Voices in the Night
Well, you know they don't belong to me, but I played nice and will put them back like I found them.
No spoilers. No particular violence, but a lot of unapologetic angst.
Sam Winchester ran a hand over his brother's hair and looked up to where the heart monitor kept its steady rhythm. He sighed and stuffed his hands in his pockets, gazing out the window. It got dark early in November, and even at 6:30 it was dark out. Visiting hours were about over and he just wasn't up to being prodded by another nurse to come back the next day. He frowned at Dean briefly. "Wake up. Come on. Dad wouldn't let you sleep this long."
Dean just lay there, enjoying the sleep of a very drugged man with very broken ribs. At least his breathing didn't rattle anymore. Scant comfort but Sam took what he could get. He'd have stayed if he could, but down the hall nurses were telling people to leave. He shrugged back into his jacket, hoping that being ready to go might earn him a few more minutes. His jacket was old and comfortable around his shoulders, worn and familiar. It was the jacket he'd worn a year before when he'd left the last place that was home. Unless he counted the Impala as home . . . and even that just wasn't there anymore.
He found himself standing, staring out into the dark, too hot in his coat. Shook himself and gave Dean's hand a hard squeeze. "Be back tomorrow, big brother. Don't give the nurses a hard time." Truth to tell, he'd be relieved if Dean gave the nurses a hard time at this point. Broken bones and pneumonia had knocked most of the obnoxious out of his brother, and all of the flirt. Sam swallowed hard and blinked a few times. He must be tired, with his vision blurring like that. He sighed and finally let go, turning, glancing back, trying to angle into the hall to keep Dean in sight a second longer, two.
This hospital smelled like any other, bright lights hurt his eyes like any other, old, worn, clean tiles squeaked under his shoes like any other. He couldn't have told he was in Pennsylvania until he stepped out the door into a biting cold late fall night. The scent of woodsmoke and fallen leaves hung in the air, but this coast's winter night was colder, drier, than Oregon had been. It held a hint of snow that was rare on the Pacific coast.
Sam trudged through the parking lot, weaving through the maze of cars to where the car-that-wasn't-anything-like-a-home sat in a pool of shadow. It wasn't anything special to him, no memories worth having attached to its metal and cloth. No smells of childhood or teenage years, no lingering hint of rich dirt and rot and pizza and coffee. It was just a car. But it started on the first try, and ran well enough, and it took him to a motel that was just a motel, like so many others that blurred in his memory.
Ugly bedspreads, worn carpets that smelled of cheap carpet freshener and decades of use. A laminate wood table sat under the window that looked onto the parking lot. He slung his jacket on the back of a chair and slumped down on the foot of the bed, looking around.
Sam gazed around him at walls covered with archaeologically significant layers of flaking paint, at cigarette holes burned in the polyester bedspreads. Dean would have loved this place, it would have felt like home to him. To Sam. . . .it felt like home too. He groaned and rubbed the heels of his hands into his eyes. He was stalling, he knew. He sniffed softly, rubbed at burning eyes again, and then pulled his duffel up from the floor.
The paper bag was buried where he'd tucked it, safe and sound under a couple of books he'd hoped to have time to study. The spines were perfect, none of the cracks he liked to leave when he forced them open and propped them while he took notes. He smiled ruefully to himself, running a finger over one, then took a deep breath and pulled out the small paper bag. It wasn't brown paper. It was glossy, silvery gray, smooth and thick. He couldn't remember what he'd bought in that bag - he didn't remember much from November and December the year before. But the bag had seemed right somehow, and he'd kept it.
It barely rustled when he pulled it open, thick stock holding up and not wrinkling. No sound in the little, stale room except his own breathing. He pulled out a candle and set it down, glass holder clicking softly on the table, and pulled out a singed photograph. Sam didn't put the picture down right away. Instead, he held it cradled in his palm, running a finger over the finish, resting it for an instant next to a face. Her face, laughing and smiling out at him from a time when he thought his life would be something other than what it was. Sam swallowed hard and put the picture down by the candle.
He lit the candle wick carefully, wanting it to catch the first time, with no sparks or soot. The flame spiked up small and straight, blue and fawn and it blinded him for a moment. He shut his eyes and it was suddenly hard to breathe, hard to swallow. Air caught in his throat and his belly felt icy cold and the silence was so hard to bear. He sniffed and it was loud in that little room, choked and made a sound that he could only call keening, moaning a name with no one to answer him anymore.
"I miss you." He reached out and pulled her picture closer. There'd been candles that night too, and the camera had flashed in the dark, shining off of her hair, off of the glittery stuff she'd put on her cheeks, off of the white of her teeth. The little mole between her brows made a tiny shadow. She'd hated that mole, but he'd cherished it and kissed it when they made love. Her cheeks had been round. Her body had been lush. He shut his eyes and tried to remember how her skin had felt under his fingers, how she'd smelled. And he couldn't.
He moaned again, the sound bitter on his tongue. Felt his brows draw together trying to hold in a grief that was going to wreck him, burst him open and tear him apart. It ached in his head and was icy in his chest and he sobbed, leaning back so his tears couldn't touch the picture of her.
One year to the day and he missed her as much. Maybe more, because he'd been so numb a year ago he couldn't remember being able to really feel how very much it hurt. He blinked away the blur in his eyes and looked up, over to his duffel where a gray, ugly gleam announced one of the weapons that were his tools of trade now, nestled down beside the legal journals he hadn't had a chance to read. Sam stared at the thing, and finally rose. Walked over. This time he didn't finger the spines of the books, but ran his finger over the smooth, hard barrel of a gun. Consecrated iron rounds in this one, he thought. Sanctified violence and the dead would be laid to rest at his hands. He envied them so much.
The weapon was heavy in his hands. Only a few pounds but weighted with intent and purpose as well as steel. He released the clip and studied the dull gleam of bullets, then shoved it back in again. Raised it and sniffed it, smelling gun oil and metal even through the stuffiness of his nose. Bit his lips and put it back down again, fast, tucked next to his books. Then he backed away. There was so little in this room. Two beds. A lamp. Television. His bag and candle and the picture that was all he had left of a life he'd lost.
The drawer in the nightstand rattled and stuck and he yanked, sending it spilling out onto the floor, looking for anything else in this place besides the life he'd had and the life he had lost. A Bible slid under the bed and a yellow phonebook fell face down, splayed open upon the floor. Sam sniffed again, then leaned down and picked up the phone book just to have something to see, something to read.
One word leaped out and he couldn't help but laugh. It sounded more like a sob but . . . yeah. He fished his phone out of his pocket and studied the number, dialed. "Suicide hotline? . . . Yeah. Yeah. I really need to talk to someone tonight. I . . . I'm alone."
They stayed with him that night. She did, really. Her voice was soft, soothing. She didn't sound anything like Jess and he'd never known what he mother's voice was like, but he thought maybe she'd have sounded like that. Gentle. Kind. Practical and there. Most of all, there. Real as a warm hand on his arm, or a rope for a drowning man.
When the phone finally lost its charge he wasn't crying anymore. He could fold it up and plug it in and blow out the candle and lie down in the dark, knowing that morning wasn't so very far away after all. At least not for him. The next morning he sat next to Dean and sighed, looking into squinting, tired, green eyes. "Head hurts pretty bad?"
"I fuckin' hate pneumonia. Sucks."
Sam smiled faintly. "Yeah. Look, I need to ask you something."
Curiosity washed some of the discomfort and annoyance away. "Ask away, bro. Your wish."
"Yeah, well . . . my wish is that thousand you keep stuffed under the soles of your boots."
Dean's eyes narrowed. "For whaaat?", he drawled.
"A good cause."
"I take it you don't mean the good cause of you and me getting a beer when I get out of here, or buying gas for a month -"
Sam snorted. "With the gas prices now? As IF!"
"What's your cause, Sam?" Dean's voice was soft, reserved.
"Well, I keep seeing those poor puppies and kittens . .. "
"Oh, crap, do NOT make me laugh!" Dean snorted, chortled, coughed. "You suck!"
"Yeah. well." "So what d'you want it for?"
"Uhhh . . ." He looked away from Dean, out the window where he could see maples and oaks on the hillsides, holding onto their last bronzed leaves, glints of red and gold still clinging there, houses peeking out, exposed. "I was online -"
"Surprise surprise," growled his brother.
"Just shut up and listen." Sam flicked his gaze to Dean and away. "I was online. The Suicide Hotline's losing their funding. The government wants them to give up the information they get from callers. Private, confidential stuff, and they say they won't fund them unless they cough it up. They'll start their own service and use it and . .. and . . ." Sam ran out of steam. Gulped. Rallied. "I want to give them the money."
There was a long silence before Sam could look at Dean again. He finally raised his eyes to meet Dean's sad, patient, bloodshot gaze. Twitched. Dean thought about. "What's the day, Sam?"
"You know what day it is," he whispered back.
Dean nodded. "Suicide Hotline, huh?"
"Yeah." Dean thought about it. "Okay. Just make sure they can't trace it to us."
"Just like that?"
Dean stared at him for another long, long, silent time and then nodded. "Yeah, little brother. Just like that."
If you've read this story, you know it's a shameless piece of angst. I hope you enjoyed it. Unfortunately, there's nothing fictional about the situation the Suicide Hotline is in. They're being starved financially by a government that wants them to give up information on the desperate people who call them for help. Unless the public steps in, there'll be a time they won't be there for someone in need. If you can help, please do. If you are willing to learn more, please visit www save1800suicide org (fill in the dots and all . . . you guys know - Goo
If you want to help, read how on that site.