Away from the Sun
Disclaimer: See Chapter 1
A/N: I got this section back from my beta and I've been tweaking the end for what seems like hours. Okay, maybe it really has been hours….I don't know if one of the previous versions was better than this one, but this is what I'm going with.
I love getting inside Dean's head and I'm looking forward to seeing what Kripke and company come up with for season four. These characters mean more to me than they really should….
Thanks for reading; I appreciate the reviews and private messages. It's always nice to know what worked for you guys and what didn't. And if you're not familiar with 3 Doors Down, the band whose lyrics I used in this story, check them out.
Memories have left you broken
And the scars have never healed
The emptiness in you is growing
But so little left to fill
You're scared to look back on the days before
You're too tired to move on
And now you think that you're the only one who doesn't
You hide behind your walls
Of maybe nevers
Forgetting that there's something more
Than just knowing better
Your mistakes do not define you now
They tell you who you're not
You've got to live this life you're given
Like it's the only one you've got
It's the Only One You've Got, 3 Doors Down
It's down to this
I've got to make this life make sense
Can anyone tell what I've done
I miss the life
I miss the colors of the world
Can anyone tell where I am
'Cause now again I've found myself
So far down, away from the sun
That shines into the darkest place
I'm so far down, away from the sun again
Away from the sun again
Away From the Sun, 3 Doors Down
Sam had been too distracted by the condition of the room when he got back from the store to remember the protection ritual, so the demon was still hovering in a corner. The wave of emotion coming from Dean was stronger than anything the demon had felt from the man before and he was drunk with it.
There was no reason to probe the depths of Dean's anguish because it was practically flooding the room. The demon could tell that Sam felt it, too, and the younger man's agony was just as delicious as that of his brother.
The demon hadn't been able to find anything about Dean's time alone with their father. He knew Sam had gone off to college, but what happened during that time was locked away and he'd not been able to get to it. He couldn't tell if what Dean was remembering now were the actual facts or something he'd manufactured. There was too much raw emotion to get any closer to the man and he had no idea what was going to happen next.
"Dean," Sam managed to whisper. "No, man. I didn't leave you. Come on, you know that, right? You know I didn't leave you."
Dean shook his head. "Everyone leaves me."
"Dean, I'm right here."
"God, I feel like my head is going to explode," Dean turned away. "I'm sorry."
"You don't have anything to be sorry for," Sam said as he took a few careful steps forward.
Dean glanced at him.
"So, you know I'm not going anywhere, right?"
Dean said nothing, but Sam could see he was tense.
"I shouldn't have brought that up. It's all in the past."
"Come on, dude, haven't you figured it out yet? You have to deal with this stuff; you have to move past it."
Dean moved away and sat down on the nearest bed. Sam joined him after a moment. "Is that how you really feel? That I left you?"
"It wasn't that you went to school. I didn't like you being away from the family, but I knew it was something you really wanted to do. Hell, it was something you needed to do. But…"
"But what?" Sam asked gently.
"When you and Dad couldn't get past that fight…"
Sam watched as his brother struggled with the words. He knew what Dean was going to say and all of a sudden he realized what he'd done. He and their father had had an awful fight before Sam left where he was all but banished from ever coming back. At first, he and Dean kept in touch, but it got too hard for Sam and he'd asked Dean not to call for a while. A while turned into weeks, then months and then years. He'd never intended that to happen and looking back, he couldn't believe he'd even asked that of his brother.
"I'm sorry, Dean. I…." Sam had no idea what to say to make it better. He couldn't fix this because it hadn't been a misunderstanding between them. Sam had only intended the distance to last for a few weeks; long enough for him to really get his footing at school, but it had been too easy to let it go on. "I was wrong, Dean. I was being selfish and I'm sorry."
"It's over," Dean said quietly.
"You know I never meant to hurt you, right? I'd never do that intentionally."
Dean nodded, but Sam wasn't so sure Dean really believed him.
"I'm here, okay? I'm one hundred percent here."
"I know you are, Sammy. And I coulda called after a while, right? It wasn't just you."
"You were just doing what I asked."
Dean shrugged one shoulder.
"What about what you said? That Dad left you behind. You don't really believe he only wanted you around just for me, do you?"
Dean shrugged again. "I don't know. I don't want to believe that, but things just weren't the same after you were gone. I guess there's no way they could have been, though. But even before that, it just seemed like I was more of a pain in his ass than anything else."
"I think I was the pain in his ass. He was always pissed at me for asking questions and not following his orders. He appreciated you doing what he asked; he knew he could count on you."
"At the hospital, before he….before he made that deal... Dean, I think he knew there was only one shot to save you and he took it. And it wasn't just so you could be around to watch after me. He loved you, Dean. I know he did."
"I wish I knew that."
Dean's voice was so soft that Sam wasn't sure at first he'd spoken.
"He was hard on you, I know that, too. But….I used to watch you when you, especially when you worked on the car with him. I would have given anything for that kind of time with him, but I was too pig-headed and never tried to find a way. I know that me telling you that Dad loved you doesn't mean much, but I think if you go back and think about it for yourself, you'll see it. Dad did the best he could, but sometimes it didn't come across as well as it could have."
"He'd be really pissed at me about now if he was here."
Sam looked at his brother. "You know, I'm not so sure he would be."
Dean seemed surprised. "Yeah, right. Whenever something bothered him, he just sucked it up and moved on. He wasn't weak."
"Neither are you," Sam insisted. "Besides, Dad drank more than you do and we don't know what he did when he was off on hunts without us. We don't know what he did to cope with everything."
"Besides," Sam continued when Dean didn't respond. "I think it's stronger to face your problems than ignore them. You're dealing with all this stuff, talking to me and agreeing to talk to the guy Bobby knows…come on, man, it's all going to finally be in the past for real and it will never have power over you again."
Dean looked at his brother, a mixture of humor and hope in his eyes. Sam expected him to make some smartass remark about psychobabble or chick flick moments, but Dean only nodded.
"Maybe you're right, Sammy."
The demon was disappointed that all of the high intensity emotions coming from Dean seemed to be over. He watched as the brothers cleaned up the mess Dean had made, then settled on their beds with the pizza and beer to watch some idiotic sit-com on television before going to sleep. He hadn't felt this level of tranquility from Dean before and it was a huge letdown after what he had been experiencing. Neither brother remembered the protection ritual, but there didn't seem to be a point in routing around in Dean's head. He'd started to face his feelings and before long, the things he'd been hiding from himself would even start to surface. He thought about checking in when the counseling started, but the demon felt he was about at the end of the fun for now.
Knowing there was probably nothing more to see, the demon watched as the brothers slept; surprised at how reluctant he was to leave. At first, he'd stuck around out of curiosity. He'd wanted to find out what was so special about this Winchester he'd heard so much about. But then when he realized the legendary hunter wasn't quite himself, the demon stayed around to find out what would happen next. He thought the game was over when Dean recovered his memory and reunited with his brother, but that's when things had gotten really interesting. And now? Well, maybe he just wanted to see it to the end. It wasn't possible for him to actually care about Dean….was it?
The demon settled back in a corner of the room; he may as well stick around until the boys got to Bobby's.
The next morning, the brothers woke up within a few minutes of one another. Dean had a headache, almost as if he was hung over, but he hadn't even finished two beers the night before. He didn't want to let on to Sam how bad he really felt, but he admitted to not being at his best.
After they showered and dressed, the brothers headed out of Madison, with Sam behind the wheel. As Sam had suspected, Dean didn't want breakfast, so they ate doughnuts in the car and stopped for a real meal when they were far enough out of town that Dean felt comfortable no one he'd met when he was in town before would be around.
The demon tagged along with them, hanging out in the diner when they stopped for a late breakfast. He listened as they talked about nothing in particular then faded into a comfortable silence with a section of the morning paper.
Dean felt a little better after food and coffee, but he still let Sam drive. Curled up in the seat and leaning against the passenger side door, Dean let his eyes close and his mind wander. He thought about his childhood and how he'd always tried so hard to impress his father; all he'd ever wanted was his dad's love and acceptance. It seemed he'd had it for a while, but he didn't know if it had been real or just an illusion. Sam was convinced their father had loved him and Sam wouldn't lie; not even in an attempt to make him feel better.
It hadn't been fair that the yellow-eyed demon had chosen his family. As far as Dean knew, it was random and even if it had somehow been connected to Sam, it was something manufactured by the yellow-eyed bastard. Sam had been just a baby; he couldn't have been responsible for what happened.
Sam was probably right; their dad had done the best he could. It must have been hard enough to lose the woman he loved, but to lose her to a demon? And to find out the monsters in the closet were real? It was a wonder John Winchester made it through that as well as he did….that's what the adult in Dean thought, anyway. The little boy in him still desperately wanted his daddy.
And what of the life he'd invented and told Lindsey about? It made sense to Dean that he'd made his family whole; his life would have been so different if his mom had lived. He used to make fun of Sam for wanting a so-called normal life, but secretly, that's what Dean had always wanted. He liked the weapons he used as a hunter and enjoyed getting rid of the evil creatures, but he also wanted a home to go to. And maybe, just maybe, someone to share that home with him. Dean would always want Sam close by, but he also wanted a woman that was more than a one-night stand. Every now and then, Dean would allow himself to think about that. Usually it was when he was drunk or had just bedded some random woman he picked up in a bar. He never allowed himself to think about it for very long thought because it always hurt too much. He knew he would never have it; he probably didn't even deserve it.
He and Sam had talked a lot in the last few days and one thing Sam had told him kept coming back to him – it was okay to want things for himself. Dean had never really been given that opportunity. He had so much put on his shoulders at too young an age and it rarely occurred to him that he might want something other than what he had. Even the few times he thought about his future, he'd felt guilty if what he pictured didn't include hunting.
Dean shifted in the seat and watched his brother through half-closed eyes. Sam was so different than the little boy he had protected; different even than the kid who had gone off to college. He was strong and confident, no longer needing to stand behind Dean. Sam was perfectly willing to stand beside him, though and Dean appreciated that.
Sam had never found it necessary to hide behind a game face. He didn't whine or make excuses, but if he was in emotional pain, he wasn't afraid to show it. The one notable exception was right after Jessica died. Dean had known how much Jessica's death hurt Sam, especially losing her to the demon that had already caused so much damage to their lives, but getting through Sam's defenses, defenses that Dean hadn't even known existed, had proven difficult. Part of that, Dean assumed, was because of the distance that had grown between him and Sam. Whatever it was, he was glad Sam had managed to move forward and they had repaired their relationship.
Sam glanced at him. "Yeah?"
Sam looked at him again and Dean thought he was going to make him explain his gratitude. Instead, Sam smiled and turned his eyes back to the road. "You're welcome."
The brothers had a long day in the car, but after stopping for gas and coffee Dean had finally started to feel more like his old self. Back behind the wheel, he turned up the music and finished the drive to South Dakota.
They'd spoken to Bobby a few times from the road and when Dean pulled up in front of his house at the salvage yard, the old man was waiting for them on the porch. He was all but recovered from the car accident, but his face still showed evidence of the cuts and bruises he had sustained.
Dean stood next to his car, suddenly filled with uncertainty as he looked toward his friend. He saw Sam smile at him encouragingly, but he couldn't make himself move.
"Gimme a second, okay, Sammy?"
Sam nodded and headed toward the house. Dean watched as he exchanged a few words with Bobby, then continued inside.
"What are you waiting for, boy?" Bobby called, his tone friendly.
Reluctantly, Dean shut the car door and took a few steps forward. He hadn't expected to be this nervous; it was only Bobby, after all. Bobby stepped off the porch and as he walked toward him, Dean noticed the limp. Bobby had mentioned it in one of their phone conversations, but had made light of it.
"You look good," Dean said when they were only a few steps apart.
Bobby nodded. "Yeah, I'm a real ladies' man. You and me go out together and the women won't give you a second look."
"You all right?" Bobby asked after a moment.
Dean shrugged, squinting into the sunlight. "I'm better."
"I'm proud of you, boy. Facing up to everything this way? It can't be easy."
Dean looked away, but felt Bobby's hand on the back of his neck and turned back toward him. He could feel the tears already burning his eyes, but there was no sense in trying to hide them. He resisted for a moment as Bobby pulled him closer, then wrapped his arms around him.
"I'm sorry, Bobby," Dean said.
"You got nothing to be sorry about, son," Bobby said gently as he held Dean securely.
After a few moments, they moved apart and walked to the house together. Passing through the door, Dean realized this was the one place in the whole world that almost felt like home. He and Sam had spent time at Bobby's as children, but it had never felt as warm and comfortable to him as it did now. He walked through the house to the kitchen, barely seeing the clutter and mess as he passed by.
Sam handed Dean a beer and they sat down at the table with Bobby. He'd made a simple meal for them and it was the first time in while that Dean actually enjoyed what he was eating. After finishing dinner and cleaning up the few dishes, the men headed off to bed.
Sam followed his brother to the bedroom Bobby had made up for them and tossed a pillow onto the floor.
"You don't have to do that," Dean told him. "You can sleep in the bed."
"I didn't run off last night, did I?"
Sam picked up the pillow and sat on the edge of the bed. "Dean?"
Dean looked at him.
"When I didn't know where you were….I was really scared, man. I don't know what I would have done if –"
"There's no if here, Sammy."
"Yeah," Sam said, his hands clasped between his knees.
Dean sat across from him. "You know, this isn't over, right? That doctor will be here tomorrow and I don't know what's going to happen."
"I don't know, either, but I'll be right there with you."
"You're my brother," Sam said as if that explained everything.
The demon hovered on the periphery of Bobby's property, knowing better than to roam around. Bobby's skills were well known and his house had been described as a mine field by others who knew from experience. From this distance he was just able to get a sense of what was going on in the house and he felt the peace that had come over Dean.
He didn't know specifically what the future held for the Winchesters, but he knew that Dean would recover from the last couple of weeks and would be stronger for it. The bond between the brothers was already sound, but this experience had brought them even closer together and shown Dean a side of his brother he hadn't seen before. He would always be the big brother and would always feel protective of Sam, but now he knew he could lean on Sam once in a while, too.
Satisfied that things were in order and feeling oddly sorrowful to leave, the demon reluctantly began to move away. He promised himself that he would check on the boys soon and might even tag along with them when they left to take on a job. Maybe one day they might even need his help.
The brothers spent several weeks with Bobby and the doctor worked with Dean as intensively as Dean let him. Despite the nightmares and frequent headaches Dean while undergoing the counseling, he felt better than he had in a quite a while. He accepted the conflicting feelings he had about his father and the childhood he and Sam had shared. When the doctor left, he was pleased with the progress Dean made, even though there were things he still refused to deal with.
A few months later a job took Sam and Dean close to Madison. Once they'd taken care of the malevolent ghosts at the recently reopened hospital, Dean surprised Sam by asking if he'd spoken to Lindsey since they'd been in town before.
"A couple of times," Sam admitted, watching Dean carefully.
"You didn't tell me."
"No," Sam agreed.
"Do you think she'd be willing to talk to me?"
"I think so," Sam said after a moment. "You want to talk to her?"
Dean turned the beer bottle around in his hands. "I almost feel like I have to. The shrink told me it probably wouldn't be a bad idea."
Sam took his phone from his coat pocket and set it on the table. "I can call her – unless you want to?"
"No," Dean said quickly. "You call her. See if she has time tomorrow before we leave."
Sam nodded. "I'll call from outside where it's quieter."
In the bar's parking lot, Sam dialed Lindsey's number and listened to the ringing while thinking about the last few months. Dean had opened up to him more recently than he had in a long time, but Sam knew that Dean's mask was still firmly in place. Dean still acted like the big brother, but he let Sam in more than he had before.
In some ways Dean had changed a lot, but some things would probably always be the same. Fundamentally, Dean was who he was and he'd adjusted his attitude just enough to keep his sanity. That was enough for Sam; he saw each small step that his brother made as a major victory.
Sam spoke with Lindsey for several minutes before going back to his brother. Lindsey had agreed to meet them in the same coffee shop where Sam had first spoken to her. Dean nodded and stayed quiet for the rest of the night.
At Dean's request, Sam went to the coffee shop with him the next morning. Lindsey was already there and after making rather awkward introductions, Sam left them alone.
"I, uh, I wish I could remember…." Dean looked at her, an indescribable warmth filling him. "I'm sorry."
Lindsey smiled at him. "You don't have anything to be sorry for. And I should be thanking you, anyway."
"Thanking me for what?"
"I loved my husband very much and I was devastated when he got sick. I can't even tell you what bad shape I was in when he died. It was like I died right along with him. I went through the motions of being alive, but I wasn't really. I did what was expected of me and pretended that I was happy. I was convinced that I would never be interested in another man."
Dean watched as she stared into her coffee. When she looked at him, her bright blue eyes glistened with tears, but there was a soft smile on her lips.
"I don't know what happened in the bar that night. You were sitting there, all cocky and sweet at the same time….I have no idea why I talked to you, let alone asked you back to my place. Dean, you opened my eyes; you made me feel alive for the first time in years. My life is different now. It's better. And I have you to thank for that."
"I didn't do anything," Dean protested softly.
"I know that you didn't set out to do anything, but it was you that woke me up. I know that this is going to sound incredibly cheesy, but it's like you put the color back into my world. Everything is more vibrant, more beautiful. You're a very special man, Dean."
"I think I was just in the right place at the right time."
Lindsey shook her head, but said nothing.
"I can be kind of a bastard," Dean said a moment later. "My relationships are all pretty much one-night stands. I knew there had to be something about you for me to stick around more than a few minutes….And now that I've met you – again – I really wish I could remember those few days. I think they must have been…."
"They were," Lindsey agreed.
They talked easily for the next half hour when Lindsey had to leave for work. Dean walked with her to her car; she opened the door, but turned back to face him.
"I'm really glad you wanted to see me," she smiled at Dean. "And I'm glad that things are going better for you.'
"Thanks," he nodded, feeling a little uncomfortable.
Lindsey smiled at him, then reached out to gently touch his cheek. "I'll never see you again, will I?"
Dean shrugged. "Probably not."
Lindsey nodded. "Well…Take care of yourself, Dean. I get this feeling that you're searching for something. I hope you find it because….well, because I think you deserve some happiness."
Dean didn't know what to say and didn't think he could have spoken even if he had the right words. He felt Lindsey's hand on the back of his neck and a moment later she leaned toward him. Their kiss was gentle, but it gave Dean more fulfillment than anything he'd ever experienced. He felt a connection to this stranger and as he watched her drive away, he couldn't help but think he'd missed out on something that could have been amazing.
Once Lindsey's car had gone around the corner, Dean joined Sam in the Impala. He looked questioningly at Dean as he slipped behind the wheel, but didn't press when Dean only nodded.
They already had another job to get to and as Dean reached for the volume control on the radio, he realized that he was okay. He wanted to tell Sam what he and Lindsey had spoken about and the resulting feelings, but not yet. He wasn't afraid to admit how he felt; he just wanted to keep the warmth and contentment to himself to enjoy for a little while longer.
That night would be soon enough for a conversation with Sam.