warnings: angst. a/n: a few lines borrowed from irishdf. - thanks. Gratuitous Lost reference thrown in just because - possible spoiler.
For those of us who did the best we could but didn't get our miracles.
I am going to a place
Where the porch light's on in case
You forgot to stay awake for me.
-Tremolo, Wait Up For Me
Sam knew he'd never been asleep - he could tell. But he couldn't figure out how much time had passed or how the hell he'd managed to end up on the floor in front of the open door. None of the weapons had been touched; they were still positioned right where he'd left them. The talcum powder Dean had left on the floor and a few surfaces before they'd left the room earlier ( holy god how could it possibly still be the same night, Sam thought) had been all but eradicated with the number of footprints left behind. There was still a patch behind the partly open door that he could see from where he sat, and it too had been disturbed. Figures had been pressed into the fine dusting of powder rather than drawn with a finger, pressed in from above, leaving the powder intact, his own name in Dean's handwriting, the letters as deliberate as any invocation or set of runes.
Sam wondered about the hand that had done it, because Dean was in a loose heap across his knees. He had one arm under Dean's shoulders, cradling him like they were at the end of something, keeping his brother's upper body free of the floor. Dean, still breathing, woven back together as far as Sam could get him but still not Dean , not pulling together and acknowledging that Sam had done the right thing and the best he could. There was nothing magical or automatic about the assemblage or the parts themselves being in the right proximity to each other, the same way red blood cells wouldn't necessarily carry oxygen just because they were shoved around by a heart. He couldn't make the parts interact. Maybe he'd missed something or not; he didn't feel anything missing in the edges and it felt like there were no weak places, nowhere left to bleed from, nowhere anything could hook its fingers in and tear. Dean had breathing room but was as secure as he'd been before any of it had happened, good or bad.
But there was nothing.
Sam could see the saltline had been broken when the door had been pulled inward. It didn't seem like that big of a deal anymore. It was dark inside and out, and the lightbulbs had all been changed but it didn't mean they worked. All the filaments were threaded together and the glass held it all in, but there was nothing when he flipped the switch.
He'd been rocking Dean as if he was a small child and didn't even realize it. The only way he knew he'd been crying was because the tears drying on his face weren't any warmer than Dean's skin in the cool early morning dark coming in the open door. All his brother was or had ever been was right there, and maybe if he waited long enough the lights would just come on when they were ready, not when he wanted or needed them to.
When he ended up at the edge of the lawn of that house again, standing on the sidewalk and staring across the unmown expanse, he didn't have the most basic idea of how he'd gotten there. He didn't really care or feel surprised that he didn't know or have any memory of getting there. He was mostly afraid that he'd left all that remained of Dean on the floor in front of an open door somewhere behind him, if any of it was real. The lights were on in every room of the house even though he knew the electricity had been turned off, and when he turned to look and see if the elemental was still there, he made out the outline of a figure that looked familiar, but he didn't name it. Naming it might assign real hope to it. Acknowledging it might make it leave, looking at it too hard might mean realizing it wasn't what he thought it was. Being beaten to death would be less painful, so he didn't look directly at it.
The dew soaked his shoes and the cuffs of his jeans when he crossed onto the grass; the expanse of lawn was just the same as he'd left it. His arms ached as if he really had spent the intervening hours folding and folding things he couldn't hold. The light gilding the windows didn't make it to the yard below, as if the house kept a jealous hold on it. Sam could see it but it never really left the house, casting no shadows and never illuminating anything past its own boundaries. It wasn't a vision; he knew that because the house was empty, stark raving vacant. There was no one moving past the windows, no illusions of what had been or might be later on.
There was no spiderweb of amber-blue for him to follow, nothing left behind. That was a relief, in a way, meaning he'd done all he could, but at the same time he wanted there to be more, something he could blame for Dean not opening his eyes and saying get off me, dude.
He'd never asked him. He'd told Tom he was going to ask. He'd said he was going to ask as soon as he got the chance, hey Dean are you done with all this , and Dean deserved at least that much. It was one thing to ask Sam to let go when it was already a matter of being too late, but another to ask to be...left alone. Sam had really only meant to ask as long as he could be sure the answer wouldn't be unbearable. He'd already asked something of Dean that the latter would never, never ask out loud in return, don't leave me, and Dean had answered I never would . He didn't want there to be a chance that whatever happened to a soul once it got out was better than a life spent in crummy motel rooms with his disrespectful, overly emotional little brother. And selfish, oh, don't forget selfish because he meant to drag Dean back no matter what.
No point bringing up that he'd quit answering when Dean called for four years because just the sound of that voice made him violently homesick, made him lose his resolve . Dean would never get that, and so it had been easier to just let him think Sam was an ass. Sam had realized he'd never be anything but Dean's willing shadow unless he got out of it. He'd walked away to be himself and not Dean's brother or John's boy for once, but another five minutes of the world without Dean now was going to leave him as vacant as the house.
He wasn't even sure what the hell he was doing there; there was nothing for him to pick up. Dean was not there. All he had was Dean's feeling that the house was ready to go and that something was standing guard to say no, and if he thought about it he'd get the parallel. He just didn't want to. He kept walking toward the house and the uniformity of light it held that had nothing to reflect from, light that existed independently of the photons it was composed of. A memory of light but not Sam's memory of it.
Everything had slid to a quiet halt. The air seemed caught in place, no breeze stirring, nothing but a sense of anticipation he couldn't focus on or place. Unknowing as to which way the world would fall, as if there was still a choice.
The front door was already open, and he wasn't even surprised. He just gripped the railing in his right hand and stood at the bottom of the concrete steps and stared. There was no light, after all. Now that he was that close, the house was as dark as the night surrounding it, darker for the enclosure of walls and roof, silent, testament of nothing. Accidentally abandoned and heartbroken, just shell and shelter and once-loved construct.
He was careful not to touch the door as he went in, angling around it and into the open space of what had been a dining room and kitchen. He remembered how the house was laid out, and there was no need to tour it again. He skated his fingers along the bare walls, smooth and rough patches by turns, places where shelves or photos had hung.
He was so damn wrung out that he ended up sitting in front of the open door on his knees, feet tucked beneath, hands braced on either side of the frame, head hanging. He was crying so hard that he couldn't even be bothered to try and stop or at least keep it quiet, sobbing and trying to drag air back into his lungs without choking, each intake of air a high-pitched gasp of pain.
When you tried hard enough and you were brave enough and you did everything you were supposed to, things were supposed to turn out right or at least better than they'd been. It didn't matter that he knew better. Whatever and whoever he loved were just continually destroyed right in front of him and hope didn't live forever when faced with so many lasts at an age where he should mostly be finding firsts . The concept of fairness as his rightful due had died an easy death in his formative years while he watched the world over his brother's shoulder. He knew better than to ask, even for what was his.
This was not fair.
Knowing better didn't keep him from sitting cross-legged right in front of the door with his hands held out palms-up over the threshold, face tucked into the crook of one elbow while he wept uncontrollably. He was out of ideas and the ability to figure out how to find any new ones just then. He was too stubborn to give up but too tired to go on and he'd reached the limit of what he could stand after weeks of fear.
He's good in ways I'm not, the world deserves him, just somebody please give him back this one time, I won't ask again, I won't ask -
He didn't know how long he was there or how long he begged, how long he sat with hands held out over every boundary he could imagine, hoping something would cross, not caring what he might be inviting. He reached and reached with everything he was, and he'd go on doing it until someone or something dragged him away.
He couldn't even react at first when cold hands slipped into his and gripped hard enough to hurt, when someone barreled into him. Someone who was sitting on the floor next to him and pulling him over into an embrace he could only lean into.
It didn't matter if it was real or not, it was good enough just to hold on for awhile.
Sammy, c'mon, it's okay -
He might not have been there at all, the house might not have been there; he didn't give a damn. It could all go and he wasn't in a mood to care. He recognized the hand on the back of his head that tucked his face into a shoulder he'd leaned into his whole life. If he just held on, he'd at least have that for awhile. That would be something he could keep.
"Sam. You're freaking me out, kiddo. I'm not gonna do stupid faces to make you stop like when you were two."
He was probably going to squeeze the air right out of the apparition if he kept holding on like he was. The shirt he was soaking felt real, more real than he felt. The kiss pressed into the side of his head felt real, the rough shake he got, the hand under his chin.
"C'mon, Sam. I know it still breaks your heart that Ana Lucia got killed, but you've gotta accept it. Now open your goddamn eyes or I'll slap the shit out of you."
It was like he'd sunk under, somewhere, and been forced to surface. That first breath that wasn't part of a sob, the night air on his face again, the darkness outside so much brighter than the darkness inside, all things he was glad to find again. Dean was staring at him with wide eyes that were severe with concern, nearly glaring at him. Dean, shaded with a thousand grays in the pre-dawn dark, pupils sparking amber-blue, out of breath like he'd been running for miles.
"I heard you," Dean said, one hand still on the back of Sam's head. "I'm here."