Pushing food around on his plate was never something Dean Winchester did, but now, since his return from the hot box, he did it a lot. They would sit at a diner, Sam researching, and Dean pushing his fries in catsup, and sometimes he would get his hamburger to his mouth and then put it back down and never pick it back up. Sam knew from sitting next to the man on the road for hours on end that he was hungry, his stomach rattled, grumbled, and groaned loud enough that it could be heard over the music. The question was; why wasn't he interested in eating?
Sam had picked up food that evening, while Dean was in the shower washing the last of the latest corporeal monster's remains off of his face and out of his hair, and when he returned, he found Dean sitting on the bed starring blankly at the wall.
"You okay?" Sam asked as he closed the door.
"Huh?" Dean asked and snapped back into the world of the living.
"Are you okay?" Sam repeated and put the bag of food down on the table in the corner of the small room.
"Fine." Sam didn't believe him for a second, but he decided to leave it go. It seemed like they had this conversation every single day, and just like every other day, Dean said he was fine, and then he insisted he was fine, then he got pissed, then he yelled, and the two of them spent the rest of the night silent, each hoping the other would break and apologize. So, instead of doing that dance tonight, Sam took off his coat, pretended to accept Dean's protestations of being fine, and distributed food to his brother who had taken a seat in front of him.
"Extra onion the way you like it." Sam said trying to make his brother happy. Dean accepted it and didn't say anything. It took the wind out of Sam's sails. He wanted his brother to be happy, wanted him to have something in his eyes other than sadness or fear or anger. He wanted to see his happy go lucky brother again.
Dean unwrapped the hamburger and was about to take a bite when the smell over powered him and he put it back down and took a sip of his coke and began trying to eat his fries.
"Something wrong with your sandwich?" he asked as he took a bite of his salad.
"No. Nothing is wrong with it." He said and put a fry in his mouth and chewed slowly.
Sam continued to eat and pretend that nothing was wrong, and that plan only lasted a minute or so before Sam finally said, "Do you want some of my salad?"
"No." Dean gave him a look as if he just asked if he wanted to eat a pencil. "I don't like your rabbit food." He added.
"Dean." Sam decided to bite the bullet, this had to be addressed. "You aren't eating much."
"I'm not hungry."
"That's a lie."
Dean's brows drew together and he tried to look incredulous. "How the hell would you know if I'm hungry or not?"
"I can hear your stomach growl when we are driving. I know you're hungry."
"Yeah, whatever. I'm not." He got up from the table and grabbed his coat.
"Where are you going?" Sam asked surprised.
"Out. Need air." Sam sighed as the door slammed shut. Everything was a struggle now that Dean was out of the pit, dinner, sleep, everything was difficult. He threw his fork into his half eaten salad, pushed his hands through his hair defeated. He looked down at his salad and realized that he wasn't hungry either.
Dean stayed gone for quite a while, and Sam picked up his cell phone looked at it, almost called Dean several times, and each time he put the phone down and told himself that Dean was fine, he just needed time to think. Sam wished that his psychic crap included being able to read minds, see memories, something, anything, that could help him share in his brother's misery, help him, something. But no. All his psychic crap did was allow him to have death visions that hurt like a bitch, or pull demons out of people's bodies, which made him feel more demon than human. All of his powers were useless, both supernatural and natural, in helping his brother. He simply didn't know what to do. That was the most frustrating thing of all.
All he wanted was to take that haunted look out of his brother's eyes. Before Hell that meant thinking to get him his favorite snack food or a double bacon cheeseburger, with extra onion, or anything greasy or cheesy or sweet. Sam had tried them all. Every last thing, and most of the time Dean gave a smile, almost imperceptible, sniffed it, closed the lid and didn't eat what was inside. So much was different, and he didn't know what to do, didn't know how to get his brother back. He missed him terribly and he wanted to help him and Dean wasn't allowing him to help.
The hours slipped by and still no Dean. Sam was worried, but he had to have faith that his brother was okay. If he wasn't back by morning, he'd go looking, he'd call Bobby, hell, he'd even call the police. But right now, now, he was going to give his brother space, no matter if that meant he was going to spend the entire night awake starring at the ceiling.
The door opened and shut hours later, and Sam heard the rustle of the leather jacket and the boots sliding off of his brother's feet and being kicked to the wall and relief washed over him like a wave.
"You okay Dean?" he asked from under the covers.
"I'm okay Sammy." Sam still smiled when Dean called him Sammy. It had been absent way too long. He heard his brother remove his shirt and pants and slide into his own bed. Just as Sam was about to drift into sleep he heard his brother begin to speak.
"Hamburger smells like charred human flesh." Sam eyes snapped open and he swallowed thickly. "Like my flesh when it burned." Dean licked his lips, Dean's voice was quivering as he spoke, Sam had never heard his brother's voice unstable and this emotional before, it scared him. "The fruit I ate yesterday, or tried to, felt like organs sliding through my mouth as I was forced to eat them, eat my own organs. Food just doesn't taste good anymore Sam. I just can't. It's too hard, too…I don't know….it's just hard." Dean sighed and ran a hand down his face. "I'm trying Sammy. I'm trying to be normal."
"Dean…" Sam started unsure of what he was going to say.
"Don't Sammy. Don't. I'll get my shit together. Just give me time. Night Sammy."
And like that Dean closed off, shut his barricades and refused to let little Sammy Winchester back inside his walls. Sam seethed in his bed. The demons took everything from his brother, his family, his freedom, his childhood, and now they had taken away his one simple harmless pleasure. Sam wanted revenge, and he was going to need Ruby to do it. To hell with his own soul, his own life, the demons had taken everything away from his brother and it was time to dish out some payback Winchester style.