A/N: Inspired by Alfred, Lord Tennyson's "In Memoriam, 7" (which is what is quoted and centered at the beginning and the end of the story). Running this unbeta'd, mostly to see if I can still get away with it every now and then, and also because I wanted to get this up before Supernatural starts up again tonight. (Don't worry, eight, it won't happen very often. :) Be warned people - this is possibly a tear-jerker. I haven't heard yet, so I don't know for sure, but that's kind of what I was going for. And I'll be writing some fluffy fic soon to make up for all of this angst. It depressed me, too.
And I'll be writing some fluffy fic soon to make up for all of this angst. It depressed me, too.
Disclaimer: Not mine. Also, don't own Tennyson's "In Memoriam", and quotes from "Fresh Blood" are courtesy my DVDs.
"Dark house, by which once more I stand
Here in the long unlovely street,
Doors, where my heart was used to beat
So quickly, waiting for a hand,
A hand that can be clasped no more –
Behold me, for I cannot sleep,
And like a guilty thing I creep
At earliest morning to the door."
The room was quiet, save for his near-silent breaths. No cars passed by outside. No noise passed through the paper-thin walls. No breeze stirred outside the door; no faucets dripped; no rain fell softly against the roof.
Nothing stirred in the other bed.
Sam kept his own breaths as shallow as possible as he stared up at the dark ceiling. Breathing silently and shallowly meant he had to concentrate. He kept his entire focus on the steady mantra of his breathing.
A sliver of light flickered across the ceiling for a moment before fading out again. With a silent sigh, Sam rolled his head in the direction of the window. The fingers of his right hand clenched at the bedspread, gaze lingering on the empty double bed next to him for a moment before moving up to the window. A slight gap in the old curtains allowed the light from the occasionally-flickering streetlamp outside to filter into the room. Sam looked at the gap for a minute, but the light didn't return.
The glaring red numbers of the digital clock on the beat-up nightstand between the beds caught his gaze, and Sam looked in time to see the numbers shift to 5:00 AM. He stared at the clock for awhile longer with listless eyes, watching the minutes tick past slowly.
Another sleepless night. No big surprise, really. He'd barely slept at all since…
He rolled his head back to face the ceiling and focused on his breathing again.
It wasn't working. The lump in his throat was making it hard to breathe, and his eyes burned with more than just exhaustion. Despite their tension, his muscles were nearly screaming in their need for rest. Everything ached.
But Sam couldn't do it. Not after New Harmony, Indiana. Not after he'd been forced to put that damn box holding his life in the ground outside Pontiac, Illinois. Not after what happened last time he'd fallen asleep.
Not after seeing his brother ripped to shreds over and over and over again in an endless cycle of nightmares, only to wake up and find his nightmares were reality.
After another thousand breaths, Sam slid his weary legs off the bed. His feet hit the floor with a solid thud, and he stood slowly. When he could stand completely straight, he shuffled over towards the window, keeping his gaze glued on the curtains as he bypassed the empty, untouched bed.
With a slight nudge, the ratty brown curtains parted, revealing a nearly-empty parking lot covered with tumbleweed and potholes. Sam tilted his head forward until forehead gently hit the cool glass. His eyes locked on the sharp black silhouette of the Impala sitting out on the lot. The street lamp flickered on for a moment, illuminating the shiny black finish of the Chevy and making Sam squint reflexively before it went out again.
Sam blinked once as his eyes readjusted to the darkness. The once-welcoming outline of the Impala now looked stark, ominous, empty – as if the car reflected the state of its owner.
In a slightly convoluted way, it made sense – its owner had poured his heart and soul into it, after all.
"What's with the auto shop? You don't mean – you want-"
"Yeah. I do. You fix it."
"Dean, you barely let me drive this thing."
"No, it's time. You should know how to fix it. You're gonna need to know these things for the future. And besides – it's my job, right? Showing my little brother the ropes."
The streetlight flickered again, startling Sam from his reverie. He pressed a hand flat against the glass as he stared at the car and focused on breathing again.
One hundred ten breaths later, he headed for the door, keeping his footsteps silent and his movements whisper-soft as he opened and closed the old motel door.
The air was nippy, and goose bumps immediately rose on his bare forearms, but he paid them no mind as he stretched out a hand. His fingertips lightly skimmed the Impala's hood as he took slow steps along the driver's side of the car. The asphalt was rough underneath his bare feet, and he could feel sharp bits of it digging up into his soles.
After a moment's hesitation, he tugged the back door open and slid into the seat, closing the door behind him and pressing himself into the cold leather.
The silence inside the car was nearly overpowering as memories flooded his mind. He'd spent years of his life in this seat – watching endless miles of countryside fly by the window; listening as Dad hummed along with the radio while Dean sang loudly; falling asleep in one state and waking up two states over.
His earliest childhood memories had happened in this very spot: Dean reading a story to help pass the time as Dad kept an eye on them in the rearview mirror; Dean sharing a handful of sticky, melted M&Ms on a hot summer day; Dean running a hand through Sam's hair as the younger Winchester drifted off to sleep with his head in his big brother's lap.
Now there was no Dad. There was no Dean.
There was only Sam and an Impala full of memories so powerful they were nearly suffocating.
Sam shifted so that his head could rest against the window as he closed his eyes. The leather seats, which had once molded to his body when he needed to sleep, were now hard, unyielding, and comfortless. No longer could he doze off to the thrum of the engine mixed with the soft hum of a Zeppelin song. No longer could he find safety and security in the only thing he'd ever been able to call home.
He was the last Winchester standing. There was no home.
The lump in his throat grew exponentially, forcing Sam to open his mouth and gasp for air. The exhale came out as a sob, and he squeezed his eyes tightly shut as he pressed a fist to his mouth and sucked in air through his nose. He hadn't cried since it had happened. The only time he'd spoken in the last week had been when Bobby brought up the need to do a salt and burn. Even then, he'd only said four words.
"No. We'll bury him."
It had only been four words, but apparently they'd been enough – Bobby had nodded his head after a moment's hesitation. It may have been a stupid decision, but Sam didn't care.
He could still smell the stench from the fires that had taken Jess and Dad. He wasn't about to add his brother to that mix.
As Sam shifted his weight, something brushed against his bare foot. He glanced down at the floorboard, his throat closing up again as he moved his foot aside and picked up the worn leather coat. There was a soft thump on the floorboard as he slid the coat into his lap, and he looked down to see a familiar gold amulet glinting up at him. He blinked as his eyes blurred, fists clenching into the well-worn coat.
Finally Sam loosened his fingers enough so he could let go of the coat and grab the amulet off the floor. He rubbed his thumb over the small ridges in the metal for a moment before slipping the leather band over his head. The charm hung there, feeling much heavier than it looked as it rested against his chest. With a little shuffling, Sam managed to pull on the leather coat. He wasn't sure how the objects had ended up in the back seat, but he guessed it was Bobby's doing. Sam had thought they'd been in the trunk, zipped up in Dean's duffel bag.
Pulling the coat tighter around his torso, Sam closed his eyes and breathed in. Immediately his nose was assaulted with the strong scents of gunpowder, leather, and whiskey – that mixture of smells that had hung around Dean since he'd inherited the jacket at sixteen.
For a moment, Sam could see his brother smirking at him as he twisted the dial, letting the strong beat of "Enter Sandman" pump through the speakers. He saw Dean standing in front of him, gun raised as a first defense against the poltergeist – an impenetrable wall that kept anything from getting near his younger brother. He saw Dean kneeling next to him, hands firmly gripping Sam's shoulders as he coaxed him through a vision. He saw Dean bellowing Bon Jovi at the top of his lungs. He saw Dean standing defiant until the very last moments. He saw Dean being ripped apart by invisible Hellhounds, twisting and screaming in pain as blood spurted everywhere. He saw Dean resting in the casket, face gray and still.
When Sam opened his eyes, he saw nothing but the empty front seat.
And with that final blow, the emotions he'd been bottling up for the last week broke loose in a torrential wave of gut-wrenching sobs.
"He is not here; but far away
The noise of life begins again,
And ghastly through the drizzling rain
On the bald street breaks the blank day."