Title: Watching You Watching Me
Characters: Dean, Sam
Category: Gen, H/C, Angst
Timeframe: Between 4.01 and 4.02
Spoilers: Up to 4.02
Summary: Dean is loud. Sam can see right through him.
Word Count: 1272
Disclaimer: Dean, Sam, and the Impala do not belong to me. Them's the breaks, and you gotta roll with 'em.
Author's Note: Companion to "Watching Me Watching You."
Watching You Watching Me
Sam knew what Dean was doing, and he was okay with it.
Admittedly, he had completely freaked out when he returned to the motel room and found glass everywhere, windows and mirrors shattered, no Dean. Something in his mind buckled under, short-circuited, as his head filled with roaring white noise and a shrieking certainty that Dean was gone, Dean was dead, Dean had been taken again, it was all his fault, he shouldn't have left, this was his brother and Sam should have been watching out for him.
Then the step at the doorway and Sam spun around, saw Dean and Bobby, solid and real, though he didn't believe it until Dean walked over and gripped his shoulder and started in on his usual bull, acting like it was just prairie wind that had shattered all the glass, for pity's sake, how transparent could you be? But Dean's hand on his shoulder was fierce and strong, and his sleeve clenched in Sam's fingers was scratchy and warm, and his eyes were piercing and alive, looking back at him so carefully, so apologetically, so Dean-ly, and Sam let himself be distracted, persuaded, comforted by his big brother's presence filling the room, his voice filling the air with words that meant nothing and everything.
And yeah, that night he lay awake for far too long, just watching Dean sleep, listening to Dean breathe, but there was nothing wrong with that. Dean had been gone for four months. He could put up with Sam staring at him for a few days. Sam just needed to make sure, that was all.
It wasn't just him. Sam saw the uncertainty in Dean's eyes, the way he tested the ground under his feet sometimes, as if making sure it still felt the same, the way he drank water as if it tasted like nectar from the gods. At breakfast the next morning he ordered food that made Sam think he was afraid that an apocalyptic shortage on grease was imminent, and made fun of Sam for eating sensibly, but he ate with such savor, such obvious enjoyment. Dean had thought that he'd never be able to do this again. Sometimes coming back was harder than leaving.
And then Dean told him the truth. An angel had "gripped him tight and raised him from perdition." Dean quoted the words with scorn, but Sam felt only hope and joy bursting in his chest, like filling his lungs with sweet, pure oxygen. He believed it instantly, the skepticism in Dean's scowl only cementing his trust. The relief was dizzying, overpowering. Not a demon. It hadn't been a demon chasing Dean down, dragging him through fire and flames for some hidden purpose.
He had doubted over the long months, the threads of his faith slipping from his shaky grip. Without Dean to help make the world solid he had been lost, searching for something good to hold on to. But now… Now it all made sense. God hadn't been gone. He'd just been biding His time.
Dean wouldn't be able to believe that, Sam knew. Not yet. So he said nothing. But Sam believed enough for them both, just like when they went to Nebraska to find a cure for Dean's damaged heart. Maybe another cure could be found now.
Sam had to shove down the guilt that rose instantly at Dean's complete and unconditional honesty, though. He couldn't return it, not right now. But he would, soon. He would tell Dean everything as soon he had figured it out for himself. Sam had found something that helped him through those months, gave him a purpose and reason to keep fighting, and he couldn't find it in himself to call that wrong. But how would Dean react? Probably not well.
Sam didn't want to find out just yet.
He was too busy just being glad to walk beside his brother again, even if Dean was trying a little too hard. Driving too fast, singing too loud, flirting too much. It was all the same thing: making sure the ground was firm, no sinkholes, that the sky was still blue and the sun was still warm. So Sam let him do it. He smiled when appropriate and made sure his brother didn't stumble, figuratively or literally. Dean let Sam catch him, once, and didn't shake off his hand, and that was proof enough for Sam that his brother needed it.
Occasionally he even sang along. And yeah, okay, it was good for Sam, too.
Sam hadn't been the one to get Dean out, and he was still sorry about that. But who had done it instead? An angel. An angel of the Lord. That was so fantastic, so wonderful that Sam couldn't even put it into words.
Also, finally, for once, it wasn't Sam who had been chosen by a shadowy figure for reasons unclear. Dean had been chosen, plucked from the Pit, for goodness' sake. Chosen by an angel. How freaking fantastic was that? At that point, Sam didn't even care what Dean had been chosen for.
Sam didn't bother bringing it up yet—Dean wasn't ready to hear it. He helped Dean work on the Impala once they got back to Bobby's, the smell of oil mixing with the dust of the salvage yard. Obligingly, he listed everything he had done for the car over the past four months. Dean bitched and moaned and complained, and Sam listened, grinning silently at Dean's stupid nicknames. It was all just proof that his brother was back, whole and complete, every flaw gloriously intact.
But Sam also saw what slipped in between the edges, outside the times when Dean was busy being large and loud and full. There were moments when Dean went quiet, and Sam saw him studying things in ways he never had before. Times when Dean stared into the distance, eyes darting rapidly back and forth, as if desperately memorizing the trees along the highway, the wallpaper in Bobby's library, the sunset floating behind the September clouds. Times when he stopped to listen to birds, to the wind, to Sam's and Bobby's voices. Times when he gripped things too hard, leaving deep impressions in his skin—a wrench, a spoon, the Impala's steering wheel, the edge of the bathroom sink as he stared in the mirror, eyes wide and blank and elsewhere.
Did Dean really remember nothing about Hell? Sam hoped so. He was beginning to wonder, though.
The morning Sam found Dean like that in the bathroom, holding the sink with soap-slick fingers, staring helplessly at himself in the mirror, Sam decided that it was time for a change. Time to run in headlong, make Dean face the things he'd been avoiding. Dean wouldn't talk about it, but Sam and Bobby had been researching, trying to find information on this Castiel. There wasn't much.
He cleared his throat several times, until Dean came back to himself and looked over, abruptly annoyed. "Dude, bathroom time. You mind?" As if there had been no interruption, he finished rinsing his hands and reached for a towel.
Sam shook his head. "So, angels."
"Oh, we are so not having this conversation." Dean threw his towel in the sink and stomped out, shouldering Sam out of the way. Two steps down the hallway he paused and turned back, pointing a finger at Sam. "It was not an angel. Now, I'm gonna go get a snack. Does Bobby have anything good?"
Sam smiled grimly and followed him down the stairs and into the kitchen. This was going to be a long one, he could tell already.