Title: Heavier When Dead
Characters: Dean, Sam
Category: AAAAAAAANGST, character study
Spoilers: Through Season 4 in general
Summary: Even a goldfish feels heavier when you're carrying it to the toilet to flush it down than it did when you carried it in a plastic baggie home from the carnival, your little brother chattering away at your elbow about how you'll get a bowl and shiny blue rocks and a little can of food.
Word Count: 1002
Disclaimer: Pretty sure they're not mine.
Author's Note: Just a little meditation on heaviness. I'm not sure if it even makes any sense, or if it's just me being emo about the recent loss of a bunch of my pets, again, some more.
Heavier When Dead
Things are heavier when they're dead.
It's supposed to be the other way around, right? There was that movie and everything, about how the body loses 23 grams at the time of the death, something like that, scientific studies, endless speculation on the weight of the spirit. But Dean knows better. Even a goldfish feels heavier when you're carrying it to the toilet to flush it down than it did when you carried it in a plastic baggie home from the carnival, your little brother chattering away at your elbow about how you'll get a bowl and shiny blue rocks and a little can of food and even though you live in a motel room the fish will be just fine, it will be so awesome to have a pet, even one you can't really pet or play with or anything.
Over the years Dean has had plenty of opportunities to observe this phenomenon. His family deals in death after all—it's their stock in trade. He has handled corpses of all sizes and shapes, monstrous and human, juvenile and adult, thick and thin, unbelievably huge and pitifully small. All of them heavy, so heavy.
Dad and Sam have always found his joy in burning things amusing, perhaps a little creepy. If they ever think about why he enjoys it so much, Sam might think that it's just another comment on Dean's uncivilized nature, his delight in brutality and destruction. Dad probably thinks it has something to do with that fire long ago, and has probably figured out a way to blame himself for it. But the truth is that Dean likes the end result more than the flickering of the flames, the heat and the colors and the hypnotic dance of it. Because, see, ashes float. On water, on air, over your fingers like dusty gray ghosts, immaterial and incapable of harm. Not heavy at all.
Dad's body was heavy as hell. Dean's arms ached for weeks after, bruised and torn with the strain of lifting that compact frame, pure muscle from head to toe. But watching the flames eat all that heaviness away had hurt more. Yet Dean hadn't glanced away, not for a second. He listened to Sam crying and wanted to cry, too, but all he could do was watch, and wonder where his father's ashes would float to, if they would rest somewhere peaceful and free of the evils that filled this world. It didn't seem likely, and that was the thought that had finally wrenched one tear from his stubborn, aching eyes.
Sam's body was heavier than all of the rest put together.
There is no way that Dean could ever carry that weight. The universe was stupid to ask him to do it. Dean did everything else: learned how to talk without his mother in the world, shot and stabbed and fought and cleaned and cooked, killed the monsters, buried the bodies, burned his father. He feels that he is entitled to refuse one burden when he shoulders all the rest without complaint.
And yeah, so it was selfish of him to shuffle that task onto his little brother, instead, forcing Sam to carry the heavy corpse of the last-Winchester-minus-one. But Dean has earned one selfishness, hasn't he?
And Sam is stronger than he is, anyway. He carried Dean's weight better than Dean would have been able to carry his. When Dean woke beneath the dirt and clawed his way out to stringy grass and felled trees, he saw that he wasn't buried next the house where he'd died, so obviously Sam was able to bear it better than Dean had.
So now Dean was back, back with Sam. An angel had gripped him tight and raised him from perdition, and it should have been a miracle, a blessing, the most amazing, wonderful, good thing that had ever happened to them. But it doesn't feel like a miracle. It doesn't feel like a blessing.
After a couple of months Dean realizes the truth. He still feels just as heavy as ever. He still feels just as dead.
He wonders how Castiel's fingers weren't broken and bruised from lifting him. It must have been such an impossible task, never mind the immense power the angel held glimmering in his wings. No wonder Dean's shoulder is burned. Castiel must have poured every ounce of strength into that grip.
The worst of it...the worst of it...
The worst thing is that Sam is still trying to carry him. And Dean knows he's getting heavier every day, more burdensome, more wearying. Less and less worth the Herculean effort. He tries to take his own weight and fails every time, and that's what makes him angry and snappish and impossible to be around, just as much as Sam's lies and secrets and sideways looks. It's not fair to Sam, and Dean wants to do his job, he wants it so badly, but he's just too heavy.
And Sam is right. He's too weak.
He's just waiting, now, for Sam to realize the truth. Waiting for him to understand how impossible this is, waiting for him to go. Things are heavier when they're dead, and the longer they stay dead, the heavier they get.
Eventually Sam will figure it out. And then Dean will be alone.
Maybe then he'll finally sink into the earth under his own weight, into the cold and dark, and finally find an ending. Even an angel can't lift a burden that heavy, Dean is sure. Even God has to give up eventually.
It should be a warning label, like "Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear." Dean Winchester is heavier when dead. Maybe then they would finally all figure out what Dean has known all along.
Dean Winchester is heavier when dead. And what's dead should stay dead.
It's a pretty simple truth, in the end. Easy. Even sort of poetic. Sam and Castiel are pretty smart. They'll understand someday.