Title: The Curious Incident Of The Fish In The Night-Time
Author: [personal profile] paraboobizarre
Pairing(s): none
Rating: G
Disclaimer: Not mine, I do not make any money off this.
Warnings: H/C, if that's not your thing
Summary: Dean has changed and Sam's trying his best to work with what he's got.
Author's notes: Set an indefinite time after the season seven finale, but could conceivably be set at any time.
Thanks to my lovely beta [profile] ma_chelle

Every time Sam thinks he's got the hang of it, Dean goes and does something that leaves Sam completely baffled.

Sam thinks he has the motel deal all worked out. No rooms with uneven numbers, except maybe room thirteen, if they have one and it's vacant. Not the room at the far end and not the room right next to the reception. No motels with anything fish-themed. Reds and oranges are also not good but it will really just depend on the kind of day Dean's having.

They're driving through Wisconsin and already they've passed three motels. The first one is all booked except for the very last room, so that's a no go; the second one's called House Of The Rising Sun and Sam bites down the acidic taste flooding his mouth as he drives slowly past it. True to its name, it's all red, orange and yellow. As much as Dean, the old Dean, would have jumped at the song reference in the name, this Dean sitting next to him now, stares with something like vague horror at the brightly colored doors and the blinking red and orange neon lights. So Sam steps on the gas, the Impala roaring down the street, putting distance between them and the red doors.
The third motel looks good – no fish, no reds, no oranges – but when Sam parks the car Dean refuses to get out. Just sits there, wrapped in his now almost too big leather jacket and stares intently at the Impala's glove box.

“Dean?” Sam tries but all he gets in the way of a reaction is his brother eying him warily out of the corner of his eyes, like he expects Sam to lead him into some sort of trap. In the distance thunder rumbles and Sam feels the dull pressure of a massive headache lurking just behind his eyes.
He wants a shower and a bed, crappy TV and pizza and a beer and then he wants to pass out into a dreamless sleep. He bites down a weary sigh and chances a look at the passenger seat. Dean is still sitting there, ramrod straight, arms crossed over his chest, staring at his knees.
Wordlessly Sam starts up the car again and they're back on the road, driving towards the next motel. Fifteen miles later Dean says sorry, so quietly Sam almost misses it over the rumbling of the engine.

The Coral Inn is all mud and grey colors, no fish anywhere; the doors are the ubiquitous nondescript kind of cheap wood, but what eventually gets Dean out of the car is the clunky key chain with the number 13 dangling from it. 13's good.

Sam gets their duffels and brings them into the room. Dean sits on the bed, watching Sam salt the doors and windows. It's really perfunctory by now. Sam can't remember the last time anything came after them. Like Crowley said, no point in kicking a man if he's not fighting back. Judging by the way Dean stares into space, there's not much fight in him left.


Dean's sitting in the tub all wrong – not stretched out, but curled in on himself staring at the tiled wall – but Sam's so past trying to get his brother to do anything other than what he wants. It's just not worth the trouble. So he let's Dean sit all cramped in the narrow tub, legs pulled up to his chest, his back turned to Sam, while Sam rubs down Dean's pale back and arms with a washcloth.

It's time like these when the silence between them becomes almost unbearable. During the day he has the rumbling of the Impala's engine or the chatter of people in a diner or in the street. Here and now it's the dripping of the tap and the swish swash of the water in the tub echoing in the small bathroom and nothing else. It's so quiet Sam's ears start ringing with it.

He can't help but wonder if it's as silent in Dean's head as well. He hopes so but there's no way to tell. When Sam's own wall came down the worst part was that there was never any silence and he had prayed for nothing else but five minutes of blissful silence, just a little to get his head on straight again, just a little to let him sleep. Now the silence stretching between them at all hours of the day is just as deafening.

Sam can't remember when he started talking to fill the spaces between them but he can only let this silence breathe so much before it becomes too overwhelming.

“Glenn called again today,” he begins, soldiering on in spite of how tinny and hollow his voice sounds in this room.
He soaks the washcloth in warm water and drags it across Dean's left shoulder, down his arm. There's a splash of freckles on Dean's shoulderblades, a thick scar Sam doesn't even remember on his left shoulder.

“He's getting all impatient. Says he's got a Skylark convertible with so many dints and bruises it looks like someone ran it over with a tank,” he chuckles quietly, wringing out the washcloth and letting the warm water run down his brother's arm.

“I figure a few more days on the road and then we'll get to Crofton.”
He rubs the washcloth down Dean's right arm, feeling how tense the muscles underneath are. Coiled so tightly as if Dean's just waiting to jump up and run away. Not that there's any way you can run away from yourself.

“Have we ever been to Crofton anyways?” Sam asks, discarding the threadbare washcloth in favor of the shampoo bottle. He turns around awkwardly to grab one of the plastic cups sitting on the shelf above the low washbasin. Coral Inn bathrooms were built for midgets. Tiny midgets. Before Dean would have been complaining about something like that endlessly. Now his brother's squeezed into the tub, hugging his knees to his chest, as silent as when he first came back.

Sam really can't remember if they've ever been to Crofton. Dean would have remembered, he muses, as he fills the cup with water from the tub and lets it run over Dean's head.
He watches Dean from the side, his brother's eyes closed, chin almost touching his chest as he bends his head. There's water beading over his lashes, his face so impassive in seemed like it was carved out of marble.

“Either way, Glenn's got a friend who's got a friend who works in the city's library and apparently they're one man short. I'm sure the little old ladies there will love me.”
Another sluice of water runs down over his brother's head and Dean uncurls a little, letting his head fall back. Sam grabs Dean's shampoo and squirts a good dollop of it into his hand. He wouldn't have to bother with buying a different shampoo for Dean anymore. Dean doesn't say much of anything these days and Sam's flowery smelling shampoo probably isn't even a blip on his radar any more, but still. Some things should stay the way they were.

“Skylarks are ugly,” Dean tells the ceiling. His eyes are still closed and his face is turned up towards the water stained ceiling but Sam thinks he can detect just the barest hint of a smile playing around his lips.
He lathers the shampoo into Dean's hair. He should really get him a haircut sometime soon.

“It's a Buick – of course it's ugly.” His fingers dig into his brother's scalp and he can see goose bumps pop up along the length of Dean's arms.

“We still need to find a place to stay but we can stay at Glenn's for a few weeks, so that's no problem.” He fans his fingers out, rubbing along the nape of Dean's neck and Dean lets his head fall forward again, eyes closed tightly as the shampoo starts to trickle down his face.

“There's Gavin's Point Dam, the Lewis and Clark Lake – we can go swimming there in summer, maybe fishing. How's that sound?”
But Dean's done talking for today, so Sam washes out the shampoo, helps his brother out of the tub and wraps him in one of the scratchy towels.


It's shortly after one in the morning and Sam's staring at his computer screen, his mind circling like a vulture over a carcass. In the night the thoughts come. As closed off as Dean is now, he still keeps the thoughts at bay. As soon as his brother's asleep, they all come crawling out of the dark recesses of Sam's mind, taunting him. They have the faces of people who look at them strange, all raised eyebrows and patronizing smiles.

Suddenly there's a hand on his shoulder, making him jump.
Dean's sitting in the other chair next to him, looking at him. The harsh flickering glow of the screen makes lights and shadows dance in his face and, for a moment, it looks like someone's in there. The old Dean.

“I don't like fish, but fishing sounds nice,” he says in an earnest kind of tone, as if he hadn't just picked up a conversation that had ended several hours ago.

“Fishing it is then.” He forces out a thin-lipped smile and squeezes Dean's hand.

Dean's eyes flit from their hands on the table to Sam's face and Sam thinks there's the tiniest hint of a smile before Dean pulls back his hand again and gets up.

“Night, Sammy.”

Current Mood: cheerful
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