Disclaimer: the characters of Supernatural are not mine, and this story intends no infringement of copyright.
The Why and the Why Not
Well – Sam thought and pushed the blade of the knife up the length of his arm – I could do it, why not. The house was new and above their pay grade and the furniture was wicker lawn stuff, cheap but still with that fresh bought smell. That was one thing you couldn't fake, how things smelled. You could polish something old until it was like new. Dean showed him with Dad's Beretta and the consecrated daggers Pastor Jim gave them for fifteenth birthdays. Sam was jealous of Dean's for four years until he got his own.
Sam pushed deeper into his skin with the holy blade of the knife lengthwise up and down his arm. He pushed until he felt his blood humming up against the cut of the knife, thathud thathump, and knew he just had to dig a little more to break his skin open. Dean and Dad were five towns away and not due back for another three days, Sam could do it and no one would know. He would be on the ground of this new home taking over its new smell with the stink of him rotting. It would smell like him, Dad and Dean would walk in and they would know, they would smell it, smell him, and they would never be able to get him out. He'd be sunk into this house so deep it would be beyond a haunting, some new category needed to describe it.
Thathud thathump. Sam was sixteen and he had a test tomorrow morning on Trig. He knew Trig inside out backwards upside down. Math was easy for him, logic dusty on his fingertips. Dean taught him how to add and multiply in the back of the moving Impala. Summer in motel parking lots before Dad got a chance to rinse her off Dean would trace 1 + 1 = 2 in the grime on the sides of the Impala and Sam would drag his small fingers through that filth, dig his grip until the black paint gleamed below, the shapes of numbers married to the heated metal curve of the Impala.
They polished her until she could have been new, but she never was.
Thathud thathump and Sam could do it, why not, but instead he pulled the knife away and got out his books and spread them on the cheap wicker table and studied for his test.
Dean phoned him every night and every morning and asked him, "Are you being a good girl, Samantha?" and Sam said, "Fuck you," and usually he didn't mean it because he was laughing but sometimes he did mean it, even if he kept right on laughing.
Sam was sixteen which was better than fifteen but not better than fourteen because fourteen was the year Dean decided Sam should know how to drive but fifteen was the year Dad decided Sam should know how to sew, pull ripped flesh together with curved needle and thick black thread. At fourteen the Impala reeked inside of sweat and the thathud of Metallica, thathump of CCR. "Clutch, dude, clutch," Dean chanted, then, "Fuck do you even know how to shift gears?" and Sam said, to piss him off, innocent wide eyed the way he was born knowing how to pull off, "What are gears?" and Dean sputtered.
Dean choked, he said, "You're shitting me." Sam kept it up, kept it up, kept it up – felt his face cracking like he couldn't keep all the glee in – Dean crowed. "You're totally shitting me! Sammy Winchester!"
Fifteen and there was alcohol and blood so that Sam could only think of one with the other from now until forever, amen. How Biblical, wine transubstantiated into blood, the body of Christ. Dean opened his mouth and tilted the bottle in and swallowed. Kept swallowing. Sam tugged skin together with the point of a needle as Dad told him slow and steady exactly what he had to do. Dean gasped out and his alcohol breath burned Sam's cheek.
Sixteen was better than fifteen but not as good as fourteen and thirteen sucked out loud.
Thirteen – Sam was growing every day, it was like his body wouldn't stop. He couldn't sleep. His bones were stretching too fast for his skin, they felt like they were going to break straight through. Sam hurt and hurt and kept on hurting, couldn't eat it hurt too bad, but he was hungry all the time.
Sam wasn't used to being hungry because Dean always made him eat. It goes beyond what Sam can remember, Dean always putting food in front of him, Dean curling Sam's hand around the grip of a spoon, Dean when Sam was sick patiently sliding food into Sam's mouth and ordering Sam to swallow. Sam wasn't used to being hungry because Dean never let him be – because at times Dad would have to say, "Dean, he's full, stop piling more food onto his plate," because Sam would just keep right on eating, if that's what it took to make Dean happy.
Twelve and chubby. Dad made him run. Run, run. His legs weren't long enough to keep step with Dean who lapped him. Dean who never stopped even just to put his head between his knees and gasp shallow and deep the way Sam still had to every few minutes. "Pace yourself," Dean called and Sam would say "Fuck you" only he didn't have the breath for it and also Dad was there running, too.
Thirteen gave him legs long enough to keep up; fifteen gave him lungs to keep on moving even when he thought he couldn't. Sixteen and he wasn't running, he never ran, he was saving that up inside of him, bottling it all up until it was a frenzy with nowhere to go.
Before Sam knew how old he was he remembered being drowsy and looking at the inside of the Impala with half opened eyes. Dad's voice crooned low and off-key. Dad's sleeves were pushed up to his elbows and his hands gripped the wheel; the window was open. It was dark outside and dark inside, the light from the dashboard filling the Impala up with shadows. The tires turning against the road hummed.
Sam didn't know it when he closed his eyes all the way. When he woke up they were still driving.
The new house and the new furniture and the salt lines at every window and every door, lines he wasn't supposed to cross – Sam was old enough at sixteen for Dean to not worry, for Dad to not worry, for them both to disappear. The morning and night phone calls didn't feel real. They happened to someone who wasn't Sam. The person who picked up and talked to Dean wasn't Sam. It was someone else in his mouth speaking these words that didn't belong to him.
Sam woke up and answered the phone and ate breakfast and went to school and came home and did his homework and ate dinner and answered the phone and read and slept and the next day he did it all over again. Again, again.
This is not my life, the blade of the knife pressed into his skin. This is not life.
Nothing smelled like the Impala, nothing. Nothing smelled like Dad or Dean, either.
Fifteen, that was the year he thought, Fuck this and ran away. He only ran away for fifteen minutes but Dean still knew he did it. Dean was waiting in the motel room Sam left behind and the look on Dean's face was like all the worst things Sam had ever done, all the times he'd set Dean's favourite comic on fire or snuck the last chocolate bar or lied and said he hated Dean and hated Dad – it was all those worst moments put together.
Sam said, "I didn't, I wouldn't," and Dean said nothing. Sam put his duffel down. "Dean." That night Sam was in his bed half asleep when Dean leaned over him and brushed his hair off of his face. It was dark in the room. The air stifled. The window faced the street and the headlights of passing cars made it so Sam could see Dean's face in red light and in blue.
Dean's hand was gentle but his voice wasn't when he said, "I won't let you go. You little shit. I'll never let you go."
Sam just wanted to stop. Lying awake all night he sobbed with his mouth open and his eyes dry from the pain of it. He was thirteen and he couldn't move out of his bed, he didn't have enough skin to stretch over his bones. He wanted to stop but he just kept right on growing.
Sixteen was like a dream and the anchor that tied Sam to waking was school. Tests reminded him of the why instead of the why not. He didn't have anyone to show when he got the hundred percents he worked so hard for but it didn't matter. They were proof. I am here. I was here. One hundred percent here.
"Race you," Dean said and Sam stretched his new long legs and laughed and ran. His legs felt weightless, his body was honed as a blade. Fourteen and newly tall, he ran after his brother ahead of him.
Dad watched them, the way he always watched them, with a smile in his eyes but not on his face.
Sam could forgive them anything if they'd just leave him the Impala. He loved her best, loved the feel of her beneath his fingertips, he would smooth her to polished newness and be glad of the time spent.
They drove away in her and left Sam behind. She left him behind. Sam learned to love her a little less, to make the hurt fade faster, fade so fast it was like it had never been.
The blood was everywhere oozing sluggish from Dean's skin and Sam wanted to cry but he wasn't a kid anymore so he didn't.
"Sterilize the needle," Dad said. He was on the bed. He couldn't move. There was something wrong with his chest. Something inside of him was broken and Sam didn't know how to fix it. "Then thread it. Sammy. You can do this."
Dean hissed, and cursed, and Sam stuttered, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry –. " His hands were steady when his voice wasn't, because Sam's hands were always steady.
Sam didn't know his mom because she died before he got the chance to and because Dean wouldn't talk about her and told him not to even think about asking Dad. His mom was a secret Sam wasn't good enough to be told.
Sam dreamed about her sometimes even though he didn't know what she looked or felt like. She could have been anyone, the woman who in his sleep he called Mom. She could have been anyone, but instead she was his.
Sixteen was perfect SAT scores and a guidance counsellor who told him, "Anywhere you want to go, we'll make it happen for you, Sam."
Momentum inside him like a fist in his throat with his pulse loud thathud, like the weight of Dean's hand on his face brushing it clear of bangs and sweat, like the tug of thread through skin. Sixteen was the year Sam stopped running to catch up. Sixteen was the year he got there, and didn't want to stay.
Pastor Jim gave him the consecrated knife and Sam never said this, but the blade of it burned him. Beneath his skin where he couldn't see it singed. It felt like Sam could use the knife to scrape himself raw, skin himself new.
Fifteen and he finished the sutures and took the bottle and spilled it all across the stitches. Dean hissed. Dean grabbed the bottle back and drank from it, greedy and desperate, his face that tortured rapture of those receiving sacrament.
Before he knew how old he was, there was Dad and there was Dean, there was the moving Impala holding him inside her, and there wasn't anything else. He didn't look out the windows to a world that never stopped long enough for him to get used to it. He didn't look out; looking out made him motion sick, and then he was puking and Dean was saying, "Ew, gross, Sammy," and Dad was pulling over, and there were hands on his back, palms moving in circles across his back, soothing him. He felt small. He was small, inside the Impala, beneath Dad's hands, Dean's voice gleefully saying, "There are chunks." He was small when he looked out the window, so instead he looked in.
He ran away for fifteen minutes and they were worst fifteen minutes of his life but the best, too. He hated the feel of leaving, but he didn't turn around because of that – didn't turn around because he was afraid of being alone, of making it alone. He could do it, he could do anything. That was what Dad taught him. Survival.
Sam didn't know why he turned around and went back. He just did it like his body wasn't his own.
Sixteen and he was groundless, but the future was ahead of him and he was running to meet it. It was blinding, it was bright. He paced himself to get there faster.