Flinch

(c)2007 gekizetsu

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Sam and Dean deal with the aftermath of the events of Born Under A Bad Sign – in a typically Winchester way. Written for sharonmarais. <3

4543 words, PG-13 for minor language.


It still smarts like it was four minutes ago
We only influenced each other totally
We only bruised each other even more so

What are you, my blood? You touch me like you are my blood
What are you, my dad? You affect me like you are my dad.
– Alanis Morissette, Flinch

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-|-

 

Sam now knows what few demon hunters do: what it’s like to be under the control of a demon and live through it.

 

He spent too much time in the following days thinking about Meg Masters’ year of being trapped without recourse, and in comparison his week had begun to seem insignificant...even though it had felt intolerable at the time. The times he was awake for it, anyway. The time had passed quickly while he was subsumed, pressed down and suffocated in a way he hadn’t imagined or been prepared for.

 

He tried very hard not to think about what it must have been like for his father to try and fight the demon that had finally killed him. The will it must have taken, the rage.

 

He felt slightly less, when he thought about that.

 

He coughed occasionally, and finally reminded himself it was because the demon had been using him to fulfil whatever habits or urges she’d picked up over time. Smoking was the least of them, goddamn her, and he tried so hard not to really concentrate on what other itches she might have been scratching with his form. He didn’t say anything to Dean — how could he – but he watched for any preliminary signs of anything that might be a sexually transmitted disease. For all he knew, she’d found the nearest truck stop and taken all comers. Pun intended.

 

He was relatively unmarked but for the burn on his arm – the initial binding lock, and then Bobby’s panicked attempt to break it. Considering the fact that she’d used his body to go on a short-tempered spree that had included mainly murder but also the harassment of random convenience store clerks, that was a surprise. How many hunters had she gone after? Who had seen his face?

 

Why hadn’t Steve Wandell been prepared? All that security outside, so easily breached, and then he hadn’t put up that much of a fight before Sam’s hands had slit his throat. Not much of a hunter.

 

More guilt. He hated the thought every time he had it: blaming the victim for the crime. He feared it might be an after-effect of the possession, that she’d had time to soak in good and taint his reactions. What he feared more, though, was that the thoughts were all his. How would he have felt, had he found Dean murdered in some hotel room? Would he have felt Dean just wasn’t quick enough and had it coming?

 

He remembered Wandell’s death clearly. She’d made sure he was awake and watching. He hadn’t been able to do anything but see and feel what it was like to cause a human life to fade.

 

It hadn’t been all that hard. Bad, yes, but so damn simple. It didn’t crush him.

 

There were no hunters that were as good as they were, and he didn’t even pretend otherwise in his mind, so he didn’t spend all that much time looking over his shoulder...or Dean’s. They hadn’t left anything behind. They always covered their tracks with an automatic, practiced ease, as common as remembering to salt windowsills and clean the weapons. Covering tracks was a weapon in its own way. They would not be hunted. Bobby would never betray them.

 

Sam found it darkly amusing that Dean kept considering the adventure theirs. They had not been out murdering and causing misery. He had. Dean had attached himself to all of it immediately as if he’d been right there the whole time. Sam knew, he knew that Dean didn’t even realize he was doing it. It was his way of shielding Sam a little, by trying to shoulder some of the responsibility. It was as automatic to him as the covering of tracks, as instinctive, and just as much of a weapon.

 

Sam checked Dean’s bullet wound twice a day whether Dean liked it or not, watching for infection. Jo had done the best job she could on short notice and with limited tools, but it was messy all the same. She hadn’t dug many bullets out of people, he figured; she’d likely watched Ellen do it a few times. Came with the job. He’d shot his own brother for the second time in as many years, and not only that, he’d managed to hit pretty close to the spot where one of those damn lunatic backwoods cannibals in Minnesota had nailed him with a hot poker. One more scar for the scrapbook his own hide had become.

 

Dean had never flinched from him before. Not until the days immediately following the possession. Not even after how badly things had gone at that asylum in Illinois. Sam had shot him full of rock salt and said some damn rotten things to him, and Dean had been standoffish and pissed and stiff...but he’d never flinched. Even knowing Sam had been possessed, knowing it for certain...it wasn’t only being shot by his own brother’s hands that had him ducking away. It was a lot more than that. Sam could reason some of it out on his own, through the guilt, and he had to because damn if he could get a word out of Dean aside from teasing. Cracks about having a girl inside him for a week and how it taken that extreme to get Sam to stop acting like a girl for once. All a cover, sarcasm as a reinforcement of a lie, one framed in unspoken words: we’re okay.

 

Wandering around steeped in bloodlust and condescension and disregard for the simplest respect for a week had not done Sam any kind of good.

 

We are not okay.

 

I am not okay.

 

He made a serious effort at trying to be okay, because Dean was not really in any shape to be big brother for awhile. Sam didn’t remember his hands being used to pound the hell out of Dean, and he was at least grateful for that. Bobby wouldn’t talk about any of it when Sam had called him a couple of days after, out of Dean’s earshot. There was no reason to go into it, nothing new or important, just one demon out for revenge against all hunters, but pretty much Dean in particular. Sam had been chosen mainly just to stick it to Dean, to try and force Dean to kill him.

 

Sam had been left with that to ponder. How much worse, if Dean had stuck to that promise to put Sam down should he go darkside. Had he put a couple right in Sam’s heart only to watch the demon then disembark long enough to laugh before dissipating, leaving him with Sam’s dying body, gone for no reason at all. That had been Dean’s first flinch, that inability to pull the trigger. He was not going to keep that promise. Sam had been out of line when he’d made him say it, and he knew it, but it just seemed like the last and greatest and most necessary show of love and trust that they could eventually give each other: promising to end that kind of misery with a bullet.

 

He still didn’t know the demon’s name, so he kept referring to her mentally as Meg. The real Meg would not have been amused. He knew that even if he’d never really had any sense of the real her. She had played at being Sam with what she could filter out of his memories, the application of the knowledge executed poorly, overdoing it, using a guillotine to peel potatoes. It wouldn’t have lasted long, and she had to have known it. He’d never had a true sense of her as a being, even that close, and that was another thing to be grateful for.

 

Demon-Meg had been grossly shortsighted in her spree. Had she really meant to torture Dean after a rousing week of murdering other hunters and making it look like Sam had finally given in to some inherent predilection for destruction, all she’d really needed to do was force Dean to watch it all. Topping things off by having Sam put a gun to his own head would have really been a showstopper. Or better, she could have had him flay himself alive, skin and muscle trailing in strips, eyes gouged away and handed to Dean with bloodied fingers. None of that had occurred to her that he’d been able to see. He knew why. She had not been able to comprehend or understand the love that would have caused those punishments to be unendurable.

 

It’s hell for demons, too. A prison made of bone, and flesh, and blood, and fear.

 

She had thought that over and over, loud enough for him to hear. Practicing. Practicing what she was going to say. She had admitted fear to him that way, and he hadn’t been surprised about the existence of that fear or the admission. She hadn’t intended to let him survive the whole thing, so she hadn’t really cared what he heard or knew. She had been so bent on trying to cause him and Dean to suffer than she had committed herself to another kind of prison of flesh and bone and blood just to get the chance.

 

Demons were capable of fear. He would remember that. She would be back, eventually, out of anger at being bested a second time. She’d never get in again, but he almost looked forward to meeting her again. There would be other ways aside from the Colt that would level a permanent death on demons. If one way had been found, then others existed.

 

Either that, or find a way to make sure that no demon ever got back out of Hell, once in.

 

He had way too much time to think, what with Dean barely talking and all the damn driving. Sam felt phantom crawling sensations under his skin too often in the following days, his own skin not fitting him, mind full of small blocked off portions and missing time, restless and finding himself feeling every now and then for a pack of menthols that were not there. Memory-taste of cigarettes and the coppery tang of blood, the too-close reek of fear on his clothes, an ache behind his eyes that crawled up his forehead. He remembered the sense of being able to feel his own limbs but not being able to control them, a constriction around his throat and chest that had never been physical, terror without the burn of an adrenaline surge. There had been no finesse to it; she had slapped things out of him and away from him, taking whatever memories she thought might be useful and sifting the rest like so much trash. He was small and stupid and mortal, things that were inexcusable to a demon. She would have gladly kept all his kind in pens, for amusement, pets and slaves. She’d had a vague, twisted fondness for Sam that didn’t really translate into what any human could recognize as fondness in any positive form. Sam she would have kept as a pet on a leash, had she had time.

 

Dean...she would have liked to break.

 

Mentally and emotionally, then physically. Sam kept the hows of that very much to himself. She had been very clear about the many ways she felt he was weak and what she meant to do with time, beginning with Sam’s death at his hands. Some of the things Sam had guarded most closely, when he had any kind of chance to shuffle or scatter the things he held most dear, was anything about Dean. He had offered up bits of other things to distract her – John’s warning that Sam might need to be killed if he couldn’t be saved. Dean’s penchant for self-deprecation.

 

Jesus.

 

She had remembered how to get to Bobby’s all on her own. He was so glad for that. He wouldn’t have been able to hide his relief. He didn’t remember anything that had happened at Bobby’s, but it didn’t really matter except that Dean had been flinching from him ever since.

 

He couldn’t blame Dean for hitting him right after; he had said the only thing that would come to his stunned mind, and it had been a damn dumb thing to say.

 

Every now and then he glanced at Dean, in the car or across a table, and he felt just an instant of what she had seen when she’d looked at Dean. There was contempt and hatred that wasn’t familiar in a human sense; it went so far beyond that it mutated into a nearly orgasmic fury. He kept his hands flat on tables or his own thighs to keep them from latching around Dean’s throat for those instants, waiting for them to pass. They always did. They faded, and came less often as yet another day went by.

 

Dean, sleeping deeply with a trusting ease only feet away.

 

“We have to go see Jo.”

 

“Not a good idea, Sam,” Dean said, hands sweaty on the wheel, thinking Sam didn’t notice.

 

Dean smelled human and mortal and fragile, warm and anxious. He was in pain and pretended otherwise, and to Sam it carried a mental tang that translated to a blending of senses, a high-pitched sweetness. Sam pretended it was all in his head, just a stress reaction. He laced his hands together to keep them still.

 

Dean cleared his throat. “She’s a little...rattled. Dunno what she’ll do to you by reflex when she first sees you.”

 

“She knows I was possessed,” Sam said. “She’s had time to think it over. I gotta try and apologize, okay? Even if it wasn’t me. Whatever I can put right...I have to try.”

 

“What for?” Dean said. “We’re not gonna be close with that family, ever. Best to just let that lie.”

 

“‘Cause of dad, or ‘cause there’s no point bothering with someone unless we need them?”

 

Dean’s face tightened into a study in aggravation. “Look. Not gonna fight with you. You wanna try and make sure she won’t have half the Roadhouse gunning for you, you feel sorry for all of the stuff you didn’t even do, fine. We’ll go. But let’s not drag this whole thing out.”

 

Dean, yet again making it clear that he really didn’t want to talk about it. Ever.

 

“It’s pretty much dragging out for us,” Sam said. “We don’t know what else got done out there using my face.”

 

“Yeah, well, our little crazy bitch of a demon wasn’t so smart,” Dean said. “The daevas, Sam. She didn’t think that through. She didn’t think this through, either. So that yellow-eyed bastard’s ‘daughter’ isn’t much for him to be proud of. I doubt she got a lot done, even with your big eyes and dimples. We got enough to worry about without you imagining shit that might catch up with us.” He paused, head tilting to one side, the quirk of his mouth betraying his worry. “How far to Duluth?”

 

Peace offering, of a sort. Sam reached for the map.

 

-|-

 

Duluth, MN

 

She’d chosen a place that looked a little like the roadhouse she’d practically grown up in. It was a little off the beaten path, weathered on the outside and trying to make up for it with extra lighting. Stick with what you know, Sam thought. He didn’t recognize it or remember being there. They were purposely coming at a later hour, close to closing. They hadn’t called because they didn’t want to give her a chance to think about it ahead of time. They didn’t want to completely surprise her, either, that was for damn sure.

 

Dean, for one, hoped that she hadn’t called Ellen or Ash and said anything. Hi, wish you were here. By the way, Sam is possessed, so shoot him if you see him. Oh, and Dean is a jerk – shoot him too.

 

He was having just a little trouble looking at Sam without hearing the words, the hate that had come out of him. Not his that time, at all, but still too similar to what he’d said after shooting him at that damn asylum. Maybe Sam didn’t feel that way anymore, about anything, but he had once been in agreement with summarizing Dean as pathetic.  

 

“I’ll talk to her first,” Dean said. “You hang around out here for a minute.”

 

“Do I get a signal?” Sam said. “You gonna make a birdcall? Or just whistle for me like a dog?”

 

Dean sighed, shoulders slumping a little before he turned fully to look at Sam. His brow was just as furrowed as if he meant to start growling, but there was nothing to go with it this time.

 

Sam gestured toward the bar’s front entrance, rolling his eyes a little. He felt like a dumb kid who was trying to apologize for breaking the neighbor’s window with his baseball.

 

Dean left him there, hands shoved into pockets and shoulders pulled in to try and make himself look smaller.

 

She saw Dean the moment he came in and tried not to look glad to see him, eyes hooded and mouth pressed into a line that looked disappointed. She was wiping down the bar, slender back turned to two older guys in flannel who were finishing a couple of beers. There was no one else behind the bar with her. Some of the chairs were already stacked seat-first onto their tables.

 

Dean glanced around, checking for the next nearest exit, waiting for a gun to come up from under the bar, ready to duck a well-aimed mug. He walked to the bar slowly, hands in view.

 

“How’s the shoulder?” Jo asked without looking at him.

 

He watched the low overhead lights play in her hair for a moment. “You did a good job,” he said.

 

She snorted. “You got Sam back, then.”

 

“How’d you know?”

 

“‘Cause otherwise you’d be out there nonstop until you did,” she said, pitching the bar rag to her left and finally straightening to look at him, hands on hips. Her voice was pitched too low to be heard by the pair behind her. “Do you know which demon it was?”

 

“Yeah,” Dean said. “One we uh...had met before. And sent to Hell. She crawled back out pretty pissed.”

 

“‘She’,” Jo echoed. “You mean they – “

 

“Yeah,” Dean said. “Identify by gender. I hope you never run into another one.”

 

She narrowed her eyes at him a little, and he couldn’t read it well enough to know what it might be about. “Beer?”

 

Dean half-shrugged. “Mind?”

 

She shrugged in return, leaned under the bar, and then flipped a bottle straight at him as casually as he’d seen her flip that knife of hers between her fingers.

 

He caught it easily in his right hand, the motion automatic, careful not to move the left and evoke a response from his injured shoulder. There was a snicker from one of the guys behind her, but Dean didn’t glance at them. He smirked at her. “Closing alone, again?”

 

“I can take care of myself,” she snapped.

 

“Jesus Christ, take it for what it is, okay?” he said. “I’d say the same goddamn thing to Sam.”

 

“I’m not your little sister,” she said with such audible disdain that Dean leaned back a little. She seemed to soften a bit and leaned forward on the bar as he came closer to take one of the stools. “I’m glad you showed up when you did, though. Okay?”

 

“Yeah,” Dean said. “Sam’s here, by the way.”

 

She stiffened visibly.

 

“You don’t have to talk to him if you don’t want to,” Dean said quickly. “But. You know it’s not good to let the last memory attached to his face be whatever the hell went on in here before I shut it down. For you, and for Sam. Even if you never see each other again, it means something to talk to him now and tie the whole thing off. “

 

She looked at him as if he was jabbering at her in a completely alien language. “I’d sprinkle holy water on you, but you said Jesus Christ a moment ago so I guess it really is you.”

 

He grinned sardonically. “Such a funny girl.”

 

“Who’s idea was it?” she said.

 

“Huh?”

 

“Which one of you decided to come over here and have a talk?” she said.

 

He looked at her for a moment, trying to gauge her mood. He was not good at it with her. He’d been bad at it since he’d taken a gun out of her hands and had been unable to duck the right hook she’d popped him with. “Sam,” Dean said finally. “He’s...” he dropped his eyes without meaning to.

 

She remembered very clearly that he had not been able to look her in the eyes while thanking her for patching him up.

 

“Some shit got done using his face that he’s pretty worried about,” Dean said. “He doesn’t want you bein’ upset with him, even if it wasn’t him. He doesn’t remember any of it. He just knows he was here and...he knows what I told him, what I saw. Okay?”

 

“Not really,” she said. “But it’s not like I’m gonna scream or cry, or shoot him. Did you actually make him wait outside? You’re such a girl.”

 

“Like you would have been happy to see him come through the door,” Dean growled. “C’mon.”

 

“Hey Sam,” Jo shouted, “you can come in now, it’s safe.” She smirked at Dean and propped her head in one hand.

 

The two guys on the other side of the bar placed a few bills on it and headed for the door. Jo smiled and waved. They kept their eyes on Dean the entire way to the door. If they didn’t hang around outside for awhile, Dean would eat his damn shoes. Then he and Sam could go out later and stare at them for awhile, until everybody got tired of staring or Jo came out and threatened to kill them all.

 

As the last patrons of the day opened the door, Sam was visible just on the other side, head ducked, looking abashed. He stepped aside to let the guys pass, then walked in and stayed just inside the door.

 

Dean shook his head, looking at Jo, who was staring at Sam with something suspiciously close to a pout. He’d seen it a few times before – it seemed to be one of her default expressions – but this time there was a spark of apprehension in her eyes. A girl who’d been willing to put herself up as bait for a dead serial killer was a little worried about the sight of Sam, who was far from harmless but still one of the gentlest people Dean had ever known.

 

“Hey, Jo,” Sam said, staying where he was.

 

Jo nodded at him.

 

Dean cleared his throat again. “You two gonna stare for awhile? Okay if I start up the jukebox, then? ‘Cause you’re boring the hell out of me.”

 

“Why don’t you go stand outside for awhile?” Jo told him, eyes still on Sam.

 

Dean raised his eyebrows, considering it. “Yeah, why not. You crazy kids kiss and make up.” He slid off the stool, shooting a glance at Jo. He clapped Sam on the shoulder as he passed. He paused at the door for a moment, then let himself out.

 

“So,” Jo said. “The last time we saw each other for real...”

 

“Wasn’t a hell of a lot of fun either,” Sam said. He walked slowly across the floor, keeping his hands visible. “Hard to make up for stuff that wasn’t really me,” he said. “But I have to try.”

 

“What do you remember?” she said, voice still cool.

 

He knew right then there was something he should have remembered, something important, but nothing came. He shook his head, coming to stand a few feet from the bar. “Nothing about you,” he said, expression apologetic. He tilted his face forward and looked up at her from below, a glance at a time. “You can...I don’t know, hit me or something if you want.”

 

She sighed, and he could hear the anxiety in it.

 

“About a year and a half ago,” Sam said, “me and Dean were asked to take a look at a plane crash. There was some EVP recorded on the black box, and we figured out it was a demon that was going after the survivors. We ended up on a flight with one of them.” He picked at his nails a little, forehead wrinkling into a worried frown. “The demon possessed one of the pilots. We managed to trap it in the back of the plane, and the stuff it said...Jesus. The stuff it said, to me. I knew it was the demon, but I wanted to take the guy’s head right off. I didn’t have time to try and get more out of it – we had to exorcize the damn thing before it took the plane down. What I’m trying to say, is...sometimes they lie and sometimes they don’t, and there’s no way of knowing whether they’re just trying to feed off your misery or get you to do something you would never usually do. I don’t know what she said to you. You don’t have to tell us. And you don’t ever have to see me again, if you don’t want to. I just...I’m sorry. I’m sorry about all of it.”

 

Jo nodded but was silent. She looked weary and sad.

 

“I’d never be mean to you if I could help it,” Sam said.

 

“She said some things to you, too, didn’t she,” Jo said.

 

Sam nodded. “Yeah. While she had me as a captive audience she poked around in my memories so she could figure out how to get at people. Kind of sucked.” He looked up. “Listen...we didn’t get her, this time. She’s still wandering around. She knows where you are, and she knows you’re a hunter. I don’t know if she’ll come after you again. So...”

 

“I’ll keep an eye out,” Jo said.

 

“Thanks for what you did for Dean,” he said, and he looked her directly in the eyes when he said it.

 

She nodded. “He needs a lot of taking care of.”

 

Sam grinned, dimples and all.

 

“I don’t want us to be all about our parents,” she said, “but it’s gonna be awhile before I look at you and not think about everything that might have happened. So, I’m sorry too.”

 

“I’m glad you’re okay,” he said. “I mean...”

 

“I know,” she said. “She didn’t really get what she wanted. But she sure tried.”

 

Sam came closer and held out a hand for her to shake.

 

She didn’t flinch.

 

-|-

 

Dean watched Sam exit the bar, and found himself automatically checking his stride, his body language, his hands for anything different. He’d be doing that for awhile. It was good practice. Charms from Bobby or no, he was not going to drop his guard again.

 

What about next time? Sam had said.

 

The words Dean found in response had been so easy. If it’s the last thing I do, I’m gonna save you.

 

-|- -|- -|-