he drops his arms. “Not today, honey, I have a headache.” He sobers then, and waits for me to do the same. “Seriously, though … If there’s anything I can do, just ask.”
He nods, eyes intense. “I swear to you, man, it’ll get better.”
Frowning, I look at the bed for a moment before meeting his gaze. “You know, I just … I can’t imagine a day when I won’t miss her.”
Dean’s eyes drift away, staring at something I can’t see. “I never said you’ll stop missing her. But one day, it won’t hurt so bad.”
I know what he’s thinking about. Or rather, who. Not for the first time, I wonder which is the lesser of two evils: Knowing the mother you lost, or not remembering her at all.
He clears his throat, his focus returning to me. “I’m gonna hit the shower. I want to get outta here in an hour.”
I’m not surprised that he’s so antsy to get on the road. He’s a restless soul. Always has been. When we were kids, his teachers kept telling Dad that he had ADD. Dean had difficulty concentrating on his studies and spent much of his class time fidgeting at his desk or staring out windows. Dad insisted that the teachers were wrong, though, and my brother never cared what any authority figure other than the old man thought, so that was pretty much that.
But while it’s totally Dean to want to hit the road after only one night in the motel, I’m not sure it’s a good idea.
“You sure you want to drive with all that bruising?” I ask, pointing at his side. “It’s not gonna be too comfortable sitting in the car all day long.”
Cocking his head to the side, he crosses his arms over his chest. “Are you saying my baby isn’t comfortable?”
“No, I’m saying that sitting up for a long time, in any car, might not feel great.”
Dean shrugs. “I’ve driven in worse shape than this. I’ll be fine.” He holds up his index finger. “One hour, and then we blow this joint. We’ll pick up some breakfast on the way out of town.”
I nod, and he disappears into the bathroom, moving a bit slowly. A couple minutes later, the shower turns on and he starts belting out AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell.”
Hopefully the neighbors have a sense of humor.
Go to part two