|Yea, though I walk through the valley
Ninth in the Second Sight Series
Supernatural, all audiences, future-fic.
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.
§Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.§
His visions are clear and sharp as photographs: fade in, fade out; snapshots, sequentially taken. Rapidly flipped to form a jerky, but obviously progressing primitive movie. The first and last are the most clear, the ones that linger. Place and time. Here and then.
His nightmares are less defined, only sometimes visual, as if his subconscious is more in synch with his physical well-being than however his psychic abilities are. The ones that are images tend to play on things he's seen, things he recognizes even if they are in a totally different context. They also tend to repeat themselves endlessly.
His nightmares are more anxiety inducing than terror filled, but even so they linger long after he's woken up and always leave him feeling at least a little bit detached from his body.
They still wake him up, sometimes drive him from his bed. There's some benefit for working from home, where even if it's the middle of the night and Dean sleeps on, he can get up, go to his office, close the door and work for a bit. Reading soothes him, quiets his mind because the skills he needs to read now, while not profoundly different from when he could see, still require a level of concentration that's different from reading with his eyes. His fingers, if he's distracted, don't provide the instant memory words seen by his eyes did.
He knows Dean is aware that he sometimes roams the house at night. He's heard him, outside the door, been aware of the shhfff-hush of Dean sliding down along the wall to sit and listen. He's trained himself not to falter in his reading when he hears him. Dean watches him always, and it's a comfort and a curse sometimes, something his brother knows on a gut level even if they don't really talk about it. Dean tries to give Sam the illusion that Dean doesn't shadow his every movement when they are together.
Sam doesn't call him on it because he does the same thing. He watches Dean -- with his ears, granted. Dean still tries to hide agitation or emotion or even just fatigue from Sam unless Sam is the actual cause and even then he tries to mask more than he actually shows.
Sam isn't sure if Dean has nightmares or just sometimes worries so much he can't sleep. And sometimes Sam will sit outside his room and listen to him toss and turn, wonder if he should go inside and see if he can't soothe whatever disturbs Dean's soul or his conscience, the way Dean does for him.
Once in awhile, Dean will get up and a few times it's happened so quickly and quietly Sam can't get out of the way, can't retreat to his room, or stand up and try and make it seem like he was doing something else rather than sitting sentinel outside his brother's room, just in case…
It's a dance they've done most of their lives in one way or another.
The second year after they settle into their house and their new lives, Sam sees more than he ever does again. The visions come in waves across months and weeks and then finally days before things settle somehow, but in the meantime their phone bill goes up and Sam sleeps even less than he did before until Dean accuses him of trying to use exhaustion as the valve to shut them down.
Sam's scared to let Dean out of his sight, so to speak.
No matter his promises though, Dean can't remain a prisoner to Sam's fears in their house and so he goes and when Sam calls him halfway to work he changes his route. When Sam hears the sounds of distant sirens again and again he refuses to pick up the phone and check.
When Dean finally gets home at his usual time with nothing more than bruised knuckles and a mild headache from sniffing exhaust all day, he finds Sam half drunk and disoriented, sitting on the floor of the living room with the TV blasting on some channel that never has news.
Sam jumps when he turns off the TV, and he can't stop himself from clutching Dean's arms when he reaches down, "Come on, Sam…it's okay. You eat anything today?"
Sam hasn't which makes Dean sigh and Sam knows why because he's never been able to hold his alcohol and even fuzzy brained and apologetic, it's likely he’ll be up all night or sick or both.
And the embarrassing part is, getting drunk didn't actually help because he'd ended up calling his father to get him to warn Ben Pevins because Sam doesn't have the old man's number.
The following few days the local paper and the news are all over the bizarre spate of incidents all over town that kept the police and emergency services jumping for about 48 hours. Dean checks the weather reports and the moon phases and anything he can think of for the sudden burst of insanity in their small town but finds no other possible reason; no full moon, no solar flares, no sudden atmospheric depressions or high pressure fronts. It’s not solstice or either equinox -- there's nothing except the sudden burst of activity across Sam's inner eye. There's eight people dead in town and three more down Ben's way and then it levels out, but Sam's still feeling edgy and like there are things crawling under his skin half the time even though it's weeks before he's hit again and by then it's more a relief than anything.
Dean charts it all in a spiral notebook and settles onto the sofa in Sam's office when he's not working but Sam is, if only because he recognizes consciously or un- that his presence calms Sam's nerves like nothing else will.
He's been cataloguing the events for a month, reaching back for other incidents since this all started when one evening he goes still as he usually isn't.
"Fuck me," Dean says softly. "I never even noticed this..."
"What? What did you find? Something in common?"
"Well, yeah and no. I mean…uncommon yes, but not any kind of pattern or…Sam…not one of the deaths you've predicted, not mine, or Dad's, or anyone's has ever had anything even slightly supernatural to it. Not that I know of. "
Sam doesn’t know what to make of that, and it takes him a second to make sense of it as he tries to filter back and remember what he's consciously tried to forget.
"No ghosts, no ghouls…even when you sent me with Dad to hunt the skinwalker, it wasn't the walker, it was--"
"A robbery," Sam murmurs, knowing it's true. He's warned people of other things; more instinct than actual fact; black dogs, not werewolves. Poltergeists, not actual spirits; possessions more psychic than demonic. But none of those actually involved seeing anyone dying. Those come at him more like a flicker of something in the corner of his inner eye, a glimpse of something that he only barely recognizes as this, not this. It's information, not a warning really.
"Accidents. Wrong time wrong place. Robberies. The floor in Jim's barn," Dean said. "Bridges, fires, car accidents…"
"And the people who do die?" Sam asks quietly.
He can almost see Dean shrug, definitely hears the vertebrae in his neck pop when he does. "Some directly related some not…the bridge, yeah. But Jim's floor…he went to get the lumber to fix it and --"
"And the guy at the lumber yard caught the kick back from the saw and died," Sam said, remembering that one because he'd literally caught Jim on his cell phone walking out to the barn.
"It doesn't get us anything, though," Dean says and he sounds almost angry. "I mean this is some seriously random shit, and it doesn't seem like it takes anything at all to miss it completely."
"The first one…the restaurant," Sam says and leans forward. "I could have…maybe we could have called them. Or the diner…random, anonymous tip."
"Yeah, maybe," Dean says.
Sam would very much like to throw up now, thanks. He doesn't though. He does get up and head to his room, opens the window and lets the cool night air wash over his face.
He knows to the exact moment when Dean comes to his door, leans against the frame. They've come to an agreement about their rooms, the definition of some sovereignty that provides them some space, even distance, that's as necessary as it is often breached. Except in cases of emergency, the space is inviolate without invitation.
Sam doesn't invite Dean in.
"You didn't see the guy at the lumber mill. And you didn’t see the bus."
"But I saw the gunmen and I saw the fire…God, it's like double jumps in checkers, where you can shift in any direction and take out half the board in a single turn."
"There's got to be a pattern to it, Sam. We just haven't figured it out yet," Dean says quietly. "We haven't even really tried -- I mean, we've talked about it."
"Yeah. There's probably a pattern," Sam agrees even though he doesn't and he can hear Dean shift uncomfortably in the doorway.
It's gotten to be too much, Sam knows. He knew it would, it's just taken Dean longer to realize it than Sam expected. Too many lives to save too few. Dean hates that, he always has.
He doesn't know if he can actually do anything about it. He's scared to try. If this is more curse than gift and Sam thinks it is, the harder he tries the worse things will get. "I'll start carrying the tape recorder," Sam says. It's all he can offer. His head throbs just thinking about it. The parts that come easily are difficult enough, trying to glean details that might mean nothing…might mean the difference between people living or dying, he's not sure he's strong enough to do that.
"It's not your fault, Sam," Dean says and he means it. He really does. He doesn't blame Sam for any of it, never has.
It doesn't mean he isn't frustrated by the circumstances or the outcome.
It doesn't mean he doesn't doubt how much his own life is worth.
That Sam places a higher value of Dean's life than just about anyone, or any group of someones, large or small, is something Sam won't apologize for.
Which isn't the same as not being sorry.
The dream of the graveyard is probably the one that Sam has the most often. He calls it a dream rather than a nightmare because there's no real anxiety attached to it.
He doesn't recognize it and at the same time he does; some of the monuments are memorably familiar, places he's been, cemeteries he's seen. But the most obvious ones he doesn't see: his mother's grave, Jessica's…
There's a lot of graves, laid out neatly, mostly with small headstones, not like the rows and rows of crosses at Arlington, not quite that orderly. The markers are mostly the same but not all. Sometimes Sam thinks maybe he's seen this cemetery in a movie sometime. It feels old. None of the graves are new. They've all been there for awhile, the stones weathered, some with moss.
It's always sunny in his dream.
It peaks in August.
Dean takes one of the trucks from the shop to drive to Kansas City to pick up a rebuilt engine for a little custom side job he's helping his boss with.
It takes him most of the day and at mid-afternoon Sam gets hit with nothing but the vision of his brother coughing up blood in the grass somewhere. There are no cars, there's no road, but there is smoke and a screeching sound that for a moment Sam is sure he can hear with his ears and not just in his head. There's not even enough to tell Dean what to avoid.
He calls anyway.
"I just turned off 71. I'm pulling over, Sam. Calm down," Dean says steadily and Sam can hear other cars passing him. "Okay, I'm stopped. I'm stopped. Now, talk to me."
"It's just you. It's you bleeding…"
"You don't see the truck? No landmarks?"
"It's just grass and blood."
"Grass, grass, or the weedy kind?" Dean asks; and there's the sound of drawn out horn passing him against the rumble of a heavier engine. "Fuck you, asshole," Dean mutters. "Sorry. Not much of a shoulder here and no grass, not even weeds, just dirt. What about the sky, Sam?"
"I can't see it…Just, just…" He tries. He really does, but it's like a close up photograph that moves: Dean's pale face, blood on his lips, the glint of grass and gravel, soaking up the blood. "There's gravel. It's dark...uh…mica in it, I think. God, Dean…"
"Okay, okay…shhh…it's okay. I'm not moving, okay? Just breathe, Sam…"
Sam can hear the frustration in his voice. His vision doesn't mean now necessarily and it's only Sam's panic that's holding Dean on the side of the road.
Dean waits him out. "Okay. Listen. I'm going to …I don't know. I'll puncture the tire or something, tell the garage I've got a flat -- that I'm going to need a tow. No way the jack on this thing will hold up with a half ton engine in the back. That's should be enough…change things enough."
Sam breathes a little easier. "All right. Just, call me back okay?"
"I will, Sam. I promise. You okay, now?"
"Yeah. I am…I'm…just call me."
"I will." Just before Dean hangs up Sam can hear a long, low wail in the distance.
He counts minutes.
He fingers the marked numbers on his phone and forces himself not to call.
After fifteen minutes, Sam calls but the line is busy.
It's another thirty minutes before Dean calls him. It's all Sam can do not to scream at him but before he can say anything, or even get a deep breath to scream, Dean speaks quietly.
"It was a train, Sam. It was a God damn train wreck."
He's not speaking metaphorically.
In his dream, Sam can see perfectly well. The grass is green, the trees are as well -- huge spreading oaks and maples. There might be birds or he only wishes there were. Sometimes he's sure he can smell flowers blooming.
He touches each stone as he passes, feels the cool, rough texture under his fingertips. No matter how brightly the sun shines, the grave markers are always cool.
He tries to count them, but they are all so similar he gets confused. Inevitably he wakes up before he can finish.
No one leaves flowers on these graves. There are no tokens or remembrances.
None of the markers have names.
It's hours before Dean gets home. He calls Sam twice.
It's no surprise that he stays to help.
Sam doesn’t turn on the news. He doesn’t want to know. Maybe it's because he's selfish, maybe it's because of guilt.
When Dean gets back, he smells of oil and dirt and smoke and sweat.
Sam doesn’t ask him what happened. Dean tells him anyway because he's tired or angry or both.
"It was the tow truck -- the one that honked when he passed me. He hit a pothole. The cops said it was the weight of the car he was towing that did it. Fishtailed the damn thing right across the tracks, snapped the tow cable, left the car on the tracks." Dean pulls the whiskey down but doesn't get a glass and doesn't offer any to Sam. "The car, Sam. If it had been me…" He drinks. "A passenger train. Thirty-seven people. Worse rail accident in the state, one of the worst in the country."
He sits down next to Sam. "We found the driver just before I left. He'd been thrown from his truck a good twenty feet or maybe he crawled away. In the grass, near the tracks."
He takes a long draw from the bottle and swallows. When he sets the bottle back down, Sam knows it's empty.
An hour later Dean's all but passed out on the couch. Sam pulls his shoes off, finds blankets to cover him with, and sets out a glass of water and aspirin on the coffee table before going to bed.
He doesn't really sleep, and sometime during the long hours of wretched wakeful ness, he realizes that Dean will probably never ask him not to tell.
Which isn't the same as hoping that next time, Sam won't.
They don't talk about it again. The news gets around, of course. Makes all the papers, all the broadcasts, the national news. Their Dad calls a couple of days later and Dean talks to him. Sam goes out to sit on the porch.
Dean is subdued and quiet for days.
A week passes before either of them realize Sam hasn't had a vision in days. Another week, with still nothing and Sam gets the first migraine he's had in months, probably due to the lack of tension and stress. For twenty-four hours Dean creeps around the house as quietly as he can and the only time he disturbs Sam at all is to make sure he drinks water at least. But he hovers.
A few days later Dean gets a letter from the local rescue team commander and the railroad, thanking him for helping with the wreck. He gets a little certificate of commendation, and ironic as it is, a voucher for two roundtrip bedroom tickets, anywhere Amtrak goes.
"They have got to be kidding."
"Makes sense. They're in trouble. This didn't help. You could probably work out something else, publicity of you -- one of the rescuers -- getting on the train. Maybe get them to--"
Not once since Sam lost his sight has Dean ever touched him in anger. He's unprepared to be shoved backward, into the wall, Dean's hands fisted in his shirt. It's not entirely unfamiliar, they've always expressed their anger physically -- it's just been awhile.
"You think this is a joke, Sam…funny? What's this, morbid humor?"
The words hurt more than the manhandling. He takes a slow breath before continuing. "Maybe get them to set up a victim's assistance fund for the families, without someone suing them. It would be worth it to them for the PR alone," he says evenly. "It's something you could do. It's kind of like a con, only not. It was an accident, Dean. Not the rail line's fault, not the driver. Not yours."
Dean's hands tighten briefly then relax, his palms spread flat across Sam's chest and his shoulder.
He makes sure Sam is steady on his feet before he lets go.
Sometime past Thanksgiving, Dean starts collecting clippings and articles. Their father came in to have dinner, stayed a couple of days. It's the first really, completely traditional Thanksgiving dinner they've ever had, even if the local grocery store did most of the cooking.
The last vision Sam had was at the beginning of November. His father. Two people died. They don't talk about it but it's there like a fourth person at the table when they sit down to eat.
Dean doesn't say anything to Sam at first, but the rustle of paper, the scent of newsprint and toner from ancient copiers makes Sam ask.
Dean's still looking for a pattern, looking for something to make any of this worthwhile. Justifiable. He doesn’t say that, of course, for the same reason he never asks Sam to keep what he sees to himself.
They both think they are doing it for the same reason -- to save Sam's sanity.
The thing is, Sam knows he won't go insane. If he hasn't over the past few months, there's not going to be an easy way out for him, and Dean won't take for himself what Sam can't even hope for.
Sam finds the folder one day while Dean's at work. He can't read them anymore than he can read Dean's notes but he knows what's on there, in the news articles, in the reports Dean has requested, the calls he's made. Old skills might be rusty but they aren't lost. The truth is, Dean would make a hell of a reporter or an investigator, but the paperwork would kill him.
Sam very carefully arranges the articles on the kitchen table. They are still there when Dean gets home.
"What are you doing?"
"Read them to me," Sam says, and gets up to fix sandwiches for dinner.
"Read them -- why? There's a lot here…some of it's repetitious. Same thing, different articles. AP Reports."
"Not the news reports, the names," Sam says and checks to make sure he's grabbed the mustard and not the mayo. "Unless, of course, you've memorized them all."
"Don't do this."
Sam carefully cuts the sandwich in half and puts it on a plate. Gets a beer from the refrigerator and hold both out to Dean. "Do you have them memorized.?"
There's a moment of silence before Dean takes the plate. "Not all of them. That's a bottle of salad dressing, Sam."
Dean starts reading while Sam tries again for the beer.
The dream hasn't changed much over the years. It's still not the kind that wakes Sam up feeling anxious or afraid. He's not sure what that says about him; that he can walk through the cemetery in his mind and find little to alarm him. There's sadness but it's not overwhelming grief.
There's guilt, but it's not crippling. He thinks the sunshine might have something to do with that.
The only thing that changes is the stones have names now. No dates. Just names.
He still tries to count them, now that he can actually find something unique about them.
He always wakes up before he's counted them all.
There are still hundreds, if not thousands, of stones that remain unmarked.