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Title: Ends and Means
Series: Season One Revisited
Author: SylvanWitch
Rating: PG-13
Category: Angst, Episode coda
Summary: How can Sam apologize for something that was never his fault? Episode Coda to 1:18, "Something Wicked"
Author's Notes: Warning! Angst Reactor Overload! Abort! Abort!
Disclaimer: If they were mine, they'd be...well, I won't say *less* damaged...

“I’m sorry, Dean.”


Wisconsin is a wet line of road in their rearview when Sam finally breaks the silence, raising his voice to be heard above the chassis-rocking passage of an eighteen wheeler.


Dean busies himself with flicking on the wipers and clearing the windshield of the crap the truck’s tires have kicked up, but Sam knows his brother heard him.


“’s not your fault, Sam,” Dean answers predictably, reaching over behind Sam’s seat to blindly search out another cassette tape, probably hoping to get clear of the conversation by drowning it out with what passes for music in Dean’s world.


Sam’s world, too, he guesses, remembering the way the heavy rhythm of Dad’s favorite songs was another heartbeat, reliable like the Impala’s engine and his own, racing hard in his chest as they came up to a new town or when Dad and Dean were bent over something secret in the front seat and Sam was left to wonder, always fearing the worst.


Sam came out of the flames remembering nothing of his mother, but always he’d carried with him a sense of impending disaster.


That Dean and Dad were on the inside of why that might be had made Sam angry in ways he couldn’t articulate as a little kid.


“I’m not talking about the shtriga,” Sam says, dragging himself back to the here and now, which is as much a product of fear and anger as anything else in their messed up lives.


“O-kay,” Dean says, drawing it out in that way he has, a way he knows that Sam finds annoying.


“I was a pain in the ass as a kid,” he elaborates then.


“Yeah, so?”  Dean responds readily, like he can’t figure out why Sam is even bringing this up.


“No, I mean it, Dean.  Dad and you—you had something huge going on between you, and I didn’t understand what it was, only that I wasn’t a part of it.  It pissed me off.”


Sam clenches his hands, scrambles to find the right words to explain it.  He feels eight again and in the dark, left to try to figure out why they live on the road so much, why he doesn’t dress like most of the kids, doesn’t get to play after school, doesn’t have a regular address.


“I didn’t see what you were giving up for me.”


There.  That’s as close as he guesses he can come to making it clear.  He feels like there’s a cold hand wrapped around his windpipe on the inside, squeezing.


Dean’s abandoned his attempt to find the appropriate soundtrack to their current catastrophe and has both hands on the wheel.  He’s staring straight ahead, like the road here is an especial challenge to navigate.


“Don’t make it sound like it was some kind of huge big deal,” Dean says finally, his voice a little rough, whether in warning or out of exhaustion, Sam can’t tell.  Dean didn’t sleep much on this last job.


“But it was, Dean.  It was.  You took care of me like I was your responsibility or something and—“


“You were.”  That there’s no accusation at all in Dean’s tone, that his inflection suggests an internal logic that defies all of what Sam understands of regular life—that’s the problem.


Speaking slowly, like he’s translating from a foreign language, Sam says, “Most kids don’t learn to take care of themselves when they’re left alone at the age of ten, Dean.  Most kids don’t defend their brothers from monsters with a shotgun, either.” 


He’s tried to say it in a way that doesn’t make their father a target of his scorn.  John wasn’t winning any father of the year awards, it’s true, but Sam understands better than ever how a man can be driven to make choices out of instincts that somehow defy family, friends, and love.


Still, Dean picks up on the criticism, probably to avoid having to address the real issue.


“Dad did the best he could, Sam.  He kept us safe.”


“He used us as bait, Dean.”


Sam didn’t want to say that last part, hadn’t meant to say it.  But Dean’s stubborn unwillingness to see past their father’s sacred cause has made Sam feel like he’s a little kid again, watching his life being decided for him from the back seat.


In the time it’s taken Sam to regret his words, Dean has said nothing, though, and Sam realizes something suddenly—


“You knew that already.”


It’s not a question.


“He did what he had to do, Sammy.”


Sam looks at Dean then, sees the way his brother’s face is strained, the way he’s fixed so firmly on the lane in front of them that his eyes just might be tearing a little at the corners, the way his hands flex and release around the wheel.


“He didn’t have to blame you, Dean.”


Dean shrugs like it doesn’t matter.  “Still shouldn’t’ve left you alone.  Should’ve followed orders.”


Sam lets out a long breath.


“You were being a kid, Dean.”


Dean nods, a tight movement painful to see, and then says, so quietly Sam almost doesn’t hear him, “Except I wasn’t a kid.”


Despite his gladness at seeing their dad again, despite the happy memories he and Dean had shared before they’d come to Fitchburg, Sam feels a wave of gut-clenching hate sweep through him, hard enough to leave cold sweat prickling in the small of his back.  He has to breathe in through his nose to keep down the sickness coming up his throat.  If he could see his father again…


Watching his brother re-gather himself makes Sam feel like he’s witnessing something intimate and awful, so he looks away, turns back over the seat himself and scrabbles through the tapes in the box there. 




Dean doesn’t answer for a minute, but Sam hangs there, half in the space that used to be his, half up front with his brother, who’s driving now.


“Nah, how about Metallica?”


Sam pulls a copy of Master of Puppets from the pile, the plastic so distressed that it blurs the title and turns the crosses on the cover a milky orange-red.  He ignores the irony of the title and pops the cassette into the deck.


As the first lines of “Battery” start their assault on Sam’s ears, Dean says again, “He did the best he could, Sam.”


Sam nods and then says, “Yeah,” loud enough to be heard over the crushing guitar riff.  Privately, Sam thinks that they deserved better than their dad’s best. 


But to Dean, he says only, “Yeah,” again and looks out at the road ahead where it curves out of sight around a hill.



( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 22nd, 2008 01:52 am (UTC)
Love this. It's exactly what I was thinking with Something Wicked. I love the way you've written it, the way the imagery reinforces the dialog, or the meaning behind the dialog. Lovely and heartbreaking.
Dec. 22nd, 2008 04:09 am (UTC)
Thank you so much! What a lovely comment. I'm very glad to hear that this is the way you saw things in the ep, as well. It's great to get affirmation from another fan. :-)
Dec. 22nd, 2008 07:40 pm (UTC)
Oh, I am delighted to get into Sam's head after that episode, and it seems we're doing fairly well until...

“Except I wasn’t a kid.”
And everything just crumbles after.

Sam feels a wave of gut-clenching hate sweep through him
How I understand. When I caught the episode on TV a while back, I got a resurgence of John hate. It just happened. And damn it, Dean deserved a break then and deserves a break now. Damn it.

We don't see them ride away in the Impala too often now, do we...
Dec. 22nd, 2008 09:45 pm (UTC)
I felt almost guilty loading on the angst after my last coda, but then, this episode sort of required it. I remember showing this ep to a friend, and when it came to the part where John leaves 10-year-old Dean in charge, he just turned this astonished face to me, as if to say, "No way he's leaving his kids alone!" And I said, "Yeah, John's kind of a crappy dad." My friend said that he understood SO much more about Sam and Dean as adults after I showed him that ep. So I felt the coda really needed the gravity, but still, I didn't like having to let go of them laughing...
Dec. 23rd, 2008 09:13 am (UTC)
OH my boys! *smishes them tight*

Awesome job sweetie. Just perfect!
Dec. 23rd, 2008 01:19 pm (UTC)
Thank you! They need smishing, don't they? Poor. poor boys. *grins*
Dec. 29th, 2008 08:19 am (UTC)
They do need smishing after that episode!

*love it anyway* (one of my favorite season 1 episodes)
Feb. 8th, 2017 11:40 pm (UTC)
Heartbreaking...And while Sam is right, the fact that he can't acknowledge Dean sees it differently ends up hurting Dean more...
Feb. 12th, 2017 04:09 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! It was nice to see your name here. Also, a belated Happy Birthday is in order, I think (?). I hope it was a good one, and I'm so glad you enjoyed this. It's a blast from the past, isn't it? :-)
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )


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