Never Promise Me a Rose Garden
Dean/Sam, R, vague future fic, Never 'verse
The characters and situations portrayed here are not mine, they belong to the CW. 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.
When Sam thinks about it, he knows hell is not beneath the earth. He knows it's not possible to dig down deep enough to find it, that you can't pierce the earth's crust with a drill, and pull out a core that will open a path to hell. He knows it's not the unsettled dead that whisper and scratch and sometimes shriek and claw at the earth and rocks below his feet. He's read all the myths and legends he can find that speak of the other life beneath the earth, beneath the layers of worms and grubs, and last year's garbage.
If the dead crawl from their graves, there's a reason for it. When bones rise up in the fields, it's not some undead revolt about the manner of their burial. It's all pre-scientific era explanations and rationalizations, like bloated, undecayed bodies being more the realm of interactive gasses and natural preservatives, rather than indications of vampirism, or of restless spirits.
Except, of course when vampires and restless spirits really are the reason.
Still, he doesn't believe the whispering and murmurs he hears really come from beneath the ground. Not really. It's just his brain trying to make some arbitrary judgement about where they do come from. Like, sunlight doesn't fall across the floor or the ground, doesn't tumble down like water to strike his face or turn Dean's hair that dark edged-with-gold-color. It spreads and seeps and warms because it's everywhere shadows can't thwart it.
So the rumblings and tremors aren't really the denizens of hell or the underworld beating the ceiling of their realm in an effort to get out.
So tapping his foot on the ground is no more than frustration at not being able to make the tremors stop by sheer will.
It doesn't really work.
He misses artificial flavoring. He misses the not really lemon frosting on Twinkies and cupcakes, he misses the taste of colas, and grape Nehi. Some days he thinks he might kill for a handful of Ranch-flavored Doritos.
It's all still out there, not forever but for now, sealed in air tight packaging on the shelves of stores, in boxes in warehouses at a thousand food distribution centers around the country. There are probably vats of artificial flavoring, artificial coloring, and food preservatives as well, and he can only wonder if it will all still be there in a hundred years.
They found some all-natural store in Minnesota and pretty much cleared the shelves. The store was small and there wasn't much, but he has toothbrushes now: wooden handles and natural bristles: all thanks to high end demand by the back-to-nature set for them. There are soaps, and sponges, whole cotton cloths. There's been a lot of trial and error -- even with careful trial there's been a few too many errors.
He remembers a girl in college who had severe reactions to anything with latex, friends who were lactose intolerant, or who couldn't eat nuts. He had a kind of casual sympathy for them but no real understanding.
He approaches demons and ghosts with less caution than he now approaches picking out a new shirt or eating something that comes from a can. His father found him several pairs of thin, calf-skin gloves. They aren't quite thin enough to give Sam full tactile impressions, but they let him handle traces of heavy plastic and kevlar on weapons, allow him to handle the strings and cables of the compound bow he's been carrying more and more often.
Early on he remembers sitting with Dean while his brother replaced all the plastic buttons on his shirts with wooden ones, cut out all the polyester tags that remained on even his 100% cotton t-shirts.
The needle pricked Dean's fingers more than once and Sam bled for him, leaving smears of blood across Dean's palms and the backs of his hands when he reached for Sam's wrists to se where the blood was coming from.
And maybe that's when it started, as if it hadn't been there before, under the surface, in the back of his brain, hidden deep down in his belly or tucked carefully behind his liver or spleen. The feel of Dean's hands on his, strong and sure, familiar calluses, and the play of veins across the backs of his hands. The flex of tendons in his wrist.
Soap and water and carefully wrapped gauze, way too much care for the needle pricks.
Dean was more careful as he finished; there was no more blood. Not then.
Dean thinks Sam's the strong one. He's said as much, in the cautious way he offers both compliments and confessions. "I wish I could take these from you..." He's said it more than once, when visions come, when voices shout so loud in his ears (in his head) he can't hear anything else. Knows nothing but the feel of Dean's hands, the way his mouth tightens and moves, and Sam watches his lips, seeing the words there -- his name, small comforts until he can make the sounds match the movement of Dean's lips.
I wish I could... and Sam knows the weakness Dean sees in himself there isn't about the actual transfer of the visions from Sam's mind to his own, but that Dean's afraid to try. Everything else is strung so tightly between them, so much shared, that Dean often knows when Sam's going to be hit before Sam himself knows it. That he can translate Sam's incoherent mutterings and slurred descriptions well enough that they can be on the road before Sam can so much as say, "North," or "East," or "West".
He swears he doesn't see what Sam sees, doesn't hear what he hears, but he knows anyway.
Sam doesn't think strength has anything to do with it. Ability maybe, like being able to reach the top shelf of the cabinets in the kitchen without a footstool. Using the footstool would accomplish the same thing for someone shorter than him.
Sam doesn't want Dean to have the visions or hear the voices. It's a selfish thing. It has less to do with sparing Dean pain than Sam being afraid losing them would deprive him of any usefulness at all. They've become the substitute for the job and the house and the picket fence and the 2.5 kids and a dog. None of those things exist any longer, in any recognizable way. Studying law was only ever about being useful and maybe doing some good, but mostly finding something he did well, did better, exceeded Dean in being good at something, maybe even of finding favor in his father's eyes for something that was Sam's alone. It was only ever about being able to offer counsel and advice and have it be heard.
But his father never saw what they did in terms of, "me" or "you", only in "us", and Sam didn't realize that until his father was dead and he finally got that he and Dean were not "me" and "you" but "us," first, last, and always.
But he still grips Dean's arms fiercely when his brother whispers and pleads..."Don't. Don't try so hard, Sam...Let it go."
"Let me do this. Let me..."
Yeah. He hasn't actually learned a damn thing. But now it's willful ignorance.
He's got nothing else to offer Dean but this. He can take and does: the constancy of Dean's presence, the pressure of his shoulder into Sam's when he steps in front of him, the trace of his fingers on his skull when he's so sick holding his head up seems like the hardest thing he's ever done. The snap of Dean's voice when they hunt; the snap of his hips when they fuck.
The other psychics, the ones who survived, the ones who made their way here, or elsewhere -- they all avoid each other. They don't speak, don't share meals, stand on opposite sides of the room away from each other when there's meetings for all of them -- and there have to be with this many people here or coming and going. They all look to Bobby, more or less. Bobby who never wanted to be anything, who tried to get John to step forward.
Their father sits behind Bobby and slightly to the left, the way Sam stands behind Dean. John speaks quietly when he speaks at all and they all listen to him because Bobby does.
Sam doesn't speak into Dean's ear, he doesn't need to.
He remembers Dean stripping him down when it first started. He'd been asleep, they all had, curled tight under blankets and he'd woken to the feeling that his skin was being seared off (again) and Dean holding a water bottle to his mouth, which made it worse.
He doesn't know how Dean managed. He knows he'd be dead now without him, that their father probably would be too, and Dean hadn't been in such great shape either. But there was steel in his brother's will and always had been. Dean didn't know how to quit or give up. He'd figured it out more or less, that what was unnatural was like poison to Sam's system, caused more than an allergic rash on his skin. He'd needed Sam's help to get their father to the car, only to have to improvise again when Sam's hands pressed to the vinyl of the seat had erupted into blisters, that the petroleum based first aid creams made it worse. In the end he'd thrown sheets over the interior of the car, wrapped Sam in a wool blanket and driven like a madman to the only place he could think that would be safe while they figured the rest out.
When they showed up, Bobby was sure he was seeing ghosts. Sam wasn't entirely sure he wasn't but he didn't feel like ghost -- being dead should not hurt so much. But when holy water, the touch of a cross and a dozen incantation in twice as many languages hadn't made them shriek or vanish, Bobby finally made the leap of faith.
Sam made a leap of faith too but most of the time it feels like he never landed, that he's in mid-air, suspended by nothing, caught between what is and what could be.
Falling into forever.
He'd tried to explain it to Dean, but he couldn't find the words, and it got harder and harder the longer he fell. There were too many voices on the wind, drums beating too fast -- too many hearts beating around him until they all blurred into one: a percussion of sound and vibration that was like an earthquake that never stopped.
He went crazy for a little, not long after. Sick and recovering and Dean out gathering and bargaining. Bobby still thinks he was possessed and his father too -- waiting for him to lose the battle he'd never wanted to fight. They tied his hands and shouted Latin at him, and Bobby searched his skin -- every inch of his skin -- for the binding, the lock, the mark. They didn't give up on him but they didn't let him go.
Until Dean came back with stragglers and other cowering minds.
Sam thought Dean might kill them both and he'd have told him, no...don't. They're just scared, but he hadn't been speaking English or any other recognizable language for three days, and he'd been bleeding from his wrists and ankles for half that long, and coughing up profanities he was glad no one understood but him.
Dean untied him and all but carried him outside and washed off the blood and his own filth. The holy water hadn't bubbled and the salt on Sam's tongue only made him thirsty.
He'd left something behind and now there were just empty spaces in him waiting to be filled.
Dean put him in the car and drove.
Away, far. Distance didn't silence the voices but it made them quieter, murmurs instead of screaming, the rumble of trucks on the highway that was instead of the thunder of too many heartbeats.
The quiet (relative) drove Sam to his knees, and he found his own voice again amid all the others.
They spent a week there, in the middle of nowhere, in a circle of salt with crows overhead.
Sam learned to listen for Dean's voice among the rest. Not the words, just the sound of it. Matched his own heart to his brother's.
"We'll go back. Whatever you left, whatever was taken, we'll get it back," Dean promised, threatened, his hands on Sam's skin more cool and comforting than the damp cloth he used to wipe at the blood that still seeped through Sam's skin.
It hadn't been taken. It had been given, and Sam didn't explain that either. Didn't try. Dean measured the costs not in what he himself had lost but what others did, took on debts that weren't his to pay. Sam had uncurled Dean's tight clenched fists and pressed his lips to them, once for reverence, twice in absolution, and a third time for himself.
Dean thought Sam had left his soul behind, but it had never been Sam's to give, and he didn't miss it. Too much of it resided in Dean.
"You don't get to pay for the whole world, Sam. You're a lot of things, but that's not one of them."
"I didn't." It wasn't a lie. "I'm not seeing a lot of salvation around, are you?"
That night Dean had lain beside him and traced the still healing scars on Sam's back with his finger tips, pressing the edge of his palm to the deeper part of the grooves. He'd made them bleed without pain, smeared the blood along Sam's sides and ribs.
Leaned over and watched when Sam came from just that touch, spilling semen into the dirt without ever touching himself and eyes fixed on Dean's parted lips and hooded eyes.
He could only give up what was his alone, and in the grand scheme of things, it hadn't been much at all. All that is mine was probably less than hell expected and even less that what Sam knew he could live without. The rest of it was never his to keep anyway.
Dean could deny that what was left was his and always had been.
He could be spectacularly good at lying when he wanted to be. Especially to himself.
He'd fucked Sam the first time there, under skies that bled light, and heard the thrum of displeasure beneath the earth, and kissed Sam's moans of pleasure into silence.
The empty places went quiet, claimed by their rightful owner.
The only two things Sam had left behind that he could even remember having were pride and shame, and with Dean curved around him, pressed to him, he couldn't even miss them.
He stopped bleeding.
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