a/n I continue to invoke my right as a new fan and write post-ep ficlets after the airing of reruns. This one happens to be post-"Shadow", in an uncomfortably silent car with Sam and Dean, dwelling on things that have been said. And apparently page breaks aren't working, so whatever. Didn't really need one anyway.
A Break in the Silence
Swallowing was the only sound that Sam was allowing himself to make at this particular time, and even that was pushing it. At least until he knew how he needed to approach the situation; it was horribly quiet in the car, and he was uneasy of what might be said if they started talking right now.
He stared out of the passenger side window of the Impala and watched the dead of night rush past the speeding car; contemplating popping the window and rolling it down an inch or two. It was downright cold outside, but a cool rush of air into the car might calm him a bit, and would at least lend SOME kind of sound to the interior of the car. Dean hadn't even turned on the radio, and Sam didn't dare, knowing all too well that it wasn't his place to try and touch those knobs. Especially right now.
He bit his lip, mulling over what he would say if he ever worked up the courage to break the tense silence that he and Dean had been driving in for forty-five minutes. He really wanted to talk about it, and he knew that they really needed to talk about it, because the brothers already had the bad habit of letting far too many things remain unsaid, and neither needed the potential added weight of this night. They carried around enough on a daily basis as it was.
Snippets of things that he could say (there weren't many) and the conversations that might follow (many ending with Sam in a pummeled, bloody heap) flashed through his mind, but he knew that nothing would work. He knew that he should explain. Not apologize – because while he was sorry for saying what he had, he wasn't sorry for meaning it – but explain. Because if Sam thought rationally about the conversation that had taken place earlier that night, and being him, of course he was going to think about it rationally, this silence was really all his fault.
"What if this whole thing was over tonight? Man, I'd sleep for a month. Go back to school – be a person again."
Yup. ALL his fault.
Sam redirected his gaze to the windshield and squinted as a car rushed past in the opposite direction, headlights bright and white and hurting his tired eyes. The action eased the stabbing sensation behind his eyeballs, but rewarded him with twinges not just on but in his cheek, a painful pull around the clotting scratches that the Daevas had so kindly supplied him with, and he sucked in a long hiss of breath, pressing the palm of his hand up to the gashes.
To his credit, Dean's eyes did flicker over to his brother, but he returned his attention to the road just as quickly – without saying a word, not even an inquiry as to how Sam was doing. Not big-brotherly at all, and very un-Dean-like.
And so the silence hung on.
Sam peeled his palm away from his face and grimaced at the bloody spots on the heel of his hand. He reapplied the pressure to the reopened cuts and thought about sighing, about releasing some of the anxiety he had felt since getting into the car, but decided against it. Breathing wouldn't break the tension – just the opposite. The breath he had just sucked in seemed to even add to the stress in the car.
Sam had been party to some pretty tense silences in his lifetime. The kind of silence that wasn't found in nature, that was so unbearable and uncomfortable that it could only be manmade. The morning they had left Nebraska, a month or so back…that had been one hell of an edgy car ride, but nothing compared to this. This was the kind of quiet that was just exhausting, and it beat the crap out of you.
Dean had been driving at dangerous speeds for nearly an hour, showing no signs of either slowing down or speaking to Sam. Though a glance at the speedometer gave him a flash of fear for his life, Sam wasn't going to tell his brother to slow down, not when he had that Look. The one that Sam knew he himself had put there. Dean's silence had nothing to do with hauling ass in the opposite direction of their father – hell, that had been his idea. He might be worrying, sure, the same amount as he always did, but that wouldn't make him look like that. It was Sam.
And Sam was rapidly realizing that sitting in silence was not the way to go. Not now, not for them, not with what had happened and what had been said. Because when you weren't talking, you were thinking, with nothing to do but stew in your own thoughts, and when they finally boiled over – even more might be said. Things that he might be not able to take back or explain. And suddenly, it wasn't all of things that he could say bouncing off the walls of his mind, it was what he had already said.
"You wanna go back to school?"
"Yeah, once we're done huntin' the thing."
Sam wanted to bang his head against the window that was so conveniently inches to his right, just begging to have something smashed up against it. Why why why did he always have to be saying something? Not that he didn't mean it, and not that he didn't want to go back to school someday (preferably in the near future), but did he really have to SAY it? And sound so nonchalant about it and his brother's feelings?
"I mean, what are you going to do when it's all over?"
"It's never gonna be over. There's gonna be others. There's always gonna be somethin' to hunt."
"But there's got to be somethin' that you want for yourself-"
"Yeah, I don't want you to leave the second this thing's over, Sam."
"Dude, what's your problem?"
In retrospect, that was a little harsh. Okay, more than a little…goddammit, he wanted the radio on. Right. Now.
"Why do you think I drag you everywhere? Huh? I mean, why do you think I came and got you at Stanford in the first place?"
I'll take clueless brothers for six hundred, Alex.
"'Cause Dad was in trouble. 'Cause you wanted to find the thing that killed Mom."
"Yes, that, but it's more than that, man. You and me and Dad—I mean, I want us…I want us to be together again. I want us to be a family again."
"Dean, we are a family. I'd do anything for you. But things will never be the way they were before."
"I don't want them to be. I'm not gonna live this life forever. Dean, when this is all over, you're gonna have to let me go my own way."
And damn damn damn it ALL if he hadn't made his big brother cry. Any other day, and by any other means, that would be sweet blackmail that he could hang over Dean's head for months, possibly years. But now, it was hanging over Sam's head instead. If he could have just let it go. Thought his thoughts and kept his mouth SHUT.
"God, could you imagine if we actually found that damn thing? That demon?"
"Let's not get ahead of ourselves, all right?"
"Yeah, I know. You're right."
And this whole uncomfortable car ride could have been avoided. He could have been holding his hands over his ears, yelling at Dean as he blared his rock music at an unsafe decibel level, just to piss him off, or maybe even getting some sleep, waking to find something his brother had picked off of the sticky carpeted floor of the car and placed in his mouth – another picture for the 'While Sammy Was Sleeping' series.
That wasn't going to happen tonight, and Sam knew that the best thing he could do at the moment was just to let Dean drive. Speeding and other various forms of idiotic driving were time-honored masculine traditions of getting out your frustration, and Sam could tell that Dean had settled into one of his funks, and there was no dealing with him when he was like that. The red flag had been his brother's lack of persistent pestering at Sam's wince or the hand that he still held to his face, checking for blood every couple of minutes.
At these sporadic intervals, Sam also snuck glances at his brother. The Daevas had certainly taken various chunks out of both of them, and Dean was, as always, doing his best to mask any discomfort (the word being used loosely) he might be in. He had his left elbow propped up on the door, holding his fist to his mouth. Three glances revealed that Dean was squeezing his fist tighter than tight, one white knuckle snug between his teeth, most likely channeling any and all pain through that clench.
It only took a few more of these glances to get Sam talking, to forget about his previously agreed upon plan of just letting Dean drive. And as it turned out, it wasn't an influx of courage, or finally deciding on the right thing to say that he needed…it was nothing more than good old-fashioned, gag-me-with-a-spoon (figuratively speaking) brotherly love and concern.
Dean shot Sam the most irritated glance he ever had. His lips said "Fine" while his eyes said "Why are you talking to me?"
Sam wasn't quite sure of the answer, but once he started, he just couldn't stop. He knew that it had to happen, and so he went with a safe question and tried to draw Dean out into an open field of conversation. "You thinking about Dad?"
"Are you lying?"
"Being…you." Dean waved his right hand around as if to emphasize his point, or to simply try and wave Sam out of existence. All he accomplished was to have to readjust his driving position, grabbing the wheel with his left hand to keep the car steady, eliciting a hiss that he quickly bit back.
Sam rolled his eyes, all of his own uneasiness about his own wellbeing if he questioned his brother tucked away behind his concern for said brother's wellbeing. "Pull over."
"Let me drive."
Dean repositioned himself so that he was once again gripping the steering wheel his right hand only. He propped his left elbow up on the door again with just the faintest of winces. "I told you you're never driving this car again."
"I just drove it last night."
"Not the point."
Sam bit back a comeback. "You're favoring your left side."
"You're favoring your annoying side."
He didn't bother that time. "You're an ass, you know that?"
"And you're a princess in a pretty pink party dress. World is what it is."
Sam sighed. Dean was most definitely in a funk. A Sam Funk. Accompanied by a Can't Admit I'm Hurt Funk. This was not a fun man to be around.
Sam had two options. He could huff and puff and pout and flop back in his seat, sitting in his own funk – his patented There's No Use Trying to Get Through to Dean Funk, or he could be an ass, himself, and possibly prove his point.
He went with option two.
Without hesitation, Sam reached out and gave Dean a small shove to his right shoulder, causing his elbow to slip off of the door and slam into his side. The wheel shifted to the left in his grip and Dean rammed a hard right to straighten out the car before it traveled too far in the wrong lane.
"DAMMIT, Sam!" He sure wasn't hiding his discomfort now.
Sam eyed Dean with a "told ya so" look, though he struggled not to audibly gulp. "Pull over."
Dean shot Sam a look that reaffirmed his belief that his older brother could kill someone with only his eyes, and threw the steering wheel to the right, ripping the car off of the road and onto the shoulder, stomped on the brake and effectively flung Sam into his seatbelt.
"Ow," Sam said pointedly, glaring and rubbing his chest.
Dean's eyes narrowed. "Jackass, you could have just killed someone."
Sam rolled his eyes. "Dean, we've passed two cars in an hour."
"Not the point."
Sam wasn't the one who had a right to be…funky right now, but he couldn't help it. Nothing could piss him off like a Dean who couldn't just TALK to him. He completely shelved the point that Dean had in fact been talking to him earlier that night, and he had totally ruined the moment with his own big, fat mouth. "And what is the point, Dean?"
"The point is, Lorelei, we are sure as hell not gonna have a hug and cry in the middle of the night, on the side of the road."
"All I said was that I wanted to drive."
Dean stared at him.
"I think we should talk," Sam relented.
Dean shook his head and reached for the gearshift. "It's not gonna happen, Sammy." He guided the car back onto the road, shifting uncomfortably in his seat. He pressed his left arm to his side this time, still driving with only his right hand atop the steering wheel.
"Because I'm the big brother, and I said so."
Sam shook his head and allowed a smile. He would take it. Dean might have his defense shields up and running, but Sam knew where the weak spots were, and how to get through them. He still wanted, still needed to try to explain himself to Dean, but as his brother reached out and turned the knob to the stereo, filling the interior of the car with noise that Sam guessed some people qualified as 'good music', he was just happy for the break in the silence.
And for now, he would take it.