Category: Gen; angst; tag
Characters: Dean, Sam
Word Count: 3,130
Spoilers: Born Under a Bad Sign
Summary: Picks up where the episode left off. It was a rough first night back on the road.
Note: Tag to Born Under a Bad Sign. Thanks, as always, to geminigrl11 for the super-quick beta. Any remaining mistakes are all me.
Disclaimer: Not mine. The pretty, snarky, angsty brothers belong to Kripke & the CW.
Over His Head
When they had left Bobby's, Dean had insisted he was well enough to drive and though Sam had doubts he kept them to himself. He hadn't missed the wary glance Dean gave him when their shoulders bumped as they walked out of the house. It hurt, the nagging fear that the demon had said or done something unforgivable. But Dean wasn't telling and when Sam had asked, he'd gotten nowhere.
Silence had fallen in the car not long after Dean's crude - but so very much his brother's style - joke. Sam smiled; more at the sentiment of what Dean was doing than from finding any real humor in the comment. He knew Dean was hurting, that he'd been through hell, and yet he was still trying to break the tension for a moment, to make Sam feel better. It was little repayment to smile when expected, maybe help lighten the load the slightest bit.
They hadn't picked a destination, just started driving south. Dean had driven until long after dark, as if wanting to put as much distance between them and Bobby's place as possible. When they finally stopped, at a ratty motel that had long since seen better days even by their standards, Sam's head was killing him and Dean, he noticed, looked just short of collapsing.
Without being asked, Sam unfolded himself from the car and headed toward the office. He heard Dean behind him, digging around in the back seat and pulling out their bags. It was a mundane, necessary chore, but Sam hated the distance between them now being physical in addition to the growing silence.
Within a few minutes, he was back at the car, keys in hand. Holding them up so that Dean could see he said, "Room eight."
Dean nodded, but didn't reply. Instead, he tossed Sam his bag before turning and glancing at the doors until he spotted the right one. He didn't look back at Sam, and Sam found himself hoping it was because he knew he'd be there, not some other reason. Possibly irrational, considering Dean's words earlier in the car, but very little had felt rational of late.
Shaking his head, Sam jogged across the parking lot, passing his brother so that he reached the door first. It was unlocked before Dean could reach it, Sam holding the door open for him. He ignored the peculiar look that Dean gave him, shutting and locking the door before dropping his bag onto the far bed.
"You want the shower first?" he asked, watching as Dean gingerly dropped his bag onto the other bed, favoring his arm. When Dean shook his head, Sam added, "Come on, man. You look like hell. The hot water will probably do you some good."
He would've had to have been blind to miss the way Dean flinched at the word 'hell.' Not for the first time since he'd woken at Bobby's, disoriented, in pain and scared, Sam wondered what memories he was missing in amongst the few he had.
"Fine." Sam couldn't help but think it sounded more like a heavy sigh than an actual word.
Sam nodded. "Good. You need any help?" He had to ask, even knowing the scathing look he would - and did - receive for the offer. Holding up his hands, Sam surrendered. "Okay, okay. You won't tell me how badly you're hurt. Just thought I'd offer."
"I've been taking my own baths since you were in diapers, Sammy. Chill out." With that, Dean disappeared into the bathroom, sweats and toiletry bag in hand. Sam heard rather than saw the door shut, the noise echoing in the small room and sounding far too final for Sam's taste. Shuddering, he began pulling clothes out of his bag so he'd be ready when Dean was done in the bathroom.
Flipping on the television, Sam grabbed the remote and dropped onto the bed. After toeing off his shoes, he leaned against the headboard, idly surfing through the grand total of five snowy channels that were available. Glancing at his watch, he found that he'd managed to kill an entire five minutes.
Sam sighed, turning off the TV, and began digging through his bag trying to find the small first aid kid he normally kept there. If he was really lucky, there was still some extra strength Tylenol left that might numb the pressure behind his eyes and dull the pain in his arm. Headaches were nothing new, although the way he earned this one certainly was, and he couldn't remember the last time he'd bought a new bottle.
Finally, after several minutes of searching, he felt his hand latch onto the bottle. Pulling it out he shook four into his hand and swallowed them dry. Grimacing, he pushed the cap back on the bottle before tossing it onto his bag.
Another glance at his watch showed that now ten minutes had passed since Dean had retreated into the bathroom. Sam stared at the wall separating the two rooms and sighed, wishing he knew what to do, what to say, to make this better. Looking down at his hands - at the bruises there that he knew were mirrored on Dean - he couldn't help but worry that might not be possible.
Finally deciding that maybe Dean had been in there too long, at least too long for Sam's comfort level after the day they'd had, he stood and walked across the room, stopping in front of the bathroom door. Knocking softly, Sam asked, "Everything okay in there?" The shower wasn't running, hadn't been for a little while now that Sam thought about it. Steam showers aside, Dean was never one to linger cleaning up for bed.
"I'll be out in a minute," Dean muttered, voice muted by the door between them.
Dean's voice sounded just off enough to make Sam more concerned, not less. "Dean, are you..."
"I'm fine!" he replied, sounding almost angry. "Just give me a minute," Dean added a moment later, voice softer, resigned.
Sam nodded, although he knew the action was pointless with the door closed. "Okay."
Moving back to the bed he gave the remote another glance before ignoring it. Looking around, he noticed the laptop lying on a small, round table. Grateful that Dean had thought to bring it in - although knowing there was no chance for finding wireless service here - Sam popped it open before plugging it in and pressing the power button.
Waiting for the machine to boot up, Sam rested his chin on his hand, staring vacantly across the room. He'd been trying to remember the past week ever since he'd first gotten his bearings at Bobby's. The memory of killing Steve Wandell was painfully clear, but everything else was muted. What memories were there, it was like looking at the images through gauze.
And of all the memories he could remember - however vaguely - hardly any were of Dean. That was the worst part, not knowing what he might have done to his brother. He knew, logically, that it was the demon who'd been in control, but that didn't matter. It was Sam's body, Sam's face that Dean had been dealing with.
It was far too much like Rockford for his taste. And look how well that had worked out - fighting, splitting up, Dean captured and almost killed. Sam sighed and closed his eyes; it never seemed to end.
The sound of the bathroom door opening shook Sam from his dark thoughts and he glanced up to see Dean, hair wet, moving gingerly and dressed for bed. Sam wasn't sure what he was expecting; for the bruises to have faded already seemed to be asking a lot.
"All yours," Dean said, tossing his dirty clothes onto his bag.
He couldn't tell, just by looking, how hurt Dean actually was and he wasn't sure he trusted him to tell the truth. On matters of life and death (Sam's) and hunts, sure Dean was reliable. But when it came to matters of his own health, the gray area was a lot wider and the truth a lot looser. It was frustrating.
Nodding, Sam stood before asking, "Are you sure you're okay? Did I..."
Dean rolled his eyes and sat on his bed. "For the last time, Sam, I'm fine. Go clean up." He waved toward the bathroom, adding, "I even left some hot water. Go. You stink."
He knew by the tone of Dean's voice and the set of his shoulders that no more answers would be forthcoming soon. Sam moved silently to grab his clothes and small bag before retreating into the bathroom. Pushing the door closed he turned and rested his forehead against the rough surface and sighed.
Standing there, he tried to listen for any sounds from the main room, for any signs of life out of his brother. However there was nothing, just the sounds of his own breathing echoing in his ears. Giving up, hating the feeling of helplessness that washed over him, Sam turned and began hurrying through his normal nighttime routine.
In less than five minutes - quite possibly a personal record and that included when he was a teenager and Dean was fond of pranking - Sam was out of the bathroom. Physically clean - though emotionally was going to be another story for a while - and arm bandaged, he sought out Dean. The object of his search, however, was in bed, curled on his right side with back to Sam.
He shoved his worn clothes into his bag before dropping onto the bed. Elbows resting on his knees, Sam stared at his brother's back for several moments. There was no chance Dean was actually asleep, no matter how well he played possum, Sam could always tell.
Sam wanted to say something, anything to break the silence between them but he couldn't think of anything that would help. There were no words that would make what he'd done all right. Worse, nothing came to mind that would make the last week not have happened.
Curling forward, Sam scrubbed his fingers through his hair and fought back the urge to sigh again. He'd give almost anything - almost - for the last week to have been a nightmare. Sitting back up, Sam gave a last look at Dean before turning off the lamp and climbing into bed.
Sam lay on his back, hands linked on his chest, staring at the ceiling. It had taken months before he could lie in bed and stare at the ceiling without seeing Jessica there, demanding 'why' and burning. But at some point, the ceiling itself had stopped haunting him even if Jessica never would.
A little while later, Sam heard Dean's breathing even out as he slowly drifted to sleep. It hurt, that Dean remained on the far side of the bed, facing away. Even asleep, the distance remained between them.
Slowly, so slowly Sam almost didn't realize the quiet ticking of his wristwatch lulled him into a shallow, uneasy sleep. Darkness lightened to dreams, disjointed images flickering too fast to follow, too chaotic to make sense of.
Places he didn't recognize, faces he didn't remember chased him from dream to dream. Wondell's face as the light drained from his eyes, sightless eyes accusing him even in death. Jo, tied to a post, fighting and yelling, staring at him with wide, hurt eyes. Afraid of him. None of it fit together, none of it made sense.
Then Dean was there. Standing in a motel room Sam didn't recognize. Arguing with him. In a warehouse, mouse to Sam's cat. Then suddenly Sam was at Bobby's, watching himself tied to a chair, snarling and taunting his brother. Fast forward to Dean on the floor, blood on his face, and pain in his eyes. Sam heard the demon - himself - taunting Dean how he was worthless, a failure. He saw misery radiating off Dean, his face shutting down, hiding behind the walls Sam had fought against for years.
He watched himself taunt and laugh as something inside Dean died.
The blink of an eye and Sam found himself on a dock. He could hear water lapping against the wooden piers, footsteps echoing all around. Sam saw himself, like a movie, standing there, watching Dean with an evil grin on his face, waiting. He saw Dean turn, heard his own voice, although he couldn't make out the words.
He heard a gun shot. Saw Dean fall, disappear.
Then everything stopped.
Sam bolted up in bed, fighting against the covers when they tangled around his chest. Gasping for air, his heartbeat thundered in his ears. Distantly, he thought he heard Dean call his name when suddenly he felt his stomach roil and his throat close up. Frantic, he clawed at the sheets, stumbling out of bed and bouncing off the wall in his rush for the bathroom.
Dropping to his knees, Sam barely felt the jarring impact with the linoleum as he curled around the toilet and lost what little he'd managed to eat at Bobby's. Soon enough, there was nothing left to throw up, dry heaves clenching his stomach and chest until finally those tapered off into rough, hacking coughs.
"Sammy?" Swallowing roughly, Sam rubbed a hand over his face before he turned to see Dean standing in the doorway. It was sick, but the familiar concern in Dean's eyes warmed Sam in a way he couldn't explain. "What's wrong?" Dean pressed, stepping into the bathroom.
Sam shook his head, saying roughly, "Nothing. 'm fine."
"Yeah, I can see that," Dean said, sarcasm lacing the words. "Seriously, dude," he continued in a quiet, serious voice, "what happened?"
Collapsing backwards, Sam pressed his back up against the wall with his knees pulled up and arms hanging loose. He let his head fall backwards until it too rested against the wall and he stared at the ceiling.
"I remembered some things. I dreamt them," he said, his voice sounding dead even to his own ears.
"What things?" Dean asked, although Sam was pretty sure he didn't want to know, didn't want to have to face it again. Sam didn't want to face it either.
Sam startled when he felt Dean's hand on his arm. Tilting his head to the side, Sam looked over to find Dean sitting beside him, mirroring his posture. "Dean..." Trying to breathe around the lump in his throat, Sam retreated from Dean's gaze and looked back to the ceiling. "Why didn't you tell me, man?" he asked, hating how rough his voice was, how it cracked.
He heard Dean sigh. "Sam..."
"I shot you, Dean!" Sam yelled, suddenly furious, slamming his fists on the floor. "I shot you! I left you there, to die!"
"It wasn't you, Sam." Sam knew that voice. It was the voice of no questions. Of don't look back, of move forward. Repress. Sam had hated that voice from their dad but he hated far more from Dean, hearing that voice from Dean hurt. That voice could only lead to more pain, for Dean especially.
"Yeah? It certainly looked like me!" Breathing hard, Sam scrubbed his hands over his face, digging fingertips into his eyes. "Why didn't you tell me?" he asked, his voice quiet.
"Damn it, Sammy." When he fell silent, Sam risked a glance sideways. Dean sighed, sounding broken. "This is why I didn't tell you."
Hurt and confused, Sam turned so that his shoulder was resting against the wall and he was facing his brother. "Dean?"
"It wasn't you."
"Then why can't you look at me, man? Why do you duck away when I come near? How badly did I hurt you?" When Dean didn't reply, Sam twisted away, feeling sick, that he's broken something they wouldn't be able to fix. "I'm sorry."
Another sigh and Sam was beginning to hate that sound. "I know, Sam."
Feeling empty, nearly dead, Sam shook his head. "Go back to bed, Dean. You need to rest. Hell, you probably need checked out by a doctor."
"Hardly. You only clipped me with the shot. It's taken care of. And like you could ever kick my ass that badly, possessed or not."
Sam knew what Dean was trying to do. It was no different than in the car earlier that night - break the tension with humor, make Sam laugh. Hide from feelings that were too strong, too big, too much. It was the Winchester way, damn it all.
"We'll be okay, Sam." Sam wished Dean sounded surer of himself. If Dean believed, maybe Sam could believe, too. "I'm gonna take care of you, just like always."
Smiling sadly, Sam shook his head. "You shouldn't have to Dean."
"Yeah, well, maybe I want to."
Although he knew he was far too old for big brother to make everything better, warmth spread through Sam at the words. Sam couldn't help feeling that he'd fallen down on the job. Just because he was younger didn't mean he couldn't shoulder some of the weight Dean was always determined to carry alone.
Taking a chance, knowing he was likely to be rebuked, Sam asked, "Who takes care of you, Dean?"
To his surprise, he saw Dean smile, truly smile all the way to his eyes, and Sam felt something unknot in his stomach. "You do, Sammy. Every day." Dean paused, but before Sam could think of something to say to such revealing words, he added, "Now can we please stop sitting on this nasty floor and go back to bed? My ass is killing me, dude."
Sam smiled hesitantly, not really feeling the humor but appreciating the sentiment more this time. Dean had probably reached his drama quotient for the night. God knows they'd both been through the wringer, Dean more so than Sam. When he thought about how he'd feel if the situation had been reversed... Sam shuddered at the thought.
Shaking the haunting thought from his head, Sam replied, "Yeah, man. Sleep sounds good."
Standing, Dean looked at Sam - finally really looked at him. "You gonna be able to sleep?"
Closing his eyes, all Sam could see was Dean flying backwards, shot by Sam's hand. Quaking, Sam tried to force the image away and look at Dean with something approaching sincerity. "We'll see," he finally said in a low, breaking voice, deciding on honesty rather than bravado. Bravado had caused enough problems already.
Dean nodded, though Sam could tell he knew the truth. Dean knew all about nightmares and fear and failure, same as Sam. "Yeah, I know," Dean said. Holding out his hand, Dean grabbed Sam's left forearm and pulled him up from the floor.
"Don't mention it."