Title: Darkness, My Old Friend
Characters: Sam Winchester, Mr. Wyatt
Category: Gen, Angst
Spoilers: 4.13—picks up where the episode left off.
Summary: "Are you happy?" It should be a simple question with a simple answer, but nothing in Sam's life is simple right now.
Word Count: 1560
Disclaimer: Pretty sure they're not mine.
Author's Note: Once again, my meta prefers to show itself in fic form rather than an essay. For the record: I love Sam. There will be no bashing. If you want to read Sam-hate, go somewhere else. Also, I seem to have suddenly lost the ability to come up with my own titles. This one is from "Sound of Silence" by Simon & Garfunkel.
Darkness, My Old Friend
Mr. Wyatt was still looking at him, waiting patiently for a response. Sam's throat was closing up on him, any words he might have spoken drying up and blowing away before he could form them. In a moment here the older man was going to notice.
It ought to be a simple question. "Are you happy?" Sam should have been able to come up with an easy response, a flip non-answer. But somehow he couldn't bring himself to lie to this man, one of the few teachers who had ever touched him in any significant way, who had a real influence and impact on his life. He had come here to thank Mr. Wyatt for his kindness, his advice. Giving him less than the truth now would feel like the worst kind of ingratitude.
Mr. Wyatt's eyebrows crinkled questioningly as the silence finally stretched to the breaking point. "Sam?"
Sam drew in a breath and decided to go for it. "Hey, are you...are you almost finished here? Maybe we could get some coffee or something."
The other man blinked and glanced over the papers scattered across his desk. "Well, I still have a few things I need to take care of here, but I can come in early tomorrow morning. Sure, let's go." He began shuffling papers into a tidy pile on one side of the desk, ready to be dealt with later. "Mind if I drive? I know a nice independent shop just a few blocks from here."
Sam nodded gratefully. It only took a moment to retrieve his cell phone and punch two buttons. As soon as the ringing stopped he started talking. "Hey, Dean, it's gonna take me a little longer, okay? Go get a burger or something. I'll...I'll meet up with you later." He disconnected the call before Dean could say anything, then turned off the ringer.
He waited for Mr. Wyatt to put his classroom in order and lock the door, then followed him down the hall to the back parking lot. They passed a few classrooms where kids were busy with after-school activities, chess club or newspaper or drama team, and sometimes Sam glanced inside, but mostly he kept his eyes ahead. This might have been a good school for them, if things had been different, but the opportunity was long gone now, as were so many others.
The didn't say anything on the drive—Mr. Wyatt had a thing for novelty music, and Sam was absorbed in trying to catch all the lyrics in "Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah." The coffee shop, as promised, was small and cozy, and they found a small table near the back. Sam hadn't paid much attention to what he was ordering, and now he poked a spoon at the tall head of whip cream on top of his cup, not sure if he was brave enough to try it.
Mr. Wyatt sipped his own concoction and gave Sam the same calm, kind look he had back at the school. "All right, I'll ask again. Are you happy, Sam?"
Sam set his spoon carefully down beside his cup, letting out a long sigh. "I'm not sure I can really answer that. I've been trying to figure it out, and I just don't know." He looked up and met the other man's eyes. "The thing is...I don't think it's really about me, right now."
"What do you mean?"
Sam paused, then went on. "I told you that I didn't want to go into the family business. But, well, it's an important job, and I'm good at it. For a long time I thought I wasn't, but it turns out that I am. I can do things no one else can do. And it...it helps people."
Mr. Wyatt frowned. "What was it you said the family business was? Something to do with cars, wasn't it?"
"Uh, not exactly, no. I mean, that might have been what I said, but...no."
The other man seemed to sense that it wouldn't do any good to push any more on the subject. He nodded in acceptance. "Okay. So it's an important job, and you're good at it. Does it make you happy?"
"In some ways, yeah. Like I said, I help people. That feels good. It wasn't what I wanted with my life, but now...I understand why my brother loves it so much."
"Ah, your brother. I think I remember him from your essay. Is he still as much the character now as he was then?"
Sam couldn't help but smile, thinking about his brother twelve years ago, and now, how much he had enjoyed that whistle, the things he told Sam when quiet fell for a few moments and stilled the turbulence long enough for him to find the words. "In some ways he hasn't changed at all. In others...well, that's another reason I can't quit the family business, not now, maybe not ever. It's just the two of us now, our dad died a couple years ago, and Dean..."
He looked out the window absently, trying to gain some distance, and wasn't surprised to see the long black car parked across the street. Dean was giving him space, as much as he could, but there he was, waiting for Sam to come back.
"Dean needs me." He could say it aloud, to this man, this old friend. "What happened to him... My brother went through something that no one should ever have to experience, and he needs me. I can't leave him."
"Responsibilities," Mr. Wyatt said softly, echoing what Sam had said before. "You say you 'can't' leave him. Do you want to?"
Sam froze. Nothing seemed to be working—hands, eyes, mouth, brain.
Mr. Wyatt leaned across the table, almost too close. "It's okay if you do, you know. Family members of someone who has been through trauma, whether physical or mental, have a tough job. It's common to feel helpless or angry, even at the victim himself. There's nothing wrong with you."
Sam swallowed thickly, still unable to speak. Because yes, now he finally had a word to put to the feeling that had been rising in him for almost three months, the one that held his chest in a vise and swelled to choking proportions whenever Dean showed signs of confessing yet one more terrible thing. He felt trapped. So very, very trapped.
"I care about him. I would do anything for him."
"Of course. He's your brother."
"But sometimes it just seems like there's nothing I can do. Nothing that he'll accept, anyway. Dean..." Sam laughed, short and bitter. "He'll always see me as his little brother, someone he has to look out for, even when he can't even take care of himself. He won't let me..."
Silence fell again. Mr. Wyatt stirred his coffee, carefully still. His next words were tentative. "Sam... You don't have to do this alone. There are places you can turn to, people who have the resources you need. You and your brother...it sounds like you've taken some rough knocks, lately. You must feel completely isolated and set apart, as if life has somehow chosen the both of you as whipping boys, dropping load after load onto your shoulders. No one can handle burdens like that alone, and you shouldn't have to."
Sam looked across the street again, saw Dean pantomiming a drum solo, completely absorbed in the movements of his hands, pounding on the steering wheel and dashboard. He looked so carefree, goofy and stupid and strangely endearing. But he'd cracked, now, he had let Sam see something of the mess inside, like mangled flesh and broken bones. It was hard to reconcile the two images.
"Chosen," yeah. Both of them, Sam by a demon and Dean by an angel, and with each step the weight grew heavier. Sam just wanted it to end.
"I just..." He drew in a breath, gathering himself. "I just have one thing I gotta do. One big, important thing. And then, and then things will get better. I'm sure of it. Just have to do this one thing."
"You sound like you're trying to convince yourself."
"No!" Sam raised a fist as if to pound down on the table, but stopped himself just in time. Instead, he picked up his spoon again. "No, no, I'm not trying to convince myself. I'm sure. Just this one thing. It needs to be done. So many...so many things will be better, then."
Mr. Wyatt nodded gently and leaned back in his chair. He lifted his half-full mug and cradled it to his chest, his eyes glancing away, giving Sam the space to recover. Sam ate the whip cream off the top of his cup and stared at the creamy brown liquid beneath, then took a sip. It was sweet, too sweet, but he choked it down.
He set it back on the table and stared into Mr. Wyatt's face until the other man met his eyes. "Am I happy? No, not right now. But I'm doing what needs done so that I can be, later. It'll come. I'm sure of it. Thanks for listening, Mr. Wyatt. You're a good teacher."
Sam shoved his drink to the middle of the table, then walked out and across the street, where he got into his brother's car. He didn't look back.