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Men in the Mirror

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“What are you?”

The voice hissed out of the dark by Tom’s bed, breath warm against his ear and flecks of spittle dampening his cheek as something sharp pressed against the smooth column of his throat.

It was almost routine by now; it didn’t matter if it made sense because the familiarity was somehow soothing, even as it made his heart pound with remembered fear.

“You’re corporeal, so you can’t be a spirit…are you a shapeshifter?”

The questions were always variations on a theme. Tom never understood where they came from, but they were a necessary part of the equation somehow.

Tom didn’t answer; he never answered. He just shook silently, needing that minute to remind himself that it wasn’t Harry; that it couldn’t be, not here.

Harry couldn’t hurt him anymore. Sam wouldn’t let him.

The silver-plated letter opener that had found its way from one of the psychiatrist’s desks and into Sam’s pocket lightened against Tom’s skin, the cool metal disappearing back to wherever Sam kept it hidden. The sensation was replaced with the rasp of stubble and dry lips as the refrain changed, the rhythmic murmur falling into even more familiar patterns, a broken chain of sounds that was barely intelligible to anyone but Tom.

“Dean…Dean,” Sam hissed against his skin. “I’m so sorry…so so sorry, Dean. It’s all my fault. It should’ve been me….”

Tom lay silently as Sam snuffled against him, his tangled hair rubbing in greasy streaks against Tom’s throat.

Sometimes, Sam went straight to the crying, leaving out the threats and the blade against his neck. Instead, there were muffled sobs that sounded as if they were torn from somewhere deep within him, bouncing around in the hollow of his chest and rasping out of that too-large body. Tom often wondered if that’s all there was inside of Sam - not the crazy that the doctors had labeled it, just this relentlessly simmering ocean of regret, something too great to be put into words.

Other times, it took far too long for Sam to calm down from his offended fury - his anger that Tom dared to share his Dean’s face. Every second was endless as Tom waited for that twitch of Sam’s wrist that would pierce his jugular.

But once Sam settled in, curled up tight along Tom’s body under the blankets, his manner changed, his voice almost soothing as it spilled out his never-ending confessions, Tom’s lullaby for the past several years.

“…you could face anything, anything but losing me. Why couldn’t you do that, Dean? Do it for me. Lilith wants me; I can do it. Then you wouldn’t have to go away…”

Tom didn’t know who these people were, this Dean or this Lilith, or any of the other names that popped up in Sam’s ramblings. Sam was never coherent enough to tell him during the day, far too heavily medicated, barely able to follow Tom’s progress when Tom made his way through the patients' lounge, even though Tom felt the weight of his eyes with every second he spent there.

And it was a subject best left untouched in the darkness of his room when Sam crept in for his nightly visits.

Tom thought they purposefully dosed Sam up to keep him compliant, his large, skinny frame hinting at a once powerful build, despite the hollow cheeks and bone thin wrists that gave him this odd air of delicacy. There were rumors of violent outbursts at his last hospital, injured orderlies and other casualties, but Tom had never seen Sam able to do more than weakly chew the mashed up food the nurses spoon-fed him, the mush dribbling down his chin when his eyes started to drift closed.

He wasn’t allowed to use utensils, not even a spoon. Not after the first week.

“….but you did it for me, Dean. I had to shoot her, but I couldn’t cut out her heart, couldn’t burn it. So you did it, and you tried to hide the damage so I couldn’t see…you thought I’d loved her, but Madison meant nothing….”

Dean was always the star of these stories, so Tom had gathered that Dean was somehow important.

Tom didn’t need to know any more than that.

He learned to like this semi-aware Sam – need him, even - this Sam that dared to emerge from hiding when the medication wore off. No one except Tom had caught on that Sam tongued the medication at bedtime, this momentary respite from the drugs allowing Sam to regain some semblance of his senses.

Sam always whispered that night was the most dangerous time, that they had to be awake and aware since they couldn’t put up their usual defenses here. He stayed up for as long as he could, keeping watch over Tom as he slept, though he was always gone by morning.

“…but I couldn’t do it, Dean. It required human sacrifices, hearts removed to feed the spell…but you would have done it. You would do anything to save me, but I couldn’t. I’m not strong like you are; I never was. I tried, tried so hard, but she was crying, Dean, and…and I couldn’t; I just couldn’t…I’m so sorry….”

Sam spoke of fire and blood and death, of things Tom had never heard of before.

But Tom had seen it.

Sam spoke of evil.

Tom understood that much. He’d once been left behind as an offering, a sacrifice to sate its hunger. He’d looked into its glassy eyes and had its blood spray across his face. He’d been its chosen prey, and only an accident of fate had saved him.

He’d faced Harry Warden and barely lived to tell the tale.

“…sounds like a vengeful spirit, Dean. You know the only way to get rid of those is to dig up the bones and burn them…get rid of anything and everything tied to it or it won’t ever go away…”

Tom still saw Harry sometimes, lurking in the shadows of his room, lurking behind the mirror where no one else could see him. Harry was far too clever to be caught by the human eye.

But Sam kept Harry away, scared the bogeyman and made him stay hidden in the closet and under the bed where Tom wouldn’t have to face him. Harry was afraid of Sam – wouldn’t dare come out when he was near, and Tom was thankful for that.

Harry would never leave him alone, otherwise – sneaking along the edge of his vision, breathing so loud it made Tom’s head ache. His black, hulking figure was Tom’s ever present shadow.

But Dean’s shadow was bigger, and wherever Sam went, it followed. It blotted everything else out, and for once Tom welcomed the company.

Dean was a far more comfortable companion than Harry ever was. 

                                                                             ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Then Tom was released and all he had was the medication to keep Harry at bay.

It was harder to deal with Harry without Sam. Harry seemed twice the size he’d been the last time Tom had faced him, much more insistent when Tom didn’t have Sam there as a shield.

Without Sam, there wasn’t Dean’s ever-present shadow to edge Harry’s out.

So he tried to remember some of the things Sam had mumbled in the night, about digging up the body and burning the bones, but all that seemed to do was piss Harry off. He grew beyond the limitations of Tom’s memory, taking a shape all of his own.

Tom wasn’t sure what to do. Sam had said to get rid of everything that tied Harry to him, but all that led to was old hurts and even older acquaintances.

He remembered something about hearts, needing hearts to save Dean, and Tom did what he could for Sam there, too.

But Sam had never gone into detail, and blood was something that fueled Harry just as much.

It was a close call, who would emerge stronger. Tom knew going in that he never stood a chance. He wouldn’t be there when this was all over.

He’d been too weak from the start. 

                                                                                ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It wasn’t difficult getting out of the mine, even with having to fight that Harry guy off. He’d escaped tougher situations, cops surrounding him – even the almighty FBI hadn’t stood a chance against a man trained by the best. He had his skills; his father had taught him well.

Dean clutched at his side, the blood seeping past his fingers, and he grimaced at the mess. There went another shirt.

He needed to find a car and a quick way out of here. This job was done.

It was time to pick up Sam. They had work to do.