Characters: Sam and Dean (Gen)
Rating: PG-13 (language)
Summary: Post "Nightmare," Dean tries to prove to Sam that he's not afraid of Sam's new powers.
Author's Notes: For spn_nostalgia (this wound up being Gen, despite my original intent), and also for my switch_25 challenge (this is "Fright")
Dean is rattled.
He'll be damned if he'll show it, because he doesn't need Sam's pity or comfort. Or worry, if it comes to that. Sam's probably kind of freaked out himself right now, and Dean's the one who's supposed to take care of everything. That includes Sam and himself.
He hardly notices the road as he drives back to the motel. It's there but he's looking through it, seeing images in his mind of Max pointing the gun his way and feeling that cold grip of anticipation. He'd thought that might be it for him—dying at the hands of something human after all those years of risking himself over things that weren't. He can still see Sam coming through the door, see the gun turning away. And Max… Dean didn't look away in time, too well-trained to take his eyes off a weapon even as Max used it to destroy himself.
Dean didn't know he had any innocence left until Max took it.
Sam is nothing like Max, Dean reminds himself. Max became twisted at the hands of his father and uncle, but Dean had always made sure Sam was safe, always. Resenting Dad's choices wouldn't lead to becoming like Max—Sam's not that angry (Yet, his mind whispers, traitorous and uncertain).
Restless beside him, Sam shifts again and rearranges his legs like he's uncomfortable in his own skin. Dean wonders what's going on inside his brother, hopes it's confusion and nothing darker. Sam saw what happened to Max too and Dean couldn't stop it, and that's exactly the kind of thing he's tried to shield Sam from all his life.
He pats Sam's leg reassuringly. "I'm sorry about Max," he says, meaning that he's sorry about everything.
Sam looks surprised, then haunted. "Better him than you," Sam says hoarsely.
"Nothing." Sam turns toward the window, like the stars alone can save him.
At the motel, Sam apparently is still caught up in a tailspin of second-guessing, unable to keep himself from saying any of it: Why Max? Why him? Who was the demon really after all those years ago?
Dean hears the questions but it's hard to focus. He's still distracted by the thought of those long seconds when there was a gun—his gun— pointed right at his head.
In the middle of laying out all his worries, Sam suddenly lets something else come to light: he got out of that closet by using the same abilities that Max nearly killed all three of them with. Dean holds off understanding that and makes Sam spell it out for him, because he really fucking hopes to God that Sam's not actually saying what it sounds like, the part about moving things with his mind.
It would be really nice if just once—once—Dean's tactic for avoiding unpleasant news ever worked.
There's not a lot Dean can say after Sam's announcement, though he's always up for the possibility that Sam's trying to fuck with him, or maybe Sam's just confused. "Bend this," Dean demands, holding out a spoon.
Sam doesn't, which is exactly what Dean expected. But now he can't be sure if the reason is that Sam can't, or that he doesn't want to try. The excuses Sam gives him are all good ones, but Sam probably doesn't even know the truth right now.
The two of them pack up and head out. The room's paid for and it's night already, but he and Sam both clearly need to put as much space as possible between themselves and this town, these memories. The less real it all seems the better, as far as Dean's concerned.
He can't help but try to reassure Sam. Dean's got no special powers, other than determination and the fact that he's Sam's brother and he's protected Sam all his life, but to Dean that's practically everything.
Sam seems less convinced.
And if he's being honest with himself, Dean's afraid it might turn out that it's not nearly enough to deal with what's waiting for Sam, or worse yet… with Sam himself.
The car ride south is quiet, though Dean tries to lift Sam's mood every so often with awkward jokes. Maybe it's more of a diversion for himself than Sam.
This new power, the telekinesis Sam used to free himself… Dean's never encountered that outside of demons and poltergeists, so he doesn't know—does it warp the person who wields it? Is that what happened to Max instead?
He wishes to God Sam had never started having those dreams…
When they reach the motel, Dean dumps his stuff on the bed by the door while Sam flops down on the bed and stares at the ceiling.
"You okay?" Dean asks.
Which doesn't mean 'fine,' it means that Sam doesn't want to talk about it right now. "You want the shower first?" Dean offers, a dead giveaway of his own discomfort because he only ever asks when he's feeling guilty or he's worried about Sam.
Good. Dean's glad of the escape.
He heads into the bathroom then, his gun still with him. He locks the door as silently as a whisper and slips the gun inside a folded towel. He can't help it.
What could Sam do to him if he ever got mad enough? Dean's chest stings with the remembered pain of rock-salt bullets—so easy for Sam to pull that trigger, like he'd been waiting to do it for years. Not his fault—he was possessed, Dean tells himself. But it's only half-true; the words Sam spoke as he did it were entirely his own.
Dean soaps up and stands under the spray of water, repeating the process in slow cycles until the smell of blood (only a memory, but that changes nothing) is finally gone.
Sam seems wearier than ever when Dean comes out of the bathroom, as if one too many interrupted nights finally ran up against everything that happened today. Dean sits on the bed in his towel and takes the bullets out of his gun, trying to pretend that's a regular thing instead of a sudden paranoid precaution. He can feel Sam's eyes on him, though they're gone by the time he stands up and turns around with jeans and a clean shirt in his hands. "You hungry?" Dean asks.
"No," Sam says listlessly.
Totally expected, but Dean had to do it—it's his way of asking if Sam's all right. The answer covers both questions, spoken and silent. Not what Dean wanted, but at least it's the truth.
The worry on Sam's face is all too familiar, a look Dean has watched come and go for months now—after Jess, after the first visions. Now it's back again, settling in with an undercurrent of self-loathing. It's as if Sam is afraid of himself.
"It'll be okay," Dean assures him. He'd say anything to keep Sam from tearing into himself like this.
"What if it isn't?" Sam's voice is tight, loaded with a thousand other questions.
Dean walks over and sits down on Sam's bed, the tension in Sam's body easing slightly in response. "I'll be right there with you, no matter what happens," Dean says quietly.
"Even if I become a freak?"
"Especially then. Wait, what do you mean 'if'—you've been a freak at least since high school."
"Shut up…" Sam says, but Dean can tell he's feeling better now.
It's daunting, how little either of them knows about what's coming. But the unknown is easier to face with someone else by your side, and Dean's always been the kind of guy who hedges his bets: make it less unknown, and half the problem is solved.
"You know," Dean suggests, "you can either control these powers or you can let them control you. I vote for the first one."
"Let's test them out, see how far they can go and how to stop and start them."
Sam's whole body turns toward Dean, wavering, listening. "Like training?" he asks, in a voice Dean hasn't heard since Sam was ten.
"Exactly. We'll help you figure out how to use them, and even if they change or get stronger you'll still be better off than before. And who knows, maybe you'll wind up with awesome Jedi mind powers or something."
Sam smiles. "That'd be a dream for you, wouldn't it?"
"Absolutely," Dean tells him. "Think of the trouble it'd save on fake IDs and thinking up cover stories. I'll bet we could even use it to get free food. Seriously, Sammy, we could totally work this to our advantage. And what if you develop mental death-ray abilities someday? We could take down zombies and wendigos and stuff in no time. It'd be a hell of a lot faster."
"You want me to think of it as a tool, not a curse, huh?"
"It's not a curse, Sam. I don't know why it's happening, but we'll find a way to make it better. Okay?"
"Okay," Sam answers softly, his expression so trusting that Dean hopes he'll be worthy of it when all is said and done.
Later, when the lights are out, Dean lies in bed awake wondering whether the two of them will survive this. He put on a good show for Sam earlier, but they might already be one bad argument or misplaced target away from the kind of terrible fate Max found today. There's no way to be sure that isn't going to happen.
Across the way Sam slumbers fitfully, with a restlessness that mirrors the direction of Dean's thoughts. Sam's sleep-heavy sounds are those of conquering dragons or running from his own nightmares.
For the first time ever, those might be practically the same thing.
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