Genre: character study, what would be soul-crushing angst if there were souls to be had
Characters: Gwen, Sam, Dean
Notes: Takes place during 6x02, after the hunt but before Dean goes back to Lisa's. For coronasunrise at hoodie_time's Dean-centric H/C comment!fic meme. Original prompt/post. :)
Gwen's a real harpy; any given day, she's got her hair pulled back in a manner suggestive of imminent violence, and she's running wiry fingers and rough palms over knuckles. She's looking at you, and unless you're boss, she doesn't like what she sees. Gwen has high standards.
She's from a long line of Rikers stock, she's a shapeshifter's auntie, and she's got anyone's back, boss calls them part of the team--but she's nobody's sister. Blood or not, Gwen doesn't take shit from anyone, and she's got the jawline to prove it.
But she should know by now Sam doesn't, either.
"--the hell you getting your panties in a twist over? He does," she insists. And there go her fingers. Sam wonders if she's counting her knuckles, one to ten. If she's ever come up odd. He's watched her sing lullabies, lullabies for monsters, and when time comes to count up all the people in the steeple, she leaves off at five--no one's sure where Number 6 ends up. Maybe she has a thing. It's a strange train of thought, he knows it is, but it's par for the course and, like everything else, it doesn't actually matter. Sam's not gonna fixate.
"It helps him," says Sam, without drawing his gaze from her fingers.
Gwen laughs, starts circling. Sam'd call vulture, but he's already played the harpy card in his mental variation on solitaire. Besides, he's the one with the knife. The dead don't fight back. Gwen's no vulture.
"Yeah, we could all use a fifth a night, just what the doctor ordered. Hey, you think Dean called up his gyno, got it all nice and approved? I hear he's big on getting approval. Makes him feel warm and fuzzy inside."
Sam can count (on his knuckles, just like Gwen, he thinks) all the problematic accusations wrapped into that. He knows they are problematic, but he doesn't bristle. He doesn't care. Another thing Gwen should know by now--she's wasting her breath on him. She's wasting her breath, and her wit, and that cloying tight-lipped grin of hers. She fixes it on him anyway, like she's baiting a hook with it. Sam blinks.
"I say fuck it--chauffer him back to his girl. He's not the kind of dead weight we're looking for. What's your brother been all this time, but drunk, slow, and self-righteously fucking entitled?" What's he ever given us?
What's Dean given them? What should've been at least seven separate guilt trips, probably. It's the first thing that springs to mind. Death, because that's the one thing both of them have always checked off the gift registry. But also life. Saving people, hunting things. Or something similar; that was a long time ago, for Sam.
And life's an amorphous thing, he'll give Gwen that. But if nothing else it's a mathematical positive. It's a mathematical positive and when Dean's around, it's easier to believe that means something. Kind of like knowing God in the presence of nuns and the Catholic choir. Maybe. That doesn't seem quite right. Something like that, minus the sanctity.
In any case, Dean puts a haphazard sort of logic to empathy, and on some level that still feels right to Sam. (Not the empathy, exactly. But the idea that empathy is like, an actual thing. It's an old concept, he knows, he almost remembers, one as yet unproved. But it could be a real thing, maybe.)
"It's better with him around."
"Well, it's gonna be a hell of a lot funnier, when he gets himself killed. What's your wager, Sam? I got $150 on next Tuesday." Sam counts: $25 per knuckle. She stops at seven for some reason.
This is hard to explain. Sam doesn't have to; what Gwen believes isn't any of his business. She knows how to do her job, whatever the hell she thinks. He could walk out now and nothing'd change. But something keeps him tethered. Like maybe this is something worth explaining.
"Dean's better than you," Sam says.
"And he's better than me." That one's harder, because Sam's pretty sure it's not objectively true. He's seen enough action to know Dean's endurance is out the window. Dean's technique's not bad (relative to the past experience Sam can call to mind) but it's shades off what it should be, and far from his best. But still. Dean's better. Because that's the kind of thing you say when--
"This isn't gonna be some kind of martyr monologue, right?" asks Gwen. "The wondrous lack of daytime TV's the one thing this dump's got going for it. Be a dear and don't fuck that up, Sam. I haven't said a single damn lie and you know it."
Sam knows. Dean drinks too much. And he's off his game still. And he is fucking self-righteous. But it's better with Dean here. "He's my brother."
"He's your brother," Gwen parrots, as though waiting for some kind of explanatory curtain call. She doesn't get it. (She's from a long line of Rikers stock, she's a shapeshifter's auntie, and she's got anyone's back, boss calls them part of the team--but she's nobody's sister.)
Sam's from Kansas maybe, California a little more, and from Hell definitely. He's from a short line of people who know what that means (what it really means), he's Lucifer's meatsuit, and he's got anyone's back, so long as it serves his personal interests--but Dean's his brother. He knows that much.
And yeah, he doesn't get it either. At all.
But there's angels in Wisconsin and demons everywhere else; there's nuns singing God's praises and, somewhere, at the very least Castiel grumbling right back. There's Jesus on tortillas and Campbells back from Heaven and wendigo in Colorado. And if there's nothing, nothing else inside him (as he's beginning to suspect there isn't; 60/40, there isn't), there's a brotherhood between him and Dean. And whether Sam can feel that or not, he knows it's just as true as all the rest. He and Dean are in this together.
"Yeah, he's my brother," Sam says. "And he's staying."
Gwen's expression falters. Sam can see the flicker of confusion blink out from under her eyelids, then duck back again. She shakes her head. She stops circling him, and takes up his hand in one of hers. She kisses his knuckles. "As you wish." Her tone conveys anything but sincerity.
At the back of his mind, Sam adds Boy King.
"You taking notes, Dean?" She raises her voice, regards a presence over Sam's shoulder with a suggestive nod. Sam doesn't need to turn around to feel Dean's glare.
"They're taking your silent cousin out back. You might wanna see 'im before they toast him."
Sam sees the half-second it takes Gwen to recover from Dean's vitriolic greeting, but recover she does.
"If only you kept everything else as sharp as your tongue." Then she leaves.
"You going back to Lisa's?" Sam asks, once Gwen clears the doorway, is gone from sight if likely not from earshot.
"According to you, I'm staying."
"Yeah. Don't really have much of a fuckin' choice, do I?" Dean's perfected his bitter chuckle. Sam can't remember if that was before or after the Apocalypse, but he makes a note of it now. "Just gotta--pick up some things. Let Lisa know."
"That's--" Sam starts. He searches for the appropriate adjective. "That's good."
"'Good.' Yeah. Yeah, it's really good. It's awesome. Brotherly roadtrip bonding. That, uh--that always pans out to exactly what you think it's gonna be. Always exactly what you think you're gonna get."
"Yeah." Dean's not counting his knuckles, not like Gwen, but Sam can see he's upset. He's not blind. "What's your problem?"
"Nothing. Don't worry about it."
Sam won't. He knows he won't. "You can tell me, Dean. We're brothers. You said no more secrets--I promise. No more secrets. You can tell me. We're bro--"
"See, that--" Dean interjects. "Do me a favor--" He almost says Sam, but he curls the S to the back of his throat and lets it fester.
"Do me a favor and don't talk about things you don't understand."
Gwen's singing again.
"Two are on my right hand,
Two are on my left hand.
She snaps her fingers. "Two. Two. Two Winchesters. Two brothers. Two! Wow, what a heartwarming concept. Two." Lips pursed carefully, as though she's never said the word before.
"How's that working out for you, Sam?"
a/n: This was hard to write. It made me sad. I don't see anything redeemingly feel-good in this, unless it's the crushed sort of feel-good. But I think it was important for me to put this to words. Because as saddening as Sam sans soul can be, I think Dean's the one who came out the darker for it, not Sam. And while I don't think that these scenes are representative of the Winchesters or their relationship as wholes, they've both been there. And they'll be there again.