Summary: Pre-season four, pre-drinking demon blood. The day Sam got desperate and saw Alien Raiders was the same day he got in the car one morning and couldn't find Dean. This is the weight of unraveling.
Disclaimer: Dean and Sam are my platonic otp, but I don't own them. CW and Kripke does.

Dean: We still got to see the new "Raiders" movie.
Sam: Saw it.
Dean: Without me?
Sam: You were in hell, Dean.
-- Monster Movies

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If somebody moves,
Everything you thought you had will go to shit.
And we had a lot, don't ever forget that.
So don't fucking move


There was an aquarium next to the line he was in at the Best Buy, holding an iDock and a credit card for Ben Scully.

Sam was in line because he had to be, not because he wanted to be. He had to be, because if he shattered another cassette tape in a fit of denial and loathing, the aftermath of guilt would drive him off the next cliff. And Sam couldn't die, because then there would be no one left to care enough about Dean Winchester burning in hell. There would be no one to kill Lilith for making Dean scream unnatural and frightened and cry while sulfur dogs ripped his insides to ribbons and dragged his soul away from Sam. There would be no one who dreamt about clinging to that rotting corpse begging for one of them to wake up, every night, and found it a perversion.

He felt the sound go out as he looked at the tank and found Dean on the other side, whole and full from a burger and perfect. His lips smashed against the glass making faces (come on hurry up I'm bored Sammy), scaring the luminous fish and maybe some of the customers but this was Dean. Sam remembered Dean never caring what other people were thinking. He believed he remembered that perfectly, even after Dean went away because Sam's turn in line was next.

But the day (five days later) he got desperate and saw Alien Raiders was the same day he got in the Impala that morning and couldn't find him. He couldn't find his brother, his first word. For five minutes Sam couldn't breathe. Then he became frantic, he started tearing apart the universe of a muscle car looking for him. But Dean wasn't in the diary of receipts or the peanut M&M shells caught between the seat and arm rest. He wasn't in the imprints on the worn steering wheel. Sam sat back in the seat and strained for that familiar scent (safety, family), for a sign Dean hadn't faded away at some point, gone like a ghost after burned bones (and Sam could see the push of Dean's lower lip in a lighter's glow but not how he dropped the lit match -- if he flicked it, threw it or let it drop). But despite keeping the windows up and never using the air conditioning, in only three months Sam lost him (did nothing like a god damn useless weakling and let him be torn away) all over again. Lost Dean like he never had in Florida -- he lost Dean like he lost Jess, and that was inexcusable.

And even when he turned off his phone to block out Ruby, when he sat in a darkened theater, and heard the audience laugh at a preview about an old man trying to fulfill his late wife's dream in their flying house, he couldn't remember exactly how Dean's laugh was different from theirs. Specifically how it sounded when his brother's mouth was stuffed full of popcorn beyond reasonable consumption as his teeth ground and his cheeks smacked to drive Sam nuts. How Dean poked him in a certain way with a greasy, buttery finger he knew Sam couldn't ignore (if you poke me with that thing one more time I'm gonna break it in half / yeah okay Sammy you try that hey you want some?) and that was it.

He barely made it past the security cop killing Spooky the smart ass before he couldn't stand it anymore, clumsily shoved his way out past knees belonging to couples and groups and friends and maybe even siblings (fuck why did he have to be so large and tired and awkward and who he was right now) until he was shoving out the doors under the hell's red letters of EXIT. Outside the building he braced himself on his knees struggling to breathe in the humid night air. It was thick, it stuck in his throat. He thought he was going to throw up. Some woman stopped and touched his shoulder asking him are you all right, are you having a panic attack?, and he just looked at her veiny hand before making his way to her eyes bookended by crows feet, clinging to her pupils as if she could make his dreams come true. He thought how she was human, been so long, Ruby's hands were hard like smooth marble, couldn't remember the scrapes, scars and imperfections of Dean's hand (had he been getting crow's feet at his eyes?) and then Sam was backing up. His mouth gaped like the fish in the aquarium (hey Sammy look I'm Nemo, no wait -- Mine? Miiine mine mine! Dude those things were the best part of the whole damn movie). He was unable to speak, unable to breathe, finally gave up leaving the old couple behind him saying I think he's sick, dear, that kind of sick. He made it to the Impala and unlocked the door with shaking, desperate fingers, and shame pouring down out his eyes.

He collapsed in the seat with five month old receipts and melting peanut M&Ms tight in his fists, squeezing for any drop of Dean to come back. His knuckles turned white, but for all his efforts he got nothing -- the well was dry, and Sam didn't know his heart would still have pieces left to break, but then, he had always been an incredibly shitty psychic.


Darling, I'm lost
I heard you whispering that night in Fountain Square
The trash-filled streets made me wish we were headed home


CREDITS

the weight of unraveling: Stupid, by Sarah McLachlan

in-story lyrics: Broadripple is Burning by Margot and the Nuclear So and So's

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A/N: One of the hardest things in my life, when it comes to losing someone, is the crushing guilt that no matter how hard you try, you can't remember them like you used to. Slowly, you forget things. You remember how they said your name, that hugs were frequent and love welcome, how much they loved steak; but you can't remember how they smiled watching boxing, you can't remember how their arms felt wrapped around you in a hug or how they cut their steak. It all seems so important that you feel you've somehow betrayed them by forgetting. That you didn't try hard enough every second to hold onto them. After five seasons of knowing Sam, seeing how hard losing Jess hurt him, and then how losing Dean absolutely destroyed him, and raise the bar by Dean not even being really dead but suffering every second for Sam -- I feel he more than anyone understands this slow, everyday helplessness.