This was written for a contest requesting the following: "Remember the scene in 'Dark Side of The Moon' when Sam's happy memory was when he ran away and lived on his own in Flagstaff? How Dean was worried sick because Sam ran away on his watch and he thought he was dead? How upset John was with Dean? Write that story."
It's also in a weird format, one in which I've never written before. It's in the second person, and reverse chronological order. But, as most every writer knows, sometimes the muse takes over and writes what it wants. And who am I to refuse?
That said, I hope you like it.
Time's Turned Glass
Forget it. Let's roll.
Sam leaves with a wallet full of poker winnings and a backpack full of this and that exactly four months after returning from Flagstaff. (You counted.) You're both surprised and not this time when he doesn't come back, and you don't look for him because you'd seen the Stanford full ride letters, and knew there was no way in hell Sam wouldn't go. Dad doesn't look for him either, because he'd seen the defiant challenge in Sam's eyes right before Sam slammed the door and walked to the bus stop, destination: Palo Alto.
But you do check your phone each night, hoping that maybe it'll light up with one missed call, and it'll be Sam on your voicemail, but it never does and it never is. Dad never speaks to you with anything except Shoot, Dean or Duck, Dean or Clean the damn guns, Dean and sometimes Shut up, Dean, and you both know why, but neither brings it up.
Because if there's one thing that would stop Dad from giving you that little grin after you and he kill some piece of shit, it's Sam walking out the door for good.
I'm sorry. I never thought about it like that.
You don't find Sam, Dad doesn't find Sam, he finds you. Somehow, he discovers that you're in Death Valley trying to kill this…thing while not melting right into the sand because of the godawful heat. Dad's at the local pool hall hustling some tourists because he's the least injured, and you're licking your own wounds back at the fan-cooled motel room when, as if nothing had ever happened, Sam comes walking in, wearing a white tee shirt and fucking shorts. There's more color to his cheeks than you remember—and it's not from sunburn—okay, maybe a little—and his hair is less lank than before, and most noticeably, there's a smile on his face.
"Hey," he says, rubbing the back of his neck.
Your eyes are murderous, you know, and first you punch him, and then you hug him (in the manliest way possible). He looks appropriately confused, and you hit him again for good measure. "The hell were you thinking?" is all you can muster out, because you're happypissedrelievedhurtSam, and he doesn't know what to say.
Dad returns an hour later and he's either so relieved or so incensed that Sam's back that he refuses to talk, and that night when you turn out the light, Sam's on the floor because he's gotten so ginormous that his limbs would dangle over the end of the bed even if he weren't a toss-and-turner. In the darkness, your, Sam's, and Dad's breaths are just a little too even, the snores a little too heavy to indicate any of you are actually sleeping.
And when Dad came home…
You sit catatonic on the bed closest to the door, everything paralyzed but the air in your lungs, the neurons in your head, and the blood in your veins. The water-stained wall is interesting, if blurry because you can't even manage to blink. The air is tight, heavy, and it locks your body in place, making breathing difficult and sweat rise to the surface of your skin, rolling down in rivulets to soak your shirt.
You'd still be out looking for Sammy until you dropped from hypothermia if it weren't for the dread in your gut and the lead in your legs keeping you here. All the years of Dad teaching him, of you teaching him, all of it with good intentions are now sneering fuck you, you worthless bastard. Sam may not be as great a hunter as Dad, or even you, but he's scary smart, and more than that, he's the most stubborn idiot you've ever met. If Sam doesn't want to be found, he won't be.
So you sit catatonic and watch that water-stained wall with itchy eyes and tear tracks down your face that you don't realize are there. You don't move, not even when there's a gunshot outside or the motel owner's Rottweiler barks, and you don't retch when you hear the couple next door going at it like rabbits. In fact, you don't move even when there's a key in the lock and the door creaks open.
It's not Sam—the feeling in your gut would go away if it were. No, the tension in the room doesn't ease, but rather intensifies, souring and congealing like old milk in a minimart. You only move when your shoulder's shoved; you know that grip.
All of a sudden, everything's animated again, the water-stained wall goes back to being moldy and musty, colors gaining back contrast, eyes watering when you finally blink. You don't look up, but rather feel two hands grasp you by the arms and pull you from the bed, a finger firmly tilting your chin up until you have no choice but to meet sparking brown eyes.
"Dean," Dad says, voice dangerous like you've only ever heard when he's taunting some supernatural son of a bitch. He has that same feeling in his gut, you know, even though he doesn't show it through inaction, but rather rage. "Dean! Where's Sammy?"
Your eyes well up even though you don't want them to—Big boys don't cry, Dad had said a million times, starting from when you were four, and you're twenty-one, goddamn it—and Dad knows before you tell him, he knows.
"What. Happened?" he grinds out, and you can only see wrath, but underneath there's fear, too.
"I didn't…he just…I'm sorry…" you whimper, whimper, and his hands tighten, and you know there'll be bruises tomorrow.
"Where's Sam?" Dad yells, and you flinch.
"I don't know," you hiccup, and you wish Dad could see just how ripped up and guilty you feel inside; because if he could, he wouldn't—couldn't—be this mad. (Maybe.) "He just took off, Dad, I didn't mean to—"
"You let him out of your sight?" Dad shouts.
Your chest is tight, your heart battering against your rib cage like it wants to break free. "I thought—I didn't think—he just—"
Your incoherent rambling is cut off when you feel your cheek sting and warm liquid gush down your mouth, and you don't realize what happened for a second, but then you put together the throbbing pain in your face, the fact that you're on the ground, and that Dad is standing there with livid disgust on his face, looking taller than Sammy even though he's just about your height.
Above all that, you're shocked. However furious Dad had gotten in the past, however drunk, he'd never struck you, certainly had never struck Sam, never. Clenched fists and a raised voice was as far as it got, and though more than one wall had suffered in your place, you'd always been unmarred by your father's hand.
You should have known Sam disappearing would be the only catalyst to break that unwritten rule. The shock fades, though, to shame and to you-know-you-deserve-it. All your life, you've had only one purpose: look after Sammy. For seventeen years, you've done it right, only a few missteps along the way. But you've sure as shit failed now, and frankly, you wouldn't blame Dad if he decided to beat your ass six ways from Sunday.
He doesn't. You wish he would, it'd make you feel like the fuck-up you are.
His white-knuckled fist raises as if to sock you square on the jaw hard enough to break, and you don't even close your eyes to brace yourself (you deserve it, you do) but then he lets out this shuddering sigh and slowly lowers his hand. Then he brushes past you and locks himself in the bathroom. A few moments later, you hear his gravelly voice coming through the gap between the door and the floor, and you don't know who he's talking to, but you hear a "Sammy" and a "gone" and a "he wasn't paying attention" and you sit back down on your bed and stare at the water-stained wall.
When Dad's finished talking on the phone and emerges from the bathroom, you're still looking at the yellowy-gray lines on the once-white paint, and Dad says nothing, just grabs his coat and walks out to his truck, all screeching tires and dust clouds. He comes back the next night, but he doesn't speak to you for two weeks.
I looked everywhere for you. I thought you were dead.
You gave up on your grid search a city and a half ago, and now you're driving more in sheer panic than any semblance of strategy or order. Dad would keep calm, but Dad's in Tarpon Springs clearing out a harpy nest. The cell phone you've got burns a hole in your pocket as if daring you to call up your old man, but you don't, because for Christ's sake, you can find your brother. You're not a moron.
You search every city between the motel in Montana and an hour past the North Dakotan state line. You search until the Impala's gas gauge drops to the red. Somehow you've managed to veer the car onto the shoulder of the highway, and you get out with some difficulty (your mind's clear as a bell, but your body's still pretty smashed). There's no one on the two-lane blacktop, no one except you and your car that blends into the darkness as if she's not even there.
You fall onto the black asphalt and scrunch your knees to your chest, digging your fingers into your scalp. He'd had hours and hours of a head start, he was sober, he was brilliant, he'd probably been planning this ever since Dad said he was going to kill some birdwomen. You can't quite remember what time you left for the bar, but you know it was long enough. Sam likes to drive more or less the speed limit, but you know he can drive your interpretation of it if he feels so inclined.
Sam could be in Wyoming or Idaho or Minnesota or anywhere, and you have no idea where else you can look, who you can call. You don't even spare a thought for what Dad might think, because right now all you care about is that your baby brother is gone. Most would say Sam is far from a baby, Dad definitely, but to you, Sam will always be Sammy, your little twit of a baby sibling. Always has been, always will be.
Even if he does take off the minute Dad's twenty-three hundred miles away and you're doing Jäger shots.
Sometime later—you don't really know when, because your brain is still filled with Sam and your stomach is still filled with hysteria—a car almost runs you over, the early morning commuter swerving at the last second. Another car sees you in time and pulls over onto the shoulder behind the Impala; it's a shiny SUV, a Tahoe, or perhaps an Explorer, and it flings gravel, some hits your head, or maybe it doesn't, you're too numb to tell.
"Hey, buddy?" It's a girl's voice, one about your age, possibly a bit younger, and as you drag your eyes up to look at her, you see she's pretty, gorgeous even, and you'd hit on her in an instant if the situation were different. At first, a part of you thinks that she's the most idiotic chick on the planet for pulling up next to some random guy's car on a deserted highway. But then you notice the outline of a not negligibly-sized knife in her jeans pocket, and you'd be willing to bet her purse has a can of good mace in it, so maybe she's not as idiotic as you'd thought.
"Buddy?" she asks again, and kneels down next to you. She recoils a little at the bitter stench of liquor acting as a cologne, but doesn't comment. "Hey, you all right?"
"My brother is missing," you reply distantly.
"Oh, gosh, I'm sorry," she says softly, and she sounds like she means it. "What can I do to help?"
You know her intentions are true, and she's entirely genuine, but one chick who doesn't know your brother and who probably doesn't have any experience in locating people isn't going to do you much good.
"You can fuck off is what you can do," you snarl, and stand unsteadily. If you had just the slightest idea where Sam is, you'd apologize and explain better. But you don't, and she's in your way. So you half carry, half lead her back to her car and make her stay with one glare.
You get back in the Impala, and hope that there's a gas station not far away, because you can't even try to look for a needle in a stack of needles if you don't have fuel. The girl doesn't restrain from shouting colorful obscenities, but her "I hope you find your fucking brother so he can kick your ass, you dickhead!" is a nice gesture.
Not that nice gestures do jackshit when your brother's God knows where. You know full well how large the U.S. is, how many winding roads, how many blink-and-you'll-miss-it turnouts, how many tiny motels there are, and Sam could be on or in any one of them.
You spend the next four days turning everything ahead of you inside out, running on only three hours of sleep and countless cans of Coke, covering four states and dozens of cities, towns, hamlets, farmhouses. You haven't found Sam, haven't even happened upon a bogus credit card trail or grumbling, hustled townies, and you keep thinking he's dead, no way is he not, someone or something got him for sure, before your mind recognizes that line of thinking as suicidal and quickly paints over it with something innocuous like a Deer Crossing sign.
You drive back to your motel on autopilot, not really certain when you chose to give up trawling every place you came to for Sam, the entire time wishing you could just die, because you don't know who you are or how you're supposed to subsist without your baby brother.
You ran away on my watch.
You don't realize he's missing, not right at first. You walk into the motel room you and he got a few hours ago, drunk off your ass and woefully (well, as woeful as you can be when you're drunk off your ass) looking at the gash on your arm where a very angry boyfriend had broken a beer bottle. Your blood alcohol level is so high that the slice isn't clotting as fast as it should, and for some reason that's amusing. Fuck if you know why.
"Shammy!" you call into the room, fumbling for and finally finding the light. It's late, the not-quite-dark but not-quite-light kind of late, so you don't think it's strange that the room is pitch black. You don't catch that Sam's duffel is nowhere to be found, because honestly, the edges of your vision are kinda hazy. Sam's not in his bed, but the bathroom door is closed, so you think maybe he's in there.
"Shammy!" you call again, biting your lip at the laugh that almost escapes because you find it hilarious that you're slurring your words. (And you'll be damned if you can recall the last time you were this hammered…which is also pretty hilarious.) "Shammy, where're youuuu?"
Sam doesn't answer, not even at your incessant pounding, and you're way past shit-faced to think it's weird. (Sam never fails to open the door after no more than six knocks, albeit with his bitchiest of bitchfaces.)
You frown, but not very well. "Shammyyyy," you whine, and sometime later you'll remember why you never get this drunk; because it makes you into a too-happy giggler. And Dean Winchester is not a giggler. "M'brother, where're you?"
Sam still doesn't answer, and you exhale, thinking maybe he's gone to get something to eat. You stagger into the motel lobby and the owner takes a step back at smelling the alcohol on your breath. "'M lookin' for m'brother," you say, placing your hands firmly on the counter to let the owner know you're serious business.
"Maybe you lost him," says the owner sardonically. "I'm surprised you can find your ass with both hands being this smashed."
You crack a grin and point at the owner. "You're funny," you say. "But I did not lose m'brother. Can't lose a Shash—a Shashqua—a Sas. Quatch."
The motel owner rolls his eyes and lets out a long-suffering sigh. "Haven't seen him," he replies. He knows who you're talking about, and he's telling the truth. He also knows the type of drunk you are: you won't leave without a decent justification. "But," the owner admits, "the security cameras are down right now and the game's on."
You bang your hand on the counter and nod. "Mmkay," you say. "Y'shuck, but mmkay."
You turn around and wait a few moments for your vertigo to pass, and then make your way out while the motel owner mutters to himself and then curses when he discovers he missed a great play.
You shamble back to the six-to-six bar from whence you came fifteen minutes ago—the bartender had thoughtfully taken your keys—and sit on a stool. "Go home," says the barkeep. "I thought I told you to go home."
"Yeah," you drawl, "but I can't find m'brother. Have you seen 'im?"
The bartender clearly comes to the same conclusion as the motel owner, and shakes his head while cleaning out a beer glass. "Nope."
You nod—he has no reason to lie—and walk outside. You're not sure when it really hits you; God knows nothing's happened that hasn't happened before to make you think Sam's actually gone, but one minute you're fine (drunk, but fine), and the next you frown for real, your eyes scouring. Something doesn't feel right all of a sudden, that bond you've always had with Sam has snapped, you realize with a start.
Your inebriety vanishes quicker than you can draw your gun, and your blood freezes in your veins. Your breath condenses in the frigid air as you scream, "SAM!"
Nothing happens, and you scream again, and again, and again, and your hands start quaking, and you subconsciously think of a way to steal your car keys back. But there's only one litany now that rattles around your head with merciless fire: findsamfindsamfindsamfindsam.
Wow. You really don't remember, do you?
You'd never really noticed before, but Sam is a bit of a map whore.
Granted, he's always been saddled with map duties ever since he was old enough to read one properly, but still. You'd looked at plenty of the damn things to last you five lifetimes by the time the job got passed to your brother, yet Sam seems to enjoy it. He's mastered the art of holding a flashlight under his chin at just the right angle so the map is illuminated but the beam isn't blinding Dad (or you).
And when Dad (or you) gets lost but doesn't want to own up to it, Sam's already got him covered: Take a left, take a right, take this road here, take that off-ramp there. Sam gets you back on the right path before you even acknowledged you were lost. Sam knew, though, because Sam's a total map whore. You wouldn't be surprised if he could close his eyes and tell you the route from Poughkeepsie to Durango complete with exit numbers and gas stations.
Maybe it's because he seems to be looking at them a lot lately—more than usual, you mean. Instead of burying his nose in a book like normal, it's buried in a map, most often one of the entire U.S., but sometimes of only one state, but you can't see which, because Sam's either stuffed in the backseat or to your right, and you're either in the passenger seat or driving, so. Inherent issues there.
But you make nothing of it, because so what if Sam wants to study the twisting blue, pink, and black lines spidering across the continental forty-eight? He's a geek—that's what geeks do. Or, well, you assume, because you're not the sort to associate yourself with geeks.
Still, one day you joke, "What's the deal, Sammy? Planning your escape?"
Sam laughs and doesn't respond, just goes back to the maps. You roll your eyes at him and forget all about his weird fetish. After all, you chuckle to yourself, he isn't the type to just up and leave, let alone up and leave you. No sir, not Sam. Not your baby brother.
This is a good memory for you?