|Shine Like Glass
Title: Shine Like Glass
On his seventeenth birthday, Sam saw the rift inside of himself, the split that he had struggled to patch with words like "duty" and "devotion," crack and fracture on into the horizon. He could no more close the fissure than he could return himself to the womb -- the only place that had ever guaranteed him normalcy; the only place he had ever been truly safe.
His father handed him death in the form of curved and polished silver, the grips heavy and solid in his hands. The blades sliced the air around them and the metal shone like glass and Sam felt himself rooted to the spot, polite words of thanks that were not his own sliding from his tongue.
The gift from Dean was different, simple, a step toward the conventional, walking a path rarely traveled in Sam's lifetime. Smiling, he took the CD and marveled at Dean's ability to be wise and, yet, so unknowing at the same time. A CD wouldn't make Sam stay, couldn't shape him into the man his father wanted, wouldn't make him love this life.
He saw himself standing on the fine line that separated light from dark, a thin, tiny fracture of space that carried the myriad shades of grey within its infinitesimal space. Sam had lived his life in that tiny world and he had learned to walk within the subtleties of the colorless landscape as if he had been born there.
The gifts from his father and his brother were symbols of the dark and the light on either side of him, and with them came the realization he could not live in both worlds.
When he packed his bags for California, he took both gifts; the CD because it reminded him of Dean and was less a gift than a sacrifice, and the knives because he could never shed the darkness that curled up in the corner of his soul.
The blades had been abandoned, but never forgotten, and in the wake of the smoke and the smell of burning wood, he took them in his hands unwillingly, their weight more of a burden than a blessing. But as the days passed and the miles of road stretched on before them, the rhythmic sharpening of the steel against stone soothed the ache and sliced away at the shards of light that still lived within him.
After Lawrence, after hearing what might have been salvation but was most certainly a curse, Sam held the knives with an air that was less like loathing and more like lust and he knew Dean could see the shadows gathering; but it was far easier, Sam had learned, not to care.
Sam had never liked guns. His eye had never been as sharp as Dean's, his hand not as steady. But he took to the knives as if they had been molded to his hands, the blades an extension of his will. Hand-to-hand combat had never bothered him; his height and arm-span a blessing and a tool to be used in his favor. He rationalized that if he was going to kill, he wanted to see his prey and smell its odor but, in truth, he knew it was simply because he liked it. That desire frightened him -- made him see himself in the eyes of his father Made him acknowledge he was a killer. Made him realize he had never been as different as he had wanted to believe.
In the world of greys, salvation and condemnation live in the same shadows.
Every other day, as the steel scraped against stone and the blades gleamed in his hands, he felt the shades of grey around him turn subtly darker. He wondered if it was a result of his dreams or the product of his actions, and he knew that soon he wouldn't be able to tell the difference. Every day as he watched his brother, he wondered if he wanted to care.
In the days after the fire, he had often wondered if keeping the blades, hiding them from Jessica in a drawer in the bureau, keeping that one small trace of darkness hidden in the back of his otherwise shining life, was a beacon to the shadows that hunted him. He wondered if he had killed her just as surely as if he had held the knife himself.
He wondered if that was what his mother saw when she stepped out of the flames in Lawrence.
Dean seemed shocked that Sam would want to spar, a hundred miles from anywhere on a warm April morning. But Sam knew Dean believed preparation was salvation, and that Sam should use the knives more as a tool and less as a talisman, and Sam had no qualms about living under false pretenses.
He didn't need a knife in his hand to be a weapon.
So they fashioned pads and protection from castaway trash, the foam stained and fading, the wood splintered and worn. How fitting they would find safety in the remnants of daily life, in the detritus of other people's normalcy, and if Sam had been younger he would have laughed at the irony of it all. But laughter served little purpose now.
As he moved into the rhythm of the fight, his muscles loosened and regained their memory. What was at first a struggle soon became instinct, and he could feel the knife become part of his hand. Dean bobbed and weaved before him, but Sam saw not his brother, but an object to be fought, brought down, destroyed. A small voice in the back of his mind cautioned restraint, and Sam walked the thread between violence and control artfully.
With each slash of the knife, shards of the life he knew slipped away like the pieces of foam that littered the ground at their feet. Images of laughter and passion and joy were slashed and torn, discarded like so much waste, and Sam felt himself falling into the gap between what was and what had been, between the light and the dark. A voice in the back of his mind, Jess or his mother, called out to him and he couldn't decide if it was joy or pain and wondered if there was really any difference between the two. As the shadows coiled up inside of him and the blade sang through the air in front of him, he thought perhaps he heard the sound of laughter; that the thing that drove him, that hunted them all, was taking joy in the idea it had killed him without ever laying a finger.
After all, the difference between the walking dead and those laid to rest is really only animation.
When he blinked, Sam saw Dean on the ground, pads shredded to pieces, and he felt himself covered in sweat and dirt. The knife had sliced through foam and wood and all but a centimeter of self-control saved Dean from being yet another victim of the silent raging war in Sam's soul. Sam had forgotten he had been holding a knife, moving more as an animal than a soldier, and the sight of his brother on the ground before him woke him to the pain in his hands and the ache in his shoulders and the knowledge that something inside of him was growing.
Flexing his fingers, he called the fight, sickened by the thought of what he had done, what he might do, and reached down to help Dean stand, the weight of the pads all but pinning his brother to the ground. The touch of Dean's hand was warm and strong and for a moment Sam felt real. But when the grip relaxed and they moved to clean up the garbage around them, Sam wondered how long it would be before he would lose that as well.
In the car on the way home, Sam held the knife in his hands and wondered why his father had given him two, for he was only ever taught to use one at a time. Perhaps it was generosity, perhaps it was caution, perhaps it was the knowledge that should one break, death could ride with the spare. For truly, in the fine line between light and dark, Sam had become, unwittingly, the bringer of death. Long before the blades had even been cast, his role in the war between light and dark had been laid on the ground before him, mocking his efforts to turn his back.
Sliding his hand along the edge of the blade, Sam saw himself move beneath a layer of fog, the glimmer of the steel dimmed by thoughts that leapt from the back of his mind. Twice he had been reborn, twice he had been bathed in the blood of a dying woman who silently screamed for grace that would never come, and twice he had brought death without raising a hand.
Sacrifice, it seemed, was the daughter of love and the sister to loss and she bought nothing but pain with her efforts.
When the blade split his skin he let out a curse more because he knew he should and less because it hurt. He didn't really feel anymore. In the hotel room, he held ice in one hand and a blade in the other and sharpened its edge against the grit of the stone. In the absence of anything else, humans are creatures of habit, and he could think of nothing else to do.
He heard his brother's compliment regarding his skill with the knife and mentally laughed at the irony. How often does Death receive praise about its skill with a scythe?
"Hey, it's just a weapon, Sam."
But it wasn't and Sam knew better. This wasn't about the blades or his skill but about death and destruction and the fact that Sam, ruler of the world of unending grey, was the root cause of the split between black and white.
"I know what it is."
When he looked at Dean he saw not his brother but the silently screaming faces of those he lost, those he took, and those who would fall before him as he walked his way through the unending darkness that stretched before him.
Sam could feel Dean's hand on his face, could smell his brother's warmth, could hear the blood rushing in his veins and realized that he could complete the cycle now, knowing and aware, or he could wait for the inevitable. But, either way, he stood on the edge of the abyss and he could hear the laughter ringing in the shadows.
The blade in his hand moved of its own accord and without lowering his eyes he could see the thin red line appear on the flesh of Dean's stomach. Sam wondered if he would feel differently if the cut came from his own hands, if he could see it happen before him. Loss is loss and pain is pain and, in the end, death is death and he could no more escape it than he could cleave himself in two and walk both sides of the grey line at once.
From within him a spark of the man Sam had once been, the one who knew light existed somewhere in the world between dusk and dawn, cried out from the past and drowned the cries of the dead and dying that echoed inside of him. He could feel the blade against his neck and see the fear in his brother's eyes and he thought perhaps salvation couldn't come from anyone's blood but his own.
"Sam... what's going on? Talk to me..."
Sam opened his mouth but all he could think was blood for blood , and he knew if he said it Dean wouldn't understand. Touching the trail of red across Dean's stomach, he could feel the warmth and smell the life and see the future in one fell swoop. It was an endless cycle of birth and death that wouldn't end until he took the steps to end it. The touch of the blade on his neck was heavy and he could feel Dean tense, as if he'd spring to stop it, but Sam had always been faster and quicker and Dean would never get it in time.
"It...they... opened her just like this," Sam whispered.
"Not you," was the reply and Sam felt the breath on his face more than the words that accompanied it.
"I'm not so sure." And he wasn't, he wasn't sure who had lived and who had died and who had done the actual deed, and the deep, dark pool that sat in front of him looked inviting and frightening at the same time and he wasn't certain if someone pulled him back that he would have the energy to save himself.
To be saved, one has to want it, and such an act required the energy to care.
The struggle over the blade at the base of Sam's neck became more symbolic than literal, and Sam could barely see beyond the darkness to care about the result.
Dean's mouth on his sparked something inside of him, less lust than need, and a glimpse of light reflected like glass in the shadows that had overcome him. As the hand slid into his hair he could hear himself cry, a silent wail that welled inside of him, weeping for what had been taken away. The blade was removed and replaced with a hand, the body on his lifting him up from the shadows, the blood buying yet another life.
The man in front of him, this bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh, offered up that which was needed to quell the creature that had taken residence within him, and Sam used his mouth to offer thanks and his hands to give prayers unto whatever had delivered him from the edge.
Beneath his tongue he could feel the beating of Dean's heart, the rock upon which he could now stand, and under his hands he could feel the ripple of the skin that he had opened just moments before. Desire, like sorrow can come in waves, but the feeling inside of him was a steady aching burn and he pressed against Dean's body, mouth to mouth, chest to chest.
Their clothes were unbuttoned and bodies stretched against one another and, for the fraction of an instant, Sam wondered if he bought his salvation from one fate for damnation in another. But the feeling of his brother's mouth upon his skin and his erection upon his stomach and the need that pulled Sam from the body against his made him believe the deal they made was worth the price of admission in the hell of their making.
As he came, Sam felt the slide of body on body, the mixture of blood and sweat and tears and semen blessed more than any oil, and holier than any water, covering their exposed flesh. Sam moved down to take his brother in his mouth, to consume the offering that had been made for his soul but, as he drew near, Dean came and Sam settled for tasting him from his hands.
Sweeter than tears and less bitter than blood, his brother's sacrifice was the holiest of communions.
Tangled together on the bed, Sam's head on Dean's chest, the mix of blood and sweat and come drying and sealing them together in a bond that seemed tighter than glue, Sam traced his hand down Dean's outstretched arm until he touched the cold steel that rested on the edge of the bed.
Sam couldn't promise he wouldn't kill, for he was a warrior, a soldier, an angel in the battle that flitted at the edges of the motel room and stretched on to eternity outside the door. But the ritual that had been performed, the blood and the flesh that had been offered, had bought his soul from the darkness, and the blade had become less of a symbol and more of a weapon and he could remove it from his hand with the clearest of vision.
He sheathed it and wrapped his arms around Dean, whispering his thanks and tendering his soul and stepping back onto the thin grey line that had been his path for so long. He knew his brother had seen into the darkness, had given the one thing left that he had to tender, had crossed the abyss to carry him home. Sam had nothing of like to offer but himself and the belief that, in the grey world of uncertainty, he now had knowledge of a certain fact.
Between absolution and salvation is redemption, between white and black there is grey. And in the mirror of the darkness that surrounded both of them, hope shone like glass.