Author: Cheryl W.
Disclaimer: I do not own Dean, Sam or any rights to Supernatural, nor am I making any profit from this story.
Author's Note: This story is dedicated to both Larabiehn and Diane because they were wonderful enough to request that I try my hand at bridging the gulf between those lovely Winchester boys. Certain that the season will be building it's own bridge for Dean and Sam, I'm hoping to just get the foundation laid, not complete the construction. Though this entry is way too late now that we're heading for the 4th episode of the season, I hope you still find some merit in it. Will probably be 3 chapters.
Summary:Set between ELAC and BL. Dean and Sam struggle to bridge the gap between them, brick by brick.
His rage spent, Dean, faltering, leaned against the Impala, his breath coming hard and pain spiking through his still recovering body. His blurring vision fixed on the Impala's abused trunk and a flicker of satisfaction surged through him. 'Oh yeah, destruction, now that's what I do best. Give me something to kill, to maim, to burn, to hurt. That's where Dean Winchester is at home. Not in this car, not on the road, ….not even with Sam.'
Thoughts of his brother, of his brother's words, of his brother's pain gave Dean the strength to push away from the car and walk away, from the Impala, from the ravaged trunk, from Sam. Bracing his arm against the pain in his chest, he made his way through the car graveyard toward the road beyond, the sight of the abandoned and abused cars like a maze through his own convoluted, damaged soul. He was like these cars, too far gone to be restored, retaining too little merit to waste the effort to make whole, too beaten to even make a good run at the second chance he had been given.
'Second chance,' Dean scoffed, 'try third chance, first Roy LeGrange and now…' he couldn't think it even, didn't want to contemplate it. If he went there, if he thought about the miracle that had been handed to him again..about the possible cost of that miracle… "Stop, just stop," he growled aloud, the cars the only audience to his gasping breath, stumbling steps. No, he had to keep his crap together, had to be the strong one now, had to become the tower that John Winchester was.
Staggering into a burned out Chevy El Camino, he pressed his hand harder against the line of stitches that tracked down his chest, hating the memories that sparked to life as his fingers rested where blood had once run freely, memories that he wished he could forget, memories of overwhelming agony, of his father's voice bitter with words that weren't his own. With Dean's every strike to the Impala the pain had blossomed, had warned that the car's metal wasn't the only thing contorting under his rage. But he hadn't cared, had welcomed the pain even as he felt vindicated as the metal faltered under his strength. He was still a force to be reckoned with, even broken, even with his soul a scattering of barely burning embers.
'Sam doesn't want a force to be reckoned with, he wants a brother,' came unbidden to Dean. Pulling away from the El Camino, Dean again set his sights unto the gravel road two hundred yards away. He didn't know how to tell Sam he couldn't have what he wanted. Couldn't make Sam see, had never been able to make Sam see that his brother was twisted and scorched and broken in ways that couldn't be fixed, not with time, not with care, not even with love. And that had been before…before their father had gone, had left Dean holding the key to a realm he had been bred to reign. But not all princes were kings, not all knights were heroes, and not all sons were their fathers.
'I don't want this!!!' Dean wanted to scream it at the top of his lungs, to scream it until his father heard wherever he was, until someone took the burden of what lay ahead away from his incompetent shoulders. Until someone undid what had been done, until someone reset the clock, until someone made things right and restored his father's life and let him die. It was wrong, him being alive, his father being dead. He knew that, felt that, and if he looked into Sam's eyes, he'd see that Sam knew it too.
And maybe that was the worst of it, fearing that Sam knew how wrong this was, how it should be their father with him now and not Dean. How, in some screw up, his brother had been spared and his father had been taken from him, the father he was just getting to know again, the father that he loved and would have found a middle ground with…if fate hadn't misshuffled the deck. Sam's pain, Sam's guilt, Dean laid it all at his own feet and he couldn't bear to see Sam destroy his future in some strategy to assuage that guilt. 'It's too little, too late,' but his words hurt Sam as much as they had convicted him. 'Maybe I'm more like the old man than I ever thought. Hurt him to save him. Cut him out of my freakin' life to keep him safe. Do it the Winchester way. I've doing a bang up job so far in that department. One more big brother lecture and I can help Sam pack his bags.'
The thought didn't hurt Dean as much as it scared him. Sam was his responsibility, now more than ever. 'Watch out for Sammy,' it was practically his father's dying wish, it was an albatross as much as a life preserver, condemned him even as it saved him. Sam. He had loved him before he knew what it would cost him, what a risk it was, what a vulnerability it would become. After his mother had died, the risk had became clear, love was a live wire to pain, to loss, to desperation the depths of which he could drown in. But by then it had been too late, Sam had burrowed into his heart already, his small baby hands clinging to his fingers, his round face offering him a smile even as tears tracked down his own face, his baby cry hurting him in ways his mother's death had not. Some things could not be undone, no matter the cost, like loving his father, like loving Sam.
The gravel of the country road shuffled under his feet as he walked away from the setting sun, its brightness too hopeful for his mood, a hurricane with a tornado too cheery for the emotions raging inside him. Ignoring the stinging pain in his chest, the way his breath was harder to push from his lungs, the weakness in his legs, he put one foot in front of the other, determined to get away, to be gone, to be anywhere but where he was, even if it were just for a little while. But then Sam's words echoed in his head, 'I miss him, man. And I feel guilty as hell. And I'm not alright. Not at all. But neither are you. That much I know.'
The words again sliced into Dean, harming him, killing him. When Sam hurt, he healed him, when Sam faltered, he supported him, he had always believed that instinct was hardwired into him. Until his father had died, until today when he stood there silent at the sound of Sam's voice breaking, unmoved by the sight of tears in his brother's eyes, untouched by the wave of pain Sam radiated. As he watched Sam walk away, numbly he realized that there wasn't any part of him that wanted to call Sam back, that wanted to keep his brother at his side, that could even make an effort to dredge false words of comfort.
'Dad, I hope you're not watching,' had gone through his mind as he realized how disappointed in him his father would beBut hard on that thought's heels came the rage, the fury, the truth of how disappointed he was in his Dad, in the man that wasn't supposed to die, in the man that didn't accept defeat, that would never leave until a job was done, the man that would never ever fail. And then, it had just exploded, his barriers, his rage, his acceptance, his façade that he was OK, that he could make things alright for Sam, that he could protect Sam. Hell, he couldn't even look at Sam, not when he feared that condemnation, not when he was waiting for his brother to put 2 and 2 together and get 4, to know in his gut, as Dean did, that the wrong Winchester had died in that hospital.
And that stupid car had just sat there, mocking him, taunting him with what had been, what could have been, what never would be. His family had sat in that car once, whole, complete, happy, naïve. His dad driving, his mother in the passenger seat, him in the back, baby Sammy in his arms. He had taken that for granted, had thought it would go on forever, that happiness was something that came around everyday, that it couldn't go away, not by fire, not by a college application, not by harsh words spoken on a desolate back road and not by some evil that wasn't supposed to win. And suddenly, in that instance, he hated that car as much as he hated himself, hated the deception it had woven, the promise it had betrayed, the hope it had falsely offered. It lied, like the creatures he sought to kill. He loved it and it lied, it betrayed, it wounded him as deeply as any inanimate object ever could.
Now, alone on a country road, it didn't register with him that his legs had crumbled under him. It didn't matter that glass and gravel and dirt had embedded into knees that had slammed into the road. All he could feel was pain, in his soul, in his heart, in his freaking, pathetic, sorry excuse for a Winchester body. Pitching forward, his palms impacted with the gravel, joining the ranks of his glass embedded limbs as his breath raged from his lungs, loud to his own ears on a quiet road, his eyes clamped shut against the world around him, against the pain in him. Then it broke through to him like an intrusion into a suicide attempt, the sound of a truck engine rumbling toward him from behind.
Instantly Dean knew with relief that it wasn't Bobby's tow truck, the sound of the engine lacking the pinging the tow truck offered every three seconds. 'Thank God it's not Sam,' was all Dean could feel, all he could dredge up to feel. He wasn't even annoyed at the thought that some country boy was about to drive by him, probably spit some tobacco chew on him as he clipped him with his fender and send him flying into the field. He would just rot there in the rows of corn, become extra fertilizer, cursed at his core, but maybe still good for something.
What he wasn't expecting was to hear the truck engine tack down, to hear the tires come to a halt on the road behind him, to hear a door creak open and the crunch of cowboy boots as they ran on gravel. The hand on his shoulder should have been like a live wire, should have had him flinching away, spewing gruff denials, spurring him to open his eyes and lance them into the stranger, their green depths flaring in indignation at the invasion to his personal space. Instead he let the touch go without reaction, let the man hunch down beside him, close, let the man's words spoken in a gentle southern drawl wash over him.
"Are you Ok?"
If Dean could have laughed he would have, if he could have conjured up enough energy to care about anything, he would have come up swinging. His words to Sam ringing in his ears, 'I swear the next person that asks if I'm OK, I'm going to start throwing punches.' His own words made him a lair, again, forever, always.
The man's next words were a continuation of the running joke fate was playing on him, "I'm a doctor…" but it was enough to cause him to open his eyes, to raise his look to the face of the forty something man who sported a mustache, beard and mullet under his cowboy hat. The man's concerned gaze had Dean recoiling more than anything else. Compassion was one thing he couldn't deal with right now, Sam was drowning him in it, bucket after bucket. One more ounce and Dean knew his fissures would leak, the dam would crumble and Dean Winchester would wash away like so much debris and inevitably Sammy would leap in to save him, and would suffer his fate. And that Dean couldn't let happen. "I'm fine," he gruffly stated, initiating actions to back up his words, he pushed his hands off the road and leaned back on his hunches, turning his head to give the man the full watt of his Winchester steely gaze.
Instead of wariness, the stranger's blue eyes burned with more concern, at odds with the words he spoke, "People that are fine aren't usually kissing the gravel of the road."
But the man's tone was gentle and the intentional light touch of his hand on Dean's shoulder said more about the man's bedside manner than Dean wanted to know. Any more shows of compassion and Dean thought he might have the strength to throw at least one good punch before passing out. "Great, I gotta get a good Samaritan who thinks he's funny," Dean grumbled, fighting to keep his breath even, to swallow down the cough blocking his airways, needing the man to get back in his truck, to leave him to endure the pain in solitude.
"I've been known to tell a good joke or two," the man smiled but that look in his eye wasn't diminishing. "But it doesn't seem to me that you'd be up to laughing anyway. So how 'bout we get you off the road and let me see to…" slipping his right hand around Dean's left bicep, he prepared to help the younger man to his feet.
But Dean's right hand instantly wrapped the man's right wrist, the threat to the man's bones unspoken but implied if the stranger didn't release his hold. "Let go," Dean demanded, feeling as if he were trapped, secured by the man's grip, pinned under the man's too penetrating gaze.
Though the stranger had never heard a tone more cold, he had endured such heated looks from injured animals before, usually ones caught in a trap and ready to chew off their own leg to be free. "I'm real sorry, but leaving you here isn't something I can do," the man gently apologized but did not waiver from his intentions, his eyes still radiating that compassion, that concern that made Dean so wary and his hand still wrapped around Dean's arm. "I've never been good at walking away, from a fight or from someone hurting. It's gotten me in a heap of trouble but I think I'm getting too old to change my ways now."
"I don't need your help," Dean insisted through clenched teeth, increasing the pressure on the man's wrist, a part of him scared that he would follow through on his unspoken threat, scared that he wanted to follow through with it.
The man's eyes dropped from Dean's gaze down to Dean's chest and then rose again, his renewed worry showcased in his blue eyes as they held Dean's. "It doesn't take my medical degree to know blood soaking through your shirt isn't a good sign."
Dean didn't look down, didn't need to, the feel of the pain was enough, told him everything he needed to know. 'Crap. Sammy's gonna flip out if I came in bloody. He's going to worry…more than he already is.' "I'm not going to a hospital," he said, uncertain what he was implying with the words, what he wanted to imply.
"Fair enough. My clinic's only fifteen minutes away," the man said amicably, like the younger man's meaning was no mystery, like a compromise had come upon them easily. "Now, let's get you on your feet, nice and slow." With gentle strength the doctor aided Dean to his feet, unsurprised when the younger man pulled his arm free of his gasp when he determined himself able to stand and took a step back. He endured the injured man's hard look in silence, wondering if he'd end up slinging the kid over his shoulder and carrying him back to the truck, cursing and kicking.
The approach of another truck interrupted their staredown, shifting both of their gazes to the truck that came to a halt beside them. A seventy year old man with a hard worn face peered at them from across the interior of the battered blue truck. "Hey Doc, everything alright?"
"Yeah, Ronald," the doctor cheerfully replied, stepping forward to lean in the man's window, nearly blocking Dean from the man's view. "I thought I hit something on the road but I don't see anything now."
'Yeah, he's a real comedian,' Dean silently scoffed, but felt relieved that the doctor was making a pretty good door, blocking him from the old guy's view. One person gawking at his bloody t-shirt was one too many as far as he was concerned.
Ronald made a bitter reply to the doctor's inside joke. "Well those raccoons are about, getting my chickens. Hate those creatures." Then his world weary eyes drifted to the left of the doctor to land on Dean. "You're staying at Bobby's place right?"
Caught off guard at the man's knowledge of his presence at Bobby's, Dean cleared his throat, "Yeah."
"You must be Dean 'cause you look like you still got at least one foot in the grave," the old man determined bluntly, his eyes beginning to narrow as he tried to bring the young man into sharper focus. The doctor ruined his efforts by shifting in front of his view.
"Thanks," Dean grumbled, starting to remember why he didn't miss having grandparents.
Shooting Dean a look over his shoulder, the doctor explained, "Don't mind Ronald. He tends to call things as he sees them."
"Move aside, Clint. I wanna talk to the boy," Ronald ordered, waving his hand to the doctor's right when the Clint's eyes resettled on him.
"We're kinda in a hurry…" Clint began, again shifting to fill the passenger window with his frame.
"Nonsense. Man's gotta take time to know his neighbors and his neighbors' guests. Tell the boy to come a little closer, my old eyes ain't working that great today," the older man retorted, his eyes seeming entirely too sharp if the doctor was asked.
'What am I, show and tell?!' Dean wanted to growl, but a slight nod of the doctor's head, beckoned him forward and the smile seemed to promise him that this wouldn't hurt him. Yeah, he had heard that about needles too. Sighing, he braced himself for the pain and lumbered forward, his arm tight against his chest. It seemed to take him too long to maneuver the short distance, felt relieved that the doctor didn't shift away but remained in the window, allowing the old man's eyes to only take in Dean's face over his shoulder. Dean, not one to put a lot of faith in coincidences, knew he owed the doctor a debt for purposefully preventing the old man from getting a glimpse at his bloody shirt.
Now with his prey in sight, Ronald seemed happy as a lark. "Saw that car of yours." He let out a whistle. "What a hunk of junk," and if he saw the bristling in Dean's face, he ignored it. "If it had been me, I wouldn't have hauled it back here, no matter what your brother said."
Ronald's words latched onto Dean and even as he cursed himself for playing into the man's hands, he huskily asked, "And what did my brother say?"
At his question, both men looked at him with silent surprise, and Dean watched as compassion came alive in the old man's eyes before he spoke. "That if there was only one part working they weren't going to write off the car." The man hesitated, as if he was actually measuring his next words. "Bobby said something about you being in a coma and it not looking like you'd pull through, he thought maybe the car…."his voice faded away, broke if Dean heard right and his eyes flickered away to look out the windshield.
Dean wasn't prepared to see the pain the eyes when they resettled on him. "I lost a son…motorcycle accident. Bike was…." the previously gruff voice trembling and weak.
Clint gently spoke in the silence, "It's alright Ronald, you don't need to say it."
Shaking his head, Ronald swallowed hard. "No, enough things go unsaid, too many things, too many things between me and my boy." Pointedly his eyes fixed upon Dean's green eyes, reaching in and taking hold of Dean's very soul. "My boy was dead but that bike, that bike that he loved…it wasn't ruined, wasn't hardly scratched and I hated it, more than a person should hate a piece of metal. It wasn't right, hating it when it was myself I hated cause I should have told my son that I loved him, that I was proud of him, that though we never saw eye to eye, I still respected his choices, believed in him."
Ronald drew in a breath, sighed, looked out the front window again before he focused on Dean. "Maybe that's what your brother was afraid he'd never get to say to you, maybe that car was the last part of you he thought he'd ever have to hold onto. Something made out of metal, it's a hard thing to be left with, a bitter reminder that it's nothing without the one that loved it, someone who made you believe it was much more than metal and bolts and paint. So maybe your brother doesn't say things he feels but I know without a doubt he loves you, woulda been devastated by your death."
Dean's throat nearly closed on him as he wondered how he came to be standing in the middle of the road, sandwiched between cornfields listening to some old man talk about cars and loss and his brother. "And you know this how?!" his voice hoarse, bitter, scoffing. "All because he saved my car?!"
A sad smile turned up the old man's lips, his eyes brightening with compassion. "No, because the only part in that whole car that worked was the left hazard light. But you know what, that was enough for your brother, was enough to give him hope, was enough of you to keep him sane. Love's a desperate thing, sees hope sometimes where there isn't any, believes in things it shouldn't, and the hang of it is, it succeeds where it should fail, saves what should by all accounts be lost. I've learned to not bet against love, it's a sucker bet every time." Then the man shifted the truck out of park and said, "Well, you take care, kiddo, say Hi to Bobby for me and make sure you drive that Impala over to my place when you've gotten it purring again. My wife's apple pie will make your trip worthwhile."
Finding his voice, Dean quietly challenged, "I thought you said the car was a hunk of junk."
"Yup. But remember, I don't bet against love either. See ya Clint," Ronald bade and the blue truck rumbled down the road, leaving Dean staring at the rising cloud of dirt it was kicking up.
Having not noticed the doctor's approach, Dean almost jumped when Clint gripped his arm.
"Come on before the rest of the town gets wind that they can grab a glimpse of you," Clint grinned, steering his charge toward his truck, finding himself surprised by Ronald's words as much as the Winchester kid. People were always surprising him.
"I got it," Dean gruffly announced, pulling free of Clint's hold when he realized the man was going to walk him to the passenger door, was probably going to offer to give him a push up into the seat. Skirting the around the truck, Dean came to the passenger door, opened it with a wince of pain and pulled himself up into the seat with a low growl of pain.
The good doctor was already sitting in the driver's side, patiently waiting as his passenger finally managed to close the truck door. His eyes on Dean, he gently ventured, "Do you want to call your brother, let him know…"
"No," Dean darkly replied, his eyes searing into the doctor's blue gaze.
Unable to shake the feeling that he was making a misstep, Clint tried again, "I could call Bobby and …"
"No," Dean's voice left no room for misinterpretation. "This clinic of yours, isn't fifteen minutes away only if you get the car moving right?" shooting a look of censure to his good Samaritan.
Snorting, Clint groused good-naturedly, "Now who's the comedian," as he started the truck, swung it around and headed back to his clinic.
Thanks for reading and I would love to hear what you think!