Prompt (from dreamer_613): Post-The Third Man (6.03). I loved the end scene of this episode where Sam and Dean are talking over the Impala. In the scene Dean says to Sam something along the lines of: "I just didn't get the feeling that you even cared." So I was thinking what if Dean gets sick after this conversation and then Sam illustrates how caring he can be or not be.
Disclaimer/Author’s Note: Title is taken from Journey. Further inspiration is taken from the series finale of The Sopranos, “Made in America.” See visual aid.
“Wow, Lisa’s really got you pussy-whipped, huh? I’ve never seen you in a sweater before.”
Okay, maybe not the best way to start out the day.
“Was a gift,” Dean grunts.
“You know they have gift receipts for a reason,” Sam says over the top of the car before giving the roof a tap and getting in. Dean lingers, fingers splayed over the edge of his door, failing at trying to forget the muscle memory of the last conversation they had here.
“Yeah, well, we’re going to Wisconsin,” he says as he turns the keys. “Want to blend in with the locals.”
Sam’ll be with him, though, so he doubts that there will be much blending going on. The magnetic fields that draw them to each other are repelling, shifting like tectonic plates across his field of vision. He recalls a day, several literal lifetimes ago, when Sam would’ve been there, already holding out his sunglasses. In this one, though, he’s drumming his fingers on the windowsill, watching the clouds or calculating the interesting angle that the sunlight made when it fell, a contented, devil-may-care expression decorating his face.
It’s okay. Dean doesn’t need the reflection of any more mirrors. Watching the lenses of sunglasses winking at him like misplaced souls isn’t going to do any good.
On the highway, traffic surrounding them like a blood clot, Dean’s wondering if they can’t just aerosolize Heparin already. Someone’s acting out Rocky right over his left eye- well, the boxing parts, at least- and he thinks that Ruby’s knife might be required to cut the atmosphere inside the car.
But maybe he’s the only one that feels it- Sam still seems unfazed by any and everything. By the time they get to Wisconsin, they’ve had a deep conversation about whether road signs should be converted into kilometers, and the throbbing over Dean’s eye has turned into a full-blown headache. His throat’s started to feel scratchy when he swallows, too. Fan-fucking-tastic.
Sam’s commented seven times already about the weather. Dean thinks he should consider pursuing a meteorology degree. Perhaps become a Weather Spotter. Hell knows they drive around enough.
Conversation’s on an endless loop of mundane. Their lives have never been mundane. Something that was broken got fixed but it got fixed wrong. In the long shot, Dean thinks maybe that’s worse than just leaving it broken.
Dean turns the radio on low to mask the silence that’s louder than anything else. It’s Journey. Dean clears his throat, sniffs, thinks about Tony Soprano. The cut to black, three minutes of blank screen. He thinks that he prefers Journey’s original ending- the fade out that could be symbolic of the way the flame of faith always died down in the end. Though if you started out not believing—if you never started, you couldn’t stop.
That abrupt cut to black- Dean’s envious. Not knowing what happened in the end was better. He hadn’t written the book on that, but he’d annotated it. Sometimes it feels as though it would be best to simply cease existing. He’s been to both Heaven and Hell, and he can pass on both, thanks. Take a cease and desist order on life. To go, please, no need to sit in the restaurant and pretend to enjoy it. Instead, his life’s been like an hourglass that never emptied. Every time the last grain started to fall it just got turned over again—a perpetual motion machine in the dark.
Dean goes to bed alone. Not meaning that he’s missing someone pressed up against him under the covers, trying and failing at melting the layers of ice surrounding his heart. Lucifer always said he ran cold, didn’t he?
No, he means that Sam leaves to go who-knows-where almost as soon as he’s dropped his duffel in the room.
“You’ll be fine here, right?” he asks, and Dean’s “yeah” comes out a croak.
He falls asleep drowning in sheets, shivering.
Waking up feels like he’s been hanged for piracy. Red clock numbers glow as though Jack Bauer should be there pulling wires. Sam’s across the room, sleeping as though there wasn’t a gun under his pillow.
There are fireworks behind his eyes when he closes them again. Maybe- maybe if Heaven could keep that moment running on an endless loop, Dean would consider it. He feels the sparklers fizzing in his brain, remembers how the grass in that field looked kind of dry.
Sam doesn’t try to be quiet when he’s getting ready, and he doesn’t even notice that Dean’s awake until he sneezes roughly into his elbow. It hurts like the last shot of Jack from a bottle you opened yourself and didn’t share from.
“You awake?” Sam asks.
The plan is for Dean to come back with some sort of witty retort about how maybe Sam should think about a new career in espionage, since he’s obviously been practicing both clue-finding and stealth, maybe with some sort of eighties pop-culture reference thrown in, but he has to break off in the middle to cough into the bedspread for what feels like longer than it took the Hebrews to cross the desert.
“Hey,” Sam says, now finally giving Dean his full attention. “How long have you been doing that?”
“What?” Dean wheezes. “This?” He hacks into the bedspread again, for good measure, slumps back against the headboard.
“You wanna play House?”
“Isn’t that what you’ve been doing for the past year?”
It’s not worth explaining. Dean sneezes twice more into his shoulder, ends up holding his throat with his hand. He hears Alastair’s voice in his head, Something’s caught in my throat… I think it’s my throat, and he swallows past the pain to reflect on how they got to this point—somehow they’re once again responsible for ridding the world of evil. Won the auction, though Dean doesn’t remember buying a bidding card or even being present for the sale. Aren’t you supposed to sign in person for such large-ticket items? It doesn’t matter, though. It’s like a boomerang. A boomerang that you didn’t even throw, but which always came back to you anyway.
Sam’s still standing there by the foot of the bed, waiting like he has all the time in the world. “You sure this isn’t left over from the Moses staff thing?” he asks.
“Great. Sloppy seconds from a plague.”
“Well, you are the first-born.”
Dean shivers, and now that maybe he’s part of a case, Sam finally seems the slightest bit interested in him.
The old med kit is possibly even more meager and sorry than it used to be, but Sam brings it in anyway. It’s not like in that other lifetime, that one where they used to crank up the music just for the sake of it, not to suffocate unwanted thoughts, and where Sam would’ve emulated a mom in a commercial for cold medicine. No. Not anymore. Through a glass darkly- a mirror reflecting the opposite, or maybe just showing the underside of their souls, where the rust stains that they can’t reach remain. There’s a reason oxidized iron smells like blood.
“You’d make a hell of a hospice nurse,” Dean creaks out. “Patients would die just so they could be rid of you.”
The thermometer Sam hands him is cold under his tongue. Dean thinks about biting down on it, about mercury rising, climbing to a range that will hopefully set off the fireworks in his brain. Plant its flag on the tip of the peaks and claim his life as its own. He doesn’t want it anymore. Mercury dimes. How everybody drops the dime, but what if it hadn’t been a dime, but oh yeah, the apocalypse.
Dean doesn’t hear Sam when he reads off the thermometer, because he can already see how this whole thing is going to play out. He’s going to lay here for a day or two. Sam’s not going to sit and watch him convalesce. He’s going to do it all on his own, just like he ends up doing everything. And then they’re going to go and find whatever creature they’re here for, and they’re going to kill it. Dean might think about asking Sam about Hell again, searching for that most elusive moment of truth or just the one moment you don’t lie. He’s not going to find it.
If he tries to prognosticate far beyond the scope of this (yeah, which one of them was interested in Meteorology, again?), he can’t say for sure how the final cards will be laid down. Will bluffing work when you’re not playing to win but to lose? He’s not sure, but he can picture that cut to black again, the expectant look on Tony Soprano’s face, and maybe, just maybe- he can believe a little bit.