Supernatural is not mine.

So, this is kind of an experiment: back in my first fandom, seaQuest DSV, I wrote a series of ficlets based on Ben Folds songs. And I figure, if an idea's worth using once, it's worth using again, right? So here's the first installment in what I hope will become a series. Lyrics to the first verse are given at the beginning, and to the whole song at the end.

----

Magic

From the back of your big brown eyes
I knew you'd be gone as soon as you could
And I hoped you would.

We could see that you weren't yourself
And the lines on your face did tell it's just as well,
You'd never be yourself again.

It was quiet, after. Maybe quieter than it had ever been, even in those long weeks that Dean barely remembered when Mom was newly gone and had taken all Dean's words with her. It felt the same, this time, Dean's words were gone again, except this time there was no Sam to fill in the silences with his need. Sam had taken Dean's words, and he didn't even have the common decency to stay and make up for the loss.

The quiet stretched out into months, a new motel, a new hunt (no rented apartments now, not any more), and Dean carried on, got up in the morning, made the coffee run, flirted with waitresses, made a wisecrack now and then (but less and less often, because Dad didn't even seem to hear them). It was life; life had to go on. And if he was angry, well, Dad didn't need to know that. Dad had enough anger of his own to deal with.

----

Somewhere in Nevada, there was a diner with dirt ground into the cracks on the Formica table-tops and a floor sticky with something that Dean didn't even want to think about, and California was only a few hundred miles away. Dad sat across from Dean and scribbled furiously in his journal, and Dean waited, sitting right over against the window as if he was leaving space for someone else on the seat beside him. Once upon a time, Sam had told him that a triangle was the strongest shape; Dean knew now that that was God's honest truth.

"We could go," he said, and Dad stopped writing, paused in mid-word, but didn't look up. He didn't ask where.

"We could go get him, Dad," Dean said again, not liking the note of pleading that had crept into his voice, but not able to do anything about it.

The silence stretched out for a long moment, and Dean held his breath. Then the scratching of the pen resumed. "Your brother's made his choice."

----

That was what he said, but John Winchester and the truth weren't exactly on the best of terms, and so it was no great surprise to Dean when he woke hours later to see a sign proclaiming that they were entering California. He didn't mention it; what was there to say?

----

In his mind, Dean had imagined that they would find Sam and tell him it was time to come home now, and he would acknowledge that, he would see that he had been wrong all this time. In his mind, Sam had been unhappy, had been staying away only through stubbornness. In his mind, he had forgotten the way that Sam used to look, years before, when he was happy. Forgotten it, or buried it so deep that when he saw the gangly, awkward figure crossing the street, he almost didn't recognise him.

He heard Dad exhale next to him, and it wasn't anger, now, it was surprise, and Dean wondered if he was seeing it too. Before he left, Sam's shoulders had been hunched as if he was constantly walking in an icy wind, his face pale and pinched, his mouth turned down at the corners even in sleep. This man here, this man with his broad smile, the flash of teeth as he laughed at something his companion said, head thrown back, like it was the funniest thing he'd ever heard, like he wasn't afraid to just let go – this man was not their Sam.

But when Dean thought about it, when he counted up the memories one by one like grains of sand, he began to think that maybe, maybe the boy they'd been living with, the one who had fought and brooded and then turned around and left, maybe that boy was the one who wasn't their Sam. Because looking at him now, as he walked away, easy and comfortable in his stride, Dean remembered a Sam who'd looked like that, once.

Later, Dean remembered something else: he remembered the way that, when the storm had come crashing down, when angry words had dropped like acid from Sam's lips and from Dad's, the first thought that had crossed his mind was I knew this was coming.

----

Somewhere in Arizona, there was a motel with cockroaches in the bathroom and grime so thick on the windows you could write your name in it, and California was as far away as the moon. Dad was rustling papers at the little table, frowning in concentration, and Dean lay on the bed furthest from the door, right up against the edge, as if he needed to leave space for someone. A triangle was the strongest shape, but maybe there was more to life than strength, and Sam had made his choice.

It was quiet, maybe quieter than it had ever been, but when Dean closed his eyes, he could hear Sam laughing.

From the back of your big brown eyes
I knew you'd be gone as soon as you could
And I hoped you would.

We could see that you weren't yourself
And the lines on your face did tell it's just as well,
You'd never be yourself again.

Saw you last night dance by the light of the moon,
Stars in your eyes, free from the life that you knew.

You're the magic that holds the sky up from the ground,
You're the breath that blows these cool winds round,
Trading places with an angel now.

Saw you last night dance by the light of the moon,
Stars in your eyes, free from the life that you knew.
Saw you last night, stars in the skies smiled in my room.