Characters: Sam, Dean, Bobby (Gen)
Summary (post-2x01, "In My Time Of Dying"): Dad's gone, but for Sam that shadow still remains…
Author's Notes: Happy belated birthday to happywriter06! I know you've wanted this forever, and I started this back in the Fall after you suggested it, but didn't make it very far. Your birthday was the inspiration I needed to finish it. Hope you like it. :)
Also for my switch25 table, this is "Bruise."
The world has stopped outside, leaving silence to rule the graveyard of dust and steel that lies next to Bobby's place. It's been five days.
Sometimes, Sam isn't sure whether any of them actually survived. Dean's not talking and Bobby can hardly look at either of them, and the ash of his father's funeral pyre still clings to Sam's skin. No amount of scrubbing can render Sam clean or peaceful or whole.
He didn't even say goodbye.
Sam has turned those last few minutes over in his head, again and again. He keeps coming back to them, to the fight he almost started because he didn't know—how could he know—that the only thing Dad could do for Dean would wind up costing him everything? Sam remembers the softness in his father's voice when he said he didn't want to fight anymore, the tenderness in his eyes betraying the kind of love Sam had stopped hoping for a lifetime ago. He almost screwed up the possibility of that moment with an argument they'd had too many times already, and he's so glad Dad stopped him. But how he wishes he'd known that was going to be his last chance for words and apologies, for trying to set right all the things that had gone wrong between them.
He would have tried with everything he had in him to make that happen. Now that he's been cheated out of it, he can't let it go.
Dean is no help. He acts like he blames Sam for what happened, like Sam could ever have stopped Dad from doing anything he'd set his mind to. Dean's distant and abrasive now, like Sam's a stranger instead of the brother who lost his father too. What's even more frustrating is that they're apparently not supposed to talk about it. Dean won't admit to his own pain, and he sure as hell doesn't want to hear about Sam's. He makes it sound as if Sam forfeited the right to grieve by going away to college, and it's not that simple—none of it, any more than the rest of their lives have been. It's all confusion and contradictions and pushed-down feelings that were never really laid to rest. It's messy and damn-near impossible to explain, like knowing the world is dangerous and wishing you could unlearn that, or like needing someone so much that you have to push them away to be sure you can survive on your own.
Dean just doesn't understand. He only rebelled against the safe things, never his own family. He was either born to be Dad's little soldier or decided it for himself too long ago to remember. Either way, he didn't have to leave in order to become himself.
So he can't see that sometimes Sam regrets leaving, or that he also regrets the opposite—the fact that it was necessary. Those things will always be intertwined, bound up in each other like the family Sam tried so hard to escape.
Sam has Dean back now, and they were finally starting to learn how to work together in spite of their differences. Dad had his own missions to keep him busy, and without the constant question of loyalty standing between them, the boys had finally forged a new kind of peace.
Sometimes, Sam thinks he might one day have gotten to that place with Dad. They were still butting heads at the end (hopelessly fated by their personalities), but they'd laughed together too. There was that talk in the motel room about college funds, and all Dad's anger was gone. It seemed like a new beginning.
Now Sam will never know what might have happened if he'd only had a little more time.
Bobby's house is filled with ghosts—memories of the times Sam and Dean came here as kids, the book with the worn spine and Egyptian hieroglyphics that Dad borrowed for a couple of years, the picture of Dad and Bobby outside a broken-down house in Tennessee. It's claustrophobic, sitting around being reminded again and again of what's missing.
Dean doesn't want to hunt, even when Sam practically drops a new case in his lap. He doesn't seem to want to do anything, except mope around Bobby's place and tinker with that hopeless wreck of a car. Sam gets it, he understands how hard this is for Dean. But it's hard for him too, and he didn't expect it to be so goddamn lonely, not when he still has his big brother. Had is more like it. He doesn't know what the hell to make of Dean right now.
The two of them are crammed into the guest room, same as they always were. But Sam's sleeping by himself at night, without even the comfort of Dean's unforgiving shoulders there to reject him. It's not just that Dean's avoiding him, more that he spends his evenings drinking in Bobby's living room until he passes out on the couch. Drinking means escaping, whereas time with Sam means talking or remembering or whatever the hell else Dean's so afraid of right now.
Sam finally calls him on it, so sick of being pushed away that he finally pushes back. Dean thinks guilt's going to shut him up, but Sam faces it head on, refusing to let it distract him. He admits it, lays out his failures, and then turns it back around:
"I'm not all right. Not at all. But neither are you. That much I know."
He's lost Dad, and God knows he's still battered and bereft. But he's not losing Dean, not if he can help it.
Sam leaves Dean to think about that, and he's nearly inside Bobby's house when he hears the crash of shattering glass. He turns, but the savage sound of metal-on-metal destruction stops him right where he stands.
Sam knew Dean was hiding his anger, totally knew it, but there's no victory now in hearing it finally come out.
He can't tell if Dean's mad at him or at himself, or whether their father is the real target. It might even be all three.
It doesn't matter.
Dean's as broken as he is, and everything between them is broken. Sam listens helplessly to the sounds of Dean coming apart, and knows that anything more than the barest semblance of survival is still a long way off for them both.
-------- fin --------