A/N: thank you so much to everyone who reads or recommends my stories. Thank you especially to everyone who leaves a review. I usually try to answer every one who reviews, but I've fallen very far behind lately and I don't know if I'll ever catch up. So – thank you! I love reviews and I while I do love chatting with people about writing and Supernatural, life has just become acutely painful (more painful!) the past few days and much like Sam in this story, my brain feels shut down.
Sam was tired. But it was like all the tired was jammed up into his skull, pressing down onto his brain. His body moved fine, it seemed to move fine, but thinking and blinking and breathing just seemed beyond him.
Dean was hurt, his back was sliced open, so Sam couldn't give into the need, the want, of just collapsing on the bed, face first, boots and all. He probably wouldn't sleep, but at least he'd be horizontal. But first - he needed to get Dean into the room, bring in the gear, get Dean stitched up and bandaged up and set for the night.
But all Sam really wanted was to collapse onto the bed, boots and all.
"All right. C'mon. Can you get your shirt off?" He asked Dean. "I've got the thread and needle soaking in the rubbing alcohol."
Dean grumbled and pulled his flannel shirt off. Slowly. Sam wanted to help him, but Dean hated being helped almost as much as he hated needing help. So Sam waited while Dean pulled his torn and bloody flannel shirt back off of his shoulders, and peeled his torn and bloody t-shirt forward over his head.
While Sam waited, he fingered his cell phone in his jeans pocket and thought about calling Dad, leaving him a message that Dean was hurt but was okay. Just something to keep them connected.
But no - Dad was dead.
Sam rubbed his eyes and consciously did not yawn and brought the first aid kit and bowl of disinfecting thread and needle and tiny scissors over to set on the between-beds table. As soon as Dean was taken care of, Sam could collapse. Even if he didn't sleep, at least he could collapse.
If Dad was here, he'd take over taking care of Dean and order Sam to bed and Sam would go gladly and immediately. He might even thank Dad for it, even though Dad would be saying it because he didn't think Sam was doing a good enough job.
But - Dad was dead. Sam had to remember that. He had to stop thinking Dad was still there, out there, somewhere, as strong and alive as he ever was.
Because he wasn't. Not anymore.
"Ready?" He asked, tiredly, when he realized that Dean had gotten his shirts off and laid down, face down, on his bed.
"As I'll ever be."
And Sam grunted a soft 'hmmm' that blocked that yawn that still wanted to be yawned, and sat on the mattress next to Dean. The slice was about eight inches long. With stitches placed every quarter inch, that was thirty-two stitches. That wasn't so bad. One laceration, thirty-two stitches. He could be done in half an hour.
"Ready?" He asked, then remembered he'd asked it just a second before. Especially when Dean turned his face toward him.
"This can wait until morning." Dean told him. "Just slap some butterfly bandages on for now."
"The way this looks, they'd have to be Mothra bandages."
"Just use a running stitch, then. Get it over with."
"And when you rip one stitch out getting thrown against a wall, I'll have to put them all back in again anyway. Better to do it right, tonight. C'mon, let's do this."
Sam scrubbed his fingers in the alcohol, used a pad of gauze dipped in the alcohol to clean the skin around the wound, then he threaded the needle and got to work. Stitch, knot, cut. Stitch, knot, cut. Stitch, knot, cut. His eyes crossed with exhaustion and he willed them to uncross. Stitch, knot, cut.
"You don't have to be so OCD." Dean muttered.
"Only put the stitches in every half inch, or every inch. Get it over with, before you collapse on top of me."
Sam uncrossed his eyes again.
"Shut up and let me do this."
Stitch, knot, cut. Stitch, knot, cut. Stitch, knot, cut.
Maybe the next time they saw Dad –
No, Dad was dead. There was no next time. Sam had to stop expecting Dad to be anywhere. Had to stop thinking there'd ever be any next time.
"Hey, Sammy, wakey, wakey."
"Hmm? Wha – yeah." Sam realized he'd drifted off, holding the needle and thread in mid-air. "Let me do this."
"Oh, sorry for stopping you." Dean snarked.
Maybe if they could talk about Dad, Sam thought. Stitch, knot, cut. Maybe then it would seem real, if he could talk about how unreal it actually felt. How despite seeing Dad's body, and burning the body to ashes, and burying the ashes in a little grave, and walking away from the grave, how despite all that, how Dad's death just didn't seem real at all.
Stitch, knot, cut.
But – no, Sam couldn't bring it up. Dean – Dean didn't like talking about it. About Dad. Dean – Dean had a bigger hole in his life now than Sam did. So, Sam couldn't – shouldn't – want to talk about it. About Dad. About losing him or even having him when they did have him. That – that – Sam shouldn't bother Dean with that.
"Can you go any slower?"
Sam swallowed to steady his voice, "Yeah, I can. Go to sleep if I'm boring you."
If Dad was here, if he was to come in when the stitching was done, he'd give the stitches a close look, and find something Sam could've done better. There was never anything Sam had done so well that Dad couldn't find something to improve.
"Three more, then I'm done."
Stitch, knot, cut.
Stitch, knot, cut.
Stitch, knot, cut.
Sam wanted to talk about Dad. He wanted to talk about how much it hurt. How much all of it hurt. Not just how much losing Dad hurt, but how much so much of their lives had hurt, when Dad was pissed or dismissive or critical or just not there, whether physically or emotionally. Sam wanted to talk about it and make sense of it and feel like he was allowed to feel the hurt and anger and rejection.
But any mention of Dad always shut Dean down fast and tight, which didn't do anything good for Sam feeling hurt and angry and rejected.
He patted a generous goop of antibiotic salve onto the stitches, then folded a huge square of gauze into the right-sized strip to tape over the wound.
"I'm gonna take the kit back out to the car." He said, packing everything up. "Then I'm just gonna – take a walk."
Dean tossed him a puzzled look as he carefully pushed himself upright, but he didn't question it.
"Okay. I'm going to bed."
Sam carried the first aid kit out of the room, and shut the door behind himself. Once the kit was packed away and the trunk was closed, he looked around the motel parking lot, wondering where he could – should – walk.
He wondered if he really wanted to walk at all.
Well, he didn't want to not walk, he didn't want to go back into the motel room. Walking at least was movement, it was doing something. As tired as Sam was, he felt too miserable to fall asleep without chemical intervention. But with Dean hurt, he couldn't put himself so irretrievably asleep.
So, he walked.
He walked the sidewalk around the motel, trying not to feel so freaking sorry for himself. He had to be there for Dean, now that Dad was dead. Dean had been there for Sam two hundred percent when Jess died, after all. As much as and a little more than Sam wanted him to be.
Sam's steps faltered and scuffed when he thought of Jess. She'd been dead only a little more than a year. Short enough for the pain to still be raw and scouring. Add to that the pain of losing Dad, and Sam wondered how he was still upright and coherent.
But – no. Dean was hurting worse. Of course he was. Sam had to figure out how to help Dean through this. Dad had been Dean's Dad for years longer, and they'd always been way closer than Dad and Sam had been. Sam shouldn't expect to get all the sympathy and support this time.
A little would be nice though, wouldn't it?
At Bobby's, Sam had tried a few times to talk to Bobby about Dad. Each time, Bobby had said something bland and awkward about hunters and life and death, and then – each time – he'd tried to pull Dean into the conversation, talking to Dean about Dad. And when Dean wouldn't be drawn in, the conversation was over.
So Sam had stopped trying to talk to Bobby about Dad.
He couldn't talk to Dean. He couldn't talk to Bobby. Pastor Jim was dead. Jess was dead. Dad was dead. There was no one Sam could – or would – talk to. And why should he, anyway? He had to suck it up and push it down and keep going. Dean needed to grieve. Sam needed to let Dean grieve without having to worry about Sam.
Dean cared, Sam knew that Dean cared about him and would do anything for him. Almost anything. That was enough. Of course that was enough.
It had to be enough.
The motel wasn't big and soon Sam was back at the door to their room. He was tired, exhausted, but still not sure that he could fall asleep. But there wasn't much else to do. Sit on the car, sit in the car, walk around the motel again. Nothing felt right, nothing felt doable.
Nothing felt enough.
Finally, he let himself into the motel room. Dean was already in bed, asleep. Sam couldn't decide if that was good or bad. Or maybe it was just nothing at all.
Sam was tired, still tired, still that brain-heavy tiredness that didn't promise sleep or even rest. But he didn't want to do any work on his computer or watch any TV or read any book or do any thing.
At least not anything that he could do. Because he wanted to talk about Dad. He wanted to talk to Dad. He just plain wanted Dad.
But he couldn't have that. He couldn't have anything.
He sighed and scrubbed his face and turned to sit on his bed. It didn't matter what he wanted or what he did or didn't have. It only mattered that he get as much rest as he could and be ready for tomorrow and whatever was going to happen next. That's all that mattered.
His backpack was open on the floor next to his bed, but Sam figured he'd sleep – or rest – in his clothes. He bent down to zip the pack back up – and saw Dad's journal sitting on the top of his clothes.
All but six months of Sam's life was in that journal. All but the last year of the last twenty-three years of Dad's life was in that journal. The leather was worn smooth from Dad's hands, the pages were covered with Dad's ideas and words, the paper crinkled with ink and sweat and sometimes blood.
That did it. He pulled the journal out with hands that suddenly were shaking and hurried to the bathroom that suddenly seemed a mile away. He shut the door and sat on the edge of the tub and gripped the journal in his hands.
Sam pressed the journal against his forehead and blinked his eyes against the tears that suddenly started falling. He wasn't going to not feel this.
"I miss you."