Heart tag. Dean never could stand seeing Sammy's tears.
Over the years Dean had become accustomed to the pain, the fear and the dread; it was a fact of life for the Winchesters, the only certainty in his life besides his family and their war with evil. Something unwanted but constantly there to remind you, like a deep cut in the middle of your back that you can't quite reach to bandage, a cracked rib that screams out each time you move, and an ache in your heart that all the Haagen-Dazs in the world can't fill. A bonus from the hunting life, all the anguish you can manage, or not. The part that was unbearable was seeing Sammy's tears. Dean had never managed to get a handle on that, try as he may. Most of his efforts over the years were a blind attempt to divert them before they ever appeared, to somehow save his brother from the pain that was a constant in his own life, to miraculously protect him from the harsh realities of this world.
Sammy's tears meant he had failed, just one more pain to toss upon his own growing mound, the mountain now threatening to bury him if it ever toppled. Dean's own tears rarely fell, held back by sheer obstinance and a firm resolve to stay strong. Sammy on the other hand was always more in touch with his emotions, more able to show how he truly felt…more able to allow himself to feel. Sam was free to express himself, not encumbered by unrealistic expectations, not succumbing to the pressures of pleasing Dad or reassuring a hero worshipping kid brother. Free to feel….and he did. Along with the pain he also felt joy and love as he embraced all the emotions of life.
"Dean, why did Bullet have to die?"
Dean sat stroking the coat of the old dog, his eight-year old brother crying enough tears for both of them. His brother's tears amplifying his own pain, illuminating how he couldn't always protect his little brother, how he was unable to defeat this anguish. "He was old, Sammy. It was just his time."
"But I miss him. Dad will never let us get another dog, you know that. Bullet was special."
Yeah, Bullet was special. He was already old when he attached himself to us, just came to dinner and refused to leave. It was like he knew we needed him, knew we needed something to focus on besides hunting.
"Sammy, I'm sorry." I should have known he wouldn't live that long. It would have been easier to take him away in the beginning, before you got all attached to him.
Sammy was still crying, but now his eyes were smiling, "We gave him a good life, didn't we?" His face so full of hope, wishing for some good in all this, still looking for the positive.
How can you look for any good in this? He's dead.
"Yeah Sammy, he had a good life."
Never again. It's better to keep your distance cause everything dies, sooner or later. If you don't get close, it won't hurt as much. Just keep 'em at arms length, protect your heart.
Two years pass, the pain of Bullet fades to the back of their minds as other pains force their way to the forefront, and then the inevitable happens: another dog attempts to join the Winchester family. Christ Sammy, are you out looking for stray dogs?
"You said it yourself, Sammy. Dad's not going to let us keep another dog. It's too much work. We have to focus on training."
Sammy looked up with puppy dog eyes that matched the sad-sack eyes of this latest mutt.
Damn it, Sammy! Don't give me that look.
"We can't afford to feed it."
"Benji? How much could he eat? Come on, Dean. Please?"
"Don't tell me you named it Benji? Can you get any lamer?"
Sam smiled, seeing the cracks in Dean's defense, knowing if he could get Dean on board then Dad would relent.
"If we keep him, you can name him."
Dean dug the toe of his boot in the dirt, nervously shifting his eyes away from that look, the look Sammy knew he couldn't resist. Summoning all his will-power he scoffed, "Well, that's a deal maker."
"Come on, Dean. You know Dad will let us keep him if you ask."
But I don't want another dog. It's just going to die, they all die. Everything dies.
"Sammy, no more dogs. We don't have time to take care of him. It's not fair to the dog."
"We can love him. I'll feed him and take care of him. He needs a home, Dean."
Yeah, like we've got a home? We're always on the move, it won't work.
All barriers knocked aside by that one simple word coupled with those sad hazel eyes framed by shaggy brown hair, "OK kiddo…, rock, paper, scissors. One chance."
"Really?" Sam's eyes lit up, his grin dazzling, "All right!"
Sam looked so damn intense, concentrating like the fate of the world instead of the future of one mangy mutt hung in the balance. Both brothers held out their fist in front of them and started counting…one…two…three and flashed their choice: scissors for Dean and rock for Sam. Sammy wins again.
Always with the rock, Sammy.
"So you'll ask Dad?"
"That was the deal."
"So what are we going to call him?"
"Well, there's only one suitable name for this badass." Dean smiled a wicked grin, "Blade."
"You go after the creepy ex, I'm gonna hang here with the hot chick."
"No, screw that, Dean. We settle this the old-fashioned way."
Hmmmm…. Sammy likes the hot chick. At least she's not crazy like Meg. Maybe Sammy's finally ready to put the past behind him.
One….two….three…. A huge smile breaks out on Sam's face, the outcome just what he wanted. What he needed.
He couldn't resist taunting his big brother, "Dean, always with the scissors!"
Hey, it gets the job done.
Best laid plans, huh Dean? Sure didn't turn out like you thought. Oh sure, Sammy got back in the game, but at what cost? Why couldn't you steer him towards a nice, normal girl? A girl like Sarah?
Hey, you tried with that one, he just wouldn't cooperate, wasn't ready. And now look what's come of this. Another harsh decision, another pain…. Always the pain. Another innocent girl trapped in a nightmare. I'll handle this, Sammy.
Dean took back his gun, the weight heavy in his hand, the responsibility bearing down again. He could handle this, had handled it for most of his life, always doing what needed to be done. Ignore the pain and do the job. Protect Sammy….from evil, from life, from pain. Bang up job you're doing there, Dean.
"Sammy, I got this one. I'll do it."
"She asked me to."
"You don't have to."
"Yes, I do."
Sammy's tears were streaming down his face, his voice quivering, his heart breaking from the unbearable burden placed upon him by this innocent girl and the cruel twists of fate. Dean had failed again. Failed to protect Sammy from the pain, failed to save his heart from all the anguish his life seemed destined to dump on him. Failed.
Sammy's heart was ripped to shreds, his tears pouring from shattered eyes, all the pain bearing down upon him and burying him in grief so immense he could barely breathe, barely function. A grief Dean had helped along with his misguided efforts. Damn it all, I'm so sorry Sammy.
Dean stands helpless, Sammy's tears drowning him in his own grief, his brother's pain so intense he can feel it coursing through his body. His brother's pain worse than any pain he himself had ever felt, worse than any pain he could even imagine. No pain was worse than watching Sammy's tears; no hurt could ever surpass Sammy's hurt. He stands and waits, a shot rings out and all the pain converges in one lone tear that breaks free of his defenses, silently falling to the ground. Sammy, I'm so sorry.
bjxmas March 2007
All standard disclaimers apply.