Plus c’est la même choseAuthor: kroki_refurRecipient: ninhursagRating:
6,640 words. Many thanks to everyone who looked over this.Summary:
Nothing would have changed. Except the things that would.Plus c’est la même chosePaul Marchant doesn’t die face-down in a pool of his own blood at the age of twenty-seven. In fact, nothing exciting at all happens to Paul Marchant when he’s twenty-seven, unless you count that baseball team he likes winning that contest, but I don’t give a shit about baseball, so there you have it. Anyway, Paul dies when he’s fifty-four years old of a heart-attack, and although clogging your arteries with fat until even your own heart downs tools in protest may not be the best way to live your life, it certainly beats dead at twenty-seven. Maybe if things had been different, maybe if Paul had played more baseball instead of just watching, he might have made it to sixty.
Then again, maybe if things had been different, Paul Marchant would have died face-down in a pool of his own blood at the age of twenty-seven, and I wouldn’t be writing this story at all.
Before he’s old enough to talk, before he’s old enough to do anything, really, Sammy watches. Dean watches, too, but he’s watching Sammy. He doesn’t know what Sammy’s watching – Dad chopping vegetables, late-night horror movies on TV, the ketchup Dean slathers on his hot dogs – Sammy’s too young to know what any of it means, but he watches anyway, and sometimes it makes Dean scared.
Sammy cries sometimes, wails and screams like the world’s coming to an end. He’s a baby
, that’s what they do
, but sometimes it makes Dean scared, sometimes when Sam’s crying so hard Dean thinks he’s going to hurt himself, and he doesn’t need feeding, he doesn’t need changing, doesn’t need anything
but he’s crying anyway. Dad tries to comfort Sammy, picks him up and pats him, hugs him and whispers to him, but Sammy just keeps on crying, and eventually Dad lays him down in whatever make-shift crib they’ve got this week and pops open a beer, closes his eyes and rests his head in his hands and Dean hides behind the door because when Dad sits like that it makes him look tired and unhappy and Dean doesn’t want Dad to look like that, not ever. Dean sits on the floor and remembers Dad like he was before Mom went away and pretends that’s who’s sitting at the kitchen table; he pretends that Mom’s going to come and stop Sammy from crying.
Sammy just wails on and on, and Dean wishes he knew what was wrong.
Sammy falls down and starts to cry, and Dean looks back, frowns, because Sammy’s little but he’s not a cry-baby, and it’s not like it was far for him to fall. Sammy’s lying on the floor, though, curled up and howling, and Dean steps towards him, nervous. He remembers that he’s not supposed to touch Sammy when Sammy’s sick, because Dad doesn’t want him to get sick too. Is Sammy sick now?
Then Sammy stops crying, stops doing anything, and just lies there. Dean’s not supposed to touch Sammy when Sammy’s sick, but Dad’s not here to see right now, and Dean doesn’t like this, he’s scared, so he reaches out and brushes his hand on Sammy’s arm, trying to figure out if Sammy’s hot like he was last time he was sick. Sammy jerks and starts to cry again, and Dean quickly pulls his hand back and wonders if he did that.
Sammy doesn’t make any sense to Dean sometimes. Sometimes he wonders if he ever will.
----Kulvinder Shergill gets hit by a car when she’s forty-seven years old. She leaves a devastated husband and two teenage children who never really get over the loss. It’s a tragedy, the kind of thing that was made for a Lifetime movie, which probably isn’t a very sympathetic way to describe it, but I’m doing the best I can with this hangover and a deadline looming, so give me a break, OK? Not like I knew her, anyway. Not like anyone we know knew her, or even knew of her, which isn’t surprising, considering
Veterinarian Killed by Motor Vehicle isn’t exactly a national news sensation. If she’d been, say garrotted in her own house while pregnant with twins and the police baffled as to how anyone could have got in or out of the basement when it was locked from the inside, maybe then we’d have heard about it.
Lucky that didn’t happen, right?
“Depakote,” says Dean, spelling out the unfamiliar word. It’s long, and it makes no sense, or at least, no more sense than epilepsy
, which is the first long word he learned today.
“That’s right,” says Dad. He sounds tired, but Dean’s tired, too, because Dad spent all last night pacing, and Dean can’t sleep when there’s something moving in the room, even if it’s just Dad.
“Will it make Sammy better?” Dean asks, looking at the package. It doesn’t look like it can make Sammy better. It’s just a box. This morning, when Dad packed them into the car and said they were going to help Sammy, Dean thought maybe Dad had found out that it was a monster that made Sammy cry and then stare the way he does, he thought Dad was going to kill the monster and then Sammy would be OK. This isn’t a gun or a knife, though – it’s just a box.
“I hope so,” Dad says. “You don’t touch it, OK? It’ll make you sick.”
Dean frowns. “Will it make Sammy sick?” He doesn’t understand why something that’s supposed to make Sammy better would make Dean sick.
Dad draws a deep breath. “Sammy’s not the same as us, kiddo,” he says, and Dean frowns harder, because Dad’s Dad
, Dad’s always right, but that doesn’t sound right, Dean doesn’t think that can be right.
Dad takes the box out of his hands and opens it, and a moment later he puts two little red pills in Dean’s hand. Dean stares at them. They look like candy.
“Make sure your brother swallows them both,” he says, and Dean nods and goes to the sink to get some water.
Sammy spills ketchup on his shirt, and Dean groans, because of course Sammy had to do that to his only pale-coloured shirt and Dad’s gonna go nuts. Sammy looks down, curious, then scoops up a bit on his finger.
“Looks like blood,” he says.
“Yeah, right,” says Dean. “You’ve been watching too many zombie movies, dork-face.”
Sammy pouts, then licks the ketchup off his finger. “They get it wrong in zombie movies, anyway,” he announces. “Zombies aren’t slow like that. And they don’t like to eat brains.”
“Dad’s gonna eat your brains,” says Dean, and Sammy makes a face, and Dean doesn’t think about it again for almost a year, until he comes back from grocery shopping to find Sammy sitting on his bed with a butcher knife in his hand pointed right at his face.
“Jesus,” says Dean, and he’s across the room and snatching the knife away from Sammy before the groceries have hit the ground. He backs off, ready in case Sammy tries to get the knife back, but Sammy just blinks and stares at the blade, frowning, and Dean’s never been so scared in his life.
“If I stabbed that into someone’s eye, would it kill them?” he asks, and Dean feels his throat go dry.
“What?” he asks, and takes another step back, trying to push away the image of little Sammy doing that, God, not quite five years old with his stupid hair that’ll never behave and his huge eyes and no, no Dean’s not going to think about that.
“I mean,” says Sammy, “would it, Dean? Really?”
“Who’s been talking to you?” Dean asks, looking around like there might be someone here right now whispering thoughts into Sammy’s ear. “Why would you ask that?”
“I saw it on the movie,” says Sammy, finally looking Dean in the face. His head’s cocked on one side like he can’t figure out why Dean’s mad, and Dean feels sweat slide down his back.
“You know you’re not supposed to watch those things,” Dean says, but he can’t think of any movies he’s seen that have someone being stabbed in the eye
, and it’s not like Sammy has his own TV, hell, he doesn’t even have his own bed.
Sammy shrugs. “Can’t help it,” he says. “They’re in my head. How come they’re in my head, Dean?”
Dean knows he looks dumb, catching flies
Dad would say, but he can’t quite figure out how to close his mouth. Sammy’s still looking at him like he has all the answers, and all Dean can do is stare.
“You have… movies in your head?” he says finally, and Sammy thinks about this, then nods, decisive.
“When I have epilepsy,” he says, tongue careful around the word like always, even though he learned to say it before he learned candy
and excuse me
“You always have epilepsy,” Dean says, doesn’t even think about it, they’ve had this conversation so many times before, and he’s grateful for the moment’s delay, gives him a chance to think.
Sammy makes an impatient noise. “When I have epilepsy and it hurts,” he says. “And then I see the movies.”
Dean swallows again, then walks carefully over to the kitchenette and shoves the knife in a drawer, thinks about getting childlocks, but they’d need ones they could remove and take with them. Thinks about telling Dad that Sammy sees people getting stabbed in the eye
when he has fits. Thinks about what Dad will say (Sammy’s not the same as us
“Are you mad at me?” Sammy asks, and Dean turns round presses his back against the drawer, feeling the handle dig into his spine.
“Don’t go playing with any more knives, OK, Sammy?” he says, and when Sammy nods, he says, “I mean it. And don’t tell Dad about your movies, either.”
“Are they bad?” Sammy asks, and Dean thinks no, they can’t be that bad, they’re just like Sammy’s nightmares, right?
And if they’re not that bad, there’s no reason to tell Dad and see him slump like he doesn’t know what to do with Sammy. They don’t need to do anything
with Sammy. Sammy’s just fine.
“You’re not supposed to watch them, is all,” says Dean, and when Sammy looks like he’s gonna whine, he holds up a hand. “Don’t tell Dad,” he says. “It’ll be our secret.”
Sammy nods again, and smiles. Dean and Sammy have a lot of secrets, but this one sits like a lump of uncooked dough in Dean’s stomach, and he doesn’t take his eyes off Sammy for the rest of the day.
The woman at the door’s dressed all neat and sleek, like the teachers at school, and it takes Dean a second to realise that she is
one of the teachers from school, he’s seen her in the corridors, herding the little squirts around. Sammy’s teacher, and his heart sinks.
“Hello there,” she smiles down at him, but there’s something strained in the skin around her eyes. “You must be Dean. Sammy’s always talking about you.”
Dean stares up, does his best death-glare. The teacher doesn’t seem to notice. “Is your daddy in?” she asks, and Dean’s about to say no
when he feels Dad standing behind him.
“Can I help you?” Dad’s voice rumbles, comes to Dean’s ears through the soles of his feet, and he steps back from the door. Dad’ll fix it, whatever it is.
“Mr. Winchester,” the woman says, straightening up. “I’m Sammy’s teacher. I wanted to talk to you about some… issues we’ve been having with him at school.”
Dad doesn’t move, doesn’t swing the door any wider. “Yes?” he says.
The teacher shifts from foot to foot, coughs. “It’s probably better we discuss it alone,” she says, eyes flicking quickly down to Dean and back. “May I come in?”
“Now’s not a good time,” Dad says, and Dean knows what that means, too much attention, we’ll be packing up tonight
, and he starts thinking about what he needs to take and what he can get rid of.
“Mr. Winchester, please,” the woman says, reaching out to stop Dad from closing the door. “Your son’s been drawing some… disturbing pictures.” She reaches into her purse and pulls out a bundle of folded paper, holds it out. Dad holds still for just a second, then reaches out to take the paper, doesn’t unfold it. The teacher glances down at his hand, nervous, fingers curling in the leather of her bag. “I thought maybe he might have had some trauma…” she says, suddenly less sure than she seemed a moment ago. “Maybe even something he hasn’t told you about?”
Dad stares at her for long enough that her cheeks flush and she looks at her feet. “I assure you, ma’am, my sons tell me everything,” he says. “But thank you for your concern.”
Afterwards, when the teacher’s gone, Dad sits down at the table and unfolds the drawings. Dean hovers, trying to see and keep an eye on Sammy reading in the corner at the same time. He catches a glimpse of black and red, something spiky, and then Dad turns the papers so he can’t see them any more.
“Dean,” he says, voice slow and careful, and Dean looks up to see the same tightness in Dad’s face as the teacher had in hers. “Have you been letting your brother watch horror movies?”
Dean closes his eyes. “No,” he says, and Dad’s face tightens more, and he doesn’t want Dad to think he’s lying
, so “He sees them in his head.”
“What?” says Dad, then, “What?
” Sammy looks up, and the kid’s got his head in the clouds at the best of times, but no-one could ignore Dad’s voice right now. Then Dad’s on his feet and headed for the bathroom, and when he comes back he’s got the box in his hand, the Depakote that never seems to make Sammy better even though the doctors say he has to keep taking it, and Dad’s growling through his teeth and grabbing the phone, and Sammy looks like he’s gonna cry so Dean goes and sits next to him, puts an arm round his shoulders and listens as Dad’s voice rises and rises, side effects
and someone should have caught this earlier
. Dean shrinks down into himself. Someone should have caught this earlier
, and Dean’s known for more than a year.
Finally, Dad gets off the phone, and he just sits on the bed with his eyes closed, thumb and forefinger pinching the skin at the top of his nose. Sammy’s warm and tense against Dean, and they wait like that until Dad draws a breath and stands up, comes over to crouch in front of them.
“It’s gonna be OK,” he says, and reaches out to push Sammy’s hair out of his eyes. “We’ll make the movies go away, OK?”
Sammy nods, and Dean can feel the doubt vibrating through his skin. “Dad,” he says. “I’m sorry.” Someone should have caught this earlier
Dad sighs, then drops onto his ass like he doesn’t have the strength to hold himself up any more. “No more secrets,” he says.
And Dean nods.
----Mary Wu dies in her bed at the age of ninety-four with four children, fifteen grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren crammed into the kitchen downstairs, laughing and arguing and shrieking and being the pain in Mary’s ass that she’s loved her entire life. Yeah, if you’ve got to go, Mary’s probably picked the best way. If you like kids and noise, that is, which I don’t, but that’s not relevant. Anyway, the point is, when Mary dies, she’s ready to go, even though her practically unlimited progeny aren’t really ready to let her (except the middle son, who’s a bastard who’s already calculating the value of Mary’s house), and you can’t ask for much more than that, right?
It’s not that all those grandchildren and great-grandchildren and the huge crowd that comes after them (seriously, sometimes I think half the Western Hemisphere is descended from Mary) wouldn’t have happened if Mary had been shot in the chest when she was fifty-two and spent the next five years walking around with a bullet in her until she met a man with a magic circle and a book of Latin, but they wouldn’t be here in Mary’s kitchen, that’s for damn sure, because Mary’s kitchen would have been sold a long time ago and Mary would be nothing but rotting bones and a stone that never says as much as it needs to. So, on balance, I think this way’s better.
“Dean,” says Sam, and Dean’s awake, just like that, maybe because Sam said his name, but mostly because Sam’s fucking feet
are fucking freezing
and what the fuck is he doing crawling into bed with Dean anyway? Christ, it’s not like the kid doesn’t have a perfectly good bed of his own that’s, like, two feet away.
“Fuck off,” he mutters, and tries to shoulder Sam out of the bed, hopefully onto the floor because it’s always funny to watch Sammy sprawl, but Sam kicks him (Jesus, he needs to invest in some toenail clippers for the kid) and Dean opens his eyes properly and sees that Sam’s face is gleaming in the half-dark of the motel room like it’s covered in water.
Dean’s really awake then, sits up in bed. “Seizure?” he asks, and Sam sits up, too, teetering on the edge of the mattress because Dean’s six feet tall now and Sammy may only be thirteen but he’s catching up fast.
“Yeah,” says Sam. “Listen, Dean, I—"
“Christ,” mutters Dean. “We need to get your medication fixed.” He hates the word seizure
sounds like brain damage
and Dean can’t think about that, can’t think about the fact that there’s something inside Sam damaging his brain
and all the goddamn doctors can say is we don’t understand why this treatment isn’t working
“I’m not taking any medication,” says Sam, and it takes a second for that to sink in, mainly because hi, it doesn’t make any fucking sense
, and then Dean does the only thing he can do, which is stare at Sam like he’s a fucking moron. Sam stares back, doesn’t blink, and then what he said really
“What?” he says, and then “You’re kidding, right? Tell me you’re fucking kidding, Sammy.”
“It’s Sam,” Sam says in that snotty know-all voice he’s been perfecting lately, then he shakes his head. “It’s not like it ever does any good. Anyway, I don’t think they’re really seizures.”
“Dude, are you nuts
?” says Dean (brain damage
), and then he climbs out of bed, heads for the bathroom. “You’re taking those fucking pills right now, Jesus.”
“I think they’re visions,” says Sam when Dean’s still reaching for the bathroom door, and Dean stops, because that’s the fucking stupidest— That’s—
“Last week I saw a woman get ripped apart by a werewolf,” says Sam, and Dean doesn’t turn round, doesn’t want to hear this, he just wants to go in the bathroom and get the pills and make
Sammy take them, because maybe they don’t seem to do anything but this is seizures
) and Dean can’t believe
“And then I saw in the paper that there was a wild dog attack,” Sam says, like he can’t even hear
how ridiculous he sounds. “It was in Michigan. The—the vision I saw was in Michigan too.”
Dean swallows, turns half-way around. Sam’s out of bed now, hand on the wall like he can’t quite stand by himself. “So you had some bad shellfish or whatever, and then some lady gets the puppy-chow treatment,” says Dean. “It doesn’t mean anything.”
“The week before that, I saw a spirit strangle some guy in Utah,” says Sam. “That happened, too.”
Dean shakes his head. Coincidence, coincidence.
Except he stopped believing in coincidences when Sammy was six months old. “You don’t have hallucinations any more,” he says, like somehow that’ll make this not true. “You haven’t since you stopped taking Depakote.”
Sam draws in a breath, then blows it out, scrubs his free hand over his face. “No,” he says. “I just stopped talking about them. If I’d known they were real people— Crap.” He sits down heavily on the bed, and Dean turns fully round, holds onto the bathroom door to stop from falling down.
“Jesus,” he says, then, “We gotta tell Dad.”
“No!” says Sam, and Dean looks up, Sam’s eyes wide enough to see the whites even in the dimness.
“No more secrets,” says Dean, and Sam shakes his head.
“He’ll— He’ll, I mean.” Sam stops and scrubs his hands over his face again. “Come on, Dean, Dad kills
monsters, that’s all he does. I mean—"
“Hey,” says Dean, and suddenly this is more than holy shit
and what the fuck
, because how can Sam even think
that, about Dad, about himself, how can he— “Hey,” he says again, and manages to make it across the room to sit on the other bed, knees touching Sam’s. “You’re not a monster, and Dad’s not gonna hurt you, Christ,” he says.
,” says Sam, and looks up, eyes meeting Dean’s for just a second before darting away.
,” says Dean. “Jesus, Sammy, he’s Dad, and you’re still Sam, and we’re gonna work this thing out. But we gotta tell him.”
Sam closes his eyes and drops his head. “Yeah,” he says, voice muffled. “Yeah, OK.”Psychic
, Dean thinks, and Jesus, it sounds fucking laughable
. And then again, it’s not seizures
, and maybe, maybe this’ll make things better.
Four days before his fourteenth birthday, Sam has a vision at school while Dad’s unreachable, and Dean barely manages to get CPS off their backs. They try to make it to the next state in time, but what with Sam being hospitalised despite his protestations and social workers poking round, by the time they get there a four-year-old kid is in the morgue and Sam’s vision’s for nothing. They barely manage to get in touch with Dad in time to stop him tearing the town apart looking for them, and the whole goddamn thing is a fucking disaster from start to finish.
“You’re not going back to school,” says Dad two days later, when they’re sitting in a motel room three states away trying to catch their breath.
“What?” says Sam, and then “Dad.
“You’re smart enough to teach yourself,” says Dad. “Smarter than most of those idiot teachers, anyway. You’ll stay where I can keep an eye on you.”
,” says Sam again, and again, a hundred and a thousand times for the next four years, but Dad acts like he can’t even hear him.
“Dean?” says Sam in his I feel like talking about something really depressing
voice, and Dean pops the top off a new beer and practically shoves it in his face.
“Shut up,” he says. The motel they’re at has a swimming pool, which possibly counts as a miracle, even if the water’s the colour of pond scum, and Dean plans on making the best possible use of the decrepit lawn chairs and the warm Florida night.
Sam takes the beer, sips a couple of times. Dean grabs a new one for himself, swigs, rests his head back and stares up at the stars. This is awesome, right? Yeah, totally awesome.
Oh, for fuck’s sake.
“What?” Dean says, cursing Sam and his goddamn brain, which apparently doesn’t get that Florida
and lawn chairs
, and Sam breathes in (yeah, that’s just great) and shifts slightly so he’s looking at Dean. Dean keeps his eyes firmly fixed on the stars.
“Did you ever think how it might be different, if things were,” Sam pauses a second, then shakes his head, “…different?”
Dean can’t resist looking at Sam at that, and Sam ducks his head a little.
“I mean,” he says, “you know.”
Dean opens his mouth to say you mean if Mom hadn’t died?
, because yeah, yeah
, he thinks about that all the goddamn time, Jesus, but he doesn’t talk about that, not to Sam, not to anyone, so instead he takes a swig of beer and says “No, I don’t know, genius. You’re gonna have to narrow it down for me.”
Sam sighs, and Dean looks back up at the sky. The stars are a little blurry, but Dean’s OK with that. The best part is when he gets double vision, because then there are twice as many stars. Awesome.
“If I wasn’t,” Sam gestures at his head, his hand a fast-moving shadow at the edge of Dean’s vision, and Dean thinks oh
, because that wasn’t what he thought Sam meant at all.
“I never really thought about it,” he says, and he’s surprised to find out it’s true, like, OK, maybe he’s thought I wish Sam didn’t hurt this way
or I wish Sam didn’t have to see those things
, but he’s never thought about what it would be like
if Sam’s brain was just a normal average gigantic geek-brain.
“I have,” says Sam, and Dean grunts, raises the bottle to his lips.
“Yeah?” he says.
“Yeah,” says Sam, but he doesn’t say anything else, and even though Dean really doesn’t want to be having this conversation, he collects together all the random edges of his thoughts and concentrates
, imagines Sammy with no visions, no epilepsy.
“It wouldn’t be different,” he says finally. “Not really.”
Sam doesn’t say anything for a long time, and Dean’s wondering whether to ask another question of just let this stupid conversation die so he can get back to awesome
when Sam shifts so he’s not looking at Dean any more.
“How do you know?” he asks.
“Because I’m older,” says Dean without even thinking about it, and Sam lets out a burst of frustrated air.
“That’s the stupidest answer ever,” he says.
“Stupidest question ever, more like,” says Dean. “Now shut up, or I’ll tell Dad you were drinking.”
“You suck,” mutters Sam.
He does shut up, though.
“No,” says Dad, and Sam doesn’t say Dad
and he doesn’t say I hate you
and he doesn’t say why not?
. He says I’m eighteen, and you can’t stop me
, and Dean feels his stomach turn over.
“Damn right, you’re eighteen,” says Dad. “Time to act like a man, take some responsibility.”
“Oh, so hiding from the world is taking responsibility now?” says Sam, shoulders thrown back, arms spread the way they always are, like he’s daring Dad to take his best shot. “It’s my decision, and I’m going.”
Dad barks out a laugh. “You couldn’t even handle school, you think you can go to college?” he says, and Sam’s eyes snap with anger.
“I could have handled school!” he says. “I’m not a freak
, and I’m not going to spend the rest of my life tagging along behind you just because you’re afraid of me.”
Dad’s eyebrows go all the way up at that, and Dean wants to say something, wants to intervene, but he knows just how well that works, which is not at freakin all
. “You think I’m afraid
of you?” Dad asks, and then shakes his head like he can’t believe what a moron Sam is. “And how are you gonna save the people you see, huh? I don’t think Stanford’s
gonna be too keen to let you go haring across the country once a month because you had a vision
, even if you weren’t a fucking mess after you have them.”
“I’ll call you,” Sam says. “I’ll call you if I have one, and then you and Dean can—"
“No, you won’t,” Dad says, and he’s calm now, and the fear curling in Dean’s belly steps up a notch. “You won’t call me, and you won’t call Dean. If you walk out that door, you won’t call either of us again, do you understand me?”
Sam’s mouth hangs open for a second, and then snaps shut, and Dean’s pissed
at Dad but at least he’s found a way to make Sammy stay, Jesus
And then Sam’s saying fine
and shouldering his duffle, and Dean can’t believe that this is— This—
The door slams, and Dad stares at it like he doesn’t really understand what just happened.
Dean knows the feeling.
It’s two days later when Dean finally figures the time’s right.
“Dad,” he says. “Sam—"
“I know,” says Dad, like he’s just been waiting for Dean to open his mouth. “Take the Impala. I’ll get a new car.”Look out for Sammy
, that’s the way it’s always been, and for all Sammy thinks he’s not the same as Dean and Dad any more, nothing’s really changed.
----Johnny Kochanski doesn’t die in a quivering lump of flayed flesh when he’s thirty-seven years old. Yes, OK, fine, he does die when he’s thirty-seven, but from a heroin overdose, not from being skinned alive by something that looks like a cross between Freddy Krueger and Godzilla. Because hey, what are the chances of that happening, right?
The first time Sam has a vision at Stanford, he’s in a crowded lecture hall. Dean hates the freakin lectures, because he can’t keep an eye on Sam while they’re going on, and man, Sam goes to a lot
of the fucking things. He’s thought about scamming his way in, but no way Sam wouldn’t spot him, even in a room with a thousand students. Sam’s probably got the faces of everyone in all his classes memorised by now. That’s why the first Dean knows about the vision is when the ambulance pulls up outside the lecture hall, and Dean curses and is out of the car so fast he almost trips on the kerb.
Sam’s unconscious, and Dean can’t get close enough to talk to him anyway, but he follows the ambulance to the hospital and sneaks into Sam’s room first chance he gets. Sam’s arguing with a nurse about cell phones.
“I need to make a call
,” he insists, and then his eyes widen as he sees Dean over the nurse’s shoulder. “Never mind,” he mutters.
“What are you doing here?” Sam asks when the nurse is gone, and his voice is slightly slurred. Bad one
, Dean thinks, and drops into a chair.
“Taking care of your sorry ass,” Dean says. “Just like always.”
“I don’t need taking care of any more,” Sam says, and Dean feels that
like a freakin punch to the stomach, but he just cranks his grin up another notch.
“Could have fooled me,” he says, waving a hand to take in the IV and the other patients, most of em about a hundred years old by the looks. “I know dorm rooms are meant to be crappy, but this is ridiculous.”
Sam scowls, then leans over the nightstand, grabs a wad of paper. “Here,” he says. “I wrote it down so I wouldn’t forget.”
Dean takes the paper and glances at it. St. Paul
, it says, and rawhead
, Sam’s writing shaky and uncertain. “OK,” he says. “I’ll call Dad.”
“Dean,” says Sam when Dean’s halfway out of the room. “Did Dad send you?”
Dean pauses, thinks about it. There’s the truth, and there’s lies, and there’s what’ll stop Sam from saying don’t come back
, and Dean knows he’s spent too long trying to figure it out when Sam looks away.
“Tell him I’ll call you next time,” Sam says. “I’m serious, Dean. I don’t need a minder.”
Sam doesn’t say don’t come back
, but Dean hears it anyway, and he turns away so Sam doesn’t see his smile falter.
Dean’s careful after that; they both are. They don’t watch Sam twenty-four-seven, because maybe he’s left it all behind but he’s still a hunter
, and he’ll be looking for them now. All the same, there’s always somebody in range of Palo Alto, Dean or Dad or sometimes Bobby or Joshua, and Dean’s glad of it when he gets a call in late October of Sam’s senior year.
“Dean,” says Sam, and he sounds hoarse, like he’s been crying or screaming.
“What’s wrong?” Dean says, already hunting for the next exit that’ll take him towards Palo Alto.
“Come pick me up,” says Sam, and that’s all Dean needs to hear.
It’s five in the morning by the time Dean makes it to the apartment block where Sam lives with his hot girlfriend, and Sam’s sitting on the steps, grim-faced in the orange glow of the streetlamps. He stands up as Dean pulls up, hoists a duffle and walks round to the passenger door.
Dean waits a moment for Sam to get settled, then waits a moment longer. Finally, he looks over at Sam.
“What’s going on?” he asks.
“Just drive,” says Sam.
And Dean does.
At seven fifteen, Sam makes a phone call. Dean pretends he’s not listening in, but he’s sitting a foot away from Sam, Jesus, so he can’t help but hear.
“Did I wake you?” Sam asks, and his voice is soft like Dean hasn’t heard it for years. “I’m sorry, but I couldn’t wait any longer to tell you.” He listens for a second, then says, “Listen, I’ve been thinking, and— I guess I just, I’m not cut out for the Stanford thing after all. I mean, I.” He stops and closes his eyes, swallowing hard, and Dean hears nothing but bewildered silence coming over the line. Then Sam’s fingers tense around the phone. “I guess what I’m saying is I think we should break up.”
There’s a moment where everything in the world seems to be holding its breath, and then Dean hears the what?
as clearly as if the girl – Sam’s girlfriend – was right there in the car with them.
“Look, we just,” Sam says, voice thick with tears, “we want different things and I’m not ready to settle down and, and you deserve someone better. Please, find someone better.”
There’s yelling then, tinny, and Dean really doesn’t
listen to that, because it’s too private, it’s not for him. Sam says I’m sorry, I’m so sorry
over and over again, until finally he snaps the phone closed while the person on the other end is still yelling. He closes his eyes for a second, then winds the window down and flings the phone out like it’s on fire.
Dean doesn’t say anything for a minute, can’t figure out what’s going on, and then Sam says pull over
and Dean opens his mouth to point out that the phone’s, like, a mile behind them now, but Sam says pull over, Dean, Jesus Christ
, and Dean pulls over, and Sam’s on his knees in the grass retching before the car’s even come to a complete stop.
Dean gets out of the car, too, and sits on the side of the road, feeling the dew soaking through his jeans, watching Sam (Dean’s always been watching Sam
). Sam heaves until nothing’s coming up, then heaves some more, tears rolling down his cheeks. Eventually, he wipes a hand over his face and sits back, puts both hands behind his head, fingers laced together, like he’s surrendering. The sky’s grey with dawn, now, full of high cloud, and neither of them says anything for a long time.
Finally, Sam climbs to his feet, steadies himself against the car, staring at the bright streaks in the cloud where the sun’s trying to break through.
“Dad was wrong, you know,” he says, and Dean tries to think, tries to figure out what he means, but the only time he can think of Dad being wrong was when he said Sammy’s not the same as us
, so he doesn’t reply, and Sam doesn’t look round, keeps on staring into the sky. “You should be afraid of me,” he says.
Dean doesn’t know what to say to that, and Sam doesn’t seem to need an answer. Eventually, Sam gets back in the car, and after a moment, Dean does too. The sun’s up now, but it’s hidden behind the clouds, and Dean sighs and pulls out into the road.
----Jessica Moore dies aged forty-two in Myanmar, shot by rebel soldiers when she’s trying to get food and medical supplies through to the besieged villages. Her name is read out in Congress and she’s awarded a posthumous medal, which doesn’t stop her dad from having a nervous breakdown or her mom from lying awake at nights wishing that her daughter hadn’t had quite such an adventurous spirit, and then feeling guilty for wishing it. All the same, there are people all over the world now who wouldn’t be alive if Jessica had burned to death when she was twenty-one – hell, I know a couple of them myself – and that’s a legacy her parents can be proud of even in their grief. We should all be grateful for Jessica, whose death would always have been a tragedy.
“Dean?” says Sam in his I feel like talking about something really depressing
voice, and Dean rolls his eyes and runs a hand through his hair.
“At least give me the chance to take a shower first,” he says. Rawheads fucking stink, and it doesn’t help that Sam practically shoved him into this one just when he was about to burn the sucker nice and crispy. Sam said something about saving him from certain death by electrocution, but come on
, like Dean’s dumb enough to fire off a taser while he’s standing in a pool of water.
Sam sighs and hunches his shoulders, and Dean grabs his towel and heads for the bathroom, then stops with his hand on the door. For fuck’s sake.
“What?” he says, and behind him he hears Sam flop onto the bed.
“I don’t know,” Sam says. “I just…” He stops, and Dean knows this one is big, wonders if it’s about the girl, whatever her name was, the one Sam hasn’t talked about since they left Palo Alto. Sam breathes out hard, and Dean hears him shift position, but doesn’t turn round.
“I just wish it could be different sometimes,” says Sam, and Dean doesn’t ask what he’s talking about, because he’s pretty sure he knows.
“It wouldn’t be different,” he says, and he’s certain, more certain than he is of anything. Sam without visions would still be Sam
. Nothing would change.
“How do you know?” asks Sam, and Dean does turn now, sees Sam looking up at him, not like he’s challenging, just like he’s desperate to be convinced, and Dean wants to say it’s not you, it’s not your fault we live like this
, but he doesn’t know how to say that, so he just shrugs.
“Because I’m older,” he says, and Sam’s pleading look dissolves into a glare that only just covers a smile.
“What are you, twelve?” he says, and Dean rifles through his repertoire of grins that make Sam crazy
and plasters on the most annoying one.
is twelve,” he says, and dodges into the bathroom while Sam’s still looking for something to throw.
-----Dean Winchester doesn’t die in a tiny town in Indiana at the age of twenty-nine. He doesn’t get ripped to shreds by creatures that only he can see while his brother watches and screams, and he doesn’t go to hell afterwards. That would suck, right? I mean, I don’t even
believe in hell, and even
I think it would suck.
I’d tell you how Dean does die, but that story hasn’t been written yet.