Starts in Silence
K Hanna Korossy
He didn't get far before he heard the first smash, the sound of glass shattering.
Sam turned back, ran a few steps to the corner of the nearby shed from where he could see but not be seen. And watched with breath trapped in his throat as Dean turned a crowbar on his beloved car.
Sam flinched at each stroke. Wondered who Dean was beating up on: Dad? The demon? Himself? And got ready for the crash at the end, where he could finally grieve with his brother, where Dean would finally let him.
But Dean wasn't breaking apart. Chest heaving, he finally dropped the crowbar and with impossible effort, pulled himself back together, staring out into the distance. Composing the surface to cover the devastation going on underneath. Even from where he stood, Sam could see the empty expression on his face and the deadness in his eyes. And Sam's own eyes shimmered when he realized there would be no release that day, for either of them.
He watched until Dean turned away, picked up a tool, and calmly went back to work. Then Sam finally turned and stumbled back to Bobby's. He had watched something shatter, after all.
Dinner was a terse affair, him and Bobby. Sam didn't even remember what they ate, which wasn't important because he didn't have much. His hands and his head ached, but his heart hurt. He turned in early, unable to fall asleep until he finally heard Dean stumble in close to midnight. Listened to his brother lie awake a long time before falling asleep.
Dad's journal. Sam had read it from cover to cover several times that past year, but he'd always been drawn back to the early part, before it became a reference book for fighting evil. The part where John was still talking about how he felt, about his family, what was happening to them. Where he shared not only his own pain, but about Sam crying for his mother and Dean… Dean going silent and withdrawn, responding to little but Sam. Climbing into Sam's crib every night to protect him, and probably to comfort and be comforted.
Sam soundlessly slipped out of bed, crept over to stand above Dean's and stare down at him. He'd always heard the way his big brother's voice hitched and paused whenever Dean talked about Mom. He'd never really gotten over her death. Sam couldn't let that happen this time; they couldn't afford that again, not with the life they lived now, not with the demon coming back someday.
But the silence, that was how Dean coped. Not grieved, because Sam had never seen him grieve, not at the hospital, not at their father's funeral pyre, never. But it was how he kept going. It couldn't last much longer; Sam didn't need Psych 101 to know how unhealthy locking all that emotion away could be, and with all they'd been through, it would have to come out at some point. But for now, if silence was what Dean needed to keep going, Sam could do that.
Silence together, anyway.
He sat gingerly on the edge of the narrow bed, nudging against Dean's arm. They'd shared enough beds over the years that, even asleep, Dean knew it was him and not a threat. His brother uncurled and moved over with only a murmured, "Wha's wrong?"
"Nothing," Sam whispered. The bed was really too small for two, but Dean rolled over to face the wall, and when Sam did the same in the other direction, only his arm and one foot dangled off the mattress. "Go back to sleep," he added, hushed.
Dean muttered something petulant but subsided back into slumber, stretched out against Sam's back.
It made Sam feel better, at least, in the five minutes or so before he fell into soothing black.
He let Dean climb over him the next morning, ignoring the very soft complaining but noticing how careful his brother was not to bump him. Sam waited until Dean was in the bathroom before quickly dressing and heading down to the junkyard. He was waiting there long before his brother finally made an appearance.
Dean squinted at him, not looking too surprised. "Something wrong with your bed last night?" he asked offhandedly as he examined the new parts that had arrived.
"No," was all Sam said.
Dean collected a few tools, then went back to the car, studying it now as if trying to decide where to start.
"I can help."
That finally earned him a real look if still a lazy drawl of one, as if Dean found him amusing. "Yeah, by not touching anything."
Sam took a step closer. "Dean, I mean it. Let me help. Please."
The flat hazel eyes sharpened a little. "You know less about cars than I do about law, Sam."
"I can learn," he shot back just as quickly. "You can teach me." Dean had taught him everything else. Had tried more than once to teach him about cars, too, in fact, but Sam had balked at that, preferring to immerse himself in a book while Dean worked nearby. He'd only joined Dean once, and that had been to connect with his brother the only way Sam could think of, too. Dean had put his foot down about learning some of the basics in case of an emergency, but had let Sam slide on the rest.
He was hoping for the same now. But Dean was shaking his head. "There's no reason—"
"It's been my home for the last year, too, Dean."
Dean narrowed his eyes, but not in irritation. He was considering, thinking about that. It wasn't much of a show of emotion, but it was something.
Sam gave him a half-smile. "I promise I won't try to get you to talk."
Dean's mouth actually twitched at that. "I should get that one on tape." He snorted, hitched a shoulder in tacit invitation. "All right, c'mon."
Sam tried really hard not to beam as he went.
It was a half-hour later, under the chassis as Dean pointed out what needed doing and why, that Sam reached up to run his fingers along the broken axle. Dean suddenly went still, then shot out an arm to grab Sam's wrist. "What happened to you?" he demanded.
Sam had almost forgotten the dull pain. He shrugged as best he could flat on his back. "The brass organ pipes were hot. I burned my hands a little." There had been no choice, though, not with the rhakshasa tossing knives at them, Dean already pinned to the wall. The painful redness of Sam's skin and a few blisters seemed a small price to pay.
"That's not a little—you should have said something. Burns get infected, Sam." Dean was already sliding out from under the car, pulling Sam out after him by the same wrist.
Okay, that was true, but he'd been careful. "Dean, it's not—"
"Shut up." This was Dean at his worst, worried about his little brother, and if he made fun of Sam in protective mode it was only because he hadn't taken a good look at himself. He marched Sam into the nearby work shed, shoved him down on a bench, and turned on the faucet in the steel sink. "Rinse your hands off." Then he disappeared out the door again.
Sam sighed, obeying. It wasn't exactly how he'd planned that morning, but at least Dean wasn't sending him back to the house. And, truth be told, the cold water felt good on his seared skin. Sam rubbed his hands together delicately, washing off all traces of oil and grime.
Dean returned, and the sight of what he held made Sam swallow a fresh wash of grief. The cover of the first aid kit that had once been their dad's was cracked, its contents jumbled as Dean dropped it on a worktable and opened it, but it had survived the crash. Dean had probably just fished it out from under the twisted seats.
Sam's hands were very carefully inspected and patted dry with sterile gauze, then Dean spread the red and blistered skin with ointment, his touch a bare skim of pressure. His face was still blank, his eyes angry when they passed over Sam, but he would never hurt his little brother.
When Sam's hands glistened with gel, Dean repacked the kit. "Don't touch anything for a while—go watch TV or something."
Sam frowned at him. "Wrap them. I'll be a little clumsy, but I can—"
Dean was back to not really looking at him. "Dude, you're always a little clumsy. Burns heal faster if they're exposed, you know that. You can work on the car in a couple of days when the blisters dry up."
Sam looked with disgust at his injured hands, hating that his weakness of all things was tripping him up. This shouldn't have been about him. "I don't want to watch TV," he said quietly.
"Fine, whatever." Dean shook his head, and grabbed the kit. "Just sit and be bored then." He made it to the door, Sam's miserable gaze on him all the way, when he slowed. Half-glanced back, eyes sliding over Sam's chest without making it up to his face. "Or you can stay and watch, if you want. You won't see as much, but I guess I can explain what I'm doing."
Sam pushed himself off the bench and swallowed his grin. Dean remained a delicate balance, and Sam had pushed him too hard lately. But it still felt like hope. "All right."
Dean gave a curt nod, eyes darting briefly to Sam's before he turned and walked out. Sam followed him, thinking of a four-year-old climbing in with his baby brother for solace.
If Dean wouldn't come to him this time, Sam would just have to go after his brother.