Pairing: Dean’s POV (Gen)
Summary: The period after Sam went to college was a four-year eternity that Dean walked alone.
Author’s Notes: Originally written for 60_minute_fics, for the trigger set of “Betrayal, Nostalgia, Affection, Regret.” This is the polished version of that first story.
When Sam left, the world became quiet.
At first, Dean thought it was just the absence of arguments and rebellion that left with his brother.
But though the quality of the silence soon changed, its presence did not.
John stewed, keeping his anger locked up tight. Dean knew his father was furious, that he considered this a betrayal of their family and of Mary’s memory. But John wasn’t the kind to bad-mouth someone if they weren’t there to fight back. The air crackled with the constant heat of everything John felt but didn’t say, with the bound up energy in John’s shoulders and hard-set mouth.
Dean twisted in the presence of so much torment. He knew his own sadness was as unforgivable as Sam’s decision.
It hadn’t always been like that, with John giving orders and Sam looking to find the loopholes. There had been a gentler side to John when they were little—as if he remembered that his boys missed their mother too, that they were children with their own necessary mistakes. John had wrestled with his own pain, negotiating a shaky balance between his mission and his anguish and the needs of his small sons. Dean remembered when John was Daddy—even more than he remembered his mother—and he missed the man his father used to be.
Heartbreak changes a man. When mixed with failure, it can smother the essence of a man’s soul. Mary had been gone almost twenty years, and her destroyer was no closer to being found. And the father Dean once knew had been gone for at least half that time.
They are down to an army of two now, and their conversation is intel, recon and orders. The silly teasing and conversations with Sam are long gone, and there is little talking that isn’t some sort of business. John thinks too much inside himself, shares too little with anyone else. Dean misses the noise that means nothing, the signs that someone enjoys your company and knows that the bickering and joking are a smokescreen for the comfort between old friends.
He misses that little bit of chaos that says he’s still alive.
Sammy was the one thing that made Dean feel worthwhile. He’d wanted to be more for Sam—to be that person Sam trusted and looked up to. He’d spent a lifetime working at that, barely getting used to the new dynamic where Sam accepted him for what he actually was. But Sam was gone before Dean knew things were different. Dean was trapped in stillness before he realized that he’d never prepared himself to be alone.
Dean misses Sam. His life is full of the places Sam used to be. His heart is full of questions about when Sam’s coming back. He can’t admit to the uncertainty of “if.”
Dean isn’t the only one feeling the loss of his brother. John’s regrets are never spoken, but Dean knows they exist. Like a spirit seen through trees, or the reflection of a wandering shade, Dean has glimpsed the phantom pain of John’s missing child.
There is no solution yet found that will make the foundation of their family whole again. Working this out means that one of them will have to stop being who he is-- about as likely as a forecast of falling fire. Surrounded by stubborn on both sides, Dean is afraid that the only choice left is his.
His ability to keep the peace is gone for good. The only move left is to decide which side to join.
On the one side stands his purpose and his loyalty to his father. On the other is the only happiness he’s had in years.
Caught between the extremes of the family that’s left, Dean stands adrift on a lonesome road.
He cannot mend the rift that divides them. All that’s left is to break under the tension of opposing sides.
------ fin ------