Title: An Absence of Violence
Genre: Sam/Dean (pre-series)
Warnings: Hurt!Dean, borderline for underage.
Word Count: 1,900
Notes: Thanks so much, icelily01, for the beta and everything else. You have no idea, sweetheart. For prairie, because one good turn deserves another.
Summary: Dean finally comes home. He's in pretty bad shape.
We have not touched the stars,
nor are we forgiven, which brings us back
to the hero’s shoulders and a gentleness that comes,
not from the absence of violence, but despite the abundance of it.
Sam counts the seconds. There are too many. Between the outside creak of the car door opening and the scuff of Dean’s boot heels on gravel. Between the metallic slam of that same door and the snick of the key in the deadbolt. Too many seconds. Between the motel door opening and Dean’s entrance, Sam’s brother framed by a dark sky and the parking lot lights that glint off the hood of the car. Sam can hear the tick of the engine cooling. A neat little roll of greasy money lands on the bed right next to Sam’s foot, and his practiced eye tells him it’s cash enough for a week full of groceries.
Sam feels a surge of guilt, familiar like coming home, and cuts his eyes toward his backpack in the corner. Two hundred bucks, shoved between the pages of his summer reading, an enormous, terrifying secret tucked in safe beside it.
Dean grins at him, his head set into a cocky tilt and Sam’s shocked to see that there’s blood on his teeth, the enamel stained pink, spit-diluted, a fist-sized red mark beside his mouth. By morning it’ll be ugly, swollen and purple. Sam slams his book closed, the dusty travails of the Founding Fathers a lot less important than they had been a couple of minutes ago.
He lets himself get mad for whatever reckless thing Dean did to deserve getting wailed on, anger a surefire anti-venom for the fear that’s hovering above the surface, threatening to drop down. “I’ll get some ice,” Sam says, voice pitched in a pissed off mumble. He glares at Dean for no good reason, sets his mouth in a tight, thin line. He won’t ask what happened, knows that Dean would lie his way around an answer.
“Might need something a little stronger than ice,” Dean says. There’s blood on his father’s leather jacket, splatters of the stuff, a darker, denser spot marring the soft lining. To Sam, it resembles a sailboat, narrow at the top and broader at the bottom, sails billowing out. Sam wonders what Rorschach would make of that one, that kind of lunatic thought.
Dean shrugs out of the jacket, his movements slow and stilted, like he’s trying to peel off an outer layer of skin. “Humans,” Dean spits the word like a curse, implying that he and Sam are somehow apart from the rest, their own separate species. “Goddamn unpredictable.”
“How bad?” Sam’s got his arm around his brother’s shoulders before he’s even aware of crossing the room. He guides Dean toward the bed, bears the brunt of his weight as Dean lowers himself onto the mattress.
“Don’t know,” Dean says around a grimace, and settles against the headboard, one leg splayed on the bed and the other still on the floor. “I kinda shagged ass outta there. Didn’t wait to find out what the after party looked like.”
Sam knows more about triage than most nursing school graduates. He peels off the tattered dregs of Dean’s t-shirt, ignoring Dean’s protests that he can do it himself, that he’s not a two year old. There’s a stuttering cut along Dean’s hipbone, hardly anything to think about. Another dig a couple inches long further up the soft flesh of his side, the skin flayed open but it’s not terribly deep, not hospital deep, anyway. A sluggish trickle of dark blood pools on the blanket.
“Prognosis?” Dean asks, an arm crooked over his eyes.
“Stitches,” Sam replies, pressing the shirt to Dean’s side.
“Not that. The shirt.”
Sam should have known that he’d be more concerned with the rip in his Zeppelin t-shirt and less occupied with the hole in his gut. “It’s pretty much cashed,” Sam informs him.
“Damn. It was a classic.”
John hides the liquor in the little cabinet over the fridge, like Sam and Dean are less than teenagers, rather than grown and nearly grown men, Dean at over six feet tall and Sam creeping up on six and a half. He knocks the tequila aside in his search for the bourbon. Dean hates the stuff, says the only thing tequila is good for is cleaning gunked up spark plugs. Sam’s pretty sure he’s right.
“I’m fucking starving,” Dean announces out of left field, like the wires in his brain are crossing and he’s misreading an adrenaline hangover for low blood sugar.
Most of a chocolate bar and half a bag of those malt vinegar potato chips Dean likes so much both sit on the counter in the side of the room that serves as the kitchen. Sam chooses the chocolate, the chips would hurt like a bitch with the inside of Dean’s mouth torn up. He tosses it toward the bed and regrets it a second later when Dean winces, the reflex to catch whatever Sam throws at him stretching at the gash in his side.
They keep their first aid kit in an old, dull olive green ammo box, stowed beneath the sink. Sam slides it out. There’s a handprint on the side, the rusty color of old blood. Some of it flakes away under Sam’s fingers. He’s not sure which Winchester left their mark. It could have been any of them, and for a second Sam reels with it. All of it. Blood everywhere, and too much of it Dean’s. On the blankets, on his brother’s jeans and his father’s jacket. His brother’s blood underneath Sam’s fingernails. It’s a bitch to get it out when it lodges in deep like that. He’ll be carrying it around for days.
Goddamnit, but he’s just a kid. He wants them both to be. The idea makes him freeze, gripped in a delayed panic. It could have been so much worse. The guy who had hurt Dean could have been less drunk or more ballsy. He could have had better aim and where would that have left Dean? Bloody in some parking lot somewhere, or passed out and slowly bleeding away by the side of some narrow two-lane pissant county road.
“Sam?” Dean calls to him, and there’s a thin wire of concern threaded through his name. Sam has to pull it together.
So that’s exactly what he does. He pops open a pill bottle with his teeth and hands two Percocet to Dean along with the whiskey. “Next time I’m coming with you,” he says.
Dean hums and downs the pills, and Sam recognizes it as a dismissal. Sam kneels beside the bed, sets to cleaning him up.
The painkillers kick in, and Dean goes fuzzy, all of his sharp edges sanded down to something softer. His shoulders lose their shape, list sideways a little, his hand a warm sort of gratitude on the back of Sam’s neck. He doesn’t make a noise, not even a hiss when the needle goes in the first time, or even when it pierces through the tenth time, thread pulled tight, knotted at each pass, just like their daddy taught them.
Sam smothers his handiwork with Vaseline and covers it with clean gauze and a criss-cross of white tape. He lets out a long-held breath, leans forward and presses his ear to Dean’s chest, searching for something in the steady sound of blood moving through Dean’s body.
“You’re getting good at this,” Dean says, his words a rumble in Sam’s ear. It’s a backward kind of praise, the note of regret in Dean’s voice telling him everything he needs to know. Dean’s fingers subconsciously find an old mark on his collarbone, a Frankenstein scar if ever Sam’s seen one. One of his earlier efforts.
Dean is smiling down at him, a gentle turn of his mouth. He’s too close to actually focus on the whole, and Sam gets wrapped up in the details: the pattern of stubble on the underside of Dean’s chin, a loose little tag of skin on his bottom lip. The color of his eyes, glazed over but bright, like slivered shards of bottle glass.
Sam’s mind jumps the tracks, skips back to two days ago. Target practice, the early evening sun warm on his back and Dean pressed in close to his side, hip to hip. A long line of bottles strung along the body of a fallen tree. Sam had started from the right and Dean from the left, they came together in the middle. The stink of gunpowder and hot lead had surrounded them like a cloud in the still air. It’s a smell that most people would read as violent, but it had always been the opposite for Sam. It smelled like safety, the secure reminder that Dean was right there.
He remembers Dean’s smile against his mouth, when the day had worn on, the rich smell of dark soil under him and the solid weight of Dean holding him down. Dean rocking into him, a hand down Sam’s shorts gripping just right, sweat and shadows turning his sun-bleached hair darker. Sam remembers the jittery illusion of invincibility that came with not getting caught.
A slight shift from Dean brings Sam back to now, and he presses a bloodstained thumb to his brother’s bottom lip. He watches the swim of Dean’s eyes, knows he’s close to out cold, at least until Sam moves, and then there is a sharp snap to clarity and a knee jerk grab for Sam, heartbreaking in its lack of guile, its complete transparency.
Sam stretches out beside Dean, propped up on an elbow to study him. Dean’s a liar and a cheat, a swindler with the worst kind of chip on his shoulder. Not the sorta guy you’d want to meet in a dark alley, or exactly the sorta guy you’d want to meet. He’s also Sam’s everything. The guy who’d taught Sam how to tie his shoelaces and had bought him his first razor, who showed him how to assemble their dad’s semi-automatic assault rifle in fifteen seconds flat. He’s Sam’s first kiss, (at the ripe age of fourteen, and fuck they’d been so scared, of themselves, and of each other), and he’s also Sam’s last kiss, (just this morning and right before breakfast, Sam’s mouth tasting of orange juice, and here Dean had just brushed his teeth).
It was the last one until now, and Dean rolls into Sam, mindless of his stitches, presses his mouth to Sam’s neck, his lips next. Sam slots a long leg between Dean’s, fits their bodies together just so. He settles into the night, secure in the knowledge that John Winchester is two states and at least a week away, his hunt keeping to a strict lunar cycle.
Sam lets his fingers trace along the ridge of Dean’s spine. Dean brushes Sam’s hair out of his face, runs a thumb along his ear in an act of uncharacteristic tenderness. Sam knows that Dean’s hands are built for punches, anyone could tell you that. But he also knows they’re made for this.
It’s a secret he’ll keep.
Thanks very much for reading.