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And The Light Shows How Broken You Are

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The sky is empty, a vast expanse between glittering stars and the brightly lit moon. The night is long, not yet at sunrise, and the sky is an empty, empty black. The world is quiet, the distant rush of cars long since past. At least, it is here in the motel parking lot off the abandoned stretch of highway. It's almost hot, surrounded by desert and the asphalt, despite the cool night air. The night is long, almost endless.

When the sun rises, after the end of eternity, Sam gets up and goes inside.

 

They go to the movies sometimes. It never matters what town they happen to be in, they always visit the same kind of theater, sketchy and dark, smelling like popcorn and spilled soda, and always sticky underfoot. Of course, the tickets are as cheap as the theater, so they can afford it, most of the time. Dean always picks, and he always picks action movies, so they sit in uncomfortable seats watching things blow up. It's not how Sam would spend his time, but he gets to be close to Dean, even if they just sit in the dark and watch reds and oranges flash across the screen. Dean lights up, grinning long after the movie ends, as though he can still see the bright lights and hear the explosions.

Sam still feels like he's sitting in the dark.

 

Sam likes to listen to music, sometimes. It helps. He pops the earbuds in and turns up the volume, silencing the world with noise. He can just listen and look, a passive observer rather than an active participant. It's a break, and his family leaves him alone when they see him listening. More and more often, though, he stops listening to the lyrics and the melodies, finds that it doesn't help at all anymore. Sometimes he just puts the earbuds in, but doesn't start the music. The world gets muffled and quiet, like he's underwater.

He just closes his eyes and listens to the silence.

 

The school is like every other school, full of students like all other students, in a town like every other town. It may have a lake, or a small dime store that all the kids go to, or community bake sales every other month. The people might go to a church like every other church and go to a service like any other service. There's a ghost haunting a graveyard, and it doesn't want to leave. It is a place like any other place, really.

The only difference- a family that is not like any other family- will be gone in under a month, rolling out of town in a shiny black car.

 

It's hard to say how long it's been. Without clocks, without light, without context, Sam has to rely on his internal rhythm to tell him, and he's never been quite right inside. Seconds pass, minutes pass, hours pass, locked in an endless darkness that grows familiar, and then comforting. His breathing keeps his own time, a method of counting independent of the world outside this blackness. Sometimes he holds it in, each breath held captive in his lungs, prisoner to his body. He pretends that this is oblivion, is the nothingness he's craved for so long. When Dean breaks him out of the stone coffin a day later, mumbling something about stupid psychotic ghosts, the light hurts Sam's eyes and he wants to cry.

He doesn't.

 

They're fighting a witch. She's hurling out spells like artillery fire, streaks of blue and yellow and purple sparks streaking across the room like shooting stars. Dean and his father are hiding behind walls, firing silver at her and hoping one of their bullets finds her heart. They aren't going to win this one if they keep at it like they are; swirling, colorful magic winning out against hard, dark bullets. Sam steps out from his hiding place and fires once, a red stain spreading from her chest. Her spell wooshes past his face, the last remnant of a dead woman, and he feels his skin itch at the closeness.

Silence falls, and he ignores the way that Dean stares at him long after they leave the witch's house.

 

The car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, black paint against black pavement and pale dust, the kind of dust that fills the air. Tall grasses sway in the breeze, and the sun is bright and cold in the sky. Dean and his dad are arguing, hands on hips and gesticulating at the hood of the car, both of their long sleeved shirts tied around their waists. Sam leans against the side of the car, watching the ocean of green and gold make waves. Knees pulled up to his chest, he glances at his hands, pale and spiderlike. They sit atop his legs, and if he squints hard enough, he feels like he can almost see the worn denim of his jeans through them. Maybe the light would forget to reflect off his skin, passing straight through bones and sinew and making them transparent. Maybe it would ignore the rest of him too, shining right through him and bouncing off the car door, a beaming blackness. Maybe he could disappear forever, invisible, and no one would ever notice. He turns his eyes back to the fields, and listens to his family bicker.

No one would ever notice.

 

There's a girl in his math class. She has long, chocolate hair, and she wears bright sweatshirts and jeans almost every day, even though it's almost too hot for it. Her shoes are beaten and worn, covered in dust and mud. Sam can respect that in a shoe, can respect the girl in that shoe. When she passes by him in the halls, she smells like bubblegum, even though he's only ever seen her eat chocolate bars. She smiles at him sometimes, glancing at him from the corner of her eye. Her teeth are a little crooked, but it just makes her prettier. Sam even manages to smile back, once, but she's already turning away before he's even started.

When they leave, he doesn't say goodbye, because he had never even said hello.

 

Sometimes he counts scars. It's like counting sheep, but different, dysfunctional. He counts his dad's (battle hardened warrior come home to a never-ending fight, it takes its toll) and his brother's (too many for someone that young, too many, don't think about it, too many,), and traces the raised skin in his mind. Mostly, though, he contemplates his own scars, the physical proof of his life, of his lifestyle. They stretch like abstract art across his skin, a connect-the-dots made of spilled blood. He catches himself looking at the bigger ones, sometimes, the slices along his stomach or the ones near major arteries. They terrify him, thrill him. They had almost killed him. He had almost died.

He had almost died.

 

When the time comes, it doesn't hurt the way he thought it would. Agonizing gashes along his side that steadily gush out life, it isn't like he had thought. Of course, nothing ever goes the way he planned, so why should this be different? It shouldn't, so it isn't. It isn't a slow, drowning death in blue-black water, that starts with panic and ends with peace. It isn't a fiery, burning blaze that lasts one, shining moment in the darkness. No, it's just this. Just this seeping death, crimson blood creeping into mossy green. He is being swallowed by the earth, one drop at a time. And the forest isn't any type of green anymore, but a deep midnight black, the trees just shadows on the sky. They cover the bright stars, and for a moment, it's a sharp disappointment; but, with the darkness around, he is invisible, more transparent than he could ever be in the day. It makes him smile, just for a moment- but a moment is an infinity now, now that the stars are gone and he has to keep time with his stopwatch heart, the one that gets slower after every beat. Time turns to molasses, the blackness turns to void, and he feels hollow as the blood leaves him, nonexistent. His lungs stop taking in air, his eyes stop taking in light, and he's just muscle and bone; a shell of a person that once had been. He's empty now, full of the space between stars, but that doesn't matter.

He's always been empty.