No Burden to Carry
Warnings: Spoilers for Croatoan…also, it's my first (and probably only) lame attempt at present tense.
Author's Note: For those reading Grayscale, I hope to have a new chapter up soon. This just sort of asked politely to be written. I loved Croatoan and all…and I have several plot bunnies for this episode alone, however this is just sort of an AU missing scene/alternate ending, leaving out the last exchange of Sam and Dean in the episode…cuz, honestly, I just can't touch the big secret and don't even want to try. I hope you enjoy, as always.
Disclaimer: If I owned anything belonging to Supernatural, don't you think the scene where Dean locked himself in with Sam would have been much, much longer?
The drive back to the motel is quiet, like they usually are after a long night. Dean is driving like always and music is on but not blaring. Sam is sitting, leaning against the passenger side window, watching early sunlight wash over the old town buildings, casting long shadows behind them. Dean tries and fails at the same time to not glance over to Sam, and does so at the precisely same moment Sam decides to glance over to him. Both look away instantly. Questions are stirring in the backs of their minds with an itching curiosity. But they have no answers to offer. And both are sure the other is too tired to entertain theories right now, anyway.
Sometime later, not counted or measured with much attention, they are in their motel room and packing their things, ready to move on and get the hell away from this place. Dean busies himself with packing more so than Sam. And when most all of his things are packed and he notices how Sam barely moved, he unfolds some of his clothes to fold again and kill time.
Sam just stares at nothing. He sees nothing on the wall, on the floor, in the corner. He sees nothing everywhere and he can't stop looking at it, but stops everything to watch nothing as it does nothing…because observing nothing is so much easier than looking at his brother. But he remembers. And he can't get away from his memory, can't just not look at it when it's right there in front of him.
"Dean…Don't do this. Just get the hell out of here."
"Give me my gun…and leave."
"For the last time, Sam. No."
A moment passes. Sam would have let out a sad chuckle if his voice wasn't hindered by the sound of tears climbing their way to the surface, causing his lips to tremble in fear of what he might say if he so chose to speak with his breaking voice. He's quick to sit down on his bed, his back to Dean.
"Dean, I'm sick. It's over for me. It doesn't have to be for you."
"No. You can keep going—"
"Who says I want to?"
Sam breathes in deep but the air isn't enough. Tears are starting to fall and he can't control it. He's not sure if he's crying because he's upset, or grateful, or angry, or an assortment of all those emotions.
He whimpers unexpectedly and closes his eyes. It's then the bed dips beside him and he feels the comforting warmth of his brother near him. They're shoulder to shoulder. He feels Dean looking at him. He can picture the concern in his eyes, can hear the available, teasing remarks Dean could say if he wanted to for him being such a crybaby. But Dean just sits there, beside him, looking at him, then at nothing particular, then back to him and saying nothing.
"I'm tired, Sam. I'm tired of this job, this life, this weight on my shoulders, man. I'm tired of it."
Dean waits for Sam to say something. He hopes whatever has him worked up all of a sudden is due to some random, unrelated situation than what they experienced last night. But he knows that's asking too much. So he thinks for a moment, maybe he'll say something. But nothing comes to mind, and whatever fleeting thought of speech that passes over him is quickly dismissed because it wouldn't do a thing to make Sam better.
Sam's tears slowly turn into hushed hysterics. He laughs a small laugh between an upheaval of sobs that shake his entire body, and Dean's for that matter. The silence becomes too much between them and Dean can't get close enough to bridge the gap that had been building since their father died.
Dean feels ridiculous for saying his name in such a pitiful, despondent tone. He guesses he might know why he's crying, but he's afraid to find confirmation. And maybe, he thinks, Sam just needs to cry. It was an emotional night for the both of them. A lot was said, and still more goes left unsaid. Maybe, Dean hopes, all it is, is that Sam just needs to cry.
Dean is okay with just being there for Sam when Sam needs him. He's okay with bottling everything up because he scares himself (and Sam) when he cracks and lets some of his emotions out. He's okay with not crying at this moment. He's okay with being the strong, faithfully loyal and the shamelessly silent big brother. Even if sometimes he wishes he wasn't so okay with the silent, stoic bit.
But Sam hiccups another sob and turns his head, laughing a little as he starts to talk.
"Dean," he begins, voice crumbling beneath nervous tears. "You stayed."
The words stab Dean in the chest for some reason. They twist and wretch and yank, and suddenly Dean can't breathe. And the room around him is starting to blur. The brokenness of his brother's voice, of his words, cut him deeply. The truth within them is sharp and pointed and something he won't ever forget. He knows what Sam is talking about. What made him think Sam wouldn't dwell on it, he doesn't know. Back at the clinic…locking that door…not leaving Sam. Not ever.
Sam smiles the saddest smile the world has ever seen as more tears fall, and he repeats himself.
"You stayed, Dean."
As if Dean wasn't speechless before, now he's lost the very will to speak. He fears if he opens his mouth, all he'll do is yell out and he'll have no choice but to prepare for the downfall of his own tears.
Instead of saying anything, he puts his arm around Sam and pulls him closer. Actions always speak louder, he remembers.
Then Sam leans into Dean, not certain if the sniveling sounds he's making are tears or laughter or still both.
Dean wishes he could find the words to say he's sorry if he hurt Sam, sorry he couldn't help him; sorry he gave up on his own life when Sam begged him to do otherwise. But hell, he wishes words existed to tell Sam that this life, this world, means nothing without Sam in it with him. He squeezed his arm tighter around Sam.
The silence is there. The distance between them is filled with enough words hanging in the air around them that each of them understands what the other is not saying.
…I'll never leave you…
…I'll never give up on you…
…I'll die for you…
The most heartbreaking, silent sentiment throbs the loudest inside Dean's chest. Sam seems to hear it now, or at least he appears to be listening for it. It's in the all the things Dean was not saying-- he might as well be screaming, swearing I'd die without you, Sam.
Dean is close to tears but has cried already more in the last few months than he has his entire life, so it's easy for him to fight against the burning in his eyes.
"I couldn't leave you, Sam," he says, almost relieved that he's said anything. "I can't do this alone, remember?"
"Because you don't want to?" Sam asks, almost crudely.
"Because none of this matters without you here," Dean answers honestly, casually. His sincerity and devotion to the concept is nearly tangible.
Sam takes a few breaths, lets his brother's words really sink in around him, warm and chilling at the same time. He sniffles and nods his head slowly. "I don't know what I'd do without you, either."
And with that, Sam lays his head down on Dean's shoulder gently. Dean's caught off guard a little, but doesn't flinch or pull away.
He glances over to Sam who looks tired, worn down, but still fighting. Dean tilts his head down to rest atop his brothers. It's his way of telling Sam he isn't going anywhere. He smiles to himself, using his free hand to brush the hair out of Sam's eyes. Dean sighs, expelling only some of the anguish that's burdened his heart since he looked into the hopeless, desolate crying eyes of Sam, begging for him to leave, to live, just hours earlier. All the baggage he's had to carry has only gotten heavier, all the issues and secrets and close calls have been trying to pull him down into an early grave. And he knows he almost let it.
Then, as he hears Sam's tears quieting, feels his head resting softly on his shoulder, it somehow lessens the weight. He knows in a few moments, he'll make some snide statement and tease Sam for being a crybaby, berate him for causing a mild chick-flick scene. And then they'll laugh, finish packing and hit the long road in front of them. But right now, he is in this moment with Sam. And in this moment he's reminded that for all the bad stuff he's carrying around, he's also still carrying everything good he believes in and knows in his world. He's carrying Sam—ever since the fire, out of the fire, away from the fire…and he is no burden to carry.
So for that, for Sam, he knows it won't be too difficult to find the strength to carry on a little while longer.
Thanks for reading. Feedback, constructive criticism, comments, questions, requests, tips for writing better, as well as suggestions to never write again, are very much welcome and taken into consideration. Although, I don't think I could ever stop writing…but I suppose I could stop posting. But don't worry…I think I'm done with present tense.