GENRE: Gen, h/c, angst
CHAR: Dean, Sam
SUMMARY: Coda to 9.18. Dean deals, with varying levels of success.
It was raining in western Kansas. Driving down interstate 70, a belt of orange sunrise burned between the edge of the prairie horizon and the dark thunder clouds like a hot slab of iron. It didn’t feel like a sunrise. It felt like an open wound. A mistake even the rain couldn’t wash away.
Dean was driving with just his left hand now. The right one was fucked up, resting on his thigh all swollen and bruised to hell. He’d beat Gadreel to a bloody pulp, and he was probably in worse shape than that asshole. He didn’t even want to think about it. Or about how close they’d come to finally finishing him off.
There were a lot of things he didn’t want to think about lately, not that he succeeded in doing so. Christ, seemed like he had something new to add to the list every day. He’d never managed to stop thinking about the things Sam had said about him. And now, Dean was mixing them up with Gadreel’s version, and it was hard to remember who had said what exactly. But maybe none of that mattered anyways. He wasn’t about to defend himself to Sam. There was nothing he could say. Didn’t actions speak louder than words? Well, he was acting alright. Every molecule in his body, every strand of DNA propelled him towards it. The action. The fight. The kill.
But that was just another thing he didn’t want to think on much. He wasn’t sure exactly what had happened back in that factory in Utah, but it felt like pieces of himself being rearranged. Like the mark was just a catalyst. Taking old furniture out of the basement and dusting off unhung paintings. Forcing Dean to live with everything he thought he could pretend he didn’t own. All that shit he never had the fortitude to sort through and send to Goodwill.
It was happening too fast. He couldn’t keep up, couldn’t find his way inside himself anymore. Everything looked different. Familiar, but changed. Distorted. Obscured. There were parts of him that he hadn’t seen in weeks.
But this was it. This was what he’d signed on for. This was his burden to carry, and he’d just have to fucking deal with it. All he had to do was focus. Keep his eyes on the prize. Or at least focus on the pain in his hand and on the sound of the rain beating on the roof of the car, the smell of manure and lightning. Just long enough to make it home.
Just long enough to drive into that burning horizon.
Sam had slept most of the way, likely bored unconscious from the awkward silence. But the rain had changed direction, and now darted through the crack in the passenger window and onto his face. He wiped it off drowsily with the sleeve of his coat as Dean cut along the outskirts of Colby onto route 83.
“What’s the ETA?” The window squeaked as he rolled it up and scanned their surroundings for a landmark.
“Under two hours, if the rain eases up.”
Sam stretched his arms out behind his head, and grunted in the way he always did when they’d been riding a little too long. Then, he assessed Dean again with his undaunted gaze, oblivious to the fact that it was making Dean feel like the dog-faced boy at the county fair.
“Oh, shit,” Sam said. “Your hand—“
Dean kept his eyes on the road. “Least of my worries.”
“Does it hurt?”
“Do I normally drive one-handed?”
“There’s that drop-in clinic in Phillipsburg. You uh… wanna stop and get it checked out?”
“Okay… Will you at least let me look at it when we get back to the bunker?”
Sam’s request stirred something inside of Dean unexpectedly, and he clenched his teeth together trying to stifle it. Part of him was thankful that Sam even cared enough to offer, but another part didn’t want to trust Sam's sympathy. Why the hell did Sam give a shit about his busted up hand? How could he care so much and so little at the same time? Things would have been be a hell of a lot easier if Sam just held up his end of this not-brothers-anymore arrangement. It didn’t seem like too much to ask considering it was his frickin’ idea to begin with.
Dean never answered the question. He didn’t know what to say. Despite all his misgivings, a tiny part of him deep, deep down, craved that physical reassurance from Sam that might prove he cared if Dean was broken. And it made Dean sick.
Under the bright overhead lights in the first aid room, the bruises across the top of Dean’s hand looked even worse than they felt. Sam took one look and hissed, started for the fridge to grab some ice.
Dean had been too tired to fight him. It wasn’t worth it. So he’d let Sam carry their bags inside and direct him in here, onto this creepy old examination table which he sat on the edge of, motionless and apprehensive.
Sam came back and tossed him a bag of frozen peas, which Dean caught with his good hand and then settled onto the bad one. Sam disappeared again, and Dean closed his eyes as the shock of cold abated and his hand began to numb. Sharp pain became a dull ache. If he didn’t move his hand at all Dean could feel the thrum of the Mark overtake it for his attention like the hum of a fridge in a suddenly quiet house. It was oddly comforting.
Moments later, realizing how fucked up that was, he forced his hand into a fist. It felt like a nail being driven through his palm and the pain shot up his arm all the way to his shoulder. He hissed, cradling the hand to his chest, and the frozen peas flopped onto the marble floor.
“Here,” Sam said, and Dean looked up to see him standing right there with a glass of water and couple of pills, which he gave to Dean in turn and then grabbed the bag of peas off the floor.
Dean swallowed the pills—not sure what they were, not really caring—chased them with the water and set the glass down on the little stainless steel trolley sidled up against the exam table. Sam just stared at him, biting his lip.
Nothing,” Sam said, setting the peas down next to Dean’s empty glass. He held out his hands. “Let’s see.”
Dean wanted to bolt. Go drown under six doubles of Maker’s Mark, and call it a night. But Sam would flip, and he needed Sam to believe that he was handling this. That he didn’t need some kind of intervention or whatever the fuck you do for someone being slowly hollowed out by a biblical symbol for murder branded on their arm.
So Dean showed him.
Sam’s hands were warm, and he drifted his thumb lightly over Dean’s cut and swollen knuckles, looking down as if he thought concentrating hard enough might conjure up some latent x-ray vision. Let him see if something was broken inside.
And then Sam peered up at him. “Kind of familiar.”
“When I was seeing Lucifer, losing my grip, I cut my hand and you fixed it up, remember?”
Oh, Dean remembered. He’d given Sam his word that he was real, and had stupidly hoped it would be enough to keep Sam from going nuts. Of course it wasn’t. Of course he’d failed miserably and had watched as everything in their lives went to shit, slowly but surely.
Sam had been a victim. Powerless. This wasn’t like that at all. Dean had chosen this. He wasn’t trying to escape it, and he wasn’t going crazy. He knew what had to be done… for once. And he was going to do it.
He glared at Sam. “You think I’m losing my grip?”
“This is worlds away from that, Sam. Fucking galaxies.”
“Hey. I’m just worried about you, okay? What that… that thing is doing to you.”
Shit. Why did Sam have to do this? It was too damn late and he was only making it harder. He didn’t want Sam close to him again. He didn’t want anyone close to him. They’d only get caught in the crossfire.
And Dean just wasn’t worth it.
He pulled away, said “I can’t do this,” slid off the table, and pushed past his brother.
Dean moved through the library, the war room, and down the hall like driftwood in a strong current, unhesitating. Sam didn’t follow him.
He closed his bedroom door and leaned back against it. Closed his eyes and knocked his head against the industrial steel. He shouldn’t have let Sam so close. That had been a mistake. He’d be fine.
He took a deep breath. It was fine. All he had to do was take care of himself long enough to find Abaddon, kill her and Crowley, and get rid of this Metatron dick-bag with Cas.
Shit. Who was he kidding? That could take years. And more than anything, he wanted this to be over. He couldn’t live like this. Sam was alive and healthy and here with him, but everything was so cock-eyed and Dean had never felt so fucking alone.
Inside, he could still feel his fractured soul begging him to fight against what the Mark was doing to him. It was like fighting a gag reflex. Because deep down, he still wanted to be saved. No matter how worthless he felt, no matter how completely he accepted this darkness inside of him. And despite the fact that he knew he wasn’t worth saving, he couldn’t ignore that tiny, struggling corner of his soul.
It was the only thing standing in his way.
He sank to the floor and stretched his right arm out along his thigh. He stared at the blotches of blue and yellow across his hand. It still ached, but whatever Sam had given him had started to dull the pain, and he was grateful to feel the low hum of the Mark again. The white noise that would drown out everything that hurt.