sickle_stories: (Supernatural)
[personal profile] sickle_stories
Title: The Blank Slate
Fandom: Supernatural
Word Count: 1,268
Disclaimer: I like to play with other people's toys. These in particular belong to Eric Kripke and the CW.
Timeline: Lazarus Rising, The Third Man
Summary: You came back different and I can't stop seeing it. Sam watches Dean and thinks about the scars Dean lost by coming back from Hell and the ones he's gained.
Crossposts: [ profile] dean_sam here ; [ profile] spn_theboys here ; [ profile] spn_deanw's Weekly Recommendations' October 21, 2010 (Thanks!)

The Blank Slate

I came back from the furnace without any of my old scars, right? You know, bullet wounds, knife cuts, none of the off-angled fingers from all the breaks. - Dean Winchester, "Monster Movie" (4x05)

The scars you can't see are the hardest to heal. - Astrid Alauda

It really started over coffee. Staring at his brother's hands wrapped casually around the cup brought it all to a point: that niggling feeling that had been nagging at Sam all day - that something was wrong - was now clamoring for attention.

The first whisper of unease had stirred on the way to the diner that morning. Saw was watching Dean drive the Impala, tapping the steering wheel in time to ACDC's Thunderstruck, and something about the action had bothered him.

It was such a familiar scene that Sam couldn't think of the driver's seat without his brother in it, hands wrapped lovingly around his baby. It was hard to see that morning's actions as separate, to peel back all the layers of attached memories and experiences. When Sam looked at Dean, he also saw Dad's jacket with the bad scrape on the right arm from a tight squeeze through an alleyway. He saw Dean's ring, which he'd started wearing at sixteen and had worn smooth, its writing illegible long before Sam ever thought to read it. He saw Dean's watch, which his brother got sometime while Sam was at Stanford.

(One night, unable to sleep after yet another dream of fire and blood, Sam unfastened the watch from Dean's wrist as it dangled off the side of the motel bed. He spent the next couple of hours looking it over, inspecting every scrape and cut, peering at the flakes of blood encrusted deep in its creases. He learned that watch by heart so well that he could pick it out from a whole shipment of its twins. Now whenever he pictured Dean, he could picture the watch too, down to the last detail. Just before dawn, he set his own watch to his brother's and replaced the watch on Dean's wrist.)

If Sam leaned forward just a little, he could see Dean's amulet rising and falling with each badly sung verse. He knew every inch, every line, and every curve of that amulet. He had for almost his entire life. Seeing it around Dean's neck that first night back on the hunt - his last night with Jess, his last night as normal - he'd felt a surge of relief. After all that time - after all those fights and unanswered calls - a piece of Sam was still where it belonged.

When Sam looked at Dean, squinting in the sun and humming along to his rock collection, he also saw years of hunts. He saw all the near-misses, the improvised weapons, the people saved, and the locations scouted. He saw the years of travelling, of pool hustling and beer fights, of playground punches and parking lot training. Dean was a map of their lives, stories marking his skin and clothes.

Sam could read each moment of their lives on Dean's body. His brother's hands alone held whole chapters. There was the cut from a hasty blood sacrifice, the burn from a too-close salt-and-burn, the off-angled finger, badly splintered one hard month of non-stop hunts, the calloused palms worn from long nights of shoveling graves open.

Those hands had clawed out of a coffin.

There they were, impossibly cupping a steaming mug of coffee, not a joint out of line, holding cheap plastic when once they'd held Sam's life.

But now, today, sitting in yet another cheap diner, weeks after Sam stopped being the last surviving Winchester and became whole again, Sam looked at his brother and found a page missing.

Dean took a sip of his coffee; Sam's eyes tracked the motion.

"Stop staring."

"I'm not."

Of course he was.

It was like being struck down with illiteracy or a sudden onset of aphasia. Like opening a favorite book and finding its pages empty.

Dean's hands didn't look like hunter's hands anymore. Gone were the breaks, the scars, the toughened inches of skin. Gone was Sam's past. It had been wiped clean off Dean's skin, washed off by blood, scourged off with hellhound teeth and gravedirt, and burnt off by the fires of resurrection.

Sam would call it absolution if he believed in that. He believed, yes, prayed even - after all that had happened, he still prayed (cajoled, begged) - but he wasn't sure he believed everything. Not the rose-tinted details. At least not as they applied to the Winchesters.

But whether it was absolution or a biological reset, the result was the same: Sam couldn't read his brother's hands anymore. He couldn't read his brother's skin. Couldn't read his brother.

"Dude, seriously, what is it with the coffee? You okay?"

Sam couldn't imagine Dean's hands - these new, untried hands - doing anything. It was hard enough seeing them holding a cup of coffee. What would they look like holding a gun? Would they wrap around as smoothly around the handle, fit so tightly, as they did around the cup?

Sam tried to imagine his own hands unmarked, his own fingers straightened. Tried to see them as they could have been, if only... He probably wouldn't figure out how to hold things properly, snuggly: he'd gotten so used to adapting to the kinks left by broken bones, knew just how to compensate, how to adapt.

It was harder to imagine Dean's undamaged hands at work than it was to imagine his own. It seemed so wrong, somehow. Out of place.

"I'm fine," Sam said. You're different he thought. Dean came back different. He came back untouched and unfettered by their violent past. You came back different and I can't stop seeing it.

Then Dean started humming ACDC again and Sam thought about Dean in the Impala and him riding shotgun. That, at least, was still the same. There, Dean fit. There, Sam fit.

Dean's hands left the coffee cup, one shifting to hang off the edge of the table and the other cradling Dean's chin. Sam looked up and watched Dean stare idly out the window.

"Are you okay?" he asked, because his brother had been humming the same classic rock opening all morning, and he was twitchy - hands tapping on the steering wheel (hands digging into a plane seat, it calms me down). Even if he said he couldn't remember Hell, Dean was acting in the same terrified, cockily evasive manner as he had a year ago, when hellhounds had still been far off his scent and he was eating cheeseburgers for breakfast and pretending everything was alright, was Winchester status quo.

Dean was different and he wasn't alright.

It occurred then to Sam that maybe the law of constancy applied to Dean's scars as well, that they hadn't truly faded out so much as faded in, deeper, until the only thing they marked was Dean's soul.

Dean reached for the newspaper they'd bought earlier and started skimming the obituaries. Sam knew this dance, recognized the music. Dean was in a different suit but his steps were the same. Sam could see that now. Heaven's little soldier may have put Dean back together again on the outside with a five-fingered seal of approval, but Hell still had an outstanding cheque on the inside, alongside the scars.


It seemed like every Winchester had to take a stroll through Hell at some point, and this time it was Dean watching Sam. His little brother came back as physically unmarred as he had, with no sign of Hell and no sign of their lives before on his skin.

But Dean knew about scars, knew they didn't disappear into nothing.

It's been a few times you've got me wondering.

He knew his brother wasn't okay.
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January 2011


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