A/N: I've been grappling with writer's block and this fic has been sitting on my hard drive since shortly after the episode aired. I'm hoping that posting it will give me the kick I need to get it finished. Thanks as always to iamstealthyone for her beta magic.
I'm standing on the edge of my fear
And I see it clear
Resolution -- Nick Lachey
Sam raised his gun as Dean burst through the trees, head thrown back, arms and legs pumping. Ellie Watson was hot on his brother's heels, teeth bared and unruly blonde hair flying. As they drew closer, she growled and flung out a pale arm.
Dean dodged sharply left, but in the same instant, Ellie's fingers locked onto his flannel shirt. Her vicious shove sabotaged Dean's attempt at a graceful tuck and roll and sent him tumbling. His head struck a marble tombstone, and he slid to the ground in a tangled heap.
Sam watched his brother squint unfocused eyes and struggle to stand, his movements slow and clumsy. He shifted his gaze to Ellie, who had pulled up less than a yard from the open grave. As he tightened his finger on the trigger, he noted with some fascination the stillness of her chest.
"Wait! Please, don't." She slowly stretched out a hand, palm up.
He froze. Something in her voice . . .
"You don't have to do this." She stepped closer. "Please. Just . . . Just let me go."
Ice water flooded his veins and he broke out in gooseflesh. His pulse pounded in his ears and the air felt too thick and heavy for his laboring lungs. Her voice . . . soft and broken. Wide, liquid blue eyes . . . pleading . . .
She scrabbles backward, dirt and broken glass cutting her palms and soiling a tattered floral dress. Wisps of blonde hair straggle free from a gold clip; a bruise darkens her cheekbone and blood trails from her nose.
"S-sam, no. You don't have to do this," she pleads, tears spilling down her cheeks. "Just…just let me go. I promise I w-won't . . . I won't t-tell."
He leans in close, stroking the razor-sharp blade against the swollen flesh of her split lip, the wayward strands of hair at her temple. His smile widens when she flinches with a strangled whimper.
Tipping his head, he lets his lips brush her ear. "Oh, sweetheart. I know you won't."
A flick of his wrist, and warmth splatters his face and neck.
He doesn't flinch.
He slammed into his body--sights and sounds rushed at him with dizzying speed. The pop-bang of a gun. Dean crashing into Ellie with enough force to send her tumbling into the grave, then diving after her. An enraged shriek. The wet crunch of metal meeting flesh and bone.
His stomach churning, Sam blinked, the world tilting, then settling. He realized he was still standing on the lip of the grave, gun outstretched.
"What the hell's the matter with you?"
With a shake of his head, Sam struggled to focus. Dean glared at him from where he straddled a now-motionless Ellie, his hands still wrapped around the knife driven through her ribcage.
"You nearly got yourself killed! If I'd been a little slower she'd've snapped your neck." Dean climbed out of the grave, wiping dirt and blackened blood from his fingers with a grimace. He glared at Sam, then did a double take. "Sammy?"
Sam's gun hand dropped limply to his side and his legs folded. As his knees hit the grass, he swayed, but Dean was there, holding him up. Sam scrubbed a hand over his face, staring at his fingers when they came away clean.
"Talk to me, Sam." Dean gripped Sam's cheeks between his palms. His voice had moved from irritation through concern to full-blown worry. "What's going on? Are you hurt?"
"No . . . I . . . I don't know." Sam clutched Dean's arms, sucking in a ragged breath. He was so damn confused, but one thing was crystal clear. "Dean, I . . . I killed her."
Dean continued to study Sam's face, but the tension in his shoulders eased a little, and he dropped his hands. "No, I killed her. Well, technically she was already dead, but, you know what I mean."
Sam stared back, Dean's words gradually filtering through the terror and making sense. His eyes flicked to the corpse, then back to his brother. "No, not . . . not her. The other girl."
"What other girl?"
"The one in the alley." Sam swallowed hard but the nausea rose up, his gut clenching and bile stinging his throat. "The one I . . ." He scrubbed both hands over his face, his eyes hot and wet. "Oh, God, Dean. I just . . . I killed her."
Dean rubbed a hand across his lips, then through his hair. He glanced at the open grave and scanned the cemetery before standing. "C'mon."
Sam looked at his brother's outstretched hand, then up at his face. "Huh?"
With a huff, Dean grabbed hold of his elbow and hoisted him to his feet. "Let's go."
Before he could move away, Sam curled his fists in Dean's shirt. "Didn't you hear what I said?"
Uncharacteristically gentle, Dean pried loose Sam's fingers. "I heard. And we'll talk, okay? But not now, and not here. Just shut up and follow me."
It was easier to obey than question. Sam's wobbly legs steadied as they walked, and by the time they neared the Impala his heart rate had slowed. He sagged against the front bumper while Dean went around to the passenger door and rummaged in the back seat.
After stealing several glances over his shoulder, Sam frowned and scratched the back of his neck. "Uh, Dean? What are you doing?"
Dean emerged with a bottle of water. "Drink," he said as he thrust it into Sam's hands.
Sam scowled at the order. "Dean, I--"
"Five minutes ago you looked ready to pass out or hurl. Or both. Drink it." Threads of worry ran through the sharpness.
Sam cracked open the bottle and drank, thirst kicking in after the first couple swallows. Dean watched him, his gaze assessing, and Sam braced himself for the inevitable questions. Instead, his brother sat beside him, just close enough that their shoulders brushed.
Sam drew in a shaky breath. "I was in an alley. There was a girl. About my age, I guess, or a little younger. Pretty. She . . . she was hurt, bruises, bloody nose . . . And she was terrified. Of me." The words caught in his throat, and he took another swig of water.
"Are you sure it was you?" Dean asked.
S-sam, no. You don't have to do this.
"Yeah." Sam pinched the bridge of his nose. "She, uh . . . She called me by name…begged me to let her go. I had a knife and I . . . I . . . cut her throat." He rubbed a hand over his face and squeezed his eyes shut. "I felt the blood."
Dean didn't say anything for a moment, just leaned his shoulder into Sam's. "Could it have been one of your freaky visions? Like River Grove?"
He never thought he'd wish for a vision, but man, he wanted it to be. The events he saw in his visions were preventable--despite his poor track record with making that happen. But this . . .
Sam slowly shook his head. "I didn't get a headache. But it's more than that. When I have a vision, it's like I'm detached, an observer. This . . ." He swallowed, throat clicking. "I was there."
"What are you saying?" Dean asked. "That it was a memory?"
Nausea rose up, hot and liquid in his belly. "Ellie was standing there, begging me to let her go, and then . . . it wasn't Ellie anymore. It was . . . her."
Dean frowned. "Sounds like it could be a flashback."
Sam flung out an arm. "Could be? Dean, it doesn't take a genius to figure out what this is about. I killed that girl the same way I killed Steve Wandell."
With a stubborn jut of his jaw, Dean shook his head. "Your girlfriend Meg killed Wandell."
"You know what I mean! There's a whole week of my life that I haven't been able to account for." The anger bled out of him, leaving exhaustion and a pounding headache in its wake. "Looks like I found one of the missing pieces."
He closed burning eyes, but that brought her face into sharp focus--the blood, the bruises, the fear. Who was she? Where did she come from? Was her family mourning her--parents, sister, brother? Or were they still looking? God, he didn't even know what he'd done with her body.
It wasn't until Dean's hand pressed the back of his neck that he realized he was practically hyperventilating. "I'm okay," he choked and concentrated on slowing his breathing.
One squeeze, and Dean released him. "Look, Sammy. We're gonna figure this out. But for now I want you to just sit tight, okay?" He slid off the hood and began walking back toward the grave.
Sam stood too quickly, and for a moment sparkles dotted his vision. "Dean? What are you doing?"
Though he turned to face Sam, Dean kept walking. "Finishing what we started. That caretaker may be partying with José and Jack, but he's bound to make the rounds sometime soon."
Dean waved him off. "Just chill, Sammy. You look like crap. You try handling a shovel and you'll wind up face planting on our girl Ellie."
He couldn't find it in him to argue--especially since he suspected Dean was right. His head throbbed as if it might split open, his arms and legs felt too loose and shaky, and he kept seeing flickers of the girl's face like dust motes at the edges of his vision.
The breeze kicked up, stirring dirt and sending a stray pop can clattering down the pavement. The temperature had dropped significantly over the last hour; the chill dried the sweat at the nape of his neck and started him shivering.
Sam retreated to the passenger seat of the Impala, wrapping himself in his arms. It was happening. For two weeks he'd been living on edge, desperate to fill the blanks in his memory, terrified of what he might see if he did.
It was every bit the horror show he'd imagined.
He closed his eyes, unable to resist pulling out the existing pieces, like poking a sore tooth with your tongue.
Steve Wandell, by all accounts a good man. A hunter who'd killed a lot of nasty stuff, saved a lot of people. A father. Dead, his throat cut.
Jo, smart and tough, but just a kid really, and more naïve than she'd ever admit. Bruises. A mild concussion. And something else, something never spoken, that lurked beneath her stubborn assurances of "I'm fine" and "I don't blame you." A darkness in her eyes whenever she looked at him . . .
Eyes that looked a lot like the girl in the alley.
And Dean. The first person he trusted, depended on. The last he'd want to hurt. He'd shot his own brother, then beaten him so severely that Dean still stiffened up at night, his arm and chest a palette of fading purple, green, and yellow. Worse than the bruises, though, was the hurt he sometimes caught in his brother's eyes in those rare, unguarded moments when Dean didn't realize Sam was looking. Sam had learned at an early age that words could be as destructive as weapons. Whatever he'd said--the words had wounded Dean with brutal accuracy.
Meg's words, sure, but spoken through his mouth. He'd been nothing more than a tool, a…ameatsuit. Images assaulted him in rapid, short bursts like a strobe light: smooth cut of a knife, spurt of blood, screaming, his hand buried in strands of blonde hair, a face--God, Jo's face--slammed against wood, a gunshot, Dean jerking, falling, water . . .
Sam shoved the car door open and twisted, dropping his feet onto the pavement. Cradling his head in his hands, he worked to draw air past the iron bands tightening his chest.
Was this what it would be like when he went dark side? A prisoner inside his own body, destroying not just strangers but everyone he cared about?
Sam rubbed the inside of his right arm, where Dean had drawn the symbol from Bobby's anti-possession charm with permanent marker. Sam knew his brother had viewed it not only as a fail-safe, but as the means to help him regain some measure of control--and maybe even ease the nightmares that had haunted his sleep.
"No demon, no matter how bad ass, can get past this," Dean had assured him with that cocky grin that Sam found alternately amusing and irritating. "It's like deadbolting the door, Sammy. What's out is gonna stay out. Trust me."
And Sam had nodded and kept his mouth shut because there was no point in bursting Dean's bubble with what he knew to be the flip side of that metaphor: Locking the door was no damn good if the monster was already inside with you.
"Just . . . just let me go. I promise I w-won't . . . I won't t-tell."
"Oh, sweetheart. I know you won't."
His stomach rolled and twisted. Lurching upright, he staggered to the grass before his legs gave out. His vision tunneled and static filled his ears as he struggled to drag air past the breath-stealing clenching in his gut as he lost the water he'd just drank and what remained of his dinner.
Eventually he became aware of a hand on his back and the steady drone of words. His body reacted to the familiar sound even before his brain could tag it with a name. The retching slowed, then quieted, leaving him huddled on hands and knees, panting raggedly.
". . . can't take you anywhere." Dean's voice was calm and steady and warm with affection despite his words. "I mean, dude--you know how I feel about puking. At least you didn't do it in my baby, though, I'll give you that."
"Don't say I've never done nothin' for you." Sam cleared his throat and spat, scrubbing his sleeve across his mouth as he sat back on his heels. His face felt hot, his body frozen. He wrapped his arms around his ribs and willed himself to stop shivering.
Dean removed his hand but continued to watch him. "Another flashback?"
BlondehairbonecrunchingnoSamstopgunshotwarmblood . . .
Sam shuddered, squeezing shut his eyes and breathing through his mouth as he forced down another surge of queasiness.Barely.
"Huh?" He stared at Dean, disoriented.
"Was. It. Another. Flashback?" Dean repeated it with exaggerated clarity but worry etched lines around his eyes, lurked in the tight set to his mouth.
Worry for him. And damn it, he was tired of putting that look there.
"Guess so. I'm okay, Dean."
Dean snorted and shook his head. "Yeah, you look it."
He tightened his arms, suppressing a shiver. "I am. I just . . . Can we go back to the motel?"
"I just need some sleep." He squarely met Dean's gaze, dredging up every ounce of bullshit he'd cultivated over years of hiding things from their dad. "Really."
It either worked, or Dean was too weary to call him on it. "Fine."
He stood and grabbed Sam under the arm, hauling him upright and steering him back to the car on unsteady feet. Sliding behind the wheel, Dean reached for the ignition, only to pause and wrinkle his nose.
"Dude." He reached across Sam and rolled down the window.
"Jerk," Sam muttered, but his heart wasn't really in it.
The water bottle tossed into his lap and the warm hand on the back of his neck said Dean's wasn't either.
Continued in chapter 2