A/N: I was watching the news of Haiti, and it struck me as being very Apocalyptic in the enormity of destruction and human misery. And that, of course, made me think of Sam, and the story pretty much jumped out at me, and I wrote it in a very short time. When I posted it at 11pm, I thought it was a pretty good story. When I read it again at 11am the next day, it seemed pretty thin. So I tweaked it.
I was sleeping soundly when a repetitive noise dragged me awake. Heavy breathing, angry mutters - somebody rifling through my duffel bag. The Colt was never far from me since we got it back and I sat up with it in my hand and pointed it right at -
Who was kneeling near my bed, elbow deep in my duffel bag.
"What the hell are you doing?"
I set the gun back under my pillow and switched on the bedside lamp against the gray gloom of early morning. Unless Sam was interested in wrinkled clothes, mismatched socks, or a spare knife, he wasn't going to find much in that bag. He didn't answer me.
"Do you have any money?"
It was a desperate question. The last I remembered, Sam was sitting on his bed, flipping channels, when I fell asleep. He was still dressed in what he'd been wearing then, and the TV was still on, so I guessed he'd been awake all night. He couldn't possibly have gotten himself in dutch with a bookie or a loan shark while I was asleep.
"Money? For what?"
"I need to give them money."
Still desperate, he looked at me like I knew what he was talking about, and like I could take care of it. And maybe I could take care of it, if I knew what the hell he was talking about. The kind of debts we usually owed involved blood and souls, not dollars and cents.
"Give who money?" What the hell had happened while I was sleeping? Who did he owe money to, and why? "Sam - what're you talking about?"
He gave up his hunt through my bag and stood to gesture to the top of the TV, where a crumpled pile of bills and some change huddled precariously.
"I have - I only have two-hundred and twelve dollars and sixty-three cents. I need - I have to give them more."
"Give who money, Sam? How much money?" I swung my feet out of bed and waited for him to explain.
"Them." Was all he said, pointing over his shoulder to the TV. "I have to give them money." One quick look told me what was going on.
Ever since Lucifer escaped, Sam has blamed himself for any and every bad thing he heard about. He never said it out loud, but I could tell. It lived in his eyes and danced on his shoulders, and if a freak bridge collapse in Dry Heaves, Nebraska devastated Sam, even though nobody died, what was Haiti gonna do to him?
Of course he knew what I was about to say, and of course he cut me off.
"Don't. Don't say it. It is my fault, Dean. All the death, all that destruction. It is my fault." He looked at the TV, in time to see a screaming child sitting alone beside the smoldering pile of destroyed home. "How can it not be my fault?"
His voice shook, he looked broken, traumatized. I should've known, the way he'd been flipping back and forth through the news channels last night, I should've known that this was going to happen. It couldn't be more than five or six hours since he started watching the news, but he'd let it affect him right from the start, like a sharpened, barbed stick he'd pushed into his heart.
I should've ripped the plug out of the TV.
"This is not your fault." I said. I gestured to the TV and the ever-worsening scenes of horror. "Bad things happen. They just do."
"Not this bad." Sam said. Loudly. He was tired physically and exhausted emotionally, and he was gearing up to a shouting fit. I beat him to it.
"Yes, this bad." I told him, even louder. "All the time."
That put a damper on his temper, but not on his guilt.
"No. No, nothing's been as bad as everything that's happened since I set Lucifer free…"
I wanted to sigh. I wanted a drink. I wanted to shake Sam until I knocked that cement truck of guilt off of his shoulders once and for all. Every little bit of catastrophe that he heard on the news he blamed on the Apocalypse. And he blamed the Apocalypse on himself. And Haiti was no little catastrophe. Not by anybody's measure.
"Really? This is your fault?" I asked him.
"All your fault?"
With every answer, his voice got a little softer and his head dipped a little lower.
"Every bad thing that's happen is all your fault and nobody else's?"
He wavered a little there, he hated it being true but he believed it was true all the same.
"Yes." He finally answered me. I could barely hear him.
"Hurricane Katrina?" I asked. That flummoxed him. He looked up at me, confused.
"What about that Christmas tsunami? Or 9/11? Sam? Rwanda or Bosnia or Northern Ireland? Stop me when I get to something you didn't cause."
He finally saw where I was going, but I didn't let it stop me. I was pissed and let myself be full-on snotty.
"The 1918 flu epidemic? Great Chicago fire? Wait - I know -Pompeii. Great work with that one, Sammy."
"Just shut up, Dean. All right? Shut. Up. You don't understand. This is worse than any one of those disasters."
"That doesn't make it your fault."
He crumpled, his face crumpled up into that 'explain this to me so it makes sense' look that he's had since before he could walk and he couldn't figure out how his GlowWorm lit up. He swept a hand toward the TV.
"Two hundred thousand people are dead, Dean."And then, like I didn't hear him or I didn't get it, he said it again. "Two hundred thousand. And the survivors? No food, no water, no plumbing. No one to help them. The one hospital that didn't collapse, all the doctors left. Only the doctor from CNN was there, trying to help."
As he kept on with his guilt-inspired monologue, I put my hand on his chest to propel him backwards toward his bed. He was going to sit. He was going to sleep. He was going to stop thinking. He was going to shut up.
"Old people who survived their nursing home collapsing are dying because they don't have their medicine. No food, nobody to feed them even if they had food. Some poor woman can hear her three year old daughter crying, trapped under their house, only she can't move the wreckage to get to her. They're starting to say that the people who died right away are the lucky ones."
Sam woulda made a lousy trial lawyer. No matter which side he was on, he'd feel way too much empathy for the other side to be ruthless. I finally backed him up enough that he had no choice except to sit on his bed.
"Still not your fault, Sam."
He tried to see the TV around me then he tried to stand up again and I kept him sitting with a push.
"I have to give them money, Dean. I need to - I have to - do something."
"All right, Sam. All right." I took a seat next to him at the end of the bed. "We'll make a donation."
"I'll pay you back." He promised me earnestly. Considering that the money he did have, I had given to him, it was an ambiguous promise at best.
It'd been years though since Sam had asked me for money, for anything. When he was a kid, and all through high school, if there was a book he wanted, or something he needed for school and he didn't have enough money, he'd ask me to make up the difference or to buy whatever it was for him. All these years we'd been back traveling together, he'd never asked me for one thing for himself. He took the money I split with him, he'd tell me if we ever needed something for a hunt, but never anything for himself.
"You don't have to pay me back, Sam. I doubt they take cash donations, anyway."
"We're not going to give them money from a bogus credit card." He said it like I'd insulted him.
"Why not?" I asked, and he gave me a look like I should know already.
"That would be cheating."
Another reason he'd make a lousy lawyer: God help any client of his who was actually guilty. That wouldn't go long overlooked.
"Okay…" I did some fast thinking because sending cash anywhere was really never a good thing. "We'll ask Bobby."
Gee whiz, you'd think I'd said Bobby had a secret stash of Beanie Babies.
"Yeah. He actually has a checking account, you know. He does own a business."
"But - I want to give them money."
"We'll give him the money to send. And anyway, that'll give us a chance to find a trustworthy place to send it to. No point donating any money if it never gets to them, right?"
On the TV, the camera panned across a destroyed school, and lingered from a distance on a dead body, bent and broken and laying on top of a heap of shattered drywall. I'm used to dead bodies, seeing them, handling them, burning them. But every single one of those bodies deserved what I was doing to them. Whoever that body was on the TV, they'd been at school, doing their job, teacher or principal or cafeteria or maintenance, minding their own business, when their world literally came to a crashing, deadly end.
I reached over and switched off the TV. The resulting silence was almost oppressive. Sam and I were reflected in the dark screen.
"Bad things happen, Sammy. They always have, they always will, and that's all there is to it. Most death is a waste. Most death is a surprise. And it just keeps happening. Whether it's two hundred thousand people in Haiti, or a little boy who drowned in his backyard swimming pool."
"What boy?" Sam asked, sounding like he was ready to put on a suit and go to the funeral.
"I don't know - I'm just saying…" I stood up and gathered all of his money together off the top of the TV, and handed it to Sammy. "…whether it's thousands at once or just one at a time - it stinks and it's rotten and it's not your fault. Okay?"
Sam didn't answer that. He looked at the money in his hands and then at me and asked,
"How much can we send them?"
What a one track mind. If I said we could sell the Impala and send all the proceeds, he'd probably agree.
And with that look on his face, if he asked if we could sell the Impala and donate all the proceeds - well…
…I probably wouldn't shout 'hell no'too loud.
"We'll figure it out. All right? We'll see what we've got and what we can afford."
"Yeah. Okay. Thanks."
He didn't seem too interested in doing anything with the money in his hands, so I took it back again and stuffed it into the front pocket of his backpack, sitting on the floor next to the bed.
"All right. C'mon." I stood up and patted his arm. "Shoes off. Lay down. C'mon."
Since he'd been awake for probably twenty-two hours, he was tired enough to do what I told him with no argument. In a couple of minutes he was stretched out on the bed, turned on his side facing the far wall, with still no argument as I unfolded the bedspread over him. I switched off the lamp, planning to go back to bed myself for a couple more hours of shut-eye.
"It's too quiet…"
I knew what he meant. Until he was sound asleep, the thoughts and images and guilt would be spinning around his head like the Tasmanian Devil. The quiet in the room would only make the noise in his head ever louder. I switched the radio on, tuned it to the local 'all music all the time' channel, and turned the volume down until the words were barely audible.
And then I sat up in my bed until I knew Sam was asleep.