Dean leaned back in bed and tried not to think. It was easier said than done on the best of days but after everything that happened, he could not shut his mind off if he tried. He mused to himself how funny it was how the littlest things could trigger a memory. A scar on his hand from the first time he fired a gun and caught a bit of his skin in the hammer. John had cursed him, called him incompetent as he tended to the bleeding hand in a detached yet sort of loving manner. Which was characteristic of growing up with his dad. Sam got more of the direct love, Dean got the cursing admonishes.
He was not 100% honest with Sam when he said he was underwater, drowning, while Michael was in control of his body. He had been underwater, unable to swim to the surface, perpetually gasping for air, on the cusp of drowning. That was not the lie. The lie came from the fact that the water served as a 360-degree screen showing “This Is Your Life” over and over again. Every bad memory, every time he failed, anything that was remotely tainted shown in full panoramic, reliving every moment.
Like the first time John had disappeared to the point that the money he left ran out. Sure, Dean could steal food to feed Sam, but food does not keep a motel roof over your head. The motel manager was a vile disgusting man that allowed Dean to keep the room as long as he spent nights with him. The memory still makes him nauseous; the shame and guilt overpowering. He thought he was going to die that first time, leaving Sam all alone and unaware of what happened to his family.
After that month of hell, Dean swore he would never do that again. But John was John and Dean found himself running out of money again and again. He sold his body once, why not again? Michael loved playing those memories for him a lot; the tears, the blood, the pain. What made it worse was when John found out what he had been doing to keep Sam safe. The beating and curses were almost worse than what he had endured from his clients. He could not help but wonder why his father was so angry? Had he not done his job? Protect Sam at all costs?
It was not long after that, still injured from beating and slower than normal, that Dean was caught stealing and John allowed him to be sent to Sonny’s to teach him a lesson he supposed. He’s not sure it taught him the lesson John wanted. After all, he almost stayed with Sonny instead of going back. He had a chance at a normal life where selling himself, stealing, and wondering when the next beating from John was coming were even blips on his radar. But if he did not return, what would happen to Sam? What had been happening to Sam? Had John taken Dean’s failures out on him? Had he been safe? And so he returned for Sam. To protect him from the person who was supposed to love and take care of them. From the one who was supposed to keep them safe.
And he resented Sam for that. He resented Sam for needing him. He resented John for making him feel like Sam was his sole responsibility. Like Sam was his son, not his brother. And as he felt resentment, he felt soul crushing guilt as well. Sam was innocent in all this. He did not know what John did and continued to do to their family. He did not understand that lengths Dean had to take to make sure he was fed, safe, and sheltered. Yet despite knowing this, it did not stop the festering darkness growing. And Michael loved to pull that darkness out and surround Dean in it until it wasn’t the water drowning him but his guilt, pain, fear, and resentment.
One of the worst memories Michael would trot out was the day his mother died. He can remember the joy of being held and loved by his parents. The joy of being a big brother and good son. He remembers his mom running and calling Sam’s name. He remembers her scream. His remembers John screaming his mom’s name. Most of all, he remembers the smell of burning flesh. Even now, though he hides it well, that smell makes him nauseous and brings back memories of that night. The night when his family died.
On and on it went in those weeks with Michael. It was not just memories of his childhood but that time that Sam died in his arms. When he sold his soul to bring him back. Hell. Cas dying over and over again. Purgatory. The Mark of Cain. Being a demon. The Darkness. His greatest hits on display while Michael always repeated the same phrase.
As the days post Michael move on, as they continue to hunt, as his family comes together to help him through each day, he can still feel the film of Michael’s grace, coating his insides, twinges of sparks, and that voice. The voice whispering what it has been whispering from the start: “Enjoy the ride.”