Summary: What caused Dean's outburst on the Impala and what if Sam had seen it happen? (One-shot, complete)
Rating: T (mild language)
Disclaimer: I don't own the show or the boys, that pleasure belongs to the CW.
Spoilers: In My Time of Dying, Everybody Loves a Clown
Dean stares after Sam, a myriad of emotions swelling and stretching beneath his skin – making it tight and unbearable, the despair choking him as surely as if invisible fingers gripped his throat. Suddenly he picks up the crowbar, cool and solid between his hands, and he knows what he is going to do – knows it and relishes the impending release of emotions to come. That first swing is so easy and the shattering of glass so satisfying, putting into motion what can't be said or talked about because some things are just too big for words. Then, he turns and targets the only legacy given to him by his father – aiming for the trunk that had held their life's work within.
The subsequent hits come in quick succession, one after another, every muscle straining against the tide of unwanted feelings – straining to beat them back down below the surface where they belong. He doesn't want these feelings, doesn't want this reality – it isn't fair, not after all they have been through. He's fought so hard, given so much and still, it wasn't enough. It is never going to be enough and what is done is done. Welcome to the rest of your life, Dean. Ain't it grand?
As he strikes the Impala with everything he has, his mind screams over and over, "Why? Why, Dad? Why did you leave me with all of this? Why did you leave me? What am I supposed to do now?!"
His rage spent on the trunk of the Impala, Dean lets the crow bar drop to the ground with a noisy clatter and turns back toward where Sam had stood – the grief in his little brother's face and voice was so fresh – so honest – that it ate away at what was left of Dean's heart. All the things he had wanted to say to Sam had gotten stuck in his throat, lodged in tightly right where his Adam's apple bobbed with the suppressed thoughts. He can't bear much more of this. Sam is right, he isn't all right. Not all right at all. Nothing will ever be all right again and he is living his worst nightmare in living color.
But, how can he tell Sam what he suspects to be the truth behind their father's death? He sure can't share the secret his father had entrusted to him right before he -- no, he can't share that, not now at least. Maybe not ever. So what is left to say?
Should he tell Sam about how every single day he wakes up and curses the sun for shining like nothing has happened? Like his whole world isn't crashing down around him leaving him helpless to stop it? Should he tell his little brother that the pain is so intolerable that he wishes for death with every breath he draws? That he'd trade spots with their father in a second? That he thinks about their dad every waking moment and then the nightmares come at night to steal away his only escape?
It should have been him; Dean knows that – he can feel it. He had known that something was wrong back at the hospital when he had woken up. His miraculous healing was somehow linked with his father's death. And, wasn't he already living on borrowed time anyway? That little speech of his father's had sure sounded like goodbye to him. Goodbye etched in between the words, etched in his father's face. He knows it even now, but doesn't dig into to it too deeply, afraid of what lies at the end of that thought. For someone he loves to have died in his place – unthinkable, unacceptable. It is his greatest fear and now it's eating him up alive. The suspicion is gnawing away at his soul, leaving only shreds and bits behind.
What's more, it's killing Dean to lie to Sam about their father's last words to him. The secret he couldn't share with Sam – or anyone for that matter. The secret that can't be discussed or talked about because the only other living person to know it is gone – leaving him to shoulder it alone. Always alone. Dad is not there to tell him what to do, where to go, how to feel about it. All that remains is the guilt-ridden, pained face of his baby brother looking to him for help, for approval, for absolution that Dean isn't capable of giving. It isn't his to give. Dean can't take away Sam's hurt this time, can't make it okay, might not even be able to protect him anymore.
Dean wants to run away, to just get in the car and drive fast enough and far enough away that the hurt, fear and confusion won't be able to follow him. But he has no place to run to and no car to run in. He has nothing, no way out. He's all out of options. Hands on his hips, he lets his chin fall to his chest, squeezing his eyes shut against it all. His face betrays what churns inside. He allows a deep sigh to slip gustily past his lips, taking some of the emotion with it and allowing him to take another. Living through this ordeal is a breath to breath existence, after all.
Dean fights his instincts to go find Sam and make some of this right. He fights it because he is afraid if he ever allows those feelings to come through, they'll flood and drown him, never ceasing, never to be abated again. So, he stands, letting the perceived distance between them grow exponentially both figuratively and literally…and it hurts like hell.
Hidden by the shed, Sam is hesitantly watching – uncertain whether he should reveal himself or not. He'd heard the shatter of glass and had rushed back to see Dean whaling on the Impala with the crowbar. He couldn't bring himself to intervene. Never, not once in his 23 years, has Sam ever seen Dean so out of control. It scared him, shook him to the core to see his older brother taking his frustrations out on the car. And now Sam can see the jumble of emotions passing across Dean's face as he stands gazing in the direction Sam had been minutes earlier. Dean obviously doesn't know he is there or he'd never allow the glimmer of the raging storm to surface for an instant.
Fear for his brother clouds his mind and makes his heart ache with helplessness. The rawness on Dean's face is unbearably potent. For just an instant, Sam gets the impression that there is more behind Dean's display than just mourning for their lost father. Just a split second, a trace of something not quite nameable. He lets the idea go, for now.
Why can't Dean let him in just this once? They need each other's support. He knows he can't make it okay for his brother anymore than Dean can make things okay for him, but they can just be there for each other, can't they? He wishes Dean would let him share the burden of grieving.
Since the funeral pyre, Dean has stopped talking, eating, or doing much of anything but working on the car. Sam knows his brother isn't sleeping well, because neither is he. He is privy to all of the tossing and turning, the grunts that signal a nightmare's end, of the long disappearances into the junkyard behind Bobby's house in the middle of the night. He is aware of it and understands – he feels much of the same, but at least he can talk about it.
That scares Sam the most, Dean refusing to talk about their dad in any way, refusing to talk about any of what has happened. His brother is keeping it locked tightly inside to fester-grow-spoil and damage the inside. It's like watching someone slowly poison themselves…killing the soul by degrees.
Sam needs his big brother just then, needs to hear the words that might make it better, to share the pain with the only living person who understands what he's going through. And, he needs to know that things will be normal again…not real world normal, but Winchester normal. He wonders if Dean will ever be Dean again. If anything will ever be right again. When will the pain end? Will his brother come back to him whole? Even as he asks himself these questions, he knows that neither of them will walk away from this one unscathed, unscarred – they are marked for life by this event.
Sam watches a moment more, still trying to decide on a course of action. Dean is putting his hands on his hips now and letting his head dip downward, looking for all the world the picture of a broken, shattered soul of a man. Sam can't leave his brother standing there like that, looking bereft and so lost. All of his instincts scream at him to go to his brother, to offer comfort. But, his brain holds him in check. He knows it isn't welcome and his own battered heart can't risk being rebuffed. What if Dean unleashes his pain on him like he has the Impala – only with words that can never be unsaid?
Sam stands silent and paralyzed in the shadows of the building – torn by his need to soothe his brother's unrest and his own need for self-preservation. Finally, he quietly moves from his protected position, and, with one last look at Dean – whose shoulders are now stooped in defeat - walks solemnly back toward Bobby's house. Each step feels leaden and wrong. It is a conscious decision to leave Dean behind, wounded and breaking. It is so much figurative distance and another brick in the wall between them…and it hurts like hell.
a/n: Much thanks to Mady Bay and Tidia for their excellent beta jobs. Thanks to Ridley C. James for encouraging me to write it, since I was content to just think it.