|Every One Shall Be Salted With Fire
Seventh in the Second Sight Series
Supernatural, Sam/Dean, All Audiences (slash), future-fic.
Note for those of you playing at home: here be slash. For those of you reading for the Gen, I can only assure you that if you don't want it, you don't have to have it. There's nothing plot or series advancing worthy for Second Sight as a whole, that you will find in here, I don't believe. This would be that transgressive event that could happen, off screen and you'd never know. Fade to black in a moment of emotional clarity, except it isn't. So if you prefer it to be Sam and Dean as opposed to Sam/Dean, feel free to pretend this never happened. And if Sam and Dean are a little more physically affectionate than they were before, consider it a natural progression of their being partners and brothers in all the ways except the one that you have difficulty seeing.
Spoilers for Faith (or you know, everything really)
This is kind of for esorlehcar.
The characters and situations portrayed here are not mine, they belong to the WB. This is a fan authored work and no profit is being made. Please do not link to this story without appropriate warnings. Please do not archive this story without my permission.
§For every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt.§
Sam thinks it was about him, what broke them up, and maybe it is, but not the way Sam thinks.
Which doesn't actually keep Dean from saying some pretty damn ugly things to his brother when Sam tries to bring it up tactfully.
He's pretty sure it included something along the lines of the universe not revolving around Sam.
When he talked to his father the following week, he asked him what he was up to.
Poltergeists in Newell. At least John thought it was poltergeists. Might be something else, something more dangerous.
Suited Dean fine.
It's a five day job, two days of travel and on the drive back Dean knows he still misses that life.
But he misses the one he's heading back to more, and it has nothing to do with Caroline, or anyone like her, or anything she was or could have been. If he's honest with himself, and he tries to be as far as Sam's concerned, dating her was as much his own attempt to get one of them to shift out of the holding pattern they've been in for years as much as it was that he liked spending time with her and not just in bed.
He was honest in his affection for Caroline as well. She was a knockout; athletic and dark haired and as easy on his soul as she was on his eyes. She was smart and practical and maybe a little too perceptive, although not so perceptive as to completely freak him out.
Made perfect sense that she'd resent Sam as much as she liked him -- which probably made it worse. If she'd hated Sam, they'd probably have broken up a lot sooner. Like months sooner.
But she didn't. Not that no one never took a dislike to Sam, because Sam didn't really have either the patience or the temperament to put up with real asses, male or female, and less so when being blind kind of put other things in perspective, and probably fine-tuned Sam's bullshit meter without him ever noticing it. Dean had noticed that when they'd been at Hadley -- not a universal trait of the blind, or the disabled, but in a world weighted toward the sighted, there was as much disadvantage to not being seen as there was to not being able to see.
Although sometimes Dean wishes he'd seen a little more clearly a whole lot earlier.
He'd tried -- God, how he had tried -- to get Sam to call Sarah, if only to talk. He'd have tried it with Rebecca too if he'd had any indication at all that whatever affection Sam felt for her went any further than a kind of vague brotherly fondness. Sam had…in typical Sam fashion, kept in touch with the Warrens, if only to prove to them that he and Dean were fine and as much as their assistance was sincerely appreciated, really, they were good. It had been maybe a year or so after they'd settled in that Zach had actually made the trip to see Sam.
It had been awkward but not as painfully awkward as it could have been and even that had as much to do with the fact that Zach actually was in law school at the time. He and Sam had gone out for a couple of beers and on their return, Sam had been thoughtful, a little buzzed, but not at all as depressed as Dean had feared. A few months later they got a note that Rebecca was engaged.
Dean brought up Sarah once and only once after that because Sam had looked at him in that unerring way he had with his fists clenched. "The only way I'm ever going to call her is if I've got something she needs to know. I don't ever want to have to make that phone call, Dean. Drop it."
It had taken Dean way more time than it should have for that to actually sink in.
He couldn't say that Sam had encouraged him to go after Caroline, but he hadn't been throwing any roadblocks in his way either and in some cases he'd even tried to clear the way as much as possible. Or clear out of the way. He'd gone out with them a couple of times, just locally. A favorite bar, to a concert in the park, had gone so far as to let Caroline be the one to lead him over the uneven ground. Sign of trust if ever there was one. But if Dean knew anything about Sam, it was how easily Sam gave casual affection.
Not exactly what he'd describe Sam's interactions with her as -- casual, yeah. Affection? Not so much. Polite and charming, yeah. Depth of feeling? Again, not so much. And if Dean had been thinking with both his heads he'd have understood that too.
Which only made his parting shots at Sam before hitting the road with his father that much more kind of, well, asshole-ish.
Of course if Sam had, oh, managed to find a way to remind Dean exactly how his damned vision worked, they might have both been spared some angry words.
Or maybe he should just ask his father to take a baseball bat to his head when he got truly stupid. "So…you ever hear from that girl of yours?"
John Winchester had never been much of one for idle conversation. He still wasn't, but sometimes he tried. Dean could appreciate the effort, while they were on the road, because he and Sam talked constantly. Sam had lost none of his wicked and sometimes juvenile sense of humor and Dean had held onto his own with both fists. They talked still. "Caroline? Naw, didn't expect to."
John glanced at him. "No...the other one…the yankee. The art girl, artist. Susan. Sherry?"
Dean shrugged. "Not my girl. Sam's. Or you know, would have been if he…No. Not her either."
"I think you're the only one I've ever heard talk about her. Sam, huh? Probably just as well."
"Why? Because he's blind? Jesus, Dad…it's not contagious. Not like he needs a baby sitter." That came out a lot more pissed off than he'd intended. "Sorry. Just…we had a fight about it."
John was quiet for a couple of miles. "Thought so…not like you to come to me, unless you're pissed off at Sam." If there was regret there Dean either didn't hear it or didn't want to. "But…no. Just that…it's hard, son."
"What's hard? Being blind? No, really?"
"You want to keep that temper of yours on a short leash with me, boy," John said evenly. "It's just…" his fingers had tightened on the wheel, afternoon sunlight glinting off his wedding band. "Your mother was it for me, you know? But even if she hadn't been…I don't know that I would have…even now. That's our exit," he'd said, leaving Dean trying to put together what his father had said with what he hadn't said.
"The demon's gone," Dean said quietly when they stopped for dinner. "And you know, if you wanted to -- if you met somebody…"
John had given him a quick smile, sipped his coffee. "Maybe. Still, you know, you worry. If it's not one thing it's another…to close too many times. Getting old, a little gun shy. I guess Sam is too."
It was probably the most awkward conversation he'd had with his father since his father had explained about girls when Dean was twelve.
A few months after they'd moved in, Sam had a vision of Mrs. Hanson's death. "I don't think it's soon…" he said. "House is a different color."
"Hers or ours?"
"Hers. Kind of yellow. Not white."
Ruth Hanson wasn't that old, but she wasn't exactly a young woman either. She'd celebrated her sixty-fifth birthday this past spring. She doted on Sam. Sam liked her too, the two of them had walked the street they lived on together more than once. Fifty-fifty odds on who was actually guiding or supporting who. Besides, while she wasn't exactly a gossip, she did keep up with things. Bridge and garden club, church, pink lady at the hospital. "Gotta keep moving or you'll get old where you stand," she'd told Dean when she cajoled him into helping her and her friends with some kind of Charity garage sale.
She'd had to give up a few of her more active activities this past year.
Sam had been less freaked by what he'd seen. "In her house…living room, I think. Heart maybe. I don't know," he'd said.
"You want to say something to her?"
Sam had coughed out a laugh. "What? I mean if I saw her having an accident or something, maybe, but…she's almost sixty, Dean."
"But you -- I don't know. Maybe she could see a doctor."
Sam had gotten agitated then, on his feet, pacing and scraping the knuckle of one hand against the palm of the other. "It just…it feels different. You know? Quiet… anyway, it's not now, or soon, I don't think."
Dean hadn't pressed any further. But he'd kept an eye out for house painters just the same.
And driving back from Newell, he remembered her talking to Sam about them going in together to rent a pressure washer. She'd pay more if he thought Dean might…
It wasn't that Sam didn't like Caroline, or even that he didn't like or maybe even love Sarah a little bit, but…bringing them closer, extending that affection further out, bringing more people into his tight-knit circle…
It wasn't his blindness that made Sam keep most people at arm's length.
But maybe it was Dean's blindness and not his concern for other people that made him just a little bit glad about that.
Or maybe he was just being pretty damn selfish.
It isn't quite dusk when Dean gets home. Winchesters one, poltergeists zero. He is out of practice though and feeling this one. He'll lay odds that Mrs. Hanson brought over food for Sam and leftovers were a guarantee if she had.
The house is empty. Quiet. Unlocked. The porch light is on, but Dean had turned it on in the wee morning hours when he'd left. Light switches really aren't something Sam gives much thought to any longer.
He unloads his gear and checks. The coffee pot is long cold and empty, the basket on the counter, waiting for the pot of coffee Sam usually makes in the evening. There are a few dishes in the sink. Sam's recording station is powered off but the stack of books look to have been reduced by a couple.
There is nothing out of place, nothing wrong and yet…
They'd long since worn a path from their yard to Mrs. Hanson's, cut a gap in the hedge so Sam wouldn't scrape himself.
Her house smells of the flowers she grows and the pies and cakes she so loves to cook even though she doesn't eat them herself. Diabetic, she'd told them. She isn't a huge woman, but she is round and soft and always dresses like she's going out. One of those women who only ever puts on slacks when she is working in her yard, and wears gloves and a hat then. She's never been a mother, but she is motherly all the same.
"Dean…hello. You just get back? Sam said you'd gone to spend some time with your Dad."
"Yeah. I did. It was a good visit. Is Sam here, Ruth?"
"Oh, no…no I haven't talked to him today. I just got back myself. Went to see my sister for a couple of days. I talked to Sam on Thursday, before I left. He was going to check my mail for me."
"Did he check it today?"
"I uh…I'm not sure. I didn't look in the box. Dean? Everything all right?"
"Uh, yeah. I'm sure it is. He's just not home. It's okay though. I'll call him," he said.
Ruth looked concerned, but Dean only smiled even as he dialed Sam's number. And walked out to check Ruth's mail
He got voice mail. He'd missed no calls on his own phone. There was no mail in Ruth's mailbox -- which didn't mean Sam had picked it up, but…there was no mail in their box either and that was unlikely. Dean breathed a little easier and went back in the house.
There was no note. There was nothing broken in the house or out of place, Sam's clothes -- Dean couldn't see anything missing. There were no messages on the house phone either.
Panic was not the first thing to hit Dean at all. Concern, a little stomach flipping anxiety but not panic. Panic would do him no good at all.
Sam's cane was gone, and his wallet and keys from where he usually left them in a bowl next to the door. The mail was stacked neatly on the table, waiting for Dean to sort through.
Most likely scenario? Sam had gone out under his own power for some reason. An appointment…something. He could have called a cab.
The mail was usually delivered around nine and it was almost seven now. Sam could have left ten minutes ago or ten hours…ten hours was along time for a blind man to get lost in.
But the house is unlocked, which means that Sam didn't intend to be gone long.
There's a few places Sam would or could walk to, and long ago lessons of familiar places, easy access ring in Dean's ears. There's a convenience store and a chain diner less than a quarter mile away. Sidewalks. The diner is across the street but the store is on this side. Sam still has to cross two streets to get there, but there are stop signs and Dean had passed them coming in without seeing any trace of an accident.
He's halfway to his car when he sees him. The relief is so absolute and stunning, for a minute Dean feels queasy.
Sam walks slower when he's alone. Walking with Dean or Ruth, he has to make a conscious effort to walk with them at their pace, because those long legs of his still stretch like he's ready to sprint wherever he goes. He got the small leather backpack he's had forever hanging on one shoulder, his cane on the other.
Dean can almost hear Sam counting off the steps in his head. From one curb to the other, one driveway to the next. His fingers ghost over the Griswold's picket fence, up, down and between the pointed ends, counting them as well. There's a long gap then, and the cane dances lightly back and forth, a light touch in case there are dirt clods or skateboards or something in his way.
At every driveway, Sam pauses, listening for cars or voices; anything. His hand drifts in the air for three steps before he lets his palm rub across the whimsical cow the Merchants use for a mailbox.
For the first time, in these long moments of watching him, Dean sees Sam smile. Sam's never seen the silly thing but he's seen ones like it. Memory has to supply what Sam's eyes can't and Dean finds himself wondering if Sam does the same thing in remembering Dean's face when he's angry, or if his visions have driven all those memories away.
It was never Sam Caroline really resented. It was Dean's devotion to Sam that got in the way and that's none of Sam's fault at all.
Ruth doesn't have a fence, but she's got a little decorative border of rounded concrete stones, half sunk in the ground at the front edge of her yard, then flowers in ever increasing gradients of height. Her mailbox is covered in ivy and on finding it, Sam walks a little more quickly. He hits the walkway up to the porch dead on, not drifting too far to the left or right and Dean idly notes that there's grass and ground violets growing inbetween the cracks. Sam's cane clacks softly against the concrete but makes no sound against the foliage and Sam hesitates and tests; scrapes the tip until he finds stone again before moving forward.
He's close enough for Dean to see the lines around his eyes behind his glasses, the thin line of sweat along his hairline and upper lip. It's warm but not hot out, not with the evening so close. He's gone for simple dress; a plain t-shirt with the garage logo on it and jeans that fit him better than he used to wear. He'd gotten a little old for the grunge look, he'd said, but really, loose jeans and frayed hems -- tripping is a bigger issue when you can't see to save yourself.
Dean should say something. Move. Let Sam know he's here, that he's being watched.
Dean's been watching him for years now, but usually Sam knows it. Knows Dean's eyes are on him when he fixes dinner, or they go out to eat. When they run. When Sam reads and Dean sprawls out on the couch and just listens to him.
Sam's visions -- gifts or curse -- his talent has never really run to sensing everything. Even before. Sensitive yes, but it had never been a sure thing, something he could count on, that they could use with any real reliability.
His hand reaches out for the stone banister that leads to the porch and Sam just leans. He's trembling. It's faint, but Dean can see it as easily as the sweat.
Ruth talked to him Thursday, so it's been three days.
He's never been a burden. Has worked like hell not to be one and cheesy folks songs aside, Dean wonders if Sam works so hard not to be because he thinks he is and always has been.
He doesn't move and he doesn't speak when Sam pulls it together and heads up the stairs and into the house. He hears Sam drop his keys and his wallet, folds up the cane and drops it on the table too.
He can hear Sam move through the house, then nothing and he moves to sit on the steps. It's ten minutes or so until Sam comes back, opens the door. "Dean?"
"I didn't hear the car. Your jacket--"
"I got back…almost an hour ago."
The screen door smacks lightly in the frame and Sam comes further onto the porch, but stops at the top of the steps. "You were here when I got back?"
"Yeah. I was getting a little worried."
"We were out of coffee. I've got a pot on…you didn't say anything."
"You are scarily observant some times."
Sam sighs, shakes his head.
He thinks I'm still mad, Dean realizes. "No. I mean it. Sometimes I can't see my own hand in front of my face." He gets up, climbs the stairs to face Sam and Sam puts his back to the porch column. "I missed you."
Sam looks both startled and wary. "I missed you too," he says. "It went okay then…ghosts, ghouls, adolescent temper tantrums."
Dean smiles. "Yeah, one twelve year old girl. Mother had just remarried. Father died when she was like, two. Just her and her mom all that time."
"Could have been worse."
"Everybody dies, Sam."
Sam looks at him like, maybe, just maybe, he thinks Dean is someone else. "I mean, Caroline, Sarah…Zach, Rebecca…someday. You can't stop it. Ruth. Dad…me. It's going to happen."
Sam's gotten all tense again. "I know that. Have you been drinking?"
"Maybe you should be drinking," Sam says and pushes off the column, past Dean.
Dean grabs his arm and Sam's not ready for it and yes, he stumbles, fights for balance and Dean uses both hands to steady him, then reaches up and cups the back of Sam's neck, rests his forehead against Sam's.
It's automatic for Sam to reach back, big hands gripping Dean's shoulder, the side of his face. "Dean? What is it? Did something happen? Is someone…did someone--"
"No. No. Everybody's fine as far as I know," he says. He can count that everybody using only his two hands. He lifts his head. He can't see Sam's eyes. He thinks maybe he misses that most of all. "Caroline wasn't your fault, okay? That was all on me. And if you never have to call Sarah, or anyone else…it's okay. I get it. But you know, me? I'm not going anywhere. Really. Like never. I mean it, Sam."
Sam barks out a choked laugh. "Awesome as you are, Superman? I don't think even you can promise that. Everybody's got their kryptonite."
Dean shakes his head. "Not me, man. I swear to God, Sam. You'll go first. No matter what you see…"
"Don't …just don't," Sam says and pulls away. "Don't make me promises like that. You can't keep them, Dean. And I can't trust them. Not unless you plan on using the gun upstairs in the next five minutes or so."
Dean pulls him back and honest to God, he wasn't thinking this, and there wasn't a thought in his head that has anything to do with Sam's mouth or his body or even his pain.
Being left behind, abandoned, has probably been the one fear Dean has fought against his entire life; since his mother's death most likely. His mother, his father, Sam…letting go wasn't something Dean did or ever wanted to do. It has never occurred to him that maybe part of the reason, even before this, that Sam had been so determined to push away, to stand on his own, had stemmed from the same fear. Only now Sam is pretty damn sure he is going to be the last one standing.
It takes Dean a moment to actually comprehend that his mouth is on Sam's and what that means. That as much as he wanted to shut Sam up, maybe he wants this more without even realizing it.
And a half second later he pulls back, because he has no idea whatsoever if this is what Sam wants or even needs. Sam's shocked. His lips are still parted and even while Dean watches he licks them, draws in a ragged breath and sags against the side of the house, still clutching the sleeves of Dean's shirt.
"I'm not going anywhere, Sam," he doesn't know what else to say, how to say it so it makes sense. "And you've already seen it, saved me, so it's not like you need to make the list longer."
He's got to put some distance between them. He can ignore the kiss if it's what Sam wants, tuck it back down and out of sight. He's known for years that getting laid doesn't require affection in any but the most casual of ways -- appreciating women for being women, for being themselves, for being able and willing to exchange both the physical and emotional when mostly what guys had to offer was the former.
But this is Sam, his brother, and Dean doesn't even know if this is what he wants from Sam or what he's offering, or if Sam wants any of it or sees it as either pity or desperation on Dean's part. It could be any or all and God, what did Sam just say about trusting Dean's promises?
He backs off, steps back physically, and he's never been so glad Sam can't see him as he is right this second.
But Sam doesn't let go. It would be comical, the way he jerks forward when Dean steps back, like a puppet on invisible strings. Head and chest and none-too-steady legs, only his hands are fisted so tightly in Dean's shirt Dean can actually feel the friction of cloth on skin when he moves. For a second Dean thinks that when Sam's right hand finally untangles itself from his shirt that Sam's making some kind of bizarre spatial-relationships-in the-dark assessment so he can land a punch on the first try. And Sam's hand does make it up to his face, but there's no punch or slap, just a clumsy but still gentle pawing of Sam's fingers and palm across his cheeks and down his nose, before Sam's thumb find his lips and that seems to be all the orientation Sam needs.
Dean thinks it's a kiss coming, but it isn't, or not entirely. "And if it's four or six or eight or twenty…?" Sam is saying, with almost no sound to back up the words, like he doesn’t actually mean to say it all, but it's his turn to press back and Dean's not sure the screen door can take the weight of both of them.
"It could be a hundred, Sam."
Sam goes very still. "One nearly killed you…and she wasn't even yours to save."
"Layla…" Sam says. "Ever forgive yourself for that one, Dean?" he asks and Sam can still cut like a power saw with only a fraction of the effort. "The kids in Wisconsin, because of something that happened when you were nine?"
Sam pulls back a little and Dean can see nothing but his own face reflected in Sam's glasses. "The one thing I've never been able to understand is how you can give so damn much and think you don't deserve anything in return. If I'm going to watch you die, I'd rather it be because you hate me than because you hate yourself." Sam reaches behind Dean for the handle on the screen door and then shoves Dean aside, hard, and goes inside.
What had Missouri told his father?
Sam might be blind but he can still see.
The weekend is more silent for the talking they do than that they don't. They fill it with nothing but words that meant nothing, and the empty spaces in between are filled with more being said than any discussion of hunts or the bills that have come due, or even talking each other through making dinner.
On Monday, as Dean heads in to work, he finds people in Ruth Hanson's yard and her off talking to an older man with a clipboard.
"Dean…What do you think? Should I paint it yellow or blue?" She smiles at him and holds up paint chips.
Mrs. Hanson's house is half painted before they have to stop because of a series of storms that move into the area. It knocks the power out all over town, including the garage and Dean finds himself home in the middle of the day.
The power is out at the house too, which means Sam can't work but he can still read. "There's a benefit we didn't anticipate," Dean says.
"You want me to read aloud?"
"You're kind of in the middle aren't you?"
"I can start over."
Dean thinks it's Ken Follett or John Grisham and can only be grateful it isn't one of the romances Sam occasionally gets asked to read, but he isn't really paying attention.
"It could be a thousand, Sam. A train wreck. An earthquake."
Sam goes silent.
"You know…I really never thought I'd see thirty. Wasn't sure I wanted to. I never could figure out why the dead kept trying to come back when the living didn't seem to have all that much to hang around for. You do get that you going blind probably saved my life all by itself -- even without your seeing it?" Dean asks quietly, not moving off the couch where he sprawled while Sam sits in his chair to read. "Ruth's painting her house."
"I know. She told me. Yellow."
"She asked me. I kind of like blue. Think it would have made difference?"
"I don't know."
"Me either. You know, if you saw her dying in a house fire, I'd try. I'd have to try to save her."
"I wouldn't expect anything less. I would too."
He would. God and history knew Sam would.
"I don't hate myself, Sam. And I don't hate you. I never could -- Christ knows I've tried often enough, because you can be a major pain in my ass."
"It's my sworn duty as a little brother."
Dean smiles at that. "So, anyway, with all the shit I've put up with up until now, I'm thinking I kind of deserve a long and happy life. You know, all the trimmings. Football on Saturdays, a beer gut at fifty." Sam snorts at that. "But we -- I mean weird shit just happens to us, you know? Like there's a huge big sign on our asses that says 'kick me'. And you seem to have the low-down on the probability of me getting footprints on my butt. So, I just think you should warn a guy."
Sam closes the book and gets up, all shadows and grayish light occasionally punctuated by flashes of brightness from outside. There is a certain justice in the fact that Dean can't see Sam's face very clearly either except when the lightning flashes and then only in profile from where he stands. Dean sits up. "We beat the son of a bitch once, Sam. I don't see why we can't do it twice."
"I go first?" Sam whispers.
Dean gets to his feet, put his hands on Sam's shoulders. "If I can make it happen…or we go together. I swear, Sam."
For some reason, it feels a lot less scary to just say it.
"And that's without any strings, Sam…there's no--"
Sam's fingers then his mouth find Dean's a lot faster this time. Dean can taste salt but he isn't sure if it's his or Sam's.
More than his sight, Sam is starved for touch and Dean tries his best to make up for lack of it over the last few years. The casual touch or grip of hands on shoulders isn't enough -- hasn't been. There is no part of Sam's body Dean hasn't seen at one time or another, and when they are both gasping and boneless and too warm and too close but unwilling to move, there are still places Dean has yet to touch, places Sam has yet to touch. But they'll get to them eventually. In time.
They are still on the couch when
the streetlights flicker on. The house remains dark. Here, at least, all
things are equal.
A week later, Saturday night, Sam wakes up and pulls Dean out of sleep with him.
Sam calls for an ambulance while Dean runs across the yards. He has to bust the glass beside Ruth's door to get in and find her in the kitchen which doesn't ring right, but she isn't breathing so it hardly matters.
His own head is aching and his arms tired by the time the EMT's get there. Sam has taken over the breathing but he scrambles out of the way.
They have a pulse and Ruth is breathing on her own when they load her up. "You guys did good. We got delayed, accident up at Houston and Main."
"Car?" Dean ask and feels Sam's hand at the small of his back.
"Four of 'em. Three dead on site from the radio," the EMT says. "We’ll be taking her to Memorial."
"We'll follow as soon as we get dressed," Dean says.
"She was in the kitchen, not the living room," Sam says when the ambulance pulls away.
Dean nods absently and stares at Ruth's half painted house.