Summary: Dean's made choices he has to live with. They won't let him do anything less.
Rating: PG13, language. Gen.
Spoilers: season one, specifically Bloody Mary, Skin, Faith and Hell House.
a/n:Written for sharonmarais, from the prompt if you wanted to tackle why Dean's eyes bled in Bloody Mary that would be a really cool thing. Excerpts from Walt Whitman's Song of Myself in the interest of irony.
~ What blurt is this about virtue and about vice?
Evil propels me and reform of evil propels me, I stand indifferent,
My gait is no fault-finder's or rejecter's gait. ~
He'd spent a million nights running in the dark, and after awhile it seemed to all be the same night. Sure he could tell the difference between, but, he didn't always bother. If he was lucky he saw light again and again.
Something had been stealing the heads of anyone out alone after dark in San Antonio and not touching anything else. It was apparently just walking up and snapping heads off and leaving the rest of the person intact. No one was finding the heads later, so whether they were kept in a freezer somewhere by some lunatic or swallowed whole or what, no telling until they caught something in the act of head-snatching. They were looking for something big and likely strong as hell. Dean had already decided to play bait and Sam would find that out when it came down to it.
Dean was not in favor of seeing San Antonio again. Not after what he'd done. But there was no good reason to turn away from the job. If Sam picked up on his reluctance, he hadn't said so for once. If he realized Dean was being talkative just to distract them both, he didn't call him on it.
Judas Priest belted out of the speakers, extolling the virtues of breakin' the law, and Dean didn't care that Rob Halford turned out to be gay, because really, who didn't know? C'mon.
Okay, he hadn't known. Still, it didn't matter. Good metal was good metal, especially badass classic metal. And Rob still had the pipes to pull off the classics onstage. What else he'd been doing with his mouth was none of Dean's business.
"Hey," Sam said, purposely making an annoying noise by moving the straw in his depth-charge size slurpie-cup. "Weren't these guys at Ozzfest last year?"
"Yeah," Dean said, eyes drifting over another milepost. He'd stuffed maybe five pieces of watermelon Bubbalicious in his mouth because the smell of it grossed Sam out.
"You should go one year," Sam said. "Before a golf cart gets the best of Ozzy again."
"Shut up," Dean said. "He was four-wheeling. I'll bet you can't even do that."
"You'll never go to Ozzfest," Sam said, shaking his head. "It's Black Sabbath and maybe one other old metal group, Priest or Iron Maiden, and the rest is all that thrash crap everybody but maybe six kids from Sweden hate."
"No, no," Dean said in a drawl. "There's a lot of topless chicks. And Syndrome of a Down is pretty good."
Sam laughed. It was derisive, but it was still laughter, and that counted. " System of a Down, Dean," he said. "You can't even pretend to like something that sucks, just to bug me."
Dean tried to look annoyed but Sam kept laughing, so he gave up and smirked. "Whatever. I like the name I gave them better. It fits."
Dean would never go to Ozzfest. He tried to stay out of crowds. That was where it liked to taunt him most - in places he was most likely to screw up while trying to take it down.
Sam hadn't been there when John and Dean thought they were cornering a shapeshifter in San Antonio in 2002. Dean had been sorry for that at the time, because Sam would have been a necessary third pair of hands. He'd only been sorry until he really did corner it, by himself, and realized what the hell he was looking at. Of all his sins, that one was the worst, by anyone's standards. He recognized the thing, even though its face changed over time. It wasn't a visual recognition. By killing it he would be ending some part of himself and that didn't matter to him, but it did give it the ability to force him to pause.
It was only a thought-form but that didn't make it less of a problem.
John had asked and then finally demanded to know what the hell was going on, because Dean was wearing himself on his sleeves and unable to tuck things back for days, jittery and reckless, eyes anywhere but where they were supposed to be. Dean had only been partly lying when he'd said I just miss Sam, that's all, and he didn't care about the look of dismissal he got. He knew it was his father's way of agreeing with him and not being able to say so. It was no good for the two of them to sit around and complain about missing Sam. It would have been like complaining about a missing limb. It was gone, nothing you could do about it, so compensate. Keep compensating.
There was no way to tell his father that what they'd been chasing was something Dean had made. That made him worse, that made him a monster. Of all the things he was willing to call himself unheard, monster was not a point he'd been trying to reach. He wanted to laugh about how the hunter had to get into the prey's shoes occasionally to be any good at catching up, but...shit. There was no way to explain it without confessing everything, and in the end it would do no good. Once he'd destroyed it there would be nothing to explain.
The thought-form escaped them that time because it had cornered him back. Monster for creating it and coward for letting it get the best of him.
He'd violated a cardinal rule about hunting: be aware of the background. After that came watch out for bystanders. He'd violated both so badly that he'd demonstrated the reasons why the rules were in place. Demonstrated them to an extent so severe that he couldn't forget them even if he wanted to. He was those rules now, learning by doing every time he closed his eyes. There was no way that kind of failure was forgiveable, and it shouldn't be.
He'd had it right in his sights, a true and clear shot, but when he'd gunned it down and turned the prone form over it had been some guy who'd been waiting for the bus.
He knew what he'd seen. And he knew that it had fooled him. His punishment for trying to rid himself and the world of something he'd done had backfired on him.
John had voiced his frustration about not finding the source of the thought-form.
He never had any idea that it was sitting next to him.
Dean had believed; and because he believed, he had made it real.
~ I know I am August,
I do not trouble my spirit to vindicate itself or be understood,
I see that the elementary laws never apologize. ~
Sam had recently asked him of all the things we've hunted, how many existed just 'cause people believed in 'em?
Sam had been cursed with visions he couldn't avoid or look away from but Dean was the one that had made something that walked among them. He'd created something that existed to destroy; he could argue that creation and destruction were not mutually exclusive but that still made him responsible.
He didn't expect anybody to understand. Sometimes he had to break eggs to make omelettes. He never bothered trying to explain himself or his choices. What for? People thought whatever they wanted to and heard what they wanted to. Life and breath were wasted trying to get anybody to stop counting the stepping stones to the next stop, the better stop, the last stop.
Each granite headstone in the rows in front of him was a stepping stone. They were pretty much the last ones anyone got, stepping stones for others to let go of one thing and maybe pick up another. A life, a love, a regret.
It didn't mean he didn't feel them digging in his back every time he laid down.
Sam knew he was there and he didn't have to explain it; they were in the area anyway and it wasn't to make Sam feel guilty or remind him. This was only for Dean, this little side trip.
He stared at one stone in particular for a long moment, trying to imagine tons of earth and a sealed box six feet down because he was a masochist of the highest order. One quick glance around told him there was no one to see him except whoever might be busy measuring him for the afterlife, and he couldn't be bothered with that; not standing where he was, not knowing the tons of earth should never have been displaced for the traded heart beneath.
Sam had broken eggs occasionally, but mostly only for Dean. So in a way they were Dean's too. Dean found himself willing to go ahead and count those chickens for Sam, because Sam had a loss much closer in his rearview than Dean did
objects in mirror are closer than they appear
and he understood the taste of desperation in ways that Dean had to admit he just didn't grasp lately. He thought he could, he meant to, but he'd lost sight of true vengeance somewhere in the middle of life, liberty and the happiness of pursuit .
He couldn't doubt Sam, or blame him for what had happened. Love was something that often pushed people into incredible feats of selfless heroism or right off the edge into knee-jerk destruction. He understood that. He understood he was blessed enough to be loved so desperately that someone would run headlong into something he didn't understand just for the breath of a chance to keep him close awhile longer.
He was guilty of it too.
Everybody fell sooner or later; it was the only way to learn to get back up again. Gravity, emotional and physical, was a bitch and liked to remind him of its presence on a regular basis. He should have bought the farm the time he fell through the floor of that old house, right into the basement, right onto an old woodstove. Or the time he'd missed a step tracking a pack of imps and fallen face first millimeters from a railroad spike. Or that one damn hill he'd been thrown down, out of the back of a pickup after a night of hustling pool. Almost smashed his head open on the rocks at the bottom, hit just about everything but his head. Fuckin' sore losers.
Gravity gave him lovetaps occasionally but it didn't kill him.
It was saving him for something.
He remembered reading somewhere that any two objects automatically exerted the pull of gravity on one another, just in impossibly small levels unless the objects held a high mass. Christ knew he felt dense enough sometimes that he should have been measurable, but really someone should have measured Sam because Dean had been orbiting him since the moment he understood that Sam existed. Sam was the Sun and Dean got that he was the Kuiper belt on any given day.
He couldn't blame Sam for unwittingly participating in something he himself had once done willingly.
He'd thought Sam wasn't going to make it - Dad hadn't either. He'd drowned, after all. Not just a little water in the lungs or kind of blue, but drowned, gone, floating. Thirteen year old Sam, fully armed but not quite big enough at that point to fight just anything off. Sam, left to stand guard on the breakwater in case they needed the extra firepower if any of the ghouls made a run for it. It was dark and the lakeside cabin had mostly fallen in and it seemed like they'd be spread out just right if Sam was -
Trapped. Sam had been trapped.
Hey Sam, stay out on the breakwater, you'll have a better shot from there. Dean still dreamed about saying it, and dreamed of a world where he hadn't said it and Sam had stayed away from the water. Shit, who imagines more than one type of monster staking the same turf? What were the chances?
Good. The chances were really good sometimes.
It had taken so long to realize Sam was not where he was supposed to be. It was the last time Dean had wrapped his head so far around a hunt that he relegated Sam to an afterthought. Sam, floating in the dark water but still gripping the gun, never able to get a shot off but still following orders by never dropping a weapon. Dean had spotted him first and gone in after him, and Dad had shot the thing that tried to pull him under. Not interested in eating anybody, just grabbing and drowning, one more ghoul that preferred the water rather than the land. Then Dad pulling them both out and trying to breathe life back into Sam, and whatever was sunk into the land and water that had let the undead flourish there had heard the screaming in Dean's head and had answered.
He only realized later that it made sense that it wasn't just him. That spot on the map had been pulling away bits and pieces of any living thing that came near, but he'd likely been the first to ask for a piece to be taken. The undead had been running through there happy as hell because the stolen pieces were infusing that bit of life into them.
Whatever had been taken from him there had not stayed there.
If it was really just a part of him, it was a sadistic and vindictive part; maybe it had been chosen purposely. He'd had no control over which pieces were taken.
He knew he'd been buying Sam back. The price was steep but as long as it was only his to pay, he'd keep paying it.
He kept avoiding his own death, getting away just in time, sometimes by what seemed to be luck and sometimes skill, because he knew he was being set aside for something else. He'd set himself up for something further down the road, and he had no idea when that would come due. He had to wonder if death wouldn't have him while he was incomplete. The reaper had been willing to try, but it had been stopped just in time because Sam was faster.
Back in the present, he cleared his throat and spoke aloud to the stone before him even though it felt ridiculous. He still owed.
"Sorry. Sorry, Marshall."
~ My foothold is tenoned and mortised in granite,
I laugh at what you call dissolution,
And I know the amplitude of time. ~
Time and I against any two , some old adage that he couldn't remember the context of, and he thought it was kind of bullshit. The real adage was Sam and I against every fuckin' thing and the horse it rode in on. Those are odds he'd bet on all day. And in some places in the universe a day was a long, long time; he'd read about it.
Every material thing passed away the same as every living thing. He knew that. He'd learned to value his family and so little else, because places and things were temporary. Not even the stars lived forever. Millions and millions of years, sure, not anything to really care about because he was a half-blink of time in comparison, yet just more proof that the end always came, for everything. Even spirits and demons and maybe the soul as he understood it. If they reformed into something else later or became part of a greater whole, they still weren't what they'd been. Everything ended and that was fine, so long as he made as much as he could of what there was. No one could ever accuse him of not making the most of anything.
If he waited long enough, the thing he'd made would dissolve or wear out if he never managed to destroy it. The things he'd allowed it to make him do would never be undone. But if he was lucky, there would be no more to regret.
Please, God, no more to regret.
~ Not doubt, not decease shall dare to lay finger upon you,
I have embraced you, and henceforth possess you to myself,
And when you rise in the morning you will find what I tell you is so. ~
He'd seen it twice since - it didn't look like him, it didn't look like anyone he knew. Just a face in the crowd, watching. There, not there. Once, in Columbus, it had been staring at Sam.
He didn't know what it wanted. In the end, he wasn't even sure what he wanted.
He'd do anything, kill anything for his family. He kept making that choice, over and over, knowing he would bleed over it. He didn't need some crazy misguided bitch in a mirror making him do it; he did it all on his own. He had caused Sam's danger; he had invented the means to save him. In doing so, he had caused the danger all over again, a self perpetuating myth of his own design.
He was afraid that even if he did finally kill the damn thing, he'd find himself creating another somewhere down the line, if he survived the destruction of that part of himself.
He made his bed and laid in it every night of his life, knowing he'd made things worse by making them better and all that mattered was that the worse was his only from that point forward.
Some nights after the worst of things they slept the way they fought, back to back, just that much contact allowed. Safe.
There was no price too high.
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