Work in Progress

A/N: Despite the title, this is not a work in progress. Written for the OhSam Summer Comment-fic Meme (Prompt at the end). Another tag to And All the World Drops Dead/And Arbitrary Blackness Gallops In, set a few months later, because I can't stop myself from sucking all the angst out. So this vaguely deals with rape (though it's not specifically mentioned) and involves swearing and violence. And a bro-ment! Because bro-ments are awesome.


Sam's kind of okay, Dean thinks as he lines up his next shot. His ribs have healed well and the stitches in his face are long gone, leaving pink, raised lines in their wake. If they're lucky (really lucky), they might fade some more, given time, though Dean's pretty sure the worst one – the one that trails across Sam's cheek – is going to stay glaringly obvious.

But Sam's here, instead of hiding in motel rooms the way he's been doing since Gordon and the basement, and it's progress, at least. Sam might not be having the best time, Dean can tell he's uncomfortable by the way he hides behind his hair and keeps pulling his hands inside the sleeves of his hoodie, bunching the ends into fists, between shots, but he's still playing pool and nursing a beer, talking and smiling so Dean's just going to count his blessings.

"Are you letting me win?" Sam asks from across the table, his voice edged with suspicion.

"Are you trying to distract me?" Dean counters as he takes his shot, neatly pocketing the six and the four with a quick jab of his cue.

"I guess that's a no," Sam says, eyeing the table thoughtfully.

Dean leans his cue against the table and downs the last of his beer. "I'm gonna get another. Want one?"

Sam shakes his head distractedly. "Go ahead."

"Better not cheat while I'm gone," Dean warns him, and is rewarded with a cheeky grin.

"I don't need to cheat to wipe the floor with you."

"Haha," Dean says dryly, and heads off to the bar.

This is good. It's not great but he'll take it. He even smiles a little to himself as he nudges his way through the crush of people around the bar to signal the guy behind the counter.

A couple of months ago, he wasn't sure that they'd get this far. What happened was so huge and ugly and violent that something so simple as going out to a bar and playing pool seemed like a thousand years away, but life goes on, he supposes, and somehow they're going on with it.

Dean gives up on trying to signal the bartender, who's busy with a couple of girls in florescent tank tops down the other end, for the moment and turns to lean against the bar while he, hopefully unobtrusively, checks on his brother.

What he sees makes him pause, muscles tensing automatically. It's just a couple of guys, talking with Sam. He can't tell if they're trying to cause trouble but he can tell that Sam's as tense as he is, if not more so, and it only takes a second for him to decide that he's not that thirsty after all.

Both men are shorter than he and Sam. One has dark hair that reaches his shoulders, dressed in faded jeans and a black t-shirt, almost Gothic in his attire. The other is a red-head, short curly hair, fair skin and a splattering of freckles. He has the look of a labourer, no stranger to hard work. Habit has Dean sizing them up, looking for weaknesses, as he dodges tipsy patrons around the bar.

Sam leans his pool cue against the table, shaking his head at something Goth has said. Dean tells himself to chill. The guys are probably just asking if the table is free. By the time Dean gets over there, they'll probably have ambled off. Then Red's mouth drops open in an 'O' of surprise and he leans right into Sam's personal space, squinting up under the veil of hair, and says something.

Dean's still halfway across the room and people keep getting in his way but he sees Sam stiffen, sees his face twist in shock and offence, a split second before his fist flies forward and then him and Red are on the floor, Red's buddy leaping into what has somehow turned into a fight. A fight Sam started.

Dean doesn't waste time wondering about that – obviously the kid was provoked into throwing the first punch. There'll be time for explanations later. He surges forward, tearing through the crowd, not caring at all about the angry exclamations and spilled drinks he leaves in his wake. He grabs Red by the shoulders and hauls him off of Sam, throwing a punch of his own. He feels his knuckles graze over teeth. Red falls back but is immediately replaced by Goth.

Dean growls, a wordless noise of aggression. Behind him, Sam's back on his feet, pushing forward but Dean throws out an arm and holds him back. He hears Sam start to protest but he doesn't care. He can handle this himself and keep Sam safe at the same time, unlike the last time they found themselves in trouble.

There's no real skill to the two men's fighting style. They've obviously had experience with bar fights but Dean hunts monsters and he moves with grace and agility unmatched by anyone but Sam. He ducks Goth's punch easily and jabs his elbow into the shorter man's stomach, throwing an uppercut when he doubles over. Goth falls to the floor, groaning and gasping for the air Dean knocked out of his lungs, arms around his stomach. Red takes his place but Dean can tell he's lost his nerve after seeing his buddy go down. He hesitates and Dean uses the opportunity to head butt him. The guy lands on his ass, dazed and rubbing his head.

Dean's almost disappointed that it was so easy. The fight had woken something in him; all the impotent rage and the need for revenge that had built up while he was handcuffed to that pipe in the basement was thrumming through his veins again, eager to be released in a whirlwind of violence, unconcerned by whether it was necessary or deserved.

It's at this point though, now that both his targets are on the floor, that Dean notices that they've attracted the attention of the entire bar. The music from the jukebox plays on but the dancing has stopped, a wide circle has spread around them as people back off and watch from a safe distance, and he feels the eyes of strangers on him, accusatory and frightened.

Time to go.

"Come on, Sam," he mutters, pushing down the almost-uncontrollable urge to keep fighting, keep punching until there's nothing left of the two men but pulp. Instead he grabs his brother by the arm and steers him out of the bar. He's wary of retaliation, concerned that Dumb and Dumber might have friends in the crowd, but they make it to the Impala without a problem. Sam is silent, tense, the whole way. A thin rain drizzles miserably outside, puddles forming on the concrete.

"Usually it's me starting the bar fights," Dean comments dryly as they duck into their seats, car doors closing in unison.

Sam looks away, towards the bar as if to check for trouble but Dean can tell by the way he ducks his head and lets his hair fall over his face that he's stalling.

The car park is not the place to have this discussion though so Dean starts the engine and pulls out onto the road, heading towards their motel, before he says anything else.

"So," he prompts finally, glancing sideways at Sam. The kid's still slumped over, hiding behind his hair.

"It was nothing," Sam says, hollow and obviously a lie.

"You wouldn't have hit him for nothing," Dean says, and waits. Sam will tell him in his own time, pushing never works with this kid.

It takes a while but finally Sam sighs and runs a hand over his face, fingertips trailing over the thin, raised lines. "He said something about my scars."

"He what?" Dean's hands clench tight on the steering wheel, rage swelling in his chest.

"It doesn't matter-" Sam starts, but Dean's spinning the wheel, pulling a tight U-turn. "What are you doing?"

"I'm gonna rip his lungs out," Dean growls, pressing his foot down. His vision is filled with bright red vengeance, tunnelling to the road that will lead him back to that asshole. His whole body pulses with violent anger.

"Dean, no," Sam protests, grabbing onto Dean's arm as if to pull him away from the wheel. Dean goes to shake him off but Sam just holds on tighter. "Stop!"

"Damn it!" Dean curses loudly, easing his foot off of the gas before Sam sends them crashing into the lamppost. "Okay, okay, I'm stopping."

He pulls over by the side of the road, breathing heavily as he struggles with the urge to bash some heads together. Sam lets go of his arm and retreats back to lean against the passenger door. He sighs.

"It's not a big deal."

"Not a... Jesus, Sammy! How is this not a big deal?"

"Because I don't want it to be," Sam snaps, frustration making his voice sharp. He huffs out an angry breath. "It's not going to change anything if you go beat him up some more. My face is still gonna be all fucked up. I just need to learn to ignore assholes like him."

"Your face isn't fucked up," Dean denies immediately, the claim enough to shock the anger out of him. "It's still healing."

Sam shoots him a withering look. "Dean, we both know it's not going to get any better than this."

"It's not that bad though," Dean tries, and Sam sighs again, the tense frustration leaving his shoulders, replaced by grim acceptance.

"I'm going to have these scars forever, Dean. You can't just pretend like I won't."

Dean gets the feeling Sam's not just talking about physical scars. He gropes around for something to say.

"That doesn't give people the right-"

"No, it doesn't." Sam's quick to agree. "But we can't just beat up everyone who makes a stupid comment. That's not moving on." He sighs again as he looks down at his bruised knuckles. "I thought I was dealing."

"Hey, you are dealing. You're doing fine."

Sam looks entirely unconvinced.

Dean thinks for a moment, desperate to find the right thing to say to help Sam.

"Aside from the douchebags, today was good, wasn't it?" he asks finally, slowly because he thought today was good but maybe Sam was acting okay rather than feeling it.

"Yeah," Sam says hesitantly. "But..."

"No buts. This whole 'moving on' thing, it's a work in progress, right?"

"I guess," Sam concedes, confused by where Dean's heading with this. He looks at him questioningly.

"A bar fight doesn't change that. We had a good day. Sure, things got a little messy but that doesn't scratch out all the progress we've made. It's not gonna happen overnight, you know?"

Sam's mouth twitches in a small smile. "Now you sound like a shampoo commercial."

Dean feels a little of his own tension drain. He'd still like to go smash in the heads of the guys who thought it would be a good idea to make fun of Sam's scars, but being here, with Sam, is so much more important. "Yeah, well, whatever. It's true, isn't it? We're getting there."

"I guess so," Sam says, with more conviction than he's had so far, lifting his head a little to glance at Dean.

"Oh," Dean says in surprise, catching a glimpse of swelling, darkening flesh. He reaches out automatically, "You eye..."

Sam flinches a little, drawing back under his hair. "It's fine."

Dean raises his eyebrows but he starts the engine and pulls another U-turn to head back to the motel before saying anything. "You don't have to hide from me, you know?"

Sam glances up, deliberately making eye contact to prove he's not, even though he is. "I don't like looking at them," he confesses finally, looking down again. "I don't like knowing other people are looking at them."

"I know, but I've told you, they don't change anything."

Sam sighs but he brushes his hair out of his face. He's so damn brave, Dean thinks suddenly. He tries so hard and it's not easy for him. Sam watches the rain patter on the windscreen.

"Don't they remind you of the basement?" he asks quietly after a while. "It's all I can think about when I see them, or when I know someone else can see them."

"No," Dean says, too quickly for it to be true, but then he stops and thinks for a moment and realises it is. "No, they don't."

Sam sends him a doubtful look.

"They used to," Dean admits, "But now... it's just you, Sammy. I don't see them and think of that. I just see you."

"Really?" Sam asks, turning his head a little so the full damage is visible, like a dare. Dean glances at him, at the small, straight line above his eyebrow, the longer, heavier scar that scrapes down this cheek. His hair covers where the staples sat at the top of his forehead and the small incision by his ear, from the surgery he needed to replace his shattered cheekbone.

"Really," Dean says confidently, feeling a little lighter at the realisation. He's made more progress than he thought.

Sam stares at him for a moment, searching for a hint of a lie, before he deflates, letting his hair sweep back over his face. "I wish I could just see me."

Dean's happiness fades. "You will, eventually."

"I hope so."

"I know so," Dean says firmly, and Sam offers him a small, tight smile.

The neon green lights on the vacancy sign of their motel loom ahead, hazy in the misty rain. "So, how about we order pizza, watch some crappy TV... and you let me have a look at that black eye?"

Sam hesitates, biting his lower lip anxiously.

"You can tell me if it's too much," Dean negotiates gently. "But I need to know you're okay, Sammy. This-" he gestures vaguely at Sam "-is something we can work through, until you just see you. We can make this better."

Sam's smile comes a little easier this time. "Okay."

Prompt: Sam and Dean are at a bar and for some reason (up to the author) a bunch of guys start bad mouthing Sam and making fun of him. Sam just shrugs it off, but NOBODY is allowed to hurt Sam's feelings on Dean's watch, so Dean pretty much knocks the crap outta these guys and makes sure his brother is OK. :)