Disclaimer: 'Supernatural' belongs to the mighty Kripke. All shall love the Winchesters and despair (because damn it, they're not mine!).

A/N: I've been delving into the angst, and thought I'd try some. I'm an older/oldest sibling, and I don't even have to step very far sideways to slide into Dean's head. So here we are. Preseries, character study. 505 words.


WINDING ROAD

It's not always like this. But sometimes . . .

Sometimes it feels like the vibration in the steering wheel is what keeps him alive. He knows every one of his well-worn tapes by heart, Black Sabbath and Metallica and Motorhead, music and lyrics and rhythm deep in each bone. The Impala's tires eat up the long miles and he keeps his sanity by turning well-worn equations over in his head.

Force equals mass times acceleration. Pressure equals force over area. If a wendigo traveling at an average of thirty meters per second is hit with a flare gun at an angle of seventeen degrees, how quickly will it burn?

Part brain-teaser, part inanity, Dean puzzles the problem through three nothing towns and sixty miles later, guessing at the burn-rate of wendigo flesh and estimating the surface area of a flare, he has an answer. No paper and pen to write it on, so he lets it slip away, twisting another problem to life.

At any rate, it keeps him occupied.

He doesn't think about how Sammy would read and mutter and share random facts from the backseat, Dean slouching in shotgun with Dad behind the wheel. That was a long time ago, and Dean has learned how to be alone.

He understands now why the ancients built those massive monuments to their beloved dead, losing themselves in the sweat of labor for the promise of something that would be forever – something that would go on beyond their pain, beyond their loss.

Then he feels the rage well up inside, like killing and death, because they haven't died, Sam and Dad.

They're just gone.

And Dean knows how to be alone.

It's like falling forever, knowing there's no net to catch you – just ragged strings waiting to give way. But that's all right, because it's not about the landing. That comes to everyone, suddenly, no matter if your demise is lingering or surprising. It's waiting for the landing that's the wearing part – life.

Dean can pull on a smile so the world will ignore him; he learned how to do it early enough. But the waiting stays, like sand over stone, deceptively soft and unchangeably harsh, the aloneness grinding him down to nothing. He needs a safe place to go, to just fall into a heartbeat that cares whether his continues.

The Impala is better than nothing, vibration in the steering wheel achingly familiar and close enough to something alive that sometimes, when Dean really needs to, he can pretend. But only when he really needs to.

'Want' is something he hears on the streets, and on the few times it does register, it makes him blink. If he only wants what he absolutely needs to live, he's much more likely to get it. Wanting something else, wanting more, leaves him strung out on hope, pretending someone might catch him, slow the fall.

No one does.

It's not always like this. But sometimes . . .

Sometimes Dean thinks of landing with nothing but relief.

Fin