I KNOW HOW YOU FEEL

"Alright, look, I know how you feel," Dean said sombrely.

"Do you?" came Sam's reply.

Dean looked at him, confused and taken aback by the harshness of his brother's voice.

"How old were you when mom died? Four?" Sam went on, a rage in his eyes that Dean had never seen directed at him before, "Jess died six months ago. How the hell would you know how I feel?"

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Two years ago:

Dean opened the window slowly and leaned out, carefully planting his foot on the ground outside before letting the rest of his body follow. "This is ridiculous," he murmured under his breath. He was twenty-four, going on twenty-five for crying out loud, and here he was; having to sneak out in the middle of the night to see a girl.

John was sound asleep in the other room; Dean had made sure to check before leaving. They'd have at least a couple of hours before he would have to get back to the motel.

He crossed the lawn in quick strides, walking towards his car. She only lived a couple of blocks away - he'd be there in five minutes.

It had been three days since he last saw her. His dad had dragged him along on a hunt that had lasted longer than usual. Three days of wishing he was somewhere else. Three days of longing, and waiting to get back. He'd missed her terribly; the soft curves of her body, the smell of her hair, the warmth of her skin against his. His heart fluttered in his chest at the mere thought of her.

He parked outside her house and waited, leaning against his car. A minute passed and then the door to the house opened and she slipped outside. His heart pounded in his chest. She turned and her face broke into a smile when she saw him. She scurried over to him and he wrapped his arms around her.

"Hi," she said shyly.

"Hi," he replied, also a bit shy.

They got in the car and Dean pulled out on the street. "So, where to?" he asked her.

"I know a perfect place," she replied, "Turn left over there." She pointed and he stepped on the gas.

----

He stopped the car by the lake and glanced at her. She didn't notice, her eyes were on the lake. He watched her twirling her hair into a tight knot and releasing it. He loved her hair. She opened the door and turned to him. "C'mon," she said softly.

They lay by the lake - naked, wet bodies sprawled on Dean's jacket. They were lying close to each other, her head resting on his chest and his arms wrapped around her small form. Only a minute ago their bodies had cut through the surface of the water as they jumped into the lake.

"I missed you," he murmured into her damp hair.

"I missed you too, Dean," she whispered.

He felt her shiver and pulled her closer. "You cold?" he asked.

"A little," she replied.

He reached out for his sweater. She sighed happily as he covered her upper body with it. "That better?"

She nodded and kissed him.

They had known each other for a couple of months now. Dean had never stayed in one place that long before. His family had always been on the move, hunting evil all over the country. He and his dad had come to town three months ago to work a case. One night, while on a hunt, John had been severely injured and had had to spend a month in the hospital. He was out of the hospital now, but had been told to rest for at least a couple of weeks.

Dean had met her at the hospital. Her grandfather had had a heart attack and she had been waiting in the hallway while her parents visited him. Dean had been there too, waiting for news on his father's condition. They hadn't talked that time. They had just watched each other, sneaking a peek whenever they thought the other wasn't watching. A day later they had met again and Dean had introduced himself. They had been talking that entire day. And Dean had bonded for the first time with someone other than Sam and his father.

He could never tell John about her. He'd been interested in a girl about two years previous and told his father. He hadn't known at the time that his father wasn't too fond of him talking to girls or other people either for that matter. They had gotten into a fight and Dean had received the first but not worst beating from his father. That night when he had lain in his bed, broken and bleeding, he'd come to the conclusion that his father had been right. And he'd sworn to himself that he would never let himself have feelings for anyone. But he hadn't known how strong his love was for his family – that it affected everything he did. And he hadn't known he would meet her. He couldn't stop himself from loving. He had built around himself walls of steel, walls that would keep his feelings hidden. But inside those walls - a turmoil of emotion and heartache. He would never tell his father. He could never tell him what a failure he was.

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He dropped her off at her house two hours later and headed back to the motel. He opened the creaking window and climbed inside, fumbling with his clothes as he undressed. Then a hawk and he jumped, the legs of his jeans twisting around his ankles and causing him to fall. He landed with a loud thud and a groan of pain.

"Where the hell have you been?" His father had worked up quite a rage already. He'd probably been awake for a while, waiting for him, and gotten angrier and angrier as the minutes ticked away.

Dean was a good liar. He'd been taught by the best. But he couldn't lie to his dad. It was impossible. So he wasn't sure what to say just then. His dad would know he was lying and he'd be angrier because he was a pussy for not daring to tell the truth.

Truth. That was a scary word. The truth could be bent. The truth could be made into white lies and even be turned around and become a real lie. But the truth for Dean was something pure. He could not taint the beauty that was the truth. Not to the ones he loved at least.

His dad on the other hand would rape truth if he had to. He'd turn truth against the person who would not taint it. He'd beat the ones who wanted to use it right. Truth could be a weapon if you wanted it to be.

"I was with my girlfriend." His mind screamed at him for being so stupid. It told him he had broken a holy pact and should be punished. And he agreed. It told him to brace himself for what was to come and he did.

"What did you just say?" The rage was bright red by now, burning his body and Dean started sweating.

"I was with my…"

"I heard you!" Dean was shaking now. It wasn't really that he was afraid, but the heat of rage was making him sick. Sick with himself for being such a loser, such a failure, such a bad son.

"I'm sorry." There it was - the truth. Pure and honest. And Dean waited for it to be smashed and cut into pieces by his father.

"Don't tell me you're sorry. You're not!" And right there truth was turned against him - impure and filled with guilt. "You disobeyed me, son."

His dad was taking off his belt and Dean watched, thinking that maybe a birch rod or a dog leash would hurt more. Should he tell his father that? Maybe they could go out and find a good birch rod together. No, his father knew best. If he chose a belt, a belt it was.

"Take off your shirt, Dean." His father sounded calm. Calmer than the ocean on a windless day. But still raging underneath the surface.

"Yes, sir." His shirt fell to the floor and he waited, pondering where the belt would hurt his skin the most. Probably on his ass, if his dad was planning to whip his backside. He was unsure of what to do, of how to stand. He'd never done this before but he wanted to do it right. Make his father proud.

"Face against the wall." His dad had read his mind. Dean turned face to the wall and waited for the order to take his boxers off. But that order didn't come. To his surprise.

"Shield your hands."

That made sense. He was going to need them to load a weapon, to use the crossbow and hold a knife. Dean moved his hands so they were between the wall and his chest.

Then the first lash on his back. Sudden. And painful. And Dean closed his eyes and bit back a cry of pain. Then another, and another. And Dean was thinking about Sam. Sam was gone, pain. Sam didn't want to have anything to do with him, agony. Sam was alone, fear.

Lash. Pain.

Lash. Agony.

Lash. Fear.

Then a sudden fear that his dad wouldn't stop. That his dad would never forgive him. That his dad would leave him too.

Then his dad stopped and the door slammed shut behind him as he headed back to his room. Dean drew a shaky breath and let his hands slump to his sides. He was tired. His muscles had tensed during the beating and now they were aching. It felt like his back was on fire. Dean wondered foolishly if maybe his dad hadn't used the belt on him after all. Maybe he had hit him with rage instead. Bright red, burning rage.

He felt pain and sadness work their way up his body, stopping by his heart shortly to give it a good wrench and then moving up his throat to choke him. He swallowed hard, forcing them down again. Not now. This was not the time to cry. Maybe later when he was dead.

He walked slowly towards his bed and laid down on his belly. After all his dad had gone through tonight, he shouldn't have to clean the sheets too.

He fell asleep and dreamt about truth and rage and the never-ending war between them.

----

Seconds turned to minutes turned to hours turned to days turned to weeks turned to months and he hadn't gone back to see her. His back had healed, but left were thin white stripes to remind him of how stupid he had been.

His dad was pleased with him again. They hunted evil every night and they kicked its ass. Sometimes his dad even treated him to a beer or two.

But months felt like weeks felt like days felt like hours felt like minutes felt like seconds when he let himself think about her. She was as fresh in his memory as if they'd never parted that night by the lake. He could smell her hair, feel her warm soft skin against his and he had to swallow hard many times to not choke.

Then one day truth hit him like a brick wall. A family murdered in their home by burglars. And a photo of her on the front page. And he could not swallow hard this time to keep from choking. He couldn't think. He couldn't breathe. He couldn't move. His hands were shaking so hard he couldn't hold on to the newspaper and it fell to the ground. He gasped for air because his lungs felt like they had collapsed. His hands fumbled to stop the bleeding from his heart, but there was no blood. His vision became blurry all of a sudden and he wondered if maybe he was losing his eyesight too. He felt weak in the legs and tried in vain to hold on to something to keep him standing. But he fell. Hard on his knees. Asphalt kissing them so hard it drew blood. And he screamed. He screamed at Sam for leaving. He screamed at his dad for not wanting him. He screamed at the world for hurting him so much. He screamed until his voice broke and he could scream no more. Then the sobs took over and he couldn't stop them. They attacked him from inside and pounded on him so hard he had to throw up.

Someone stopped beside him and put a hand on his shoulder. "Are you okay, son?" But he couldn't hear the man. His ears had blocked. And the hand soon disappeared.

Then he cried. And he cried until there were no more tears to shed. He started punching the asphalt with his fists. Punching asphalt's ugly face. Wanting to hurt it, to break it like it had broken his knees. And he continued until the asphalt was bleeding his blood and his fists were numb.

Then suddenly air returned to his lungs and the sobs stopped pounding inside him. His vision cleared. There was no more to give. He was empty inside. But calm.

He struggled to his feet and wiped at his tears with his sleeve. Ran a hand through his hair and swallowed hard. And then he went back to the motel.

He opened to door to find his dad on the bed cleaning his guns.

"What happened to you?" his dad asked.

"Got in a fight with some dudes outside."

"Did you win?"

He nodded and smiled a fake smile and his dad seemed proud.

His dad had been right. It was easier to avoid people, to stay away. It was easier because then they wouldn't get hurt and they wouldn't hurt him.

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"How the hell would you know how I feel?" Sam spat.

Dean looked away quickly and then back at his brother. Steel walls hold, he begged his body silently. And he answered his brother with another truth:

"Dad said it wasn't safe…for any of us. He obviously knows something that we don't. So if he says to stay away, we stay away."

THE END