Summary: Dean can't sleep, and Sam's frustrated. A follow up to the first season episode Faith. Picks up right after the episode fades to black.
Characters: Dean, Sam, and a few minor original characters
Notes: I believe this is the first story I ever wrote for the Supernatural fandom. It isn't my favorite. It turned out maudlin and too overt, too expository, but I remember enjoying trying to play with the under-the-surface emotions both brothers might have been feeling. It is also, in a minor way, a subtle set up for the monster tale that is In Reverse.
Warnings: Spoilers abound. Assumes you are familiar with Supernatural, the characters and the first season.
Disclaimer: not mine
A few minutes after Layla left, Sam came back into the room with sodas for both of them.
Dean wished Sam had taken just a bit longer. He wanted more time with his thoughts. More time to just… figure everything out. More time to figure out why he still lived and whether or not his cheating death should perhaps mean something more.
Had Roy really seen into his heart?
He doubted it. He was fairly certain what was in his heart wasn't all that worth saving.
All his life he'd been the good son. Nothing more. And he'd been the good brother. Nothing less.
Everything else had been about nothing but hunting. Hunting things in the darkness to keep his father sane, to keep his brother safe—to keep other mothers from leaving their own sons and husbands.
Sam. Layla. Roy. Dad. They were good. They had purpose. God worked in mysterious ways for them. Not him. It was his job to keep them safe. That's all.
He wasn't trying to be self-deprecating. It was just something he'd always known. He wasn't bitter about it. Lonely sometimes. But never bitter.
Now though, people were dead and dying because of him. And he couldn't help wondering—how do I live with that?
Sam didn't say much to him the rest of the evening. He set himself up on the computer, researching possible jobs while shooting Dean furtive and oddly determined glances.
Dean ignored most of them. Just went through the motions of flipping through television channels, cooking spaghetti on their rented room's tiny stove that he didn't end up eating, and sorting clothes into different duffels based on apparent cleanliness.
By nightfall he was tired of thinking, tired of everything, but he got into bed knowing he wouldn't be finding sleep.
"Dean," Sam said, standing next to the light switch, ready to turn it out, face set back in one of the determined looks. "We did the right thing." It was a statement, not a question, and Dean knew it was meant to convince him… meant to lull him back into being the brother who laughed in the face of death and didn't think too much about the order of the universe and the not-so-moral parts of their life. Lull him back to being the older brother, in control, with answers.
Because if Dean had ever wondered what it might be like for Sam to be the older one, he'd been getting his answer ever since his heart seized on him—ever since Sam had bullied him into the car and driven him to Roy Le Grange's Church of Trading Deaths.
And Dean hadn't known how to deal with that either—the worried Sam, hovering and helping every time he turned around, to sit, to stand, and once, in the roadside diner they'd stopped at in rout, to steady the fork as he brought it to his mouth.
Now Sam hovered by the light switch. Waiting.
Dean knew what Sam wanted and gave him a nod. One meant to lull Sam into complacency… lull him back into being the younger, too-smart brat he'd always been. And it must have worked because Sam turned out the light, the floor creaking under his lfeet as he made his way toward his bed in the dark. Dean listed to it sink under Sam's weight, blankets and bedclothes making muted sounds as Sam settled.
When the sounds stopped, Dean leaned against his own headboard, knocking it against the wall behind him. The thump echoed in the room and Sam rolled toward him but didn't say anything.
After a minute Dean shifted back down the bed. Made a play at sleeping, but couldn't—listened to Sam's steady breathing, closed his eyes, forced himself to picture white fields and blank paper, tried to empty his mind of Layla and brain tumors and Marshall Hall.
Half an hour later, when the tapping of rain started drumming against the roof, he gave up trying.
In dark silence he pulled on jeans and boots. He couldn't find his jacket without turning on a light so he didn't mess with it. He zipped the hooded sweatshirt from the end of his bed over his t-shirt and clicked the door open softly, careful not to wake his brother. And when he shut it, he made sure the lock engaged behind him.
The rain pulsed loud and heavy in his ears as he made his way out of the motel.
His mother had loved the rain.
More often than not, he found he loved it too—the really good storms with lighting and thunder. Whether that was because of her or because of some other psychological issue, he didn't know and didn't guess at.
The town wasn't big, and it wasn't big on sidewalks. Dean sloshed through the mud steadily, echoing the rhythm of the Aerosmith song in his head—if only because he made it so. He started to hum, mumbling the words. Sing with me, if it's just for today. Maybe tomorrow, the good lord will take you away...
He walked without purpose or direction, letting the mantra of music and the pounding of rain numb his mind.
Two hours into his walk and he was at the cemetery. A large cemetery. Old. There might have been another in town but Dean doubted it.
He read the name on the gate and knew from the obituary this is where they'd buried Marshall Hall that morning—while Dean had been saying goodbye to Layla and telling her he'd pray for her. Suddenly he wanted to see the grave—Marshall Hall's. See what remained of the man who'd died for him.
Maybe this is where he'd been intending to come all along.
The mound of dirt looked fresh when he found it—a muddy soupy mound bound to melt into the surrounding grass as the torrents continued. The headstone hadn't been set yet, but a staked-in marker gave Marshall's name and date of death.
4:17 Dean thought. The marker didn't say the time, but Dean would always remember it.
No longer walking, he could feel how heavy with water his jeans had become—his sweatshirt was soaked cold and his t-shirt was sticking to his skin underneath.
His muscles ached. He shivered involuntarily.
He hadn't noticed the cold while he'd been walking. It settled into him now, deep in his joints, sharp on his skin. Even so, he turned his head up to the rain, letting it pelt his face, closing his eyes to better listen to it strike the ground and the headstones below.
A twinge was building in his chest that had nothing to do with the storm. Though it echoed the painful tightness he'd been battling before Roy healed him—before Sue Ann turned his fate over to Marshall Hall—he knew the pain was only there now because he lived. Because he was alive when he shouldn't be.
Opening his eyes, he dropped his head down to look again at the grave, feeling like he should say something and feeling ridiculous for feeling like he should say something.
He wanted to shout, to sit, to pound his fists into the ground, to make someone come and explain all this… tell him what this was supposed to mean for him… tell him what he could do to make any of this right. But some things never made sense. Sometimes, life sucked.
"Did you know my brother?"
The voice was soft and so startled Dean he had to stop himself from reaching for the gun he didn't have. His eyes darted till he found the source—a boy sitting hidden on a cedar bench near an alcove of trees to his left.
The kid stood and approached him. He was skinny—skinnier than Sam but not nearly as tall. Younger than Sam too, but not by much. He had black hair—short, curly, plastered to his head with rainwater.
"Not exactly," Dean said, surprised when his voice caught and he had to repeat the phrase.
The kid nodded, shivering, stepping closer to the muddy grave, soaked to the skin himself, wearing a denim jacket that kept the rain out as badly as Dean's sweatshirt.
Dean's heart thrummed, the tightness intensifying.
The kid was giving him a questioning look, waiting for Dean to explain his 1am presence at his brother's grave.
Dean swallowed. "I just wanted to… Marshall… he uh… he saved my life," he offered, words sinking. He didn't know how else to explain.
The kid's eyes widened. "Really?"
"Yeah," Dean said, glad to be saying it to someone Marshall knew. "Yeah, he did. I guess I just… felt like I owed it to him to…" Dean made a gesture at the muddy grave—awkward, inadequate. "He was your brother?"
The kid nodded, staring. "That's funny," he said.
Dean lifted an eyebrow.
The kid's voice wavered. "About him saving your life," he clarified. "Not… ha-ha funny. Just, last Thanksgiving we got onto this stupid conversation—stuff we wanted to do before we died. He said if he ever died young he wanted to do something worthwhile first. Saving someone's life is pretty worthwhile. Right?"
"Yeah," Dean almost couldn't get the word out.
"It's a long story," Dean said.
The kid nodded and shivered. "I'm Morgan," he offered. Dean pretended not to notice his shaking voice.
"Dean," he said, then hesitated. "Can you tell me about him?"
Morgan visibly swallowed, looking away, and Dean wished he'd never asked the question. Like this kid was supposed to sum up his brother in thirty words or less. He could never do that with Sam. He doubted Sam could have done it with him.
"He was athletic," Morgan started, then swallowed again and seemed to rethink his words. "That's what it says in the obituary anyway… he was athletic and liked history and travel."
"And that's all true enough it just… doesn't seem enough. He was athletic, but he did it more because my dad wanted him to be. Dad's kind of a nut about staying healthy. He's 69 and he still goes running all the time. Marshall didn't like running but he figured out he liked swimming so… Dad feels kinda guilty about it now… thinks Marshall had a heart condition we just never knew about. And he—Marshall—liked history and he traveled a lot… which always drives—drove—my mom crazy 'cause he'd always end up traveling alone. He backpacked across Europe that way. And he hitch-hiked from Peru all the way down to the tip of Chile all by himself. Mom was so mad…"
Dean smiled, a quick half-smile that didn't last. "He sounds like he was a real good person."
Morgan nodded, dragging his sleeve under his nose. He might have said more but the distant screech of tires and a car door opening in the parking lot prevented it.
They both turned to watch as a man with a flashlight bobbed toward them.
Dean tensed as the flashlight swept across him and settled on Morgan. The figure stopped, flipping a cell phone out of his coat pocket, followed by the beep of dialing. "I got him, Dad," the man spoke. The flashlight clicked off. The phone flipped closed.
"Jeez, Morgan! What are you doing out here? It's been a rough enough day as it is without waking up to find you gone! Mom's worried out of her mind."
Dean's eyes adjusted to see a near replica of Morgan, only older, taller.
Morgan shoved his hands in his pockets. "I'm sorry, Mike, I just wanted to…"
Mike seemed to understand. Ignoring Dean, he stepped closer to Morgan and wrapped an arm around his shoulders. "Let someone know next time, would ya?"
The kid nodded.
"We were worried, Morgan," he finished gruffly. "Hard enough losing… " The world was silent a moment and then Mike, as though he'd just caught on to Dean's presence, pinned him with a stare.
"This is Dean," Morgan explained.
The man tipped his head. "Mike," he said. He held out a hand, and if he thought it was awkward to be introduced to a stranger at his brother's graveside in the middle of the night in the waning rain, he didn't show it. "Did you know Marshall?" he asked.
"In a manner of speaking," Dean answered. "I just came to pay my respects."
"I'm sure Marshall would have appreciated that."
"Dean told me Marshall saved his life once," Morgan interjected.
Mike looked at Dean again, curiosity evident.
Dean just nodded.
"You have family, Dean?"
"Little brother," he said simply… and a father somewhere… somewhere else a dead mother…
Mike clicked on his flashlight, looked at his little brother and at the downing rain—clearly wanting to get Morgan out of it. "Can we drop you somewhere?" he asked, ushering Morgan ahead as he turned back to the parking lot and his still-running car, but Dean caught the fleeting glance of regret he cast towards Marshall's muddy grave.
Dean turned also, falling into step with them. "No, thanks," he answered.
"Are you sure?" Mike asked, when they were out the gate, apparently noticing Dean's lack of car.
"Yeah. Where I'm staying isn't far," he lied.
Mike shrugged, closing the passenger door after his brother had climbed into the car.
Dean shuffled back, blinked one last time in the direction of Marshall's grave and started walking away. Behind him, Morgan's voice suddenly called out. "Dean, I'm glad he saved your life!"
Dean turned, stepping back to the car, wiping rain from his face. "Thanks, Morgan." He warred with himself for a moment then went for it—reaching out to stop Mike from closing the driver's side door. "Listen," he said awkwardly. "My brother and I… we work… we uh… we help people." Dean dipped his head forward, cleared his throat. "If you ever need anything, give us a call, okay?"
Mike looked at him quizzically, but wrote down Dean's number with a nod, shook his hand again, thanked him for paying his respects to Marshall, and with a last lingering look, drove out of the parking lot.
Dean stood motionless a long moment after. Watching them go. Back to a home with a mother and a father and half a dozen more siblings for all he knew. But back to a place where Marshall would never be again.
It wasn't right but Dean suddenly pictured Sam in the same scenario. At night, in the rain, standing by his graveside. Sam wouldn't have had anyone to come looking for him—no one to wake up worried at finding him gone. And for one fleeting moment, Dean was grateful—horrifically, selfishly grateful that Marshall had taken his place.
The feeling was followed by a bluntly sharp stab of guilt.
Was that really supposed to make it more okay? Was it more okay for Marshall to be dead because he had more family?
"I'm sorry, Marshall," he said to the gate. "I never meant for this to happen."
Turning from the graveyard, slowly he started the long walk back to Sam and their rented room, achingly tired but in no hurry to get there.
He hoped by the time he got back, that he'd feel ready to go in… and maybe even to sleep.
It was rare, these days, for Sam to sleep through the night.
Waking up half a dozen times was normal. Par for the course. The difference, however, between those times and this one was that he could usually remember why he'd awakened—a dream, a sound, the need to use the bathroom—but now…
He listened to the silence, slowing his breathing, trying to think it through. Abruptly, he gasped.
He was alone.
Bolting upright, he reached for the lamp. As expected, Dean's bed was empty.
Sam grimaced. A weak ago, that might not have meant much, might not have been a reason to worry or panic. But that was before he'd been told his brother had two weeks, at most maybe a month to live. Before he'd had to sleep in a motel room alone while his brother lay in a hospital bed giving Sam the option of burial or cremation.
Not that he'd slept much, those days. Whenever he'd tried his mind had kept whispering to him—what if your brother dies, and you're here sleeping? The question had kept him stuck in an anxiety-fueled wakefulness, contemplating a future without his brother to rag on him, chide him, protect him, wake up in the night with him to worry about his nightmares. In those long hours Sam had grown afraid in a way he'd never been before.
If there was anything left to fear, he'd thought, anything that could still happen to him—this was it. Losing Dean.
What was worse was Dean hadn't seemed to care—not like he should have. It was like he'd given up before they'd ever made it to the hospital.
When Roy had called Dean out of the audience, Sam had been elated and relieved. When Dean had told the faith healer to pick someone else Sam had wanted to smack him. Dean hadn't wanted to die—Sam knew that, somehow. But Dean had been resigned to it—placid, annoyingly accepting, annoyingly willing to just go.
And now, to wake up and have him gone…
Angrily, Sam checked the bathroom and found nothing. He rifled through Dean's duffle and found his brother's jacket and the keys to the Impala.
He checked the time. 2:30am.
He looked for a note.
He yanked on his jeans and shoes and walked down the hall to the soda machine, just in case.
Back in the room, he found his own jacket and pulled it on.
He picked through Dean's things with greater intent and discovered Dean's sweatshirt was missing, as were his boots. Which all probably meant Dean had left on his own and wasn't mysteriously taken, but how was Sam supposed to know?
Before heading out the door he walked over to Dean's bed, setting a hand where Dean would have slept. The sheets were cold. It probably wouldn't have taken them long to get that way but if Sam had to guess, Dean probably hadn't been in the bed since just after Sam turned out the light.
He sighed, cursing his own exhaustion, angry he hadn't noticed Dean gone sooner, angry that Dean—if nothing was wrong—hadn't even left a stupid note.
It's not like he couldn't picture what Dean was thinking. His brother was alive when other people were dead and dying and he didn't necessarily believe he deserved to be.
Sam got it.
But it didn't stop him from being glad Dean was alive. He'd had the bliss of ignorance when his brother was healed. He wasn't going to dwell too much on the other possibilities. And he wasn't going to let his brother do anything stupid to throw away their good fortune.
Walking out the door with the Impala's keys, Sam cursed. Why couldn't Dean just… Let. It. Be?