(angst galore. no ownage. no money made. no insult intended. lyrics and title stolen from sixteen horsepower.)

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Hutterite Mile

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on from here walking dreams awake
i think not i think not
the sky comes king blown in every direction
and of no country
i am straw

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...and I'll huff, and I'll puff, and I'll blow your house down, and Dean's never had brick to hide behind, or anything but Sam and a gun and a responsibility too big for him, and this is all going to hell with terrifying speed and he can't shoot this wolf because it's his i family. /i

There is laughter tinged with hysteria stuck in the back of his throat, because can't they see how very much alike they are when they stand there screaming at each other about their differences?

Sam's finally come clean about college. He's been working up to it for weeks, been irritable (more than usual, that is) around Dad and uneasy around Dean, all cut off sentences and long restless limbs, and Dean, for once, had no desire to help him out whatsoever.

As long as Sam kept silent, they hung in limbo – forever stalking around each other like caged tigers, hissing and snarling – but at least they were together. Now...

Now, Sam and Dad are saying the kind of things that can never be taken back. Not that either of them ever would. Sam's big on the whole caring and sharing deal, but only on his terms and only as long as the other person admits they were the one in the wrong. Dad's...Dad...and while his world is black and white, just like Sam's, they look at it from completely different angles and they are incapable of moving from their chosen spot, even for a minute. Too stubborn, too certain.

Starkly black and white are Sam and John, blazing righteous in their anger.

Dean is gray, like all cats in the dark.

The door slams closed, and thirty seconds later Dad's truck starts up with a roar, tearing out of the parking lot. His parting words still echo in the room, where Sam stands panting in the middle of the floor, face flushed, hands fisted. i 'If you walk out that door, you don't come back...you don't come back...don't come back.' /i

Sam turns on his heel, stalks over to the dresser, starts viciously shoving clothes into his duffel bag, and Dean says nothing, because there's nothing for him to say. He watches threadbare tshirts and jeans worn butter soft disappear into the bag, and remembers a hundred laundromats and a thousand times of picking up Sam's smelly socks, and one time when Sam laughed so hard he peed himself because he managed to turn Dean's favourite shirt pink. Sam goes for the books next, and Dean thinks of teaching Sammy to write his name, carefully guiding the small hand holding the thick black marker, thinks of Sam absorbed in a novel, not responding to anything short of a pillow to the face, thinks of libraries and the task of dragging Sam(my) out of them, thinks of spending money he didn't really have on books that were read and discarded in the blink of an eye.

Thinks of days when he went hungry so that Sam would have food, thinks of stealing and lying and cheating, so that Sam wouldn't have to, thinks of blood and smoke and i 'Take your brother outside as fast as you can and don't look back! Now, Dean! Go!' /i and he knows what his only possible move is.

Hasn't he always tried to give Sam everything he wanted?

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it is no mystery
i know my way from here

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Where Dad and Sam are knife edge against jagged knife edge, chipping away at each other, no give in any of them, no compromise, Dad and Dean slide together like blade and whetstone. Even more so, now that it's just the two of them. Sharper and sharper; if they cut themselves now they won't even feel it until it starts bleeding, but still it seems it's never enough for Dad. Dean thinks soon he'll have an edge fit to cut loose a shadow.

They don't talk about Sam.

The hunt's escalating, and Dean throws himself into it with wild and desperate enthusiasm. What else is there for him now, what purpose does he have, except this? The family business; saving people, hunting things. Although they're not really much of a family any more, and for Dean it's become more about the hunting and less about the saving. He's always felt it, the thrill of the hunt, in ways Sam never did, but it's darker now and he's more reckless, like it doesn't matter who bleeds, he or the thing they're hunting, just as long as i someone /i does.

And if he bleeds, doesn't that make him real?

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iron sharpens iron
crooked wooden and peacock black
i have your feathers
slung across my back
i'm not the only one
to help you down the hill
my blue knuckles do as they will

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He's surprised, when Dad sends him alone on that job in New Orleans.

He's not surprised when he comes back to find a cleaned out motel room.

He falls back onto the scratchy red bedcover and laughs and laughs and laughs, the same laugh that's been stuck in his throat since the night Sam left, because doesn't this just take the cake, and is this what they mean when they say 'a fairytale life'? John must have been paying closer attention than he realized to Sam and him when they were small, he thinks, remembering nights of reading Sam stories of the bloody kind, the kind not prettied up and sugar coated, where they sent unwanted children out on errands and picked up house and left while they were gone. At least John chose the right story to reenact, because no way could he have gotten away with leaving Dean in the forest and hoping he didn't find his way back.

When he stops laughing, he goes out and looks for the biggest, nastiest fight he can find, and when he leaves, he's the only one left standing.

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After listening to the cryptic and EMF-laden message Dad left on his phone, Dean sharpens his knives and thinks, i What are you planning now, old man/i Jericho. Dad won't be there, and if he ever really was there to begin with he won't have left anything leading to him, but there i is /i something there to hunt. An insidious little thought infiltrates his mind, digs itself in and refuses to leave.

Isn't it time, it whispers, isn't it well past time that you got something for yourself, just this once? Sam wouldn't refuse to help him look for their missing Dad, would he?

He shakes it off at first – Sam is happy where he is, he's seen that. And isn't that the point of it all, keeping Sam safe and happy? Thing is, Dean doesn't do so well on his own. He needs someone to protect, someone to make him useful needs something that requires him to look out for his own safety, because otherwise, well...

Then there's another corpse in Jericho, and Dean's stalled long enough. That night, he heads for California, because really, where else could he go?

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it is no mystery
i know my way from here
it is no mystery
i know my way from here

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Dean had almost forgotten that in Sam and Dad's world, there is no gray. He's brutally reminded, when they finally find Dad and his eyes slide over Dean to settle hungrily on Sam, just like the ghost of mother Mary in Lawrence. Sam meets Dad's gaze head on, but there's a degree of understanding that was never there before. Their angles have changed. Jess and Mary moved them, like Dean never could.

Oh, they don't run smoothly, never will, they're too much alike for that. Understanding isn't agreement, not by a long shot. But they burn with the same fire now, and Dean still blends with the shadows.

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Dad's dead. Dean isn't.

But he feels deep in his soul that he should be.

'If you can't save him, you'll have to kill him,' Dad said. Then he smiled mistily, but it must have been some other Dean he was smiling at. Not him. You don't smile at someone after saying something like that. Kill or cure. Kill or cure.

As if there was ever any choice.

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Dean failed.

Dean failed, and now Sam's blood is all over his hands, staining his shirt in dark, ugly blotches, tarnishing the silver of his ring. He wasn't fast enough. Wasn't clever enough. Wasn't sharp enough.

He thinks he screamed. Thinks, because nothing's exactly clear in his mind, except an image of life draining out of hazel eyes and the sense memory of his brother's body going limp in his arms. But he thinks he screamed.

He knows he fought with Bobby, when the older man tried to lift the...Sam...off him, to help him out of the mud. Knows he punched and kicked and scratched like a wild thing, because you-do-not-touch-my-brother. Knows Bobby raised his hands and backed away, let him carry Sam to the car alone and tuck him into the back seat like he did when they were small. My brother. My responsibility. And he fucked it up.

'I told you not to let him out of your sight!'

I'm sorry, Dad. I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry...

Sam is laid out on the bare bed as if he's sleeping, and Dean can't take his eyes off him. He's not sure how long it's been, but Bobby's been here several times with bags of takeout Dean leaves unopened on the rickety dining table, so it must be...more than a day, anyway. Two? It's not important. The only thing important now (the only thing important always) is pale and cold and unmoving, and there's only one thing left for him to do.

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one is precious as the other
they go with me
today i am not a false conscience
a tyrant
angels line my pockets dear
i walk a hutterite mile
look at me this once
put an eye to my step
look and furrow
it's only misery it's only ankle deep

it is no mystery
i know my way from here
it is no mystery
i know my way from here

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"I want to make a deal."

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finis.