A/N: This is my first SPN fic. I am very new to the fandom and have not watched all the episodes, so please forgive me if I made mistakes. Pretend it's in an alternate universe if that makes it easier to swallow. I normally would wait until I knew more but I couldn't resist writing it.
TW: Strong themes of depression, centered around self-harm.
Dean was ten when the first scar appeared on his body.
It wasn't a scar from hunting, or from tripping over, or anything like that. It was a scar from the knife that he'd kept in the slats under his bed ever since.
Every day for years, his routine had been the same. Get up. Check for a message from his dad and toss the phone angrily back to the floor when there wasn't one. Shake Sam awake. Make breakfast. Take Sam to school. Go to class. Slog his way through the day. Go get Sam. Go home. Make dinner while Sam read. Check for a message from his dad and toss the phone angrily back to the floor when there wasn't one. Assure Sam over dinner that dad would be home soon. Let Sam watch TV while he stared at the knife from the kitchen. And put it back. Put Sam to bed. Go to sleep.
Every day. Same old, same old. And his friends never noticed the shadows under his eyes, much less the shadows in them. And his teachers never thought that his dismal grades weren't because he didn't care. And Sam never realised how much Dean hated himself.
Every day. The same routine. Until one day, when two more teachers had put him in detention than normal, when his best friend decided that he wasn't worth hanging around anymore, and his father had finally sent him a message in the early morning- one saying that he wouldn't be back for Sammy's birthday.
On that day, Dean walked slowly back from school as Sam jumped ahead, chattering about his day. On that day, Dean opened the door and tossed his bag to the floor with a thunk. Told Sam to have cereal for dinner. Snuck the knife out of the kitchen, snuck into the bathroom, and took a sharp breath before he slid the knife up his arm.
He gasped as the sharp edge penetrated his skin. He gritted his teeth as the blood seeped out. He bit back a strangled yelp as the pain began to flood through him and pulse through his arm. And he exhaled as the pain in his heart leaked out with his blood.
He heard Sam stop playing. "Dean?" came a small voice.
"I'm okay, Sammy," Dean called back in a strained voice. "I'm fine."
He glanced at the knife again. A form of release, he thought. A relief.
And his daily schedule changed. He didn't use the knife often. Scissors, sometimes, or pins. A pinch or a scratch here and there. But sometimes, when the day was just a bit too dry and life was just a little too tough, he would take out that silver knife and leave a fresh scar on his body.
And his friends never thought of his tendency to wear long sleeves and pants, even when it was hot. And his teachers never noticed his wince as he leaned on his arm. And Sammy never saw the long red scars that lined his big brother's limbs.
Until one day, when Dean forgot to close the door, when Sam decided he was tired of his cars, when he wanted to play with his big brother instead. On that day, Sam trailed over to the bathroom to find Dean. On that day, he watched as Dean left a new wound in his arm. Noted the sigh of relief as the blade left his skin. Hid as Dean walked out and towards his bedroom, eyes following the knife as it returned to its hiding place.
Sammy looked curiously at the knife. What had Dean been doing? Maybe it was something fun. Something cool. Dean was cool. Everything he did was cool. Dean was Superman, he said, or sometimes Batman, it changed depending on which comic book they were reading together.
Perhaps Sam should try. He pictured himself walking proudly towards his brother, an identical slash in his arm. He pictured his brother lighting up with pride, and telling him how cool he was.
"Sammy?" Sam looked up to see his big brother staring down at him. "What's wrong?" His eyes flicked warily over to where the silver knife lay.
He blinked up at Dean. "I'm bored."
Dean softened. "Okay. Let's go play."
And as Dean pretended to be a tickle monster, and Sam ran giggling around the living room, he almost forgot about the sharp glint of the silver knife.
But not quite.
And one day, when Dean was making dinner, he heard a sharp cry from the bathroom.
"Sammy?" he shouted, and there was no reply.
He glanced frantically into the next room, where the book lay forgotten on the floor.
Another sound came from the bathroom. A thud.
Dinner was forgotten instantly. "Sammy!" he bellowed, tearing through the house towards the bathroom.
Before he even came into full view, a bright flash blinded him, and he groaned and nearly collided into the wall. He squinted towards the direction of the flash. A reflection of the sunlight off a bright surface on the floor, next to a growing pool of red.
The silver knife.
Dean's heart dropped. "SAMMY!" he roared, and dashed into the bathroom.
A small form was crumpled on the floor, a huge slash across his arm, near his wrist.
Dean dropped to his knees. "Sammy?" he whispered, shaking Sam as he did every morning. "Sam? Sam!"
Dean pressed his ear against his limp brother's chest. There. A heartbeat. The rise and fall of ragged breaths. He glanced around desperately. The phone was there from where he'd tossed it down. He grabbed it. Pressed the nine, and the one, and the one again. Slowly, fingers shaking. And raised it to his ear.
"Nine one one," said a cool voice. "What is your emergency?"
"My brother," he said, his voice shaking just as much as his hands. "He's- He's bleeding, he's cut himself, please, he needs help. Please."
"Where are you now?"
"At- At our house." Dean gave the address. "Our father is… out."
"Where is your mother?"
Dean swallowed. "She died," he said tightly.
A pause. "An ambulance is on its way to your location." Dean listened numbly as the woman gave him instructions.
"Thank you," he said in barely a whisper, and hung up.
The next half hour was a blur. Blindly following the lady's instructions. Trying to stop the bleeding. Elevating the wound. Laying his little brother onto the bed and trying not to stare at the gaping gash in his arm, trying not to watch as the blood dripped onto the carpet, trying to look anywhere but the silver knife.
He paused, and after a moment's hesitation, called his father. He clenched his jaw when it went to voicemail, as always, but he left a message anyway.
He watched as the ambulance came and went back to following instructions. Opening the door. Directing them to Sam. Watching as he was loaded onto a stretcher and brought into the ambulance.
Dean swallowed back a lump as he climbed in himself. Sam had always wanted to ride in an ambulance, when the sirens were wailing and the vehicle was tearing through the street. And Dean had promised him, one day. One day.
But not like this.
He smoothed back Sam's hair as the ambulance began to move. "Just hang on, Sammy," he whispered. "Just hang on. You'll be okay. It'll be okay."
He thought he felt Sam stir and grabbed his hand. "Listen, you're strong, okay? You're gonna be fine, and I'm gonna take care of you. That's my job, isn't it? Taking care of my- of my pain-in-the-ass little brother?" Dean thought of all the times he had called his brother that and wondered in a brief moment of horror and panic if he ever would again. "Sam?"
Sam's hand twitched.
The ambulance lurched to a halt. Dean backed away as Sam was wheeled out, and trailed behind the hospital bed. "Please be okay," he whispered to himself as he tried not to think about the fact that it was all his fault.
He was barely aware of the nurse who was ushering him over to a chair. Pressing a cup of water in his hand. Offering him a lollipop. "No," he wanted to say, "no, I don't want a lollipop. No, because I'm ten, not three. No, because my brother is dying and it's all my fault so I don't want your stupid lollipop." But he ended up saying, "Thank you," in a quiet voice, and meekly accepting the lollipop because he'd done enough damage for the day.
And he sat there, cup in hand, lollipop in mouth, and he thought. And he thought of what his mother would have thought of his scars, and he thought of what his mother would say to him now. And he wondered if his father had somehow sensed that there was trouble and called, because his father was the real Superman, even if he wasn't around much. And he wondered if his father would even care.
He thought of his teachers, and how they never gave him a chance. He thought of his friends, who didn't like having him around. And he thought of Sammy, who accepted him without a second hesitation, who thought of him as a superhero, who almost didn't care that their mother was gone and their father as good as, because he had his big brother, Dean. He thought of Sammy, who copied Dean's every move, who gazed up at him with respect and adoration, who boasted about his big brother to his friends. He thought of Sammy, who he loved and would die for, and he thought of Sammy, who was now lying in a hospital bed because of his, Dean's, selfishness and carelessness. And he thought of the silver knife.
Time lost all meaning as he waited, ignoring the twinges in his scars and the thudding in his head. Time lost all meaning as he drifted away, dreaming unconsciously of what a good life must be like. A life where society understood and your parents were there to take care of you when it didn't. A life where he was a good role model rather than a failure.
Finally, the nurse came back, and he shot up like a rocket, asking to see Sam, and asking how he was, and whether he would be okay. And when the nurse smiled and nodded, it was like there was a parade going on Dean's head and fireworks exploding in his heart and the sun coming out to brighten his face.
And then he was beside Sam. He was next to his little brother, who looked so small in the huge, white, clinical hospital bed, with several liquids dripping into him and a bandage over his wrist.
Sam looked up at his brother with big eyes.
"I'm sorry, Dean," he said.
Dean shook his head, and kept shaking it as tears filled his eyes and spilled over to run down his cheeks. He kept shaking his head, anger and guilt taking over him as he tried to stop the tears, to be strong for his brother, but he just couldn't.
"No," he said. "I- I'm sorry, Sam."
Sam wrinkled his nose. "Why?"
"You were just copying me. And I shouldn't-"
Sam shook his head. "You can't do everything right, Dean," he said, and Dean stared, because that beyond anything that he'd ever thought his six year old brother could or would say.
Sam looked at him. "I'm not that little, Dean," he said solemnly. "I can do stuff and say stuff."
Dean choked back something that was half laugh and half sob. "Still. I'm sor-"
Dean looked at Sam.
"Don't," repeated Sam. "I told you. You can't always do everything right. I'm sorry for being stupid," he continued in a small voice, a sad little smile appearing on his face. "I just- I just wanted to be cool, like you. I wanted you to be proud of me."
Dean wrapped his arms around his brother, careful to avoid the tubes and bandages. "I am proud of you," he said in a muffled voice.
"Really?" asked Sam excitedly.
"Really," said Dean, holding Sam out at arm's length. "And if it helps, you'll never be cool, Sammy." He grinned.
Sam looked dejectedly at his sheets. "Okay," he said, before straightening again. "But I'm smarter than you."
Dean chuckled. "Yeah, okay."
"In your dreams, Sammy."
"And I'm gonna be taller, and better looking, and I'm gonna get all the girls, and-"
Dean looked around, and his voice died in his throat. It was Sam that finally spoke.