It was snowing.
It was snowing and he was getting cold and it was getting dark.
Sam didn't want to move. Or maybe he couldn't move. He was tired. The kind of tired that made your bones ache and your belly lurch and your head spin. Or maybe that was the voices. The low grade growl and screech he never quite managed to drown. The soft stroke of Lucifer’s hatred projected onto the inside of his skull. The constant wall of sound that was never drowned out to white noise no matter what he was doing. Taking a piss or brushing his teeth or changing his socks or choking on his food. It was always there so quiet it was almost a whisper except for how Sam could hear ever word.
He thought sometimes it was getting quieter and maybe it was. But it was never gone. Not ever. Constant talk, the cadence varied, the tone never flat enough to ignore.
It was snowing, and he was cold and his eyes burned and his bones ached and he just wanted it to stop. Except there was no point in wanting, it was too big, too much too weighty, the need to be out from under all the splattered blood and bone and tissue on the inside of his eye lids.
Sam couldn't do much about anything right now, but he tried really hard not to have expectations with any weight to them. He was tired of being disappointed. So now he tried to not think too hard about wanting anything. He didn't even think about the ways that sucked.
For now he sat on a half rotted porch under a sagging eve and watched the snow come down. At least it was quiet outside. The cabin behind him was warm and dry and Dean liked it here. There was food in the cupboards and nothing was chasing them. Dean's knee was getting better and there was even a place to park the Impala in the old barn.
Just because Sam didn't want to expect much didn't mean he he didn't appreciate things.
The things that made his brother's life easier where the things Sam wanted, now that the weight of Sam's damage seemed to be getting too much for even Dean to carry.
It's why they stopped here Sam thought. So Dean could rest and the bloody ragged twisted mess on Dean's leg could turn back into a knee. Dean needed to sleep and take his pills and eat regular meals and not have to worry about his brother crossing the street and getting it by a bus because he couldn't see what was going on around him over the din and mess bleeding up from hell.
There was only so much trouble Sam could get into at the end of a dirt lane in the northern Minnesota middle-of-no-where.
So he sat on the porch while the light left the sky and the ground piled high with snow. And tried not to do anything. He couldn't help thinking things.
It was completely dark when Dean stepped outside, treading heavily enough that Sam would know he was there. Sam appreciated that too. He didn't like surprises much anymore.
“Sammy?” Dean asked using that gentle tone, the one that leaked uncertainty and a little fear. The tone that said Dean knew how broken Sam really was.
“Hey” Sam's voice croaked. It made his throat hurt and he realized... he couldn't remember the last time he had spoken. Sam sighed with out meaning to. He was getting tired of this shit. Tired of being a fucked up shadow of himself.
“Time to come in.” Dean said waiting.
Sam didn’t really know how to tell Dean he didn’t feel like coming in, didn't feel like anything. Might not ever again.
“Come on little brother” Dean said reaching down, stance awkward because of his leg. “There's hot food. The house is warm. I even flashed up the fire place.” Dean waited for Sam to decide, with his hand on Sam's shoulder anchoring him to here and now.
Sam hung his head, eyes closed for a second, then heaved himself to his feet. If he couldn't move to save himself he could do it for his brother. He followed Dean inside trying to talk himself into choking down a few mouthfuls of whatever Dean had found to cook. He could at least try. And say thank you. Maybe even dredge up a smile.
The cabin really was warm. Wonderfully warm. It felt completely different than when Sam had gone out on the porch after lunch.
It felt different and smelled different and even sounded different.
Sam could hear music. But maybe the music wasn't really there? They had been here for … days? Sam didn’t remember seeing a stereo.. And yet there was music. Sam was sure Dean didn’t have this kind of music in the car even if there had been something to play cassettes on. Tinny, cheerful Christmas music. Sam looked at Dean a little bewildered. Sam knew he wasn't really firing on all cylinders so his confusion was nothing new.
The hopeful look on Deans face was. New, that is. Sam hadn't seen that smile, the small fire of anticipation in his brothers eyes since- God it felt like forever! But Dean was standing there hoping for …. something.
“Merry Christmas Sammy.” Dean said quietly and smiled at his brother.
Sam just stared at him.
Sam knew it was winter but he'd- Sam had forgotten about Christmas. Forgotten that it even existed or what it meant or when it was. So mired in and fighting his way through, misery so thick he choked on it, Sam had forgotten.
He looked around in confusion not sure what he was supposed to do now that Dean had reminded him.
That's when he saw.
While he was sitting outside basically trying to talk himself into all the reasons why he couldn’t just sit there and stop breathing, Dean had been in here doing this.
The cabin was transformed. It wasn't some saggy roofed abandoned wreck in here.
Dean had cleaned everything. Washed the windows and packed up all the old junk that had been left to rot on the counters, probably for years. The 'kitchen' was sparkling, the door-less cupboard full of mismatched but clean dishes. The sink was spotless. The floor was swept and from the looks of it washed. There was a pot of coffee slowly perking on the old wood cook stove. The table was covered in food, a roast chicken and bowl of steaming mashed potatoes and a mug full what looked like gravy, there was stuffing and pie. There were brussel sprouts.
In the corner of the room by the fireplace there was an evergreen tree hanging with tinsel and little glass icicles. And presents.
Sam stood there with his mouth hanging open and all he could hear was Christmas music, the pop of the fire and the old tin percolator bubbling gently.
His eyes skipped over the fire place and then skipped back. There were two red stockings hanging off the side of the mantle sitting, waiting to be filled.
It was the last thing that got him. The red Christmas stockings. They were really ugly, old, hand knitted and atrocious looking, waiting hopefully for something to be dropped into them.
Sam felt the strength go right out of his legs and his knees started to buckle. He must have stumbled backwards “Shit!” he heard and then Dean had hold of his arm and was moving him to the battered old sofa and pushing his down on to it.
Sam's vision was blurring around the edges and he heard himself gasping and he thought he was going to pass out. His eyes felt like they were on fire and his throat ached like he was being choked.
“Fuck!” Dean said and crouched down in front of him.
Sam stared at him mutely trying to parse out why his vision was wavering so wildly, trying to say something. To tell Dean what he could hear. And couldn't hear. He couldn't make a sound, just stare at his brother hoping he would understand.
“Shit. SHIT!” Dean said and gripped his brothers forearms “Sammy! Hey dude! Shit! I'm sorry, okay? I'M sorry!” Sam could hear Dean's panic ramping up “I'll get rid of it all! Please! Sam!” Dean leaned in and pressed his forehead against his “Sam! I'm sorry. Please don't” he whispered. Sam felt his brother wipe at his wet face.
He hadn't realized there were tears until Dean wiped them away.
Dean's hand migrated to the back of Sam's neck when Dean moved to sit beside him on the sofa. When Sam's eyes cleared a bit he lifted his head and looked at his brother.
“I'm sorry Sammy” Dean told him, but he couldn't seem to look at Sam. Sam could see the guilt. Dean thought he'd hurt Sam.
“No It's- I'm- .” Sam fumbled around in his own head trying to think of what to say, what he was feeling and what was happening. There was just so much! All he could hear was the- Sam looked for the source and saw an old silver radio sitting in the window above the sink. He could hear the song. It was Silent Night. Sam could not have stopped the laugh that jumped out of his throat if he'd had the sense to.
“Sam?” Dean looked asked. Sam could hear the fear in his brothers voice. Maybe he thought Sam had finished cracking although way through instead of – Instead of the truth; that Dean had found something to start gluing him back together.
“It's okay Dean” Sam whispered. “I'm okay” he felt some of the wonder creep into his voice.
He probably wasn't going to stay okay, But for now right in the moment he was, and if he could be okay this once then maybe he could be okay another time. Some as yet unknown time after he fell apart again maybe he could be okay again for a while for... however long.
Sam looked at the ugly red stockings hanging by the fireplace. A little voice the good kind, the voice that sounded like him and wasn’t soaked in flame a blood and bitterness, that voice. The one that was 7 years old and alive with anticipation 'Is there something to go in those?' How could that voice still be in there inside his head? Best not to question maybe. Best just to take the gift and hold on as best he could.
“I. It's quiet. In here.” Sam said touching his temple.
“Yeah” he had to think of something else to say. For Dean. So he would know. To give back to Dean some of what Dean kept giving him. Give Dean what he needed.
“The food looks.... good” Sam said quietly.
The smile on Deans face was tentative but real. “Yeah?You think you might want to eat some of it?”
It was usually a loaded question for Sam. When reality left the building anything he managed to eat tasted like cardboard on a 'good' day, and he could barely swallow it.
Sam thought about what he could do for Dean. What Dean wanted that was actually in Sam's power to give.
“ I could eat” Sam said and found it was even a little true.