A Sacredness In Tears
Bobby offered beer. Sam wanted whisky.
Bobby gave him that.
When after three days the boy ate nothing, only drank, Bobby offered more than whisky.
"Sam. Look, I know—"
It was a voice of ice, and iron, and rust. "No. You don't."
Porchlight illumination eased through the windows, staving off the dark in an otherwise dim study. Bobby came in from the kitchen carrying a plate laden with Sam's uneaten dinner, nuked to new warmth in the microwave. He paused behind the couch, saw the back of Sam's dark head, the slope of the kid's broad shoulders. He sat upright, mostly, did Sam, but his torso slanted forward, and his legs were spread. Forearms rested upon his thighs. A tumbler of whisky dangled from one broad hand; the other hung slackly, as did the thumb and fingers on it.
But Sam seemed bent on echoing the aborted conversation from the night before. "You don't know, Bobby. You—" But he broke it off, lifted the tumbler, straightened stiffly so he could slam back all the whisky in the glass.
Bobby rounded the couch, set the plate on the table, dropped knife and fork next to it with a rattle and chime, but did not walk away. He was done with diplomacy. "Boy, you lookin' to be buried next to Dean out in that field? 'Cuz that's what'll happen if you keep goin' this way, Sam. Grief I get—I've had a belly-full of it, over the years—but this life's too dangerous to leave an opening to the enemy. And that's what you're doin,' kid. You hunt in this frame of mind, you'll be dead right quick. And you know Dean'd kick your ass six ways to Sunday if you show up on his doorstep down below."
That brought Sam's head up. Finally, finally Bobby had his attention, at it nearly took his breath. Grief he expected to see. But what lived in the boy was more than that. It was all mixed up with rage, and guilt. A scouring, harrowing guilt.
Sam stood up all of a piece, which was saying something. The young man was stronger than most, and quick enough when he needed to be, but his movements had never been made of grace, not the fluid curves of a human body at peace with itself. Sam was all lines and angles and spikes. It was Dean who was the unceasing river flowing through stony shallows, a body made of curves. Dean did not bend, he did not break.
But he died.
And Sam threw the whisky tumbler. Bobby saw only the streak of clear glass in lamplight, the winking glint as its trajectory took it across the room and against the wall. It burst into fragments, fell. A thin smear of liquor gleamed wetly, but the glass had mostly been empty save for a few drops.
"This is on me." Sam thumped a rigid hand against his chest. "On me, Bobby! I might as well have put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger myself. Because he made a deal. He made a deal to bring me back. Just like Dad did, for him." Sam's voice was raw, fraying at the edges. "Hell, that nearly broke Dean; you saw him, Bobby. You know how it wrecked him. So yeah, I guess I understand why he did it. He couldn't bear to be alone, not with Dad gone, and me. But when Dad did it, he knew Dean had me. He knew if he was gone, we still had each other. Now? This?" Sam spread his hands, let them slap down against his sides. "I'm supposed to be stronger? I'm supposed to just carry on with my life as the last Winchester standing? It's okay for me to be left behind? Why did he think I could bear it any more than he could?"
But Sam just shook his head, shutting himself away from any answer. He shoved both hands into his hair and yanked it away from his face. At the back of his skull he made fists, clutching hair. His expression was stripped, the pain laid bare. He stood there frozen a long moment, then dropped his hands, tilted back his head, stared hard at the ceiling as he fought the rising tide of grief, of renewed realization.
His voice was ragged. "I couldn't burn him. I just couldn't. And I don't know why. We gave Dad to the fire—but Dean . . . I don't know. I needed—I need—to remember him whole. As Dean. As my brother. Not—not watch him go as the sparks, and the ash." A tremor ran through his face. "Not Dean. "
There were many things Bobby wanted to say, but did not. He'd said most of them in that dining room in New Harmony, watching one of his boys—yes, they were his boys—weeping brokenly over the other's body.
"I got taller," Sam said, "but never bigger. Not in any of the ways that count. I said things, accused him of not being his own man, only Dad's, but I was wrong. Dean was who he wanted to be. What he needed to be. What we needed him to be. And now . . ." After a moment in which only a clock was heard, Sam released a hard breath. "I went to Stanford for all the right reasons. Good reasons. But there was another reason I never told anyone." Now he met Bobby's eyes. "If I left, I couldn't be left. If they died. Do you understand? If I'd stayed, and a hunt went bad, and they died—" But he broke it off, hesitated, and his mouth twitched a little, a minute jerk of realization, and shame. "No. Dad I could bear. I could bear losing him. I knew it then. But Dean—" He shook his head. "I couldn't bear it, Bobby. Not my big brother. I couldn't—I just couldn't. But it was within my power to leave. To not see him go, because I left first. And now I know I was right. I can't do it, Bobby. I can't bear this. Not—Dean."
Bobby drew in a taut breath. "I killed my own wife," he said. "You know that. You know why. A day doesn't go by that I don't think on her, on what we had, and how it was lost. How I was lost. But I found a calling. And in that calling, I came to know you and your brother. I loved him like a son, Sam, just as I love you. You're not alone. You're not left behind. Because the world needs you as much today as it did yesterday, or last year, or the year before that. Hell, boy, I need you." Bobby cleared his throat, steadied his voice. "But you will bear this, Sam . . . you will bear this, because it's what Dean expected. It's what he trained you to do. To bear it, and go on."
Sam's chopped off blurt of raw laughter was bitter. "Then why didn't he do it, Bobby? Why didn't he 'bear it and go on?' Why did he sell his soul to bring me back?" He shook his head. "You know what he said to me? After Dad? He said 'What's dead should stay dead.'" Sam stretched out his arms, putting himself on display. "But here I am, living and breathing, because he couldn't let me stay dead."
"You thinkin' it was a mistake?"
"Hell, yes, it was a mistake! You know it was, Bobby! You can't stand here and look me in the face and tell me you didn't wish he'd done otherwise."
Bobby had wished Dean'd done otherwise. He remembered standing in the canyons of cars out in the yard, when, looking at Dean's expression, into those eyes, he realized the price of Sam's life. Heard the world in those simple words Dean spoke: I had to, Bobby. He's my brother.
"And when John did it for him?" Bobby demanded harshly. "Weren't you glad beyond belief that your big brother survived after all?"
Sam twitched shoulders in a half-shrug. "We didn't know, then," he said dully. "We had no idea what Dad had done. We just thought . . . we just thought we got lucky. Medical miracle."
"You said you could bear losing your father, but not your brother. So maybe, when you boys figured out what John had done, deep down you were glad, Sam. Or relieved. Or thankful. Or any number of mixed up feelings. Because you still had Dean."
"And now I don't!" Sam shouted.
Then, all of a sudden, he came apart in pieces. Arms, legs, neck bent every which way, seemingly against his will, and dropped him back to the couch. His chest moved in heaves. In broken inhalations, in gasped exhalations, loud in the shadowed room.
Bobby wept with him. Bobby wept for him.
When Sam quieted, when he looked up at last, Bobby saw new emotions in the eyes. Realization. Resolution. "I know why I did it," Sam said. "Or why I didn't do it. Why I couldn't burn him."
Something was in his voice, something Bobby had never heard from Sam. From Dean, yes, in that cabin near Cold Oak. "Sam—?"
"I'll put this away." Sam picked up the plate of an uneaten meal and rose. "He'll need his body when I get him back."
Dread sparked deep in Bobby's gut. "Sam, you better not be thinkin'—"
"He's in hell, Bobby. I have to."
"Sam! He wouldn't want this!"
Then he can kick my ass six ways to Sunday." Sam's smile was faint. "When he's back."
But Sam carried the plate into the kitchen and said no more.
Not even goodbye.
~ end ~
"There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love."
A/N: As we await the S12 premiere, we of course know the Winchesters have died more than once. But Sam's death in S2 must have been a horrible shock to weekly viewers who were not at that time accustomed to having one of the boys killed off. Dean's grief during his monologue to his brother's body was absolutely palpable, and painful to watch. I imagine for Sam, with Dean dead on the floor of that house in Indiana, it was every bit as terrible. In a way, the show didn't really underscore that, though it certainly was implied in Bobby's words in this episode. But that's what prompted this story. John they could grieve, and let go. One another, they could not.