Warnings: Just language, they are young men who hunt… things… and were raised by their father. Don't be shocked by potty mouths. Also angst. You know, 'cause I could.
A modest crowd had gathered to watch the rugged young man play pool. Outwardly, he preened beneath the admiring gazes, flirting harmlessly with local girls either too young to be out so late or too old to be so taken in by a quick smile, however charming. Inwardly, his attention was fixed on his brother seated in a quiet—well, quieter—corner, nursing a bottle of water and what appeared to be a much worse migraine then he'd let on. Dean squinted at the tall figure, as usual not quite fitting right in the chair he was hunched in, and listened to his own 'sixth sense'.
He flashed a patented, better-luck-next-time smirk at his opponent. Through the blue smoke haze of the bar, his baby brother saw the smile and sighed in relief, standing and shrugging on his jacket. Sam headed towards the door, hearing pool balls falling into holes in quick succession behind him. With a jingle he was out in the fresh cold silver of the snowy night, inhaling deeply and feeling the frozen air clear his head slightly.
Another jingle, and he felt his brother's familiar presence behind him, clean and bright. Snow. That helped his headache, too. He was noticing things like that more and more often, now. He was tired of noticing them and tired of noticing that he noticed them.
Or maybe he was just tired. Tired and overanalyzing. Tired of overanalyzing.
Dean watched Sam, standing directly in front of him in the spiraling snow, lit strange greens and yellows from the buzzing bar signs. The taller man was drawn inward, not noticing his brother in front of him. Scrutinizing his features, Dean read his expression. He knew his brother's expressions, all his tics.
No vision. He didn't need to ask.
He didn't yet realize it wasn't visual cues he was reading.
He deliberately bumped into Sam as he headed towards the car, getting his attention without having to delve into his thoughts and feelings. It was Winchester-speak. Hey, dude, you okay?
The crunch-slush of footsteps through snow was answer enough. The slight push as Sam passed him turning towards the passenger side added attitude. I'm fine, lighten up.
Sliding into his seat, Dean waited a long moment before unlocking the passenger side, allowing his power as big brother and 'guy with the keys' to be felt. Sam gave the requisite sigh of younger brother patient condescension as the Impala pulled out.
It was one of those random moments when Dean was glad he didn't die.
Reaching over to push a cassette into the player, Sam pretended he hadn't noticed Dean smile. Metallica blasted from the speakers. I'm glad your still here, too.
Lazily flicking on the wipers, Dean stopped pretending not to smile. It's hard parlay Metallica into a chick-flick moment. Only a Winchester could do it.
Only a Winchester…But it wasn't always that way, Sam…
Dean had long since dropped off, lulled by the familiar unfamiliarity of over-cleaned motel blankets and pillows and the buzzing of cheap electric heat. Sam mused silently that they had been on the road too long when having no home became home, when the strange became familiar. He shifted slightly beneath the unfortunate sea-foam knit blanket, discipline and long practice keeping him from rolling restlessly in his sleeplessness. The inevitable mattress squeaks would wake Dean, who would then attempt to maintain some bizarre idea of brotherly solidarity by staying awake with him, and someone ought to get some sleep.
Sam rolled his eyes towards the electric clock. Three minutes since he'd last looked. Fan-frigging-tastic. If he went to sleep now, he might get four hours of sleep, barring, uh… interruptions. Four hours was okay. He could function on four hours. He started counting backwards. He used to start at one hundred… he'd recently changed to one thousand. It was better than thinking, or remembering. Remembering before sleep was a bad… bad idea…
999… 998… 997…
The sheets smelled strange… like industrial bleach. His sheets didn't smell like that. They smelled like summer, 'cause Jess had coconut lime body lotion that she always put on before bed, and he'd fall asleep with his head on her soft shoulder and she smelled like the beach and Jess loved the beach… his arm reached over to the empty side of the bed before he could stop it.
You'd think he'd have figured it out by now.
976… 975… 974… 973…
He kept his eyes closed, relaxed, let his body feel heavy, let his mind drift, blank… he breathed evenly, hoping imitating sleep would encourage it to come. Systematically he cleared his mind, shutting Jess and her coconut lime smell ruthlessly behind the door marked 'Excruciating: Avoid'. Precious little of Jess was left outside that door, these days.
It wasn't really fair, not to Jess, not for Jess who'd never, never once shut a door on Sam, but neither was his life, and he knew he could only bear up beneath so much before shattering irreparably. Some memories cut from every angle, and Jess was one of them.
Sam let himself drift, empty and reaching, and it wasn't until he felt the newly familiar feeling of pulling back from reality that he realized his mistake. His mind was flooded with sensory input that sure as hell wasn't coming from his actual senses, and he managed a gasped, "Fucking A!" before being pulled under completely.But it wasn't always that way, Sam…
Warm, golden autumn sunlight spilled lazily through bare windows onto the fresh mopped wood floor of an empty room. The walls were also bare, and sported a new-ish looking coat of baby blue paint. Sam felt like he should recognize the room, but he didn't. The whole house was empty, his new senses told him, and had been for some time. He strode to the window, looking out for landmarks. Wait.
Wait one freaking minute. That—the tree. Son-of-a—it's God damned freaking Lawrence. Again.
A black Chevy Impala pulled up. Sam attempted to restrain his non-existent surprise. A suspiciously familiar ex-marine got out of the driver's side, opening the passenger door with a flourish of overdone chivalry and a grin. Sam stepped closer to the window, interested despite himself.
A pretty blonde emerged from the door, with huge eyes only for the house in front of her. Sam could read it in her face. This house was her dream. She positively pounced on his father, hugging him fiercely around the neck. Sam could hear her giddy laughter. He shut his eyes to block out the horrific irony.
Oh, god, please, this is just cruel…
When he opened his eyes again, a small boy had joined them from the back seat of the Impala, Lord, look at Dean! Obviously not more than a year or two old, if that, he could hardly stand on his own. Mary propped him on her hip, whispering into his tiny ear and making him giggle.
Sam felt something twist inside him… he pressed his hand against the glass as the family entered the house beneath him.
He could hear their voices echoing through empty rooms beneath him, exclaiming over rooms and closets and such pretty moldings. The sense of the house shifted as the living voices moved through it. It filled with anticipation and excitement, joy. His family's joy filled the house like bright sunlight.
The house hadn't felt like this when he and Dean had visited it. The darkness wasn't here yet. He realized that was why he hadn't recognized the room right away… the shadow was missing.
He heard feet on the stairs, and small feet stomping through the hall with happy abandon. Obviously little Dean could stand when he felt like it, and Sam smiled to know his headstrong ways were more Dean than John's training.
Mary's softer footsteps followed close after, and Sam's heart stopped as small Dean burst through the doorway, hiding against the wall and covering his eyes. Sam tilted his head, puzzled. What on earth…
Dean giggled, and Mary poked her head around the doorframe, spotting her baby and smiling. Stepping back into the hall, she raised her voice in confusion.
"Dean? Where'd you go, silly?"
Tiny Dean giggled and kept his eyes covered.
"John, is Dean down there with you?" Her voice carried a note of playfulness, and John replied in the same way.
"Well, now, I don't think so, Mary. Maybe he ran away to the circus."
Dean's giggling became wilder, and he peeked at the door through his fingers. Sam stepped away in shock, his back hitting the wall. He'd never heard his father's voice like that. Sure, they'd played some when he was really young, but he'd never sounded…sounded happy. He'd never heard Dean laugh like that.
He'd never heard his mother laugh at all.
Mary put her hand on her chin and adopted a thoughtful pose. "Well, I guess they could use an extra monkey. But I don't know what I'll do without MY little monkey…" Her voice affected a sad tone on the last part. "I sure wish my Dean monkey would come home to me!"
Dean looked surprised at her tone, although this was obviously an old game, and jumped into the doorway. "Mommy! I'm back!"
Mary gasped is false surprise, snatching Dean up off the floor. "Oh my goodness, we missed you so much! Yes we did! I think I'll have to punish you for running off to the circus, you silly monkey!"
In the doorway of the room in which she would one day die, Mary Winchester tickled her baby boy until they both were shrieking with laughter.
Sam had never felt further from Dean then he did at that moment, not even when he left for Stanford, not even in that god-forsaken asylum. He had to get out of this place… had to get out… he pushed, as hard as he could, God, even seeing Jess die had to be better than this—
Oh, lord, how much more…
Dean sat on the edge of his brother's bed, shaking the taller man carefully. Sam had occasionally come out of these—there had to be a better word than visions—still fighting whatever he had seen. But he wasn't really fighting this. The look on his face though, Dean recognized. He could always read his brother… it was the look he'd worn after the asylum, after Jess, on the way to that faith healer… lonely pain, anguished, cold, lonely pain. He put the asprin he held ready in his hand onto the night table.
Gently he smoothed back Sam's bangs in a way he never would if his brother was awake, barring certain near death events, of course, which he had shut away in his mind in a file marked 'this absolutely did NOT happen'.
He couldn't control this, and he hated that. This was something Sam had to fight alone, and Sam had never fought anything alone while Dean could help it. Grinding his back teeth together, he tried to channel his fury at the universe in general. Sammy was wearing down under the weight of his—fuck, is visions really the only word? Damn, need to get a thesaurus. Sam would know a better word, if they ever sat down and talked about this. Of course, this was the one freaking thing in the world that chatty Sammy refused to discuss, which was okay because Dean secretly hoped that not talking about would make it go away.
Not that this method had ever worked for the Winchesters in the past.
You'd think he'd have figured it out by now.
They were gonna have to talk about it. He was sure there was a way he could help, could fix this, if he only knew more. Dean couldn't be helpless, he didn't know how. He felt like they were rushing towards something. Something he couldn't see or stop. He felt like his brakes had been cut.
Something's beginning, Sam said.
No shit Sherlock.
Beneath his hands, the Sherlock in question jerked awake. Dean calmly handed over the asprin, followed by water. Sam dutifully swallowed them, and sat upagainst the headboard, dragging his knees up to his chest. He looked small, and that worried Dean, because it's pretty damn hard to look small when you're 6'4".
This was new. Visions—seriously, not going to call them that— usually got Sam moving… action, someplace to go, someone to help. He studied his brother; he knew all his looks, and the answer would come. Wait… he hadn't seen this in years…
When they were younger, Sam had always worried himself sick when they fought with each other. Always afraid Dean would stop loving him… wouldn't play with him or protect him anymore. Dean always figured it was because they never had any permanent friends other than each other, always meeting people and leaving. Eventually Sam had come to trust that Dean loved and wanted him no matter what, even if he didn't really say it. Dean had taught him that, in his own careful way.
This was that look. The what-if-Dean-doesn't-really-love-and-need-me look.
Well, shit then.
Even that god-forsaken asylum hadn't pulled out this look.
"So… rough night?"
Sam sighed, tracing patterns on the sheets. "I'd rather not—"
"Too bad. Was it a," oh, come on with this crap word, "a vision?"
Sam's hazel eyes softened, and Dean knew he was letting it replay in his mind's eye. He waited.
"Yes..no…eh, maybe?" Sam seemed uncharacteristically uncertain. Dean played it off with sarcasm.
"Nice to see Stanford's money wasn't wasted on you, Einstein. What did you see?"
More patterns traced on the sheets. Dean looked down at the glass in his hand, waiting it out. "The past. It was the past. Your past."
Dean's fingers stilled on the glass. He didn't want to look up, to see that earnest, honest Sammy face. Awkward… it was very awkward.
His eyes still on his sheets, Sam decided to rescue Dean. Why he was seeing the past, Dean's past, of all things, could be dealt with in the morning, over coffee and a healthy dose of sanity and daylight. For now…
"You really were a goofy looking kid."
Dean smirked, "At least I grew out of it."
Putting the glass down, he climbed back into his own bed, knowing Sam would be able to talk more after over-analyzing. Sammy never entered an emotional moment unprepared. Tomorrow would be better.
It had to be.