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26 October 2008 @ 04:03 pm
Supernatural Gen Fiction: This Bitter Road (Pre-4x01, PG)  
Title: This Bitter Road
Author: HalfshellVenus
Characters: Sam and Dean (Gen, Angst)
Rating: PG
Summary: (pre- 4x01) Dean is gone, and it's no easier than the first time that happened.
Author's Notes: Happy Birthday to brynwulf, who gave me this prompt. It wanted to be a story instead of a drabble, but I'm sure you won't mind. However, I hope angst was what you wanted as your present because this timeframe can't really be anything else!
Also for my switch_25 table, this is "Crushed."

x-x-x-x-x

Sam has buried Dean twice, and the second time isn't any easier than the first.

In the briefest clearing in a forgotten grove of trees—someplace pretty, because it matters to him if not to Dean—he lays the last of his family to rest.

He salts the earth with shaking hands but can do no more, even with a lifetime of lectures behind him. He knows what's expected, but this is Dean and he just can't do it, can't defile Dean's body that way. He almost abandoned the whole idea earlier, half-tempted to leave Dean the option of haunting him, because he knows how hard and lonely the coming days—weeks, months—are going to be.

It is hours afterward before he can bring himself to fill in the dirt.

Sam stays in the car the first few nights, surrounded by Dean's scent as he drifts in and out of troubled sleep. Sometimes he wakes and grows restless, too aware of the accusing silence. He starts the engine then and drives as if that will leave that mood behind, stopping hours later when the weight of fatigue returns.

He doesn't talk to Bobby much more this time than the last. It isn't that he's hoping for a Trickster miracle, not by a long shot, just that he can't… he can't be anything for anybody else right now. Not polite, maybe not even present.

Some days he just wants to curl up and die, and the only thing that keeps him from doing it is knowing what Dean sacrificed for him to still be alive.

Weeks go by, and Sam saves his energy for the motel-room cons and one-minute conversations with fast-food and convenience-store clerks. He'll take up his rifle again soon enough but it won't help much, not for months. He knows this despair all too well, having lived through it once before.

In the too-long nights, he finds himself wandering from bed to window in the dark, searching for something that will never be there to find. He watches the stars while his soul bleeds down inside him, waking when his head thumps against the smooth coolness of the glass.

He takes Dean's jacket to bed with him the second time it happens, tired of resisting the urge to hold it close like the extension of Dean that it is. He sleeps better then, with the comfort of that familiar scent. The mornings when he wakes and forgets that Dean is gone are all the harder, but he'll trade them willingly for those rare nights when he dreams of Dean. Those dreams are all Sam has left of his brother, and it takes every ounce of his strength to get out of bed instead of spending long hours drifting in and out and chasing the hope of finding the next dream instead.

Every tomorrow is yet another broken promise.

Sam drifts south finally, as far away from the site of Dean's death as he can get. The warmth helps, seeping slowly into the grayness of Sam's world. He walks along bayous and sits in the shade of cypress trees, where the beauty and undemanding calm are lonely and soothing in turns.

Sam moves like a ghost among the living and does not care, because Dean is still gone.

There are nights when Sam leaves the television on to help him sleep. The hum of voices distracts him from the dark grief-filled places his mind wanders into when he's too tired to fight, and the noise covers up the absence of all the everyday sounds Dean used to make. The nighttime quiet is the worst.

One morning, Sam wakes from nightmares of hellhounds and blood and still hears barking. He hones in on the source, TV news coverage of an animal shelter, even as he's fumbling for the remote to turn it off. Dean's screams echo in his head as he lies down shakily and stares at the ceiling.

Heart hammering in his chest, Sam struggles to push away the horror of Dean's death. He reaches for anything that might help him—other memories of Dean, other people and places he's known before. Only then does he think about Ruby telling him he could have stopped it if he'd tried. She could have been lying (Dean always said so), but Sam can't be sure. He remembers Lilith's inability to destroy him, and he wonders what secrets still lie within him.

He wonders if he could bring Dean back even now.

He gave Dean his word—the memory of it weighs on him over the next few hours of going back-and-forth on that single sliver of newfound hope. But desperation is stronger than principle, and it's not like Dean could ever claim anything different.

Sam opens Dad's journal, looking for the summoning spell he's already used once before. It'll be for nothing if Ruby's truly gone, but he won't know until he tries it. His hands shake as he draws the pentagram and the necessary sigils.

This is the darkest, most dangerous step he's ever taken, but he shoves the thought away as he begins the words to draw Ruby forth.

He's lived without Dean before, survived and endured as Winchesters do. But having done it—raw fingernails clinging from one day to the next—he'll be damned if he's doing it again.


-------- fin --------

 
 
 
post-apocalypse shenanigans: Sam reflectionbrynwulf on October 26th, 2008 11:26 pm (UTC)
I couldn't have imagined anything more perfect than this. THIS is how I imagined Sam, post-death for Dean. It's so true and right and now you've made me cry. But it's all good.

Thank you so much!
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Sam & Dean Hughalfshellvenus on October 26th, 2008 11:31 pm (UTC)
I think that's part of why it took so long-- going to such a hard place for Sam and trying to make it feel true and not rushed or matter-of-fact or maudlin. And of course, wanting to make it as perfect as possible just for you. ♥

I'm so glad you liked it, and sorry that it's angsty. But then again... both of the boys deserve nothing less at a time like that.

*hugs and much birthday love*
(no subject) - brynwulf on October 26th, 2008 11:40 pm (UTC) (Expand)
brigid_tanner: skull and candlesbrigid_tanner on October 26th, 2008 11:53 pm (UTC)
Oh, Sam! want to pet you and make it all better. This hurts so much. Great job getting into Sam's head.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Sam & Dean Hughalfshellvenus on October 27th, 2008 03:17 am (UTC)
Thank you! It was a hard place to be, but at the same time I think we'd all like to feel that Sam grieved for Dean this strongly. By the time 4x01 rolled around, there were so few hints of that left. It seemed very unfair to Dean.
(Deleted comment)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Samhalfshellvenus on October 27th, 2008 03:20 am (UTC)
Re: that would make sense, yes...
I like to think that it was Sam being desperate rather than bored that caused her to be back with him in 4x01 (and afterward). That she'd told him he had the power to prevent Dean's fate, and that Lilith couldn't kill him, must have added up finally to Sam thinking that there were possibilities that even that promise to Dean weren't worth passing up.
Not Quite by Firelight: Butterfly effecttahirire on October 27th, 2008 12:39 am (UTC)
Every tomorrow is yet another broken promise.

Yes, this. Perfect, thank you.

*reccing*
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Sam & Dean Hughalfshellvenus on October 27th, 2008 03:21 am (UTC)
I am so glad you noticed that line, because it's almost a subliminal description of an irreparable ache than a direct one.

Thank you so much for commenting!
Killa: sam pyrekillabeez on October 27th, 2008 01:28 am (UTC)
Oh, wow, that's stunningly gorgeous and so, so true. It hurts. But I love it. {{{{}}}}
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Samhalfshellvenus on October 27th, 2008 03:23 am (UTC)
I'm so glad it feels true to you, because that matters enormously to me when writing the more serious stories-- especially here, where as hard as this is for Sam and readers alike, it's a hugely important period in the epic journey of Sam and Dean.

And thank you for braving it even though it does hurt! :)
chemm80: metallicarchemm80 on October 27th, 2008 01:56 am (UTC)
he lays the last of his family to rest.

just that he can't… he can't be anything for anybody else right now. Not polite, maybe not even present.


Yes. This is why we need fanfic.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Sam & Dean Hughalfshellvenus on October 27th, 2008 03:28 am (UTC)
Yes. This is why we need fanfic.
All of these moments shown here are what I'd hoped to see glimpses of in 4x01, and we really didn't. But we saw their precursors in "Mystery Spot," after Sam had passed through much of the grieving... and there wasn't much of Sam left at that point.

That last part is what you can't explain to friends or strangers, and makes phone calls and face-to-face meetings unbearable. You're not all right, and having to put a front on to reassure other people is exhausting and sometimes feels downright impossible. I remembered in writing this that Sam avoided Bobby both times Dean was gone, and yet I completely understand why he would.

I'm so glad you liked this, and thanks so much for commenting!
cindy: spn - ouija handstsuki_no_bara on October 27th, 2008 02:35 am (UTC)
this is so very sad. :( this is kind of the sam i expected to see in lazarus rising, and i felt weirdly cheated that it wasn't really the sam we got. i really like that he summons ruby to use her to bring dean back. it makes sense to me.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Sam & Dean Hughalfshellvenus on October 27th, 2008 03:33 am (UTC)
this is kind of the sam i expected to see in lazarus rising, and i felt weirdly cheated that it wasn't really the sam we got.
Me too-- I wanted to feel like Dean mattered that much, and that his return would jolt Sam from the kind of near-automaton behavior we saw in Mystery Spot right into unexpected joy. Instead, everything was so muted and Sam was more functional than we expected. And that made me hurt on Dean's behalf.

i really like that he summons ruby to use her to bring dean back. it makes sense to me.
Someone else mentioned in a comment discussion elsewhere that Ruby might be sticking close to Sam because she has no other choice (because she was summoned). I like the idea even better that she was summoned for a specific reason, because the thought that he might be that powerful should have occurred to Sam once he could focus enough to connect the dots of that final showdown with Lilith.

I'm glad this feels like more of what we should have seen and didn't. Sometimes that's the only way for me to heal the parts of the show that don't go as my personal canon thinks they should-- and from the comments I'm reading, many readers feel similarly about this timeframe in Sam's life.
chemm80: metallicarchemm80 on October 27th, 2008 04:18 am (UTC)
Yeah, you're absolutely right on the money. Obviously I was having a little trouble being coherent when I commented. I lost my mom quite suddenly about four months ago--probably why this hit me so hard.

I know they say they're going to reveal some of what the boys went through during the summer over the season, but I'm having a hard time with the way they're so casual with each other already. I don't want to say too much about ep 4x06 for fear of spoilage, but there were a couple of BIG clangers in there for me relative to Sam's responses to Dean.

But I'll stop there because I've mostly LOVED this season so far and I'm utterly determined to enjoy the rest of it. Thanks for helping me do that by filling in some of the missing spots.

P.S. If you're interested, my take on how Sam spent his summer vacation is here
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Sam & Dean Hughalfshellvenus on October 27th, 2008 04:54 am (UTC)
Obviously I was having a little trouble being coherent when I commented. I lost my mom quite suddenly about four months ago--probably why this hit me so hard.
From the lines you quoted, I knew which part of this really resonated with you, and people who have been through this (or know someone really well who has) understand what it's like to be in that state. It's very individual, but for some people while the comfort is very much appreciated it also feels very much like a demand that they have nothing left within them to meet.

but I'm having a hard time with the way they're so casual with each other already.
Me too-- it really bothers me, as if after everything they both went through it's just... not that important to them after all. I hate that every season of the show has begun with this massive disconnect between the two brothers, often at times when they need each other more than anything. It's one of my pet peeves with Kripke, especially because the angst needs more emotional 'reward' to balance it out. At least, that's what I'd like. :)

I'm keeping my fingers crossed for the next few episodes to straighten this out a little bit!

Edited at 2008-10-27 05:25 am (UTC)
ErinRua: Samerinrua on October 27th, 2008 04:39 am (UTC)
Whoa. Ow. *aches*

I'll bet anything it happened very much just like this.

Oh, Sam.

This is so incredibly gorgous, love. This is why we have fan fiction. *clings*
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Sam & Dean Hughalfshellvenus on October 27th, 2008 08:57 pm (UTC)
Thank you, Erin! It's hard to write about this level of pain, but on the other hand... it feels like we've been denied it (even the evidence of it) this season, and I don't like the show's glossing over it-- that makes it seem like it didn't matter.

It needs to matter, for Dean, for Sam, and for me. Funny how we turn to fanfic to fill in the holes, in part because we're all to aware when the holes are there!
(no subject) - erinrua on October 27th, 2008 10:23 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Destinadestina on October 27th, 2008 04:49 am (UTC)
Awwww, this just breaks my heart - all this darkness and desperation in Sam, and I think it's just about as true as anything we actually saw in canon. So excellent.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Sam & Dean Hughalfshellvenus on October 28th, 2008 02:14 am (UTC)
Thank you so much, Destina! Trying to make it feel true to the character and the situation was very important here, because Sam's pain and Dean's absence deserved no less. I'm glad it seemed that way to you! That's high praise indeed! :)
iamstealthyoneiamstealthyone on October 27th, 2008 05:01 am (UTC)
Oh, Sam.

Nicely done; good look at Sam’s pain after Dean dies, at the way he struggles to move on and decides to take that drastic step with Ruby.

Favorite lines:

Sam stays in the car the first few nights, surrounded by Dean's scent as he drifts in and out of troubled sleep.

This image makes me ache so much for him.

In the too-long nights, he finds himself wandering from bed to window in the dark, searching for something that will never be there to find.

Ow.

He's lived without Dean before, survived and endured as Winchesters do. But having done it—raw fingernails clinging from one day to the next—he'll be damned if he's doing it again.

I love his determination here.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Samhalfshellvenus on October 28th, 2008 02:18 am (UTC)
Ow.
You can understand that aimless uneasiness though, can't you, even if no-one could ever explain the why of it.

I love his determination here.
That's always seemed to me to be a Winchester strength, not giving up easily-- even when the chances are nearly impossible. Having the slightest bit of hope would make it impossible for Sam to do otherwise, and damn the consequences.

Thanks for reading and commenting!
inane_nana on October 27th, 2008 05:31 am (UTC)
That was incredibly sad. I can't begin to imagine what would go through Sam's head if her were to lose Dean again, but I'm sure it'd be close to what you have written here. Oh Sam, Oh Dean.
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Samhalfshellvenus on October 28th, 2008 08:24 pm (UTC)
I hate to think of Sam going through this twice, but we know he did. He was so clearly broken the first time that I'd like to think it still hurt just as much to lose Dean the second time, even if the S4 premiere gave us a different impression.

Thanks for reading!
Jamilaaja_evenstar on October 27th, 2008 05:46 am (UTC)
=|

I. Love. You.

Man. Fanfiction is the best thing in the world hahaha. This story was SO good; i'm addicted to stories about Sam in the months without Dean. As sadistic as that sounds =( Angst!Sam is too good for anything.

Loved it =)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Samhalfshellvenus on October 28th, 2008 08:27 pm (UTC)
Oh, I'm SO glad you liked it, and clearly you're a connoiseur of this particular genre, so that means even more!

And it's when the show leaves these gaping holes of emotion that we not only think must have occurred but also that we really wanted to see, that writers are forced to fill the void with fanfic. Because I can't stand the thought that it was as easy for Sam as 4x01 made it appear.

Thanks so much for your wonderful comments!
(Deleted comment)
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Sam & Dean Hughalfshellvenus on October 28th, 2008 08:28 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much! I'd hoped the ending made the reader feel Sam's determination to make that last desperate attempt, in spite of what he'd promised Dean and even in spite of what dangerous things might result.
layne: sam wake up alonelayne67 on October 27th, 2008 07:51 am (UTC)
Sam totally flipped out with Dean gone, didn't he? And I think he's still messed up now ...
The Coalition For Disturbing Metaphors: Samhalfshellvenus on October 28th, 2008 08:34 pm (UTC)
Sam totally flipped out with Dean gone, didn't he? And I think he's still messed up now ...
It may be cruel to say so, but I hope both of those are true. Dean deserves no less, after all.

Love that icon, BTW!