A/N: This is kinda crack!fic, in that I don't try to make things clear or even follow a particular plot. I was kinda winging it, just like Dean does in the story, following the other person's lead. Anyway, it has lots of pretty colors in it, and Dean being broken, and Cynical!Sam. It's a break from another story that I'm really struggling with. Hope you enjoy, and always, always, always, reviews are appreciated.
The door opened and let fall a swath of yellow light, umber and jaundice against the wet of the sidewalk. Black and grey shadows shrank away, leaving a bare spot for Dean to step out, and into. A word followed him, his name, an inflection of need and slurpy want in it. Dean ignored it, reaching in and pulling the door closed without raising his head, his eyes steady on the bumper of the car next to him.
A click and Dean walked, boot heels tapping loudly on the cement, violence trailing his footsteps like toilet paper caught on a heel. His breath smoked with every exhale, and he shoved his hands in his pockets, head going down and counting the cracks of the sidewalk as they passed under him.
The motel sidewalk junctioned with the sidewalk next to the street, and there was a brief pause, Dean thinking west or east, and because the sun came up every morning Dean went east. West was too much of a concession, a surrender to light dying and darkness falling. Though sometimes Dean had to admit a little darkness was a good thing.
Rain fell in a soft mist, patting his cheeks and beading in his hair and eyelashes, creating a Monet painting in every puddle from the city's neon and light. It was a godawful hour of the night, a long way from midnight and a long way from dawn, that feeling of never gonna see light again thick behind his eyes. He glanced up occasionally, checking the way clear ahead of him, but mostly he counted the sidewalk cracks under his feet.
The sidewalk stopped at an intersection, the lights dazzling on the black surfaces, and Dean did not have to look up to watch for green. He took the pause, the sudden lack of forward motion, as an opportunity to fidget, pulling his phone out and flipping it open. There was a message from a number he didn't recognize, and he dialed voice mail as the light stayed stubbornly red.
A rattling milk truck passed as the message began, drawing silence after it, and Dean only heard "… so he's here, he's okay, and we'll meet up in Tecumseh in a week, okay? Don't worry, Dean." His father's voice, gravelly with exhaustion, short with frustration, and Dean held his breath listening to it, not realizing how much he had missed that voice.
The light was green, and Dean walked again, counting sidewalk cracks.
Meeting up in Tecumseh in a week, meeting up with John and whoever he had been talking about, and Dean was dizzy with keeping everything straight. Because whoever his father was talking about may be the same whoever in the motel room with puke green bedspreads and pus yellow carpeting. Which put a spin on the whole thing, with a new line coming clear, a new Sam Dean had to deal with, a not good Sam. But Dean had never been able to see past the brown hair curling over straight brows and intelligent eyes, the tall geekiness and solid chest and Sasquatch sized feet. All of it was, and would be, his undoing.
He was still carrying his phone in his hand, and stumbled over sidewalk crack #417 when it shuddered in his grip. He stopped, lifted a suddenly trembling hand to read the display: JO
Dean flipped the phone open again. "Yeah."
"When will you be here?"
He looked around him, over his shoulder, up at the sky, blinking against the rain. A new line unfurling in his head, putting in place both past and future. A new Sam. A dead Sam. "Tomorrow, around 2 or 3."
"Are you going to the mortuary first?"
"Fuck, Jo." Staring at the sidewalk again, counting crack #417 again.
Jo was silent, and Dean flipped the phone shut.
Jo's call had caught him next to a child's playground, the primary colors of slide and swing and jungle gym muted and strange in the rain and dark. He left the sidewalk, left the count at #417, his steps soft on the wood shavings of the playground. He was inordinately pleased to see his butt still fit in the swing, but couldn't find the enthusiasm to push himself away from the earth. Swinging demanded a certain disregard for gravity, a sense of whimsical, and Dean couldn't summon it up.
It was peaceful, sitting there, enjoying the left over atmosphere from shrieking children and giggling babies, whatever he had left in the motel suddenly not as important. He was able to think about it easier, with this small bit of distance.
Easier. But still not without fear, without cutting a wound into the core of what he was.
He didn't know what waited for him at the mortuary, but had a sinking feeling it was the same thing he had left in the motel room, the same thing he would meet up with in Tecumseh. Plus a dozen others he couldn't name right now, lines of possibility stretching into infinity, Dean seeing every future stemming from each choice he had made in front of him. Lines he was able to keep straight in his head, though sometimes his eyes crossed with the strain, but he still couldn't discern which one was right. And with his own prejudices and wants obscuring his vision he felt like he was walking a tightrope blind.
And knew he was working without a net when Sam appeared on the sidewalk, on crack #417, watching him. "Hey, Dean." His brother's voice was cautious.
"Yeah, can you believe my butt still fits?"
A soft laugh from Sam, and he crossed to Dean, eyeing the empty swing next to him. "Nah. Don't think I'll even try."
Dean shrugged. "Your loss." He watched Sam, watched his brother take in the peaceful atmosphere, close his eyes in response to it. Peace was so seldom for them, and stumbling upon it was a miracle. There was a small scar over Sam's left eye, bisecting his eyebrow and giving him a perpetually cynical expression. "Where'd you come from, Sam? East or west?"
Sam answered easily, unquestioning. "East. Fucking motel room with all the fish."
Dean nodded. "I remember that one."
"Where'd you come from?"
Dean made a face. "West."
Sam's eyes narrowed. "Shit. Sorry, man." Sam's phone in his pocket beeped quietly, and Sam kept his eyes on Dean as he brought it out, held to his ear.
"Yeah?" His mouth thinned, listening, his brows coming together. "He wanted to be cremated, Dean," he said, to the Dean on the other end, his eyes demanding something of the Dean on the swing. Dean looked away, his heart aching. "Fuck it, I'll talk to you tomorrow." Sam turned the phone off, looking as if he may chuck it into the darkness.
"Can't do it much longer, Dean." The phone lost in his large hands, Sam turning it back to front, back to front.
"I don't know which one is real." Dean huddled into his jacket, resting his chin on his chest, scuffing at the wood shavings under his feet. Many different Sams in his life, but this Sam the only one who knew about the lines, who knew how Dean extended himself to keep them straight.
Sam made an impatient move. "Does it matter anymore? One more line gets added and it's over. You're already stretched too thin as it is."
"I know!" Angry now, the feeling of thinness and stretch taking over his brain, making his body ache with phantom pain. He had already run the Impala off the road twice in the last week, his concentration wavering as he strained to hold each line clear. He stood up, pushed the swing away, walking back to the sidewalk.
He stopped, frozen, never able to withstand a plea from Sam.
He turned, furious, yelling, "Which one?"
Sam was gone, and Dean's phone was convulsing in his pocket. He opened it, held it to his ear without checking the display, anger making him reckless.
"Dean?" A slobbery giggle, a sound of too much saliva. "When are you coming home?" Home said sing-song, too coy, and Dean snapped the phone closed, unwilling to follow that line.
He stepped carefully to crack #417 and straddled it, facing north, east and west on either hand. He couldn't look past the light in the brown eyes watching him, calling his name, and he couldn't let go of a brother fallen in battle and waiting to be honored, and he was wanted by father and brother to continue the fight in Tecumseh. And a dozen others that he couldn't articulate at the moment, that would come clear to him when it was needed.
A dozen others that he knew about. An infinite number he didn't know about. Yet.
Still facing north, he opened his phone again, pushed quick dial, held the phone to his ear gingerly. "Hey, Sam."
"Hey, big bro! Good to hear from you."
"Good to hear you, too."
"You coming out for Charlie's first birthday?"
Dean closed his eyes, trying to negate the tears. "Definitely. That's –" he paused, waiting for the line to come clear. "Next week?" The thin feeling in his brain seemed to give a little, like something snapping. Suddenly he wasn't going to be meeting up in Tecumseh. Dean felt John die, again.
"Yeah, the 12th. You should see the little shit, growing faster than we can keep up."
"Can't wait." He couldn't hold the sobs anymore, his control threatening to break. "Look, I gotta go. Ghosties to kill and all."
"What? Did you say ghosties?"
"Um. Sorry, too much to drink tonight. Give my best to Sarah."
"Dean, take care. I wanna see you here on the 12th."
"I'll be there." And he closed the phone, went to one knee on crack #417, tears free on his face as he mourned John again. He held the sobs, couldn't give in to the sounds pushing at his throat. This is why he couldn't choose one, couldn't choose fat and happy Charlie over John, grim and vengeful. Couldn't even choose burying his brother in Texas over the brother he had left in the motel room to the west. Too many lines, all of them real and his and revolving around Sam, around John, around another family that remained shadowy and loved.
And he couldn't figure out how to bring the line with his Sam, Sam watching him swing with the thin scar over his eyebrow, into focus. That Sam was following his own set of lines, a few of them mixed in with Dean's, though Dean couldn't remember who had wanted to be cremated.
He came to his feet slowly, in increments, his hands on his knees while he oriented himself, then fully straightened. Still facing north. He rubbed his face, closed his eyes to better grip each line, a few waiting, unformed, just beneath the surface of his brain. Deliberately, he turned west, back to the thing in the motel room with Sam's grin, and began to count down the cracks in the sidewalk.
But he counted #417 twice.