5.22 Swan Song tag – Yes, another tag… Swan Song is fast becoming more inspiring for me than Mystery Spot. This time the focus is on Sam and his awakening.
"Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens." - Carl Gustav Jung
Through the years that '67 Impala had always held a place of import for the Winchester men. The appeal evident by the way they lovingly spoke of her, how they tenderly cared for her, both John and Dean the expert mechanics who kept her running at peak performance. Sam respected the car because of Dean, knew how much she meant to his big brother. So despite his pain at losing Dean to his crossroads deal, he'd solemnly taken over her care when his only brother was sent to Hell, honored that Dean entrusted him with his most prized possession.
Nothing gave Sam pleasure once Dean was taken, or allowed him to forget the horrors of that night or what his brother was enduring in Hell: not whiskey, not killing, not sex with demons or the promise of revenge. If he felt any pleasure it was mixed with pain, driving the car simultaneously bringing him closer to Dean while intensifying the reality of that loss. Whatever emotions the Impala triggered within him, good and bad, he held tight to her, the only part of Dean he had left.
When Dean miraculously returned from the pit, Sam happily handed over the keys to her rightful owner, knowing Dean was the one who truly belonged in the driver's seat. Dean's contented smile as he eased back into the leather and gripped the steering wheel re-ignited all the warm feelings Sam had experienced inside that car: love and camaraderie, comfort and safety, pride and respect. Dean was back and everything else would somehow fall into place, just as it always had.
Dean was always at ease within her black metal frame, the one place he truly felt at home.
To see him reunited with his girl was fitting, right. As it should be.
The two of them made quite a team, a noble knight and his trusty steed charging into danger with reckless abandon; then in quieter moments, a weary warrior finding safe harbor from all the evil that existed in this world, an evil that was constantly threatening to take him down. The Impala truly was the only sanctuary Dean had, and for much of his life, the only home he'd ever desired…or admitted to wanting.
When Sam pictured Dean happy, smiling and satisfied, it was most often behind the wheel of his baby, roaring down a barren stretch of blacktop, another adventure awaiting him as the soundtrack to his life played out on the Classic Rock tapes he'd acquired from their dad and claimed as his own. Despite whatever issues Sam might have had with the life, his happiest memories were of Dean poised and ready for another road trip, grinning and joking with his brother as he sat right there beside him in shotgun position. Despite his earlier protests, Sam had come to accept that that was precisely where he belonged, beside his brother as they embarked on another hunt, doing their jobs as only they could.
Of course it wasn't always that way, but time has a way of forgiving past deeds and dispelling misperceptions, allowing Sam to accept his lot in life and actually embrace his calling. As hunters they saved people, made a difference, and now they had the chance to maybe even save the world.
Even as a child and young man, apart from the actual hunts, Sam loved the time spent with Dean in that Impala. In the midst of his protests and fights with Dad, he simply never took the time to realize it. Memories are funny that way, sometimes you need a trigger to truly see. Sometimes distance and perspective reflect kindly upon the past, reinforcing the good and banishing the bad.
Even when Sam was away at school, when his anger at the way they were raised burned hottest, his fury lessened when he thought of Dean. His brother was irrepressible, impossible to ignore. When he considered his life before, Dean's cocky attitude and love for that car inevitably demanded his attention. That black beauty an integral part of who Dean was, cementing what mattered most to him, illuminating those precious moments of joy when the pain of their lives was tempered by speed and the roar of her engine. Those were good memories. In spite of how he'd wanted to get away and live normal, he had never wanted to leave Dean.
In many ways the Impala was a means to an end, transportation and a weapons hold. Competition, if one chose to look at it that way. She was the only focus Dean had beyond family. Sam joked about them getting a room, but he knew how much she mattered and he was okay with that. She was a part of the family, and not even the ugly step-child. Dean found her beautiful and through the lens of Dean's affection, Sam supposed he saw her as beautiful too.
Always vigilant in the care of his family, Dean kept her polished and primed, ready for whatever peril he might place her in; but like her heroic knight, she always came through their battles intact if not a bit worn on occasion.
Even when she faced down that semi, even as she lay broken and bent while her bold owner fought his own valiant battle for life; Sam never gave up on her or Dean. Together they pulled through, and bringing her back in all her glory helped Dean move past the pain of losing Dad, allowing him a focus on something besides the past, something he could mold to his will and forge with his hands.
The truth was, Dean was always good at that, making his reality fit. Accepting what little he had and making the most of it. Holding tight to his family and what mattered most. In so many small and simple ways Dean showed his little brother the ropes, in every action and how he chose to live his life.
In spite of her years the Impala still drew attention, still impressive after all those miles. Reliable and true, ready for whatever was asked of her. Just like her most ardent admirer.
It wasn't until that fateful day in Lawrence, Kansas, back where it had all started more than a quarter century before, in an overgrown cemetery on the edge of town, that Sam's eyes were opened to her true worth and he saw her for perhaps the first and final time. She was always a part of their lives; he just never realized how big a part she had played.
In an avalanche of memories Sam's mind traveled back through time, years spent beside his brother within that car, and he saw things clearly. Sam's first conscious memory was embedded within her steel frame, his brother and him waiting out Dad's return, entertaining themselves with toy soldiers and plastic Lego's, contented hours spent united in their solitude. It was a time of innocence, of total trust and belief, in his brother and in their dad. A child seeing only good in the world, still unaware of any evil. As children so often do, they lulled away the hours without thought to the importance those memories would one day hold. That knowledge coming much later, as images bombarded him, the rich history of her origins and their bond to her making her value grow in leaps and bounds.
As his fist closed for the final blow, the toy soldier he'd crammed into the ashtray in the back door of the Impala when he was just a kid caught his eye opening the floodgates to his memories, each one focused and vivid, each one framed by her steel doors. Dean and him, together. Image after image whipping by, nights spent huddled in the back seat waiting for Dad, days spent laughing and sharing precious moments with his brother as they roared down another two-lane blacktop, years of pranks and purpose, friendship and love. Twenty-seven years, less the few rebel years at Stanford, spent safely cocooned within her steel hull. A lifetime of shared moments spanning the decades, connecting their past to the present in a stream of nostalgia. Every prank and tease pulling Sam back to his brother, tugging at his heart and drawing him close. Every hunt and injury binding them together, forging that impenetrable brotherly bond based in love and devotion.
His fist loosened, his will to strike hard and fast diminishing until all he felt was love, for Dean, for their life together, for this particular car. Dean was central to his memories, smiling and joking, teary-eyed and weary, the weight of all those moments leading Sam away from the brink and finally in one defining wave of emotion Dean was wrapping his arms around him in a relieved and frantic hug, all his love flowing into one passionate embrace. That moment real and intense, pulling Sam back to Dean and uniting them in this fight.
Only his bold brother would roll into that cemetery, cocky and defiant in a daunting dare as the soundtrack to their lives blared out through open windows. Only Dean would intrude upon a battle so epic as to promise to torch the planet. Only Dean would stand firm and insist on speaking to Sam, telling both Lucifer and Michael to cool their heels, he'd get to them when he was done speaking with his brother.
Sam heard him, saw him, but was unable to respond, Lucifer maintaining tight control, mocking him for his inability to break free. He wanted to reach out to his brother, let him know he heard. Dean was there despite all reason, holding on to them, risking it all for them as his faith in his brother and his belief in their right to choose offered all the impetus Sam needed to break Lucifer's hold over him.
Going up against the Winchester brothers was a miscalculation for both sides, from demons and devils to angels. Lucifer had lost this fight before it had even begun, Michael and their epic battle pushed aside so Sam could now save Dean. Dean all that mattered, all that had ever mattered.
As he yanked Lucifer back and shoved him down deep, under his control, Sam breathed through the battle, the struggle intense. He could do this, he had to do this. His eyes sought out his big brother, transfixed by him, cataloguing the severity of his injuries even as he relied on Dean's inherent straight to fight past them, knowing first hand the devastating pain yet to come for the one left behind.
He tried to comfort him, as best he could; assure Dean that he could do this, that he had him. Hoping that his protective big brother could somehow find a way to live with this, knowing Dean was ultimately the strongest of them all, somehow able to continue on after unbearable loss. Dean had carried on since he was just a child of four, keeping his family intact, inspiring them with his courage. Sam had to believe Dean would call upon that same inner strength, that undeniable resolve to not give up. Sam needed Dean to live, live for both of them. Live so all of their family's sacrifices held some meaning.
There was one moment to pause, one chance to change his mind, but Sam didn't take it, never even considered it. He'd decided back at Bobby's Salvage yard that this was the only chance the world had. He could do this…as long as he had his brother there beside him, as long as he knew Dean still had faith in him.
Sam shuddered and took another breath; his eyes ghosting over the car, Dean now slumped against it, a final picture in his mind.
In the long run, a car is simply an object, an inanimate thing. But for Sam and Dean, the Impala was more important than any object they'd ever possessed, but her value came from what she represented, what she meant to two brothers.
Photographs are temporary, turning to dust as centuries erode them. What lasts are feelings, connections, that impenetrable bond between two brothers who shared a life together.
As he tumbled into the pit, Lucifer screaming and pounding inside his head, threatening him with the promise of torture and agonies unfathomable, Sam's thoughts settled on Dean, on nights stretched out on the hood of the car looking up at the stars shining bright in the night sky. He knew he wouldn't be seeing any stars in Hell, wouldn't be seeing any brightness or goodness. Hell would be empty of what mattered most.
But Dean would be safe topside, as would the world. It was a small price to pay to right the wrong of what he'd done when he released Lucifer upon the world.
Sam closed his eyes to reality and tunneled inward, back to lazy summer nights sharing a beer with his brother, fireflies flashing all around them, the tranquility of a peaceful night embracing them, knowing his brother would always be there beside him as darkness threatened.
He heard laughter, joyful laughter from years before, Dean's eyes twinkling with mischief as he teased and comforted his kid brother. The encroaching darkness terrifying the younger boy, the tranquility and the turmoil fighting for dominance as he adjusted to the knowledge of what lie in wait beyond the shadows.
Sam determined then that this was where he would spend eternity, locked in the Impala with his brother. Safe and secure in a world of their choosing. The smell of the leather seats melding with the warmth of Dean's voice, his tone descending deeper as the young boy sat poised on the cusp of manhood. "Sammy, no worries. Dad will be back soon. We're safe. Nothin' bad is going to happen to you, not while I'm around."
"Death - the last sleep? No, it is the final awakening." - Sir Walter Scott
All standard disclaimers apply.
Thanks for reading and please review if it moves you. It'd be much appreciated. Take care, B.J.