Author's Note: This fic takes place sometime after "Everyone Loves A Clown". The ending of that episode, with Dean, in my opinion, was always one of the more heartbreaking moments. I always wanted something a little more substantial between the boys...and since Eric Kripke didn't make it happen, I tried to do it myself lol Hope you like it...
Disclaimer: Sammy and Dean belong to Eric Kripke...just like they always have.
If there was one thing Sam Winchester could spot a mile away, it was a man on a mission.
And as he sat there at the rickety old kitchen table, slowly working on a bowl of cereal, he knew immediately that Bobby Singer was, in fact, a man on a mission.
"Ok, that's it-" The older man burst into the kitchen like a tornado, tossing a rolled-up and dirt covered newspaper down onto the table.
Sam swallowed a mouthful of cereal and frowned. "Ok, that's what?"
"How long have you and your idjit brother been crashin' here?"
"Almost a week-"
"That's right, almost a week. Now don't get me wrong, Sam, you know that you boys are always welcome here…this is your home, more than anywhere else." Bobby shook his head in apparent distress. "But it's about time you two sat down and talked this out-"
Sam couldn't help but sigh. "Bobby, it's not that easy-"
"You two have been stalkin' around this house, passin' each other in the hallways like a couple of gun-slingers. It's been days, Sam....enough is enough."
Partly in exasperation, and partly in embarrassment, Sam pulled his eyes from Bobby's face and looked down into his cereal bowl. He could feel his face heating up.
Deep down, Sam knew that Bobby was right—enough was enough.
It wasn't as though he hadn't tried, God knows he had.
The Winchester brothers had retreated to Bobby's as soon as Dean had been released from the hospital. The accident, which had caused so much pain and friction in their already chaotic lives, was in the past; the Impala was well on her way to being road-worthy again and the countless cuts and bruises were healing and fading.
It wasn't the physical injuries that Sam was battling with.
It was the emotional ones.
His and his brother's.
For his part, Sam was struggling. Feelings of intense guilt plagued his every thought, his every nightmare. Never in all his life had he wished harder for the chance to live a few short minutes over again. He knew that, given the chance, he would've done things differently and the fact that he couldn't undo any of it had immediately been added to the growing pile of horrific realizations that he'd be forced to live with for the rest of his life.
These are your issues, quit dumpin' 'em on me.
Now that he's dead, you wanna make it right?
It's too little, too late.
Those words coming from his brother had been enough to make Sam doubt himself. They'd been enough to make him question every single conversation he'd had with their dad, from the day he turned sixteen until the moment their dad had died.
The relationship between Sam and John Winchester had been strained at the best of times, and at the worst of times, it had been filled with incoherent yelling and verbal barbs. It was as if their single goal, their only purpose during those arguments, had been to hurt each other.
And they'd both been successful, several times over.
Sam could never hope to count the number of times that he'd stormed out of their motel room, angrily making his way to nowhere in particular; maybe to a diner for a cup of coffee, or the closest bar for something a little stronger.
He'd never really calm down or work out his anger. He'd simply swallow it and bury it alongside the rest of his resentment.
It had finally come to an explosive head the night he'd announced to his father and brother that he'd gotten an early acceptance to Stanford—a full ride—the scholarship he'd been hoping for.
Dean and John hadn't even known that Sam had applied.
At the first sign of fury from his father Sam had blown up, all of the swallowed emotions spilling out of him before he could even think of quieting himself.
The fight in the hospital, while Dean had been on the edge of death, hadn't been any different.
I'm sorry that the last time I was with him, I tried to pick a fight…
For all I know, he died, thinkin' that I hate him.
What I'm doing…it is too little…it's too late.
I miss him.
And Sam did miss him. He'd lived without his family for nearly four years; doing his own thing, going where he wanted and with whoever he wanted. He'd had home-cooked meals and long showers…comfortable beds with sheets that didn't itch…and he'd refused to go anywhere near a microwave unless he had absolutely no other choice.
But even with all of those things, which he'd eventually started thinking of as luxuries, he'd never managed to feel at home.
Smooth sheets and boycotting the microwave couldn't replace his family, no matter how much he had sometimes wished they could.
Bobby let out a loud breath and shook his head. "I know that things are tough right now…for you and for Dean. But dammit, Sam, you two need to be helpin' each other. Now more then ever."
"I can't talk to him, Bobby." Sam responded quietly. "I tried the other day…and he…-"
"Took a crowbar to the car-" Bobby nodded thoughtfully, letting out a breath. "Yeah, I know. I saw him from the window upstairs."
"I'm afraid to talk to him again."
The small and tentative admission made Sam's face flame even more and no matter how hard he tried he couldn't make himself meet Bobby's eyes. He knew that he'd surprised the older hunter; Sam had never been scared of Dean before…it just didn't happen…it was an impossibility. There had never before been a reason for it.
Slowly and carefully, Bobby pulled out one of the other chairs from the table; the scraping of the legs against the tile floor was ignored by both men. He plunked himself down and let out a breath, resting his arms on the table wearily. "You got no reason to be afraid to talk to him, Sam." He said wisely, in a quiet voice. "He's your brother-"
"He's so mad, y'know? He doesn't wanna talk to me, not about this."
"You gotta give him time. Him and your daddy were close, it makes sense that he's messed up over what happened."
"I feel like he blames me for what happened."
Bobby's eyes widened incredulously. "Now Sam, come on, you know that ain't true."
"He's said some things, Bobby…trust me, I know it."
"You don't know nothin'. Dean wouldn't blame you, he knows you're hurtin'."
Sam sighed and leaned back heavily in his chair, running a hand down his face roughly. "God, things are so messed up."
"And they probably will be for a while, but eventually, you two morons are gonna have to talk. You can't keep avoidin' each other." And then very seriously, Bobby added, "Not in my house, anyway."
Bobby's meaning couldn't be any more clear…
You're welcome to stay here…but dammit, pull your heads outta your asses.
"Look-" With a sigh, Bobby stood from his chair and moved towards the counter at the far side of the kitchen. He grabbed a small cardboard box—it looked as if it had arrived in the mail—and gently set it down on the surface of the table in front of Sam. "Dean had to order new valve covers for the car, they just got here this morning. He'll be chompin' at the bit to get his hands on 'em. You get off your butt and take them out to him."
In an instant, that package had become the bane of Sam's existence.
"Bobby, I don't think I should-"
"It's gonna happen sooner or later, Sam, whether you want it to or not. My house, remember?" Seeing how nervous Sam really was, Bobby let himself smile warmly. "It'll be ok. If I know Dean, he'll be happy about the valve covers—might grease the wheels, a bit."
Sam reached forward and quickly snatched up the package, standing from his chair. With absolutely no heat whatsoever in his voice, he muttered, "Sneaky old man."
And as Sam left the kitchen, all Bobby could do was chuckle quietly.
As Sam pushed open the back door and cautiously descended the old wooden stairs off the porch, the heat of the early afternoon sun seemed to penetrate straight through his clothes.
The salvage yard was dusty and humid, the glare of the sun reflecting off the old junk cars was nearly blinding.
He made his way around the old garage—the wood paneling on the side was peeling and was in desperate need of a paint job. As he rounded the corner, his eyes fell on the Impala itself, the usually gleaming black paint was covered in dust; and there, lying on a low roller with his legs sticking out from under the chassis, was Dean.
Sam felt like a complete moron.
He got nervous at the sight of Dean's legs.
Coming to a slow stop a few feet from the Impala, Sam swallowed hard. "How's uh…how's it going?"
Sam could hear the rhythmic clicking of a socket wrench coming from under the car, and as soon as the words were out of his mouth, the clicking stalled for a few seconds.
And it started up again just as quickly.
"It's goin' fine."
Any kind of confidence that the valve covers had inspired immediately evaporated.
Casting a longing look back towards the house, Sam tried again. "This uh-" He gestured with the box even though Dean couldn't see it. "This came for you today. Parts for the car, Bobby said."
Dean rolled out from under the car just far enough to examine the package in Sam's hands. "Just leave it on the workbench." He said coolly, rolling back under the car and out of sight. "I'll get to it later."
"Look, uh…can we talk?"
The wrench started up again. "'Bout what?"
"I don't know." Sam cleared his throat. "Anything."
"Dean, come on-"
"I'm busy, Sam."
The dangerous warning in Dean's voice was unmistakable and Sam couldn't help but shake his head. Starting to feel a little angry himself, he turned and walked towards the old workbench. He practically threw the box down, hard enough to rattle a couple of the tools that sat on the surface of the table.
"Fine, man, whatever." Frustration flooded his chest and he took a few steps towards the house. But as it was with the Winchesters, his anger eventually got the better of him.
Turning back around quickly, Sam spoke in a loud voice; he hoped that his anger was as noticeable and as impressive as Dean's. "You know what? I've tried talkin' to you, Dean. God knows I've tried. You're not interested, that's fine, I don't care anymore. But dammit, don't treat me like I'm to blame for all this!"
"Get your ass in the house, Sam."
Sam knew that he was about to cross a line, a sacred line that he hadn't dared to cross since he was a teenager. His brother's temper was on a quick fuse at the best of times. If Sam started an argument with him, Dean would come out of his shell just so he could scream in his little brother's face; if the right buttons were pushed, there would finally be a reaction.
It may be a physical reaction, but at least it was something Sam could work with.
He managed to form a plan in a second and a half; he'd say what he needed to say and then he'd make his way into the house.
He was sure Dean would follow him.
He was sure…and he was absolutely terrified.
"Yeah, you go ahead and stick your head in the sand, Dean. Hide from everything. Look out for yourself. That's what you're good at, isn't it?"
As soon as the words were out of his mouth, Sam was ashamed of himself. He knew that his words were the furthest thing from the truth; Dean never looked out for himself. Sam had always come first, ever since they were little.
Turning quickly, Sam started towards the house.
Dean reacted faster than Sam had expected.
He could hear the wheels of the roller against the dirt and gravel, the sound of Dean pushing himself to his feet.
"Self-righteous bastard. You got one hell of a nerve, you know that?"
Dean's loud and furious voice echoed in the yard and Sam stopped walking, turning to face the eyes of doom. Dean was only a few feet away and Sam could see easily that his brother's muscles were tensing, as if preparing for a fight.
Sam believed completely that Dean would never raise a hand to him, but he found himself nervous anyway.
"Standin' there, mouthin' off. You think I'm hidin' from everything? Take a look at yourself."
And as easily as that, it was no longer about getting Dean out of his shell. Sam was angry, and as always, words tumbled from his mouth before he could help it.
"I'm not hiding from anything, Dean. I told you how I feel about dad-" Sam's voice broke unexpectedly and he swallowed hard; something flashed in Dean's eyes but his expression stayed ice cold. "I told you that you were right, that I'm not ok. You haven't said one thing since dad died; you refuse to talk to me, and whenever I try, you blow me off. So that's it, I'm done. I give up."
And without a backwards glance Sam continued on into the house, up the old porch stairs, slamming the screen door behind him.
The house was nearly silent as the sun set.
Sam was hunkered down in one of Bobby's old overstuffed chairs in the library, watching quietly as the older hunter flipped through a couple of his books at his desk.
There was a fire crackling merrily in the grate, giving off a comforting heat in the unexpected chill that had worked it's way into the house that evening. Even though the silence was comfortable in Bobby's company, Sam's mind was still outside with his brother.
Dean had spent the remainder of the day buried under the car, only slipping into the house once or twice to use the washroom. Sam hadn't even noticed that he'd come inside until he heard the familiar banging of the screen door as it slammed closed; Dean could be a ghost when he wanted to, and it was painfully obvious that he wanted to walk around the house un-harassed.
Sam understood that.
And suddenly, he was longing for the solitude of their upstairs bedroom.
After saying a quick goodnight to Bobby, Sam moved silently through the house and up the staircase.
He wasn't at all surprised to find the room empty. Spotting his duffel bag sitting open on the bedspread of his own bed, he made his way over and rummaged through it, pulling out a clean pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt.
Sam knew he would feel better if he showered, but truth be told, he just didn't have the energy. That week had been full of a new type of exhaustion, a tiredness the likes of which he'd never felt before.
Willing his body to relax, Sam slid under the covers of his bed and settled on his side, facing the door. He reached up and switched off the bedside lamp, plunging the room into darkness.
Sam replayed the events of the day in his head; he could hear Dean's voice, he could feel the heat of the early afternoon sun…he could even smell the fresh motor oil and heated metal of the Impala.
It wasn't the first time in his life that he wished he could turn his mind off.
Even sleep wouldn't bring relief.
He'd still dream about it.
The sound of the creaking staircase reached his ears and Sam found himself instinctively turning onto his other side, his back now facing the door of the room.
He knew without a doubt that it was his brother; the soft thud of Dean's boots across the wood floor, the slow sound as he quietly unzipped his duffel bag.
Sam tried desperately to stay still and even out his breathing, wanting Dean to think he was asleep already.
No such luck.
The tone of Dean's voice surprised him; it was quiet and cautious, almost tentative. As crazy as it was, for just that one moment, it was Dean who sounded like the little brother.
Sam's eyes slipped closed.
Dean was walking again, Sam listening hard to the sounds of his boots; he was walking around his own bed and came to a stop right beside Sam's. When he spoke again, his voice was incredibly close.
"Look, kid, I know you're awake. I wanna talk to you for a minute."
Sam swallowed hard and opened his eyes. "About what?"
After a slight hesitation, Dean said, "What do you think?"
"Look, if you wanna bite my head off again, I'm really not interested. It's late and I'm tired-"
"Can you just not be a smart ass right now?"
Sam sighed and turned onto his back. Dean was standing right beside the bed and as soon as the brothers locked eyes, he sat himself down on the edge of his own bed, leaning forward and resting his arms on his knees.
Sam pushed himself into a sitting position and leaned back against the headboard. He folded his arms across his chest because he didn't know what else to do with his hands—he was determined not to fidget.
Dean let out a breath and shook his head, looking down at the floor between his boots. "You know, you really tore a strip off me today."
"Are you really that surprised? I'm a self-righteous bastard, remember?"
Swallowing hard again, Sam tried to soften himself just slightly. "All I wanted was to help you, Dean." Dean hung his head. "I don't get why you won't let me."
"Because it won't do any good."
"How do you know that?"
"I just do." Raising his head, Dean shrugged his shoulders. He hadn't bothered turning on a light when he'd entered the room, so they were still sitting in darkness. Sam couldn't see any of the emotions on his brother's face; all he could see was his familiar outline sitting across from him. "Look, uh-" He paused awkwardly, clearing his throat. "I've been doin' some thinkin'…and…I wanted to tell you that I'm sorry."
Sam couldn't hold in the surprise that flitted across his face, and suddenly, he was thankful for the darkness.
"My head's nowhere near on straight…I can't make sense of things anymore, y'know?" Dean cleared his throat again. "There's nothin' left."
"Yeah, I know the feeling."
"I just, I got this rock in my gut…and I can't get rid of it."
Sam let a moment of silence go by before he took a deep breath. "You will. You just gotta give yourself time."
"You think that'll make a difference?"
"I wanna believe that it will."
The older man sighed and raised a hand, running it through his short hair.
His eyes finally adjusting to the darkness, Sam could make out the smears of oil and grime still on Dean's face; the smudges stood out starkly against the white of his skin. It was a strange sight in the hazy light flowing in through the open bedroom door from the fixture out in the hallway. Dean almost looked pale, but Sam knew that his face was slowly tanning from the countless hours he spent outside.
Sam swallowed hard. "I got a confession to make." He felt his brother's eyes on him, expectant, and he prepared himself to take the plunge. "A lot of what I said to you today…about lookin' after yourself and being good at it-" He locked eyes with Dean in the dark. "I didn't mean any of that."
"You sounded like you meant it."
Dean nodded slowly. "And what about everything else?"
"What do you think?"
"I think…you were right."
Sam blinked in slight surprise. "What?"
"You've tried to talk to me a hundred times since we got here, and every time I've shot you down. You told me how you were feelin', you were lookin' to me for somethin' and I couldn't give it to you. I chose not to." In a slow movement, Dean reached over to the bedside table and switched on the small lamp. Sam squinted against the sudden light, but as his eyes started to focus again, he looked directly at—and studied—his older brother's face.
Dean, in essence, had always been a person with an inner fire…a 'pilot light' that fueled his sarcasm, his charm, his entire personality. Sam saw it everyday in the ever present sparkle in Dean's eyes. A hint of playfulness and teasing.
But sitting there on the edge of his bed, Dean had never looked more worn out.
The stubble on his face looked rough and ragged, there were dark patches under his eyes, his hair—which was usually soft but spiky—was disheveled and tousled.
"You know, this whole thing with dad-" Dean caught his lower lip between his teeth for a second and shrugged his shoulders absently. "I can't get my head around it. I mean, it happened so damn fast."
"It wasn't your fault, you know."
Dean's eyes shifted to connect with Sam's. "What?"
"I said, it wasn't your fault. What happened with dad."
"I never said it was."
"Come on, Dean…you don't think I can see it?"
"I wasn't awake to stop it, Sam-"
"And I was." Sam adjusted himself nervously against the headboard. "If you think about it long enough, Dean—if you really wanna blame someone—I'm the logical one. I was awake when all this happened."
"Neither one of us is to blame. That much I know."
A heavy silence fell over them at that point; Dean looking down at the floor again, and Sam, redirecting his eyes to the open doorway.
Bobby was moving around downstairs, shuffling around in the library. Sam could practically picture him in his mind, wandering around the house; extinguishing candles, turning off lights, putting books back up on the shelves. It was a nightly ritual for the older hunter that both Winchester brothers had witnessed a thousand times. It included checking wards, setting up salt lines…and the most normal act of them all…letting out the dog.
"You're not a self-righteous bastard, Sammy."
Dean's voice was quiet and Sam immediately shifted his eyes; Dean had done the same thing and they were now looking at each other.
And as misplaced as it was, Sam couldn't help but laugh.
After nearly a week, Sam Winchester was Sammy again.
And if that wasn't a sign that things were on the road to recovery…then Sam didn't know what was.