A/N - Hi all! This is a bit different than my usual story, a lot more angst and general unhappiness. I wanted to explore the possibility that Dean might have had a mid life crisis at the ripe old age of 18 after so many years of trucking along and doing whatever needs to be done without complaint. And then because I have a sickness and need to beat on him, I had to throw in some evil thing deciding to take advantage. So I know he's a bit OOC, but it was done intentionally.
Disclaimer - I don't own anything related to the show Supernatural, especially the boys, and man are they glad about that.
I'm scared to get close and I hate being alone
I long for that feeling to not feel at all
The higher I get, the lower I'll sink
I can't drown my demons, they know how to swim
"Can You Feel My Heart" by Bring Me the Horizon
When Dean Winchester broke inside, it wasn't something that could be seen by the naked eye. He didn't do it so people would see, it was not a cry for help. He didn't start wearing black and listening to goth music in the darkness of his room. He didn't start cutting into his skin to refocus his pain, his job doing that enough for him.
Like just about every other emotion Dean felt that he thought was weak or shameful, he kept it to himself as much as he could so that it wasn't something that anyone noticed at all. Not at first anyway.
When someone did, it was the wrong someone.
And that is exactly why it happened, because the right ones didn't see it in time.
They were fighting again.
Dean could hear them shouting at each other, the closed door of his bedroom doing a piss poor job of blocking out the anger and stubbornness pouring out of his brother and father. Sitting on the side of his bed, he could make out every horrible word, every cruel accusation, every desperate attempt to get the other to see reason, no matter how loud he hummed Metallica to himself. He should just put on his headphones and listen to the real thing but he just couldn't make himself move. The fighting was nothing new. Hell, ever since Sam turned fourteen, it was practically every time Dad and Sam were in the same room together.
What was new was that Dean hadn't rushed out to stop them, wasn't trying to physically insert himself between them when his pleas inevitably failed to have any impact. He knew that he should go, he could hear the argument escalating into something increasingly ugly, but he was frozen in place. The ever present feeling of helplessness was still there, the dread that it was inevitable that his family would self destruct if he didn't hold it together, but there was something else there too, something stronger and darker.
Nothing he did made anything better. He was used to screwing things up, how could he not be when he did it constantly, but the one thing he tried to always do right was be a big brother. Dean worked so hard at being everything Sammy needed at any given time, made it his goal to ensure that Sam never went without the love and support Dean did. He didn't want Sam to be like him, he wanted Sam to be a better person, a better man, whatever that meant.
He was failing.
He could hear it in the pain in Sam's voice, the frustration in his words. Sammy needed something, he wanted to be seen, to be heard and he wasn't getting it. Dean was trying, he really was, but he was constantly forced to straddle the line between Dad and Sam to keep the peace, and Sam only saw it as betrayal. If Dean wasn't on Sam's side, then he was on Dad's and being on Dad's side was not going to win any points with Sam.
He didn't see Dean as his hero anymore and Dean didn't know how to deal with that. Because it's all that kept him going sometimes and without it, well it was getting really tough to even get up in the morning.
Dean knew he was all smoke and mirrors, a confident, brash young man on the outside, but inside, he was a fucked up mess. He just didn't realize that Sam knew it, too. If he couldn't even keep the façade up well enough for Sam to buy it, why even bother with it at all? It's not like Dad thought he was anything more than he was, Dad saw right through him, always had. Every bit of praise he managed to wrangle out of the old man was buried and forgotten under demands to do better, a litany of the things he'd done wrong, and disappointed sighs.
Before it would just drive him to try harder. Now, it just made him want to crawl into a hole and disappear because he would never be enough. He was worthless, he didn't bring anything to the table but dead weight.
The door abruptly opening and slamming shut after his little brother yanked him out of his pity party and he lifted his head to see Sam's flushed face and narrowed eyes. Sam threw himself on his bed, his gaze glaring up at the ceiling.
"Thanks for the help, Dean," he bit out.
The bitterness in Sam's tone should have hit him like a punch in the gut, but Dean just turned away and closed his eyes. Of course he was mad at Dean. It was part of the routine now. When Sam and Dad came to an impasse, or worse, when Dad won the fight, Sam would start in on Dean. He didn't blame his little brother. Between him and Dad, Sam had been taught that he was the most important thing, that he was precious. So why should he understand that he couldn't get his way all the time, hell, ever? Join the club, Sammy.
He could hear Sam shifting behind him. Dean knew he should ask Sam what happened, get him to talk about it, try to help smooth it over, but he just didn't feel like it. It wouldn't make any difference anyway. All he would accomplish is making Sam more angry. It should bother him more, this encroaching detachment, but it didn't. It was strangely comforting not to feel everything so sharp, so deep. It was all still there, but it was hazy, like he'd taken a few too many pain meds.
"Seriously Dean, don't you get tired of him barking orders at us? What am I saying, of course you don't. I swear, I just wanted to go on a camping trip, a simple, stupid camping trip with some friends and I can't. Why? Because God forbid I actually have some fun in the woods instead of trying not to get killed hunting something!" Sam growled in frustration, the sound of his fist hitting the mattress emphasizing his point. "I just hate him sometimes, you know?"
"Yeah, Sammy, I know," Dean replied dully, his eyes finally opening to stare down at his hands. He didn't disagree with Sam and had it been his choice, he would have allowed his brother to go. But it wasn't his choice.
"It's Sam, Dean! How many times do I have to tell you?" Sam shouted, a pillow smacking into Dean's back. Physically, it didn't hurt, but the anger behind it cut enough into the numbness inside him to propel him into motion.
"Sorry Sam," he said, heading toward the door.
His hand was on the knob when Sam called out. "Dean, where are you going?"
"But, I thought maybe you might talk to Dad for me, see if you could get him to change his mind?" Now that anger had turned to pleading. Sam had the most amazing ability to manipulate him, always had, ever since he was two years old, but just like everything else lately, it didn't touch him.
"He might listen to you. He always listens to you," Sam finished, barely audible, but the resentment loud and clear.
Dean would have laughed if he could have felt the irony of that just a bit more. That Sam actually thought that...well it meant he was not paying attention. "You know Dad doesn't listen to anyone, Sammy, least of all me."
"Yes he does! He actually takes your opinion into account, doesn't just tell you to shut up and do as you're told!" Sam fired back, the wheedling tone gone.
With a sigh, Dean dropped his forehead against the door with a dull thunk, wishing he could have done it hard enough to escape this conversation. He just wanted to get out, he needed out.
"Dad doesn't care about what I have to say any more than you do, Sammy." He hadn't meant to say it, didn't want to make this about him, but it was the truth and for once, he wasn't going to keep it buried.
"Dean…" Sam started, but Dean interrupted.
"Look, I get it. You want to be a normal kid, doing normal things. I know. Once upon a time, I wanted that too. But this isn't a Disney film, you aren't the spunky hero that's going to come out on top in the end. This is our life. It sucks out loud and I'm more sorry than I can say that it's this way, but this is it. You'd be a lot better off if you would just accept it."
The silence was deafening. A part of Dean wanted to turn around and see what impact his cruel words had on his brother, to apologize, but the larger part just didn't care. Trying to shelter and reason with Sam didn't work, it had been the biggest mistake he could have made because Dean had created Sam's need to want more. So maybe it was just time to help his brother to see, help him to face up to reality.
"Accept it?" Sam echoed, his voice tight and strained. "Accept it like you? Trade in my brain and free will for a shotgun and a flask of holy water? Yeah, well fuck you Dean! I'm not going to…"
Sam's tirade was cut off by the door opening, Dean rapidly moving out of it so he didn't have to hear any more about how disgusted Sam was with him, how ashamed.
"Wait, Dean, I'm sorry.." was the last thing he heard before the door shut. He knew Sam was sorry. He knew that Sam would be in there right now, debating whether to run after his brother to apologize or wait for Dean to come back to hear it. Dean also knew he meant every word of it and for a change, he wasn't going to just sit there and take it, or worse, try to get Sam to see sense. It was an exercise in futility and he wasn't up for it right now.
He just needed to get some air, maybe it would help him understand why he was feeling like this, why he wasn't playing the role he'd played his whole life. Why he just wanted to run away.
He just needed to get past Dad.
The eldest Winchester was sitting at the kitchen table, a black glower that Sam had left tightening up his features as he wrote in his journal. He knew Dad was gearing up for a hunt, in the same woods Sammy wanted to go camping in, but he wouldn't have bothered to tell Sam that. No, as far as he was concerned, his sons didn't merit explanation, they just needed to follow his directives like the good soldiers he expected them to be.
He looked up as Dean crossed the room to the front door, the short distance still too far away to make it out without Dad noticing. The scowl lightened slightly when he saw which of his sons it was. Dean stopped and faced his father awkwardly, his eyes somewhere in the vicinity of his Dad's left ear. If he was still in a fighting mood, Dean didn't want to do anything to provoke him.
"You talk to Sammy?" Dad asked. Normally Dean would have calmed Sam down, or at least allowed him to vent and then come out to give a report of how it went. He was expected to keep the peace, it was part of his job. One that he just didn't feel like doing today.
"What would be the point?" Dean asked flatly, already turning toward the door, staring at the knob longingly.
"I know. Teenagers. Glad you missed this stage," Dad said with a sigh, the scrape of the chair on the floor indicating that he had pushed it back slightly.
Dean didn't miss it. He'd just had to hit this stage around six years old due to his accelerated maturing plan and it wasn't as noticeable because he hadn't possessed the vocabulary Sam had now.
"Yeah," Dean replied, moving toward the door, his hand starting to twist it open.
"Where are you going?" Dad asked curiously.
"Out for a walk," Dean replied, the door now open, the cool air beckoning to him.
"Little late, isn't it?" There was something in Dad's tone that normally would have made Dean shrug in agreement, turn back around and shut the door. But not tonight.
"I'm armed and I'm eighteen. I can go out for a walk."
There was no challenge in the words, no defiance, just a simple statement.
"All right. See you when you get back." That was that, no more questions, no more warnings. Dad's instincts were always flawless in regards to everything except Sam and he seemed to know that Dean getting out for a while was the best thing for all of them.
He was finally out, the door shutting with finality behind him. He could almost breathe again.
Because he knew, at some point, he would have to go back in.
She had felt him from within the motel room, felt the delicious angst and despondency rolling out in waves. It had called to her, made her veins pulse with hunger. It was potent enough that she could almost taste it from outside. The meal she had finished up just a few nights ago was gone, and her mouth watered thinking about sucking this new one dry of all that delightful emotion.
Then he had stepped outside and she wasn't sure how she had missed him.
Oh, now he was something special. The other one, the little one, was a fine meal indeed, but this one was a seven course feast of the finest quality that needed to be tasted slowly to savor each flavor. All the feelings battling inside him were darker, deeper, truer than the young one. So much of the little one was anger, an emotion that she could only very slightly feed off of, but this one…such pain, such soul deep depression. The bouquet was amazing; the bitter tang of insignificance, the sharp bite of guilt, a hint of ashy hopelessness.
He would be easy to push, it would be so simple to send him spiraling down until he couldn't bear even one more second of life.
He was almost there already. Then she could feed on all that beautiful misery.
Staring, salivating, at the boy standing outside the motel room, she smiled in anticipation.