Rating: PG, mostly for language
Summary: Some insight into Sam's changing role after John's death, particularly where Dean is concerned, and coming to terms with his own feelings. Missing scene and episode tag for ELAC.
Categories: Gen, Angst, Hurt/Comfort, Missing Scene
Word Count: 3,690
Spoilers: Pilot, In My Time of Dying, Everybody Loves A Clown
Disclaimer: I don't own them. Kripke does. I'm just borrowing them.
Note: This story is unbetaed, so any spelling/grammar errors and bad writing in general are mine and mine alone. Hopefully it's not too bad. I only ask that you be gentle, as this is my first angsty SPN fic. I also have an obsession with Sam's hair, which could be good or bad depending on your point of view. *snerk*
“So that's what happened. We checked out a carnival, met some nice people, Sam got a snow cone ... and we took out Pennywise. Ding dong, the clown is dead.” Dean waves a dismissive hand.
Sam notices Bobby's lost expression and tries to contain a smirk. Before he himself can elaborate, Dean fixes him with a look that says 'you can tell him all about it later, okay?' and turns to face Bobby's back door.
“You know where I'll be,” he says quietly.
The older man nods. The expression on his face is one of wearied resignation long after Dean has disappeared and headed back to the junkyard.
Sam follows at a distance. He gets a few feet from Bobby's doorstep and stops, just standing and watching his brother tend to the car. Dean's actions are not unlike a field medic treating the mortal wounds of a soldier fallen in battle. Sam smiles inwardly at the comparison. In Dean's case it's more like a medic who is hopelessly in love with the soldier she is treating. He chuckles softly for a fleeting moment and then refocuses his eyes on the other man's slow, methodical movements as he tightens this, loosens that. It's painfully obvious that Dean is trying to distract himself. Trying to distract himself from his emotions as he hides underneath the Impala, burying himself in his work.
Typical of Dean these days. But still ...
After what seems like half an hour – but is probably only about ten minutes – Sam goes back inside. Bobby has remained in the kitchen, leaning against the old worn counter. He waves Sam over and gestures for him to take one of the beers on the table.
It's hard to say no to a cold beer on an unseasonably hot Autumn day, especially after all the excitement that's occurred over the past few days. Sam offers a slight nod and reaches for the bottle, hissing just a little as the glass touches the burnt palm of his hand. Hopefully Bobby hasn't noticed.
“So, wanna fill me in?” Apparently he has, and this is his lead-in.
“Uh, rakshasa. It took the form of a clown that's been showing up at carnivals as far back as the early eighties from what we could tell. He followed some families home, the kids let him in, and he munched on the parents.”
“Yeah, they'll do that,” Bobby replies before taking another swig of beer. A hint of disgust in his expression belies his casual tone of voice.
“Dean and I took jobs at this one carnival so we could try and track this thing. We ended up saving another couple but it got away. We finally cornered it the next night in the fun house.”
“You found a brass dagger in a fun house?”
“Well, there was this organ with brass pipes that were pumping out steam, and I, uh ...” He suddenly finds himself at a loss for words and makes a slight stabbing gesture with his free hand.
Bobby stares at him for a while as if processing all this information – or perhaps lack thereof – and finally nods. “Nice job. There's no telling how many lives you boys saved, making work of that thing.”
Sam allows himself to feel a touch of gratitude for Bobby's accolades. “Thanks,” he says quietly. The pain in his hand starts to flare up again, and this time he can't keep himself from uttering a faint whimper.
“You better take care of that.” Bobby reaches into a drawer and pulls out a thin roll of gauze bandages. “I've got more upstairs.”
Sam mutters “Thanks” again, takes the gauze and heads for the stairs.
Situated in the upstairs bathroom, he removes his jacket, hangs it on the doorknob and begins to carefully bandage his burnt hand. Just as he's finishing up, the sound of metal clanking on metal draws him to the window. A window from which he has a bird's eye view of the junkyard and can see Dean still deeply mired in his work.
Burying himself in fixing the car. Burying his emotions in the process.
Sam stands at the bathroom window, watching. After a little while, he can't take it anymore; the longer he watches, the more it aches. Hell, this is how Dean works, and he might actually worry more if Dean suddenly laid his head on Sam's shoulder and poured his heart out. But still, hiding behind this strong, silent, 'let-me-bury-all-my-feelings-and-pretend-t
With a heavy sigh, Sam turns back to the medicine cabinet to replace the bandages. He suddenly catches his reflection in the mirror. Whoa – who is that guy? Bruises notwithstanding, he'd be lying if he didn't think he was looking a little rough these days, especially with those bangs practically obstructing his vision. Sam offers his reflection a humorless smirk. He's one to talk about hiding, literally hiding behind his hair. Not that he could help it lately; who has time to maintain his hair when he's busy hunting for the bastard that killed his Mom and girlfriend? When he's just come from an accident he's miraculously survived – an accident that almost cost him his brother's life, and ultimately his Dad's life?
He suddenly flashes back to a comment Dean made as they were leaving the Roadhouse. After they'd ensconced themselves inside the beat up minivan, Dean had turned abruptly and eyed him with what appeared to be concern.
“Damn it, dude, you really need to cut your hair,” he'd muttered before turning back around and starting them off on a silent journey back to Bobby's place.
At the time, it just seemed like a throwaway comment and Sam made obvious light of it, thinking it was just Dean being a jerk like usual. But he can't help coming back to it now. Was it really a throwaway comment? The literal hiding behind his hair reminds him that he's been doing some heavy duty figurative hiding as well. He reflects on the things he'd said these past few days to Dean about Dad. About how Dad would want them to take this case. About how Dad would want him to stick to hunting instead of going back to school.
Dean's words from the fight they had on that stretch of road after saving that family echo inside his mind ...
“You spent your entire life sluggin' it out with that man. I mean, hell, you picked a fight with him the last time you ever saw him. And now that he's dead, now you want to make it right? Well, I'm sorry, Sam, but you can't. It's too little, too late.”
A sudden realization smacks Sam upside the head. He has been overcompensating for his guilt over Dad. Big time.
He briefly turns back to the window where he sees Dean still lost in his work. He's not happy admitting his brother is right, but hell, he is. Sam can't help Dean until he comes clean about his own emotions.
Until he stops hiding.
Glancing back at his reflection, he knows where he can start.
A search of the many drawers in Bobby's house for a good pair of scissors comes up empty, save for a huge, rusty pair of what look like garden shears. Definitely not a good idea. After a short while he's finally back inside the bathroom, conceding defeat to his unruly reflection when he suddenly catches himself.
“Duffle bag, you idiot,” he mutters as he hurries to the bedroom in which he's been staying since they left the hospital. He grabs the large duffle bag from the end of the lone bed and rummages through it until he finds a small barber's kit. Removing the deft, smaller pair of scissors, he smiles in satisfaction and heads back to the bathroom.
Back in front of the mirror, he studies his overgrown mop. He can't even remember the last time it was cut. There isn't any time to go into town to find a barber, and with all due respect to Bobby, asking for his help is probably the last thing he'd do. Memories of him and Dean as kids being dropped off at Uncle Bobby's house while Dad left on a hunt flood his mind. Sometimes Dad would ask Bobby to give them both a haircut. Dean looked forward to it while Sam dreaded it, but for the same reason. Seemed that Bobby knew only one style: military. It was made worse by the fact that Dad seemed to greatly admire the results, ultimately tailoring his own haircutting skills to match Bobby's. Sam could give Bobby a share of the credit for rebelling by growing his hair longer once he got to Stanford. He would get it trimmed at the Supercuts right off the campus every so often, but he still kept it much longer than Dad let him have it.
During his and Dean's search for Dad and the Demon, he would sometimes trim it between hunts if it really bothered him and they were too preoccupied to visit a barber. He'd usually do it when Dean was out or asleep, though. His big brother would often give him grief for his hair getting so long or tease him that he looked like a girl. He didn't want to give Dean the satisfaction of actually seeing him take a scissors to his own hair.
The memories fade and his eyes settle back onto the mirror. He doesn't have to do much; just fix up the front a little so he's not hiding so much behind it anymore. Plus there's the added benefit of it not getting in his eyes so much when he's aiming to kill something. Like the Demon.
Ha. Like that would ever happen soon. The Colt is gone, the Demon obviously behind it. With Dean's emotional state and the Impala's physical state, it's not as if they're going to do much hunting anytime soon anyway. Unless they find a local case. A very local case. Sam could see Dean trying to get back into hunting as soon as possible. Anything to bury the grief even further.
Anything to hide behind.
Sam realizes he'd zoned a little and directs his attention back to the mirror. He runs a cursory finger through his bangs, grabs a small section of them in the middle and pulls it taut. Bobby's too-short haircuts still fresh in his mind, he does his best to eyeball the desired length and snips off the ends. He lets them fall back down naturally against his forehead and studies his handiwork. Even though it's barely a quarter of an inch, it's still an improvement. His eyes aren't quite as hidden anymore. He repeats the process so it's all more or less the same length across his forehead, even though his wavy hair would almost never ensure that. He's just satisfied that it's a slight improvement over the way it was minutes ago. He's no longer hiding so much.
Speaking of hiding behind something ...
The heavy sound of tools dropping tells him that Dean is still going at it. Still burying his grief in his work. Sam glances at himself in the mirror again, this time with renewed determination. It's time to help Dean come out of hiding.
“I miss him, man. And I feel guilty as hell. And I'm not alright. Not at all...
But neither are you. That much I know.”
Dean, I know you're hurting. You can try to tell me you're okay, but I know you. You don't have to hide behind this facade. You don't have to bury yourself in something to keep your mind off it. You can come out of hiding.
“I'll let you get back to work.”
Knowing he'd done just as much as he could do at this point, Sam wanders back inside. Just after he closes the door behind him, he hears the shattering of glass. He knows full well what's going on, but it doesn't keep him from wincing anyway. He then hears the sound of metal assaulting ... the car? Peering out the window, he sees his suspicions confirmed: Dean whaling on the Impala's trunk with a tire iron.
Sam slowly steps back outside and lingers by the door. He sees Dean hunched over and slowly slumping down onto the ground, propped up by the trunk of the beloved car he'd just assaulted. The very slight shuddering of Dean's shoulders is enough for Sam to tell he's crying.
Looks like Dean has heard him after all; he's taken the first step of letting his emotions out. Deep down, Sam is a little relieved – and almost proud of him for doing so. But it still hurts. It hurts that Dean is so emotionally broken and Sam can't do anything more to help. Dean would never let him. Once Dean would grieve for as long as he felt he needed, he would slap on that facade for Sam and make him believe that he was okay. But it would never work because Sam knows him. Probably better than anyone else could.
He ponders this as he makes his way back inside. Maybe Dean shouldn't be pushed too much. Maybe he should step back and let his older brother grieve on his own.
Ha, easier said than done. He's still guilty over Dad's death, and he now feels like he's entrusted himself with a new responsibility. It's almost like a role reversal. Dean had always taken care of him and tried to keep him safe when they were kids. Why couldn't Sam now try to take care of him as long as it takes to help him get past this? Why couldn't he be the big brother for once? At the least he wants to offer Dean support and a shoulder to lean on during his lowest point. But would Dean accept it?
Finally the man in question wanders back in. Sam tries to contain a wince at the sight of his older brother. His hands look like hamburger and his eyes are a little red and bloodshot. Dean is too big a man to admit he'd broken down, but his physical appearance speaks for itself.
Bobby looks at Dean's hands but says nothing. Apparently he's aware of the carnage that took place outside.
Dean turns to Sam. “Grab that flask, will ya, Sammy?”
Sam regards him curiously until he catches sight of a flask of whiskey on the counter. Nodding, he picks it up and begins administering the makeshift antiseptic to Dean's hands. Dean hisses as it hits his raw skin. Instinct tells Sam he should make for the bandages again but his most recent pondering taps him on the back and he stops himself.
He tries a different approach. “Uh, you want any bandages to patch that up?” He almost fears Dean's answer.
It's not what he's expecting. “Yeah, sure.”
Sam goes upstairs to retrieve the gauze bandages from the bathroom. He catches his reflection in the mirror for a split second. He's satisfied with this temporary adjustment, but ...
There go those thoughts of role reversal again. He needs to play the big brother now. Running a hand through his bangs to expose his forehead, memories of his twenty-second birthday suddenly surface. He'd been annoyed about getting carded at a bar near the campus, and Jess told him about the bangs making him look younger. It prompted him to start growing them out. Just a little, to make his forehead peek out.
Dean's distant voice causes the memories to grind to a screeching halt. He smooths his hair down, grabs the bandages and hurries down the stairs.
Dean nods and thanks him, insisting on wrapping his hands himself. Sam doesn't argue. He knows better. He suddenly catches Dean glancing at him, almost curiously.
“What's up with your hair?”
“What are you talking about?”
Dean shrugs. “It just looks different...”
Sam feels his eyebrows furrow. “It does?” Where did that come from? It really isn't that much of a difference. Surely not enough for Dean to even notice.
“Never mind,” Dean mutters. “Thanks, Sammy.”
Sam nods enthusiastically. “Oh, yeah. Sure.” His eyes remain fixed on Dean a little while longer. What is he thanking him for? Probably just for supplying the bandages, but the expression on Dean's face seems to go further.
As if thanking Sam for helping him come out of hiding. Just a little. For being the big brother in ways more than one. For knowing when to administer care to him and knowing when to back off just a little.
Dean is taken care of and mired in some conversation with Bobby about Velma vs. Daphne on “Scooby Doo”, of all things. Bobby appears as if he's fishing for an excuse to change the topic of conversation, but indulges Dean anyway. Sam chuckles. It's good to see Dean acting a little more like himself even though it's obvious he's still hurting deep down. What happened is going to take a long time to get over, if they ever could actually get over it. But all Sam can do now is be the bigger brother for Dean.
He quietly returns to the upstairs bathroom and studies his reflection again. No doubt about it, he really needs to look the part of the bigger brother. This time he goes back to the barber kit and grabs the comb. He pushes his bangs off his forehead again. Yep, it does make him look a bit older. Taking the comb, he continues his high center part down to his hairline, separating the bangs onto each side of his face. It's a good thing he'd left them long enough to achieve this without needing a lot of hair goop for it to stay. Sure, there are some stubborn, shorter strands, but for the most part the style succeeds in making him look older and more mature. To match the role he has to take up now.
He gives himself a final once over. Hmm, it's going to take some getting used to. When he was younger he'd always hide behind his long bangs. They gave him security. Whenever things got to be too much for him he'd just retreat behind his hair. It was even perfect with Dad dying. He could take refuge in them. Now that he'd come forth over his guilt regarding Dad – and realized the role he needs to play at this point in time – there is no need to hide anymore.
He needs to be strong for Dean. To be his rock and his caregiver in a way. He has to appear more in control and mature. And from the practical standpoint it stays out of his eyes.
Satisfied, he goes back downstairs into the kitchen. Bobby's still there but there's no sign of Dean.
“Uh, Bobby, where did ...?”
Bobby nods over to the parlor where Dean is sacked out on the couch and snoring softly. The sight causes Sam to grin.
“Gave him some painkillers for the hands. He refused at first, but I told him to quit whining like a big baby. If he thinks he's okay now, it'll hurt like a sonofabitch later. They knocked him right out. Plus he's probably exhausted after all you two have been through; the case and ... everything else.”
Sam nods. “Yeah, I know. Hopefully he'll feel better now.”
Bobby eyes him seriously. “How are you doing?”
“I'm managing, I guess.” He briefly turns his head in the direction of the couch. “I'm more worried about Dean. I just ... I want to help him, Bobby. I feel like I'm caught between a rock and a hard place. I want to do more, but I don't want to drive him further into denial.”
Bobby shakes his head slightly. “You're doing enough. Sam, it's a tough situation. Dean needs care, but freedom also. You need to find the right combination of those two. If Dean's getting too damn mired in looking for distractions or burying himself, you can push him, but very gently.”
“I hate to see him like this. If only he knew how much I worry about him.”
Bobby gives him a ghost of a smile. “I think Dean does know. That kid never was one for crying on anyone's shoulders, pouring his heart out, but I think he does know and appreciate it in his own way.”
Sam heaves a sigh. “Yeah, I guess.”
“You just have to achieve that perfect balance. It's not easy, I know. But you can do it.”
Sam finds himself dumbstruck by Bobby's admission and his eyes settle on the floor. “Thanks, Bobby. I wish I had that much confidence. It's not gonna be easy being the bigger brother for a while.”
“I know. But don't you ever think you can't do it. You're a good kid, Sam. A smart kid. You can help Dean.”
Sam feels the corner of his mouth lift slightly upward. “It's the least I can do for all the years Dean's taken care of me. I mean, it's not much, but -”
“It's something.” Bobby briefly rests a hand on Sam's shoulder and then is gone, probably to deposit the bottle of pain meds.
Sam heads into the parlor, watching Dean asleep on the couch. He finds himself deep in thought as he reflects on all that happened today. Even though Dean seemed to be returning to the old 'I'm okay' routine, what Sam witnessed out in the junkyard was a start. He's glad that he's helped him get at least this far. It's not going to be easy, but he's going to help Dean if it's the last thing he does. He's going to be there for him, while trying to remind him that it's okay to grieve. It's okay to get your feelings out in the open.
Brushing a wayward strand of hair from his face, he smiles.
It's okay to come out of hiding.