Sorrow makes us all children again.- Ralph Waldo Emerson
The easiest kind of relationship for me is with 10,000 people.
The hardest is with one. -Joan Baez
pain was blinding.
Stealing his breath in the strangest of moments-like in the morning
when the sun first touched his face- warm against his skin like the
firelight from his father's Viking funeral.
of day was a painful
reminder that some ghosts could linger beyond the boundaries of
darkness- the worst nightmares could be endless.
enslaved to the same
rules as other supernatural occurrences. Its touch could be felt any
time, any place. Inescapable was its reaches. But Dean just wanted it
to go away.
He wanted every
irrefutable fact to disappear and leave him the hell alone. But that
was asking the impossible, demanding the undeliverable.
For one, Sam
was a living-breathing,
walking-talking, blatant memorial. He was the only thing left of Dean's
family. The one thing Dean had escaped with from both battles-more
sacred than his own survival. The last precious piece of a life he
could only dream of.
And a part of
Dean hated him for
that. Hated those feelings his baby brother brought bubbling to the
surface with just one glance in his direction-one blink of those
guilt-filled, tormented eyes. The older hunter had always known he was
hard-wired to know when Sam was hurting, when he was in trouble, and he
had always revered it as a sort of gift-his own brand of psychic
ability. Now it was stifling, and not at all welcome.
had been hard.
Watching Sam in pain, unable to rebound, had nearly sent Dean to the
edge a few times. But their father…Dean could barely handle his own
emotions, his own grief, let alone his brother's misery. Yet like that
chasm of loss he could not maneuver around, Sam was always right
underfoot. And hearing his tearful, gut-wrenching confession of Dean's
correctness about Sam's dealing with their father's death had been the
exploded-taken it out on the
only physical connection he had left with John Winchester. The Impala.
His dad had passed her down to him, entrusted her in his care, almost
like the way he had given him Sam.
Damn, but she
had been a mess.
A twisted and
mangled steel tribute
to how Dean felt on the inside. Another reminder his family had once
again been blind-sided by fate. Maybe that was why it was so important
to fix her-to get back on the road. It gave him the illusion other
things could be repaired just as easily, and a modicum of control over
something. That's what drove him back under the hood, even as a little
voice taunted him that he was wasting his time.
almost surrendered to
dusk's cover when Bobby's deep voice broke Dean's concentration, and
the wrench he was wielding almost left yet another mark on his
already-scarred face. “Damn it,” he hissed, not bothering to slide from
beneath the car. “Can't a man work in peace?”
wondering the same damn
thing,” Bobby huffed. “Your kid brother is worse than any pup I've ever
came out sounding like a
curse and Dean sighed, almost feeling bad for leaving Sam to his own
devices. Whether his sympathy was for his brother or the demon hunter
he wasn't sure. After all, a bored Sam was an annoying Sam. And it
wasn't like there was much to do around the junkyard, at least not of
the caliber that would keep Sam occupied.
“Give him a
book, Bobby,” the older
Winchester finally offered. “It kind of has the same effect as a chew
but he read everything I
had and then he got the brilliant idea to try and fix dinner.”
“I hate to break it to
you, but that's not a good idea. He's about as adept as Dad is in the
kitchen.” As Dad was-that haranguing little voice corrected. Dean went
back to work.
“Exactly what I
told him. Little shit
for brains listens about as well as he did when he was knee-high to a
“Just don't eat
anything he fixes,
man.” The younger hunter grunted as he twisted the wrench. When Bobby
sighed heavily, Dean clenched his teeth and tightened his grip on the
tool. Why did everyone expect him to have all the fucking answers?
“What the hell do you want me to do about it, Bobby?”
starters, genius, you could
come stitch him up before he bleeds out on my kitchen floor.” The demon
expert leaned carelessly against the Impala, picked at his nails. “I
mean, I'd do it myself, but I haven't wielded a needle in a while and…”
“What the hell
happened?” Dean was
scrambling out from under the car before the older man could finish his
lament. “Why's he bleeding?”
Fear rushed up
from the cold, dark
recesses of Dean's gut, with a gust of icy panic blowing in right
behind it. “Is he alright?”
at him, crossed his
arms over his chest. “Did you not just here me say he was hemorrhaging
all over my fucking rug?”
Nothing else bad could
happen-not to Sam.
knew it was a cruel
tactic, but goddamnit he was tired of watching John's boys walk around
on freakin' egg shells. Stubbornness was as prevalent in the Winchester
family as trouble was. “I don't think it's life-threatening, mind you,
but he wouldn't let me take too good of a look at it, and for all his
yammering on you'd think he lost an appendage…”
swore, tossing the
wrench to the ground, glaring at Bobby, before he turned and stormed
off in the direction of the house.
hunter watched him go, a
grim smile touching his bearded face. He patted the Impala's fender.
“Don't worry, girl. We'll fix them up- good as new.”
bellowed as he bounded
into Bobby's house, the door banging loudly behind him. “Sammy!”
“In here,” his
brother's voice echoed
from the hallway, originating in the general direction of the bathroom.
the living room in long
strides, practically jogging the short distance separating him from the
youngest Winchester. “Are you okay?” He demanded breathlessly as he
entered the small washroom.
Sam was sitting
on the edge of the
tub, a towel held tightly across his left palm. The younger hunter
looked up in surprise as his brother charged into the room, bridging
the distance between them in seconds. “Yeah, it's not as bad as it
It looked bad.
Dean felt his meager
lunch of peanut M&M's and Coke make a rebellious declaration of an
impending reappearance. He swallowed hard, squatted on the floor in
front of his brother as he tried to reign in his out of control heart
rate. “What the hell did you do, Chef-Boy-Ar-Disaster?” It came out
harsher than he meant, more accusatory than concerned. But, damn, it
seemed to him that Sam was hell bent on sending him into another round
of cardiac arrest.
yelped as Dean, none too
gently, took his hand, pulling the blood-soaked towel free. “Cut it
The gash wasn't
very long, but it was
deep and jagged, as if it had been done with a serrated edge. Dean's
gaze shot up, meeting his brother's. “What were you using-a saw?”
“I was peeling
potatoes,” the psychic
muttered, “it was the only knife I could find.”
Sammy," Dean hissed, as the
blood continued to seep from the cut. "You could have dug up a
ceremonial dagger in this place."
the younger hunter
replied, meekly, "Emeril, Bobby is not." .
“Keep it low.”
Dean eased his
brother's hand down slightly, before reluctantly letting it go. He
turned to the vanity beside them and opened the bottom cabinet. It only
took a moment of digging and rearranging before he found what he was
looking for-the staple of every hunter's house-a first aid kit.
“Hold this,” he
instructed as he
pushed gauze into Sam's uninjured hand. He gripped a few packages of
sterile bandages between his teeth, as he uncapped the peroxide.
Without words he conveyed his intentions. Sam nodded once, biting his
lip in anticipation of the familiar sting.
hissed, reflexively drawing
his hand back, but Dean's fingers wrapped around his wrist and held
firm, his touch cool against Sam's heated skin. The older hunter poured
more liquid across the wound and then probed it gently. He removed the
bandages so he could speak. “It's going to take some stitches.”
“Just do it,”
Sam grunted, wearily.
“What's a few more sutures-right?”
Dean set the
peroxide aside, digging
once more for the suture kit he knew would be present.
Sam watched him
eyes, mesmerized by the efficiency and ease in which his sibling
threaded the needle, and prepared the rest of the supplies. It all
seemed so old hat, so second nature. Suddenly the sickening smell of
copper and the bitter taste of regret had him pulling free of Dean and
dropping to his knees in front of the commode seat.
He heard his
brother sigh, even as
the dry heaves took hold, relentlessly abusing his stomach for its lack
of nourishment. Sam couldn't remember the last time he had eaten
anything solid, but food was far from his mind as the acidic remnants
of his last meal burned his throat, bringing tears to his eyes. “Damn
it,” he gasped, as the assault continued.
Dean was moving
behind him, and Sam
heard water running. He almost sagged in relief as something cold and
wet draped across his neck, but then a warm pressure rested against his
back, between his shoulder blades.
He didn't mean
to stiffen, didn't
mean to flinch away, but the sensation was so foreign, so unexpected.
So missed. It had been weeks since his brother had touched him. Since
anyone but doctors had breached his personal space. The Winchesters
might not have been good at using words to relate how they felt, but
they had always been demonstrative to some degree-even if it was thumps
on the head or manly punches or elbows. Sam briefly wondered how long a
person could go without physical contact and retain the very thing that
made them human.
voice was soft, and
Sam guessed he had misread the reflex, “just breathe.”
Sam took his
brother's advice. The
need to turn his guts inside out subsided a little. Finally, he nodded
for Dean's benefit, and the touch was gone. Sam felt the terrible
coldness return and he shivered involuntarily.
Winchester reached up and
flushed the toilet, offering his brother another towel for his face.
The younger man took it with a grateful glance before collapsing back
against the tub this time his injured hand cradled to his chest.
it. As soon as I heard
you were cooking, I knew someone would end up paying homage to the
Sam rolled his
faded. “You could have
called for pizza, you know.”
“I wanted to do
took his brother's hand
again. “Well, this was definitely 'something'.”
what I had in mind.” He
had planned on a peace offering.
“Good. You're a
little old for the
whole self-mutilation thing. Besides, cutting is for girls.” Dean
glanced up at him again. "Although I gotta say, you have been
generating the drama, Samantha."
watching Oprah again,
“No.” Dean used
some gauze to wipe
the fresh blood from his brother's palm. “Dr. Phil.”
shook his head. “Freak.”
It felt good
for a moment, the normal
banter flowing between them, but then the needle pinched his skin and
Sam was brought back to the painful reality of their plight. Nothing
was normal between him and his brother. They might as well have been
using the Mystical Talking Board to communicate.
“I wanted to
make you dinner,” he
explained, hoping for once he could cross the void separating them.
looked up. “Dude, if you
were that pissed at me, you should have said something. No need for
“You haven't been eating.”
“I had lunch.”
Dean raised a
brow. “You been spying
Sam tried to
focus on the feel of the
needle as it slid through his palm. The pain cleared his mind. “I just
want to help and I thought…”
“I thought we
already had this
discussion." Dean hesitated, his hand stilling for a second. "You
babbled, I listened…It's over.”
“I saw what you
did to the Impala.”
flinch. Instead, he
gently finished off the last stitch. The cut hadn't needed as many as
he had feared. “Give me the antibiotic cream.” He jutted his chin
towards the small tube on the floor by his brother's hip.
Sam didn't move
so Dean grabbed it
himself. He hastily tied off the sutures, cut the remaining surgical
thread, and applied a thin layer of Neosporin.
voice was quiet, but
persistent. "Talk to me, man."
Dean placed a
sterile bandage over
the wound, carefully taping the edges.
Sammy!” Dean shoved his
brother's wounded hand away, wincing as he watched pain flicker across
the younger man's face. “Just leave me the hell alone, why don't you.”
He couldn’t handle the way his brother’s voice made his throat tighten,
his eyes burn.
shouted back, once again
bringing his hand protectively to his chest. “I won't leave you alone.
You're my brother.”
threw his arms in the
air. “I'm your brother not your fucking keeper!”
“What the hell
does that mean?”
“It means I'm
not here to be at your
beck and call. I'm not here to fix every little thing that you somehow
manage to break. I'm not here to make you feel better when I can't even
make my self feel any goddamn better.”
reached out, but Dean
“Why are you
shutting me out?”
kidding me?” Dean shook his
head, cursed the tears he could feel budding in his eyes. “How the hell
can I shut you out when I'm never out of your sight?”
“I've tried to
give you your space. I
left you alone with the car…”
coming to check on me every
hour giving me space? We might as well be conjoined twins. Hell-we
could join up with those carnies, go on the road, get paid to be freaks
for a change.”
Sam shook his
head slowly, his eyes
filling. "Do you want me to leave? Is that it? You're mad at me?"
hard, blinked as the
man in front of him seemed to morph into his five-year-old little
brother with the same guileless eyes, the trembling lip. "Do you blame
me for Dad's death?"
shook his head, removing
the haunting image of his baby brother from his mind. "Have you lost
your fucking mind?"
sending a tear down his
pale face. "All of this, Dean, is because of me. Mom...Jess...now Dad.
You don't have a family because of me."
idiot-you are my family."
Dean wanted to stay pissed, but couldn’t quite pull it off. He
swallowed his pride, reached out, wrapped his hand around his brother's
wrist. "And I'm not going to tell you again that this isn't your fault.
We don't know what happened to Dad. And whatever it was, it had nothing
to do with you." The last words John had whispered to him echoed
through his mind, but Dean pressed on. "We'll work it out. Just give me
"But I don't
know what to do until
laughed. There it was
again, Sammy dumping his broken toy at his feet, holding his boo-boo
out for a magical kiss.
It really was
his damn fault from all
those years of wearing a fucking cape, sporting impenetrable scales and
touting big brother powers. As much as he wanted to, Dean couldn't pin
this on Sam. "Good thing you've got me then, huh?"
ducked his head, rubbed
at his eyes. "You're the secret weapon."
straight." Dean moved his hand
from his brother's arm, cupped it around the back of his neck. He
squeezed the tense muscles, waited for Sam to look at him. When he did,
he held his gaze for a long moment then nodded solemnly. "As long as
I'm around, nothing bad is going to happen to you."
ridiculous, a promise
completely out of his control. It was impossible not to say it,
unthinkable not to believe it. And it made his brother smile, dimples
even making an appearance. He looked so much like their Dad when he
laughed, but Dean tried not to think about that. "But you have got to
give the endless chick-flick fest a break. Got it? I'm barely holding
it all together here, and worrying about you worrying about me is not
making it a picnic for me."
Sam nodded, the
warmth of his
brother‘s touch radiating through out his body, driving away the icy
chill that had set in over the last week. "If you promise that you'll
talk to me when you need to?"
be the first shoulder
I cry on-Scout's honor." Dean squeezed his neck again, grinned. "I'll
even let you hold me if that will help."
"I think I'll
manage." Sam pulled
back, shaking his head. They were Winchesters after all.
let him go. "Because you
You're all heart."
Winchester pushed himself
to his feet, held out a hand to his brother. "And Sammy?"
winced as his aching
muscles protested the change of position.
"Dad knew how
you felt about him.
Don't ever doubt that." He waited for Sam to get his bearings. "And he
loved you, too."
A watery smile
crossed the younger
hunter's face. He tightened his grip on his older brother's hand,
before letting go. "Thanks, man."
hard, having found his
own center. "You're welcome, little brother."
As obvious as
the soul-aching loss of
his father was, the one thing he had always been powerless to elude was
also still there-hovering around him, blanketing his common sense. His
feelings for Sam would always be there. That need to protect him, to
shelter him, to make things right for him, would follow Dean to the
grave-perhaps even beyond.
He had to face
it, just like he would
eventually have to face that his Dad wasn't coming back. The love he
had for Sam was unavoidable- completely undeniable-would always be...