(c)2006 b stearns
Cle Elum, WA
Sam couldn't shake the deja vu this time. He'd stood guard before, but only one other time had it been to wait to see whether Dean was going to be the same person when he awoke. Mercury and quicksilver and gunpowder, but fundamentally stable and recognizeable all the same, no matter what he'd done or had done to him. One day it would be too much, something would go too far, and Sam feared that day more than he did most things. He'd already had two brushes with something else using Dean's eyes to look at him. He needed the third to not turn out to be a Dean so messed up that he wasn't salvageable.
Dean was constant, no matter how long Sam was gone or how much he changed or grew up or grew distant. Dean was the only conerstone and home base and ollie ollie oxen free , safe, that Sam had ever known no matter how often he showed the opposite. It was too much to put on anyone, much less a sibling out on the very same ledges that Sam danced on, and maybe running had been to save them both as well as find his own way.
His pupils had reacted when Sam lifted each eyelid. That was good; wherever Dean had gone, at least his body reacted to something . If he wanted to sleep for a week to make up for a week of wakefulness, Sam would let him, but he had to make sure sleep was all it was. He tried to remember the Glasgow coma scale but figured it was best if he didn't, since it applied to brain injury and not I think I sealed my brother up so far that he can't get out. On the Winchester scale of In Over Our Heads, Sam scored this one fairly high.
He'd moved them west, roughly twenty minutes away to Cle Elum, to a small motel next to a Perkin's. Something he didn't bother questioning made him choose to head further from the river, not just from the ridge. It was strangely quiet and sparsely occupied that morning, and Sam was glad for it because he had to carry Dean in and it already felt weird enough - it didn't need to look weird too. Dean who didn't wake up, who didn't react to shaking or yelling, who didn't care about cold water, who couldn't hear Sam sob in panic. If it was going to be more than a day, Sam realized he'd have to take Dean to a hospital out of fear of dehydration.
He didn't remember all of what had happened the previous night. He had at first, but it had begun to dwindle as the hours passed, leaving the same feeling he got after a too-vivid dream. He was no longer sure exactly how long the screaming had gone on before the quiet hit him like a wall, the absence of pain almost too much to bear or believe for a moment. It had been a good while before he'd had the nerve to check to see if the ground under the car was sealed up again. He'd already known it was over, but hope was poison in places where just opening a door got you a headful of crazy ideas or possession of the finest and most final kind. Sam had still felt like something was after-echoing around him, jittering along his most fundamental connections. Maybe things were closed for now but there was some sort of residual come-down happening.
You're not my Sam
It had not occurred to Sam until then that Dean - and most likely their father - had not reconciled little Sam with adult Sam. Four years out of sight, among the mundane, from teen to man, leaving a clear line of demarcation. He was no longer and could never be that Sam again, not the one Dean had been talking about when his soul had been doing the talking. On their current side of the line, their existence had dwindled to only each other, as it had before, but with such different rules. Not as matched up but trying. That was, if the idea of existence was held to the quality or quantity of a life. Sam wasn't sure if dwindle was the right word, either, except that right then it felt like catastrophic collapse of everything they were, to themselves and each other, shored up by only the simplest of needs and ideas.
He had been imbued with a hell of a lot more than just a headful of Dean. He'd thought he was getting an idea just from what Dean threw off, until trying to keep him from spinning out into tapestry too thin to keep a pattern had given him the - ability, awareness, need? - to tread where he had no right to. If Dean remembered any of it, they would never be the same. Anything they'd ever been to each other had been given and granted and gifted, and later earned, but never taken. Dean would never have allowed anybody in that far. Even a bond Sam had been born to only held so long and so far...
You're not my Sam
There was a guilty thrill to having been so close. Diffusing a bomb that could have opened the world had not left Sam unscathed; he felt flashes of what it might have been like to wear Dean around the way the revenant had. Dean had spent his time creating his own myth of himself, painting himself into corners and locking down behind his ideals until the way out was as obscured as the way in. It felt okay to do that, and Sam suddenly wanted that when he wasn't keeping his thoughts purposely focused. Salting the door because who knows what's out there; smudging the room; checking Dean.
There were things in this life worse than death...and more intimate than sex. How the hell he'd managed both with his own brother in the same night, he didn't know and it didn't even phase him in ways it would have...when he'd been younger.
Sam had a feeling the stitches wouldn't always hold. Dean had always been better at stitches. Sam would repair whatever he had to, even if it meant Dean running like hell soon after.
It was quiet and there was no sense of disconnection; he wasn't feeling like he was missing anything. He'd done this before, recently, and that was all he remembered. There was a vague sense of needing to make sure his world was intact, but he couldn't narrow the parameters down enough to figure out what he was worried about.
Yeah, well. Maybe he'd dreamed the whole damn thing.
When Dean tried to roll over, there was a hand pressing down on his shoulder. He opened his own eyes to Sam's and the dark, tousled hair tumbling into them. "Hold it," Sam said, leaning over him. "Name, rank, serial number."
"Dean Winchester," Dean said. "Boss of you. 10,000 Cheerios."
Sam grinned and pushed away, thumping Dean on the shoulder as he did. The impact brought back a flash to Dean of where he'd been recently but not how things had ended. He stared at the ceiling for a long moment, uninterested in asking for an explanation until he could see what there was to remember. If he was injured, he couldn't feel it; if Sam was injured, it wasn't bad enough to keep him from being flip. The ceiling was not the same, he knew that much. The sun was setting and it had been the middle of the damn night the last he'd known, and he was also in the bed furthest from the door. Sometimes Sam talked too much, about stuff that Dean thought didn't need discussion, and sometimes Sam said more than Dean could ever grasp without a single word. Sam had told Dean everything he needed to know in a couple of glances and a grin.
The glance and grin were back in Dean's direct line of sight, because Sam was leaning over him again, one hand held up and two fingers raised and playing it off as a joke. "How many?"
That bad, then. That scared.
Dean raised his right hand just high enough to flip Sam off. "You tell me," he said. "I'm not getting up yet. So, you know, go outside and play."
"Yeah, you are getting up," Sam said. "You're gonna get something to drink, at least, because it's probably been about twenty four hours."
Dean propped himself up on his elbows and blinked at Sam in the remainder of the daylight, not caring what time it was. "Did we close the thing up, at least?"
Sam shrugged. "We're not in it, that's all I know. You don't remember anything?"
Dean opened his mouth to say something, and for the first time in days Sam didn't get a chance to find out what it would have been. "Sort of." He sat up the rest of the way and passed his hands over his face, more of a diversion than a need to put himself in order.
"What did you hear?" Sam said softly. He didn't need to know but he needed Dean to talk to him about it. If he acknowledged it, then it was all real, and not just real, but forgiven.
"I don't remember," Dean said curtly, obviously lying, and through his disappointment Sam couldn't begrudge him the right to it. Sam had already lied about it and would go on doing so.
Sam handed him a bottle of water, peace offering and demand, and Dean grabbed it.
Dean was awake long enough to eat and make sure in his own backhanded way whether Sam was really okay, then slept through the night. Sam startled awake every so often from things that didn't feel like dreamwork, and he never caught enough of the pieces to get more than impressions that felt of loneliness and evasion. He finally got up to poke around online, plugging in keywords for everything they'd been talking about. It was fully light when Dean sat up.
"It's too much to hope you're looking at porn, isn't it," Dean said.
Sam read aloud. "'Winds blowing over mountain ranges can generate infrasounds that last for days. They speculate that increases in suicides reported from the Alps and the western United States "may be due to some as yet unknown biological response" to such infrasound events.'"
Dean got up and pulled a t-shirt over his head, padding over barefoot and leaning over Sam's shoulder to look. "Dude, the Christian Science Monitor?" he said.
Sam shrugged. "Google's fault, not mine. So here we've got wind patterns and we've got one really big river. Kind of a stretch, but...hey. We saw and heard the result."
Dean didn't lean away. Sam cocked his head a little, fingers paused over the keys, waiting.
"So you saw it, then," Dean said.
His tone had that quality of finality to it, so Sam dropped his hands to the table. "Yeah."
"Before I knew what was going on," Dean said. "Before I was paying attention and you grabbed my jacket. You opened the other door, didn't you."
It wasn't a question. Sam didn't answer because he knew he didn't need to. Here it came, everything, including dude quit fuckin' spying on me.
"So how come you didn't go in, Sam?" Dean said, lowering his voice. "Just because you knew what was happening? Are we that tough?"
Sam took in a breath when he realized that Dean was almost fishing but was also balking at the same time. Neither was like him. "Because you were with me," he said. "You stopped me by just being there."
Dean leaned away and ruffled the hair on the back of Sam's head, something he hadn't done since Sam had reached his full height. Sam snorted but didn't turn around, so he didn't see Dean's face when the latter said, "Headache gone?"
Again, not coming straight out and asking the real question. Am I closed up again? Sam clicked the laptop shut and turned his head in Dean's general direction but was careful not to turn to face him. "Yeah," Sam said, and that was the end of the conversation. Dean wasn't going to ask how or why, because the fact that things were back the way they were was all he needed to know. Sam didn't push it because it was best that Dean not catch on to the fact that Sam found himself disappointed.
"Do we need an engineer or a geology guy?" Dean said. "Who's more likely to talk to us?"
Sam shrugged. "What're you asking me for?"
"You're the one who spent four years around those people," Dean said.
"They're just like anyone else," Sam said. "Don't be weird, Dean. Look for a geology professor. They'll have a department of Geology Sciences over here at Central."
Central Washington University. Dean took the laptop away and settled on the bed with it. After a few minutes he said, "The faculty has their email addresses and extensions published...there's like a dozen associate or assistant professors. May as well snag one of them." He leaned across the bed and grabbed his phone off the nightstand.
"Hey," Sam said, "Wait a second. What exactly are you gonna say?"
"Watch and learn, junior," Dean said, eyes darting between the laptop and his phone as he made sure he was dialing correctly.
Sam stretched his arms above his head and listened to his spine pop. It was sometimes unreasonably fun to see what Dean was going to do or say; he didn't mind not knowing in cases like this, even if he complained about it. He listened to Dean clear his throat a little and then give someone named Professor Gaines his real name.
"I'm a geology major from the U of W," Dean said, purposely pronouncing it you of dub as if he were local. "I just need to ask a couple of questions. I'm doing my final thesis on the effects of continuous vibration on metasedimentary substructures like those found on Manastash Ridge."
Sam felt a snort coming and did his best to stay quiet. Dean knew it was there anyway, and threw one of the shoes by the bed in Sam's direction.
"Well," Dean said. "I guess I'm more interested in detecting the vibration itself. How much do you know about infrasonics?" Pause. "Seismic in origin, most likely, sure."
The rest of the conversation from Sam's angle was Dean typing notes into Word and making mmm hmm noises, brow furrowed with concentration except for the point halfway through where one brow shot up and Dean froze, eyes wide and dim and lifting suddenly just to the right of Sam's head. Sam waited, reminded for a moment of the adage about cats and dogs seeing things that humans couldn't everytime they stared into space. Dean wasn't given to eureka moments, so Sam was careful to watch and absorb it.
"And what type of meter would be best for picking something like that up?" Dean said, eyes shifting away to the floor and back into focus. He tucked his phone into the crook of his neck and typed, brow-furrow back in place. Sam stayed where he was and made hand-shapes, here's the church, here's the steeple, and made sure Dean was looking at him when he opened the doors to see all the people. Dean gave him a wide-eyed, what the hell is wrong with you look before turning his attention back to the laptop.
"Any possibility something like that at the right level could actually shift rock, or open something at the surface?" There was a beat, then he chuckled, the one laugh Sam hated, the false polite one. "No, of course not. Just wanted to tell a couple of my frat brothers how off base they were. They want it to come from a professor they don't have to face."
Dean listened a moment more, threw in a few pleasantries, then thanked the professor and clicked the phone shut. He held it out, chin in his other hand, hanging off the moment.
"So what've we got?" Sam said.
"Well," Dean said, "We need a sound meter that can pick up Hertz below the audible level. Or something that can be calibrated down to do that." He pecked away for a minute, and Sam slumped in the chair until his legs were stretched out straight in front of him. "Mmm, 'parallal real-time octave filters bank'...whatever. Sixteen Hertz to twenty kiloHertz...hope it comes with directions, I don't know jack about this."
"Are you gonna tell me what that was all about?" Sam said.
"The good professor tells me seismic waves and pretty much any kind of wave can pool ," Dean said. "Spots where peaks and troughs of sound overlap. It can disappear in spots where peak and trough cancel each other out."
"Kind of like me and you," Sam said absently, still slumped in the chair.
Without looking up, Dean said, "What the fuck is with you, Sam?"
"No idea," Sam said. "Seriously, just...never mind. Look, if we get the meter and prove that that's what we're up against - infrasound, I mean - what the hell do we do to make it stop? Everything vibrates with its own tone, I remember that from physics 101. Stars...ring like bells, each with their own frequency. DNA base pairs have a frequency. The ocean -"
"The rivers, the rocks, the Earth's core," Dean interrupted. "Fine. Where's this going?"
Sam pointed a finger at his own head, his expression yelling hello! . "When contrasting frequencies collide, you end up with the waves slamming into each other. That can...I don't know what it can do. That's the point. Maybe we've run into something cool enough to warn everybody about. Write a paper on."
Dean laughed. "Man, we stumble into shit weekly that would pop the eyes of the white-picket-fence set," he said. "This one can't just be shot or burned, that's all. If we're gonna start writing papers, then start with how we can prove telekenisis and ESP exist, that we can prove that people survive physical death, and that kids have every reason to freak out about what's under the bed." He laughed again. "Do we get a ghost writer ?"
"That was lame, even for you," Sam said, unperturbed by the jeering. "What if it's not just sound waves?" He meant to say it could still be something supernatural, but it wasn't important enough to start an argument over. Easier to stick with Dean's a-to-b pattern for now.
"One thing at a time," Dean said. "We figure out for sure what it is, and with that we figure out how to drain this frickin' pool. " He completed another series of keystrokes, then said, "There. We can get one of these meters overnighted to the office of this place. I'll just ask 'em to keep an eye out for it."
"I'll do it," Sam said, rising. "You want anything else?"
Without even admitting it to himself Sam was testing to see if Dean really was closed up again. Because a question like that would get something if he wasn't, or so Sam's experience had taught him.
Dean eyed him, letting Sam's helpfulness raise his suspicions. "Don't be doing any solo work."
Sam shook his head. "God knows I can barely dress myself without your help, Dean, why the hell would I do anything else without you?"
Dean waved him off and reached for another shoe, hoping to nail Sam with it, but Sam was already out the door.
Sam realized he was being odd, could feel himself being annoyed and annoying. He knew himself well enough to admit he was feeling as if he wasn't solid unless Dean was engaged with him somehow, and he hated the idea enough to veer away from it. He felt childish and stupid for it and put it down to a reaction to having been too close to too many things recently. The sudden withdrawal was unsettling and felt like...greed.
Dean had told him It wanted you so bad, it would have done anything to get you, so I thought if I couldn't kill it myself I could slow it down for awhile by giving myself -
Sam understood that better all the time.