for Jen, my partner-in-crime
Filling The Hole
K Hanna Korossy
Sam kept straying to the window. He wouldn't have the car's engine as clue this time, since Dean was on foot, but he had to know. Each time, however, only offered him a glimpse of empty, moonlit parking lot.
He paced, chewing on his fingers until one nail was bloody. He made some coffee, had two sips, then poured the rest down the drain. He checked a few of his favorite sites for potential cases, only to not remember a minute later what he'd found. He paced some more, shooting glares at the innocent phone lying in the middle of his bed. But he always ended up back at the window, pushing the paisley curtains aside for one more hopeful look.
He was so stupid. Yes, Dean had been pretty much impossible to live with those last few weeks, swinging wildly between bursts of temper, sullen silence, and artificially cheerful denial. It wasn't like Sam hadn't lost his dad, too, and wasn't hurting. Dean, however, was picking fights with strangers, antagonizing witnesses on hunts, and throwing himself at prey with a fervor that neared bloodthirst.
But Sam had known better, really. He forgot sometimes in the midst of nursing his own battered heart, or trying to calm down irritated townfolk. He got frustrated, impatient, fed up. This wasn't usually his role, being the one looking after his brother. But Sam knew. He knew Dean was breaking, that he'd lost a father Sam had never known, that he was reliving the loss of the mom Sam had no memory of, and that he was alone in the world in a way Sam never would be as long as he had his brother. Dean was scared and hurt and self-destructing.
And Sam had yelled at him for it.
Stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
Okay, so Sam was only human. Dean had pushed every single one of his buttons that evening, with visible relish. It wasn't like Sam had started yelling at him out of the blue. But the end result was the same: Dean immediately locking himself behind so many walls that Sam couldn't see past the flat green of his eyes, and walking out of the room, door shutting quietly behind him.
The gentleness of that final gesture was what drained Sam's anger all at once. Realization had quickly followed that Dean had finally succeeded in doing what he'd perversely been trying to all along: pushing Sam away, punishing himself by ending up truly alone.
By the time Sam had reached the door, however, the street in front of the motel was bare, only the Impala sitting there empty and abandoned.
Sam knew how it felt.
He could call. Dean probably wouldn't answer, but Sam could try. He could go out and track down the bar. He could find Dean. He was a good hunter and he'd done it before.
But that wouldn't fix anything, not if Dean didn't want to come back. So Sam stayed in the room, pacing and running his hands through his hair and pleading inside his head for Dean to just come home.
The next time he raised the curtain, there was a dark figure bent over the car.
Sam's pulse jumped and his jaw clenched as he watched. There were at least three weapons in his wingspan, and he was ready to grab one and run out. First he just wanted to see what—
The figure turned a little, and the dim porch light caught on the dark blond highlights, and a metal amulet. Then the figure opened the back door and slid inside, easing the door shut behind it.
Dean. Climbing into the rear of the Impala.
It was even harder to see in the shadowed interior of the car, but Sam could at least make out movement as Dean crawled slowly across the back and settled against the opposite door. He moved clumsily, either drunk or worse, and when he finally stopped, wedged into the corner behind the passenger seat, he seemed to have dug in for the night.
Sam dropped the curtain and glanced around the room. It wasn't one of their best, but it was far from the worst: clean, bedbug-free beds; muted striped wallpaper; a heater that hummed quietly and suffused the room with warmth instead of roasting them alive. The kitchenette was decently stocked, and Dean's duffel sat open on his bed. The only thing in the room that could possibly make it less appealing than a fifty-degree night in a car, was…Sam.
He blinked a couple of times, fingers brushing impotently against his jeans. Then his face set and he opened the door and marched outside.
Dean's whole body jumped when Sam opened the car door, eyes snapping wide. He already had his knife in his hand. As soon as he saw Sam, however, he…deflated. Flinched back a little against the door and watched Sam as warily as cornered prey.
Oh, God, had they really come to this? Dean scared at what Sam would throw at him next, willing to huddle in the car overnight rather than come back into the room? His face was bruised; he'd been in some sort of fight, and just he looked so drained.
A fierce love suddenly washed over Sam. At that moment, it just didn't matter: all the stupid arguments, the ugly things they'd both said, Dean's reckless behavior. Sam had always known he was willing to die for his brother. But sometimes the real question was if he could live for Dean.
And yeah, he could. It wasn't even a decision.
"C'mon," was all Sam said, quiet and low, hand outstretched. His brother frowned at him a long moment, eyes wary and confused. Sam just waited, sorrowful and patient, until Dean finally reached out a hand to grasp his and let Sam pull him out of the car.
He was holding himself gingerly, and Sam was careful with him as he herded Dean out of the cold and dark parking lot into the bright warmth of the room.
"Any bodies I gotta go bury?" he asked as they came inside, only half-joking.
Dean didn't answer, just stopped inside the door as if he still wasn't sure about this, or maybe was just waiting for orders, and some part of Sam grieved at the soldier who'd suddenly lost his C.O.
"In here," he ordered with a gentle voice, tugging Dean into the bathroom.
He sat his brother on the toilet and pulled at the leather jacket. It was enough to get Dean moving, and he peeled off coat and plaid shirt, dropping them onto the edge of the tub. Then he just sat there, eyes somewhere halfway up the door, body hunched and looking strangely small and defenseless.
"You want a shower?" Sam asked, opening the first aid kit. At the small shake of the head, he set out what he needed on the edge of the sink, then got down on his knees in front of Dean and started to work.
Dean flinched at first from the wet washcloth as it washed the blood from his split lip and under his nose. He didn't react at all after that, though, not as Sam brushed through his hair looking for other injuries, lifted his shirt, carefully cleaned up his scraped knuckles. At some point, his eyes slid closed, just swaying gently as Sam manipulated and tended to him. He didn't even look to swallow the pills Sam folded into his hand.
"All done. Time for bed." Sam coaxed him to his feet with a hand at his waist and the other at his arm. Dean had to find his balance, but he walked under his own power out into the room. He watched, face still disturbingly blank, as Sam pulled the covers aside and urged him to lie down. Sam bent at his feet, untying his boots and easing them off, then lifting Dean's legs after him. He tucked his brother in like he could remember Dean having done so many times for him, then detoured back into the bathroom for a chemical ice pack. Sam activated it, then tucked it in between the pillow and Dean's swelling left eye.
Dean half-rolled onto his side, probably both to keep the pack in place and to avoid pressing on some of the darkening bruises Sam had found on his back. It put him facing the second bed, and Sam sat down in his eyeline. He was surprised to see a spark of rebellion in Dean's one open eye, and an odd self-fortification. And then Sam realized: Dean was waiting for the disapproval, the chewing out about getting into fights, or maybe the prodding to share his pain. Waiting for the price tag for the caring.
Sam shook his head, voice warm with the affection that welled up in him. "Go to sleep, Dean."
Surprise flickered. Suspicion. Bewilderment.
"It's okay, man. Just go to sleep."
One wall after another gave way. Exhaustion. Defeat.
Sam pushed back against the headboard and swung his feet up, then reached for the remote. "I'll be right here," he whispered, no longer ordering, just promising.
Sam reached over to turn the light off, only the soft glow of the TV providing illumination now. Since he was half stretched over at that point, Sam let his hand skim Dean's shoulder and pull up the askew blanket.
It was hard to see in the dim room, but in the reflected light of Dean's eyes, Sam was pretty sure he saw a glimmer of hope. And of love back.
Then finally closed, leaving Sam only with a cheesy late-night sitcom turned low, the soft chug of the heater, Dean's even breathing. And the comfort of not being alone.