|Five Jobs That Never Got Finished
Author: Guede Mazaka
“Take care of Sam, Dean.”
It was like Dad’s sign-off, his little last line that he always told Dean before he left. Didn’t matter whether they were hunting loup-garou in Louisiana or digging up life-drawing corpses in Rhode Island—he was always worried about Sam. Worried about making sure that Dean was worried about Sam, actually. It was annoying as hell.
the glass is all over the floor and each tiny shard reflects a little piece of dean up at him. a little piece of him because he’s the one now and sam’s home free. sam’s lying there face-up and he shouldn’t have to look—shouldn’t—he fucking can’t look, can he, because his eyes are gone and oh, god, he should be looking, looking, looking at dean and now he can’t. so the glass does it for dean, and each little piece is like a little piece of hell, frozen forever in this moment.
But Dad was right. Dad was always right, because Dean needs that kind of reminder. Dean’s not the kind of guy who can go off and do his own thing, Dean’s not the kind who can take his life and make it into something completely—
--and he needs reminders. He was supposed to be the reminder, the minder, only he forgot when Dad never would have and now, oh, Christ, now…
Sam went and he did it. And Dean should have asked one more time. Should’ve done it himself. Should have rolled out of bed and shaken his damn complication of a little brother out of those nightmares, or should have made sure Sam would hear Dean’s voice in his head and not that fucking bitch’s voice so he wouldn’t have thought…because he had to have had. Had to. Had to have been hearing nothing but—
--and all his life, Dean’s been hearing about nothing but Sam. Except for one second, when he let it slide, and now look.
Look at what you’ve done, Dean.
His eyes are burning so badly he can’t force them open. He hears sirens and loud sobbing over the dry, choked, rasping noise that’s coming from his throat and he has to put his hands down for support. It hurts because the glass slices his palms open, but when he opens his fingers to shake them, he sees nothing but himself. Himself. No Sam.
--“Shit, Rob, this has been one hell of a night. B-and-E, only one of the guys ends up eyeball-less like that other one, and his brother’s bawling next to him with a faceful of glass pieces. Gouged his eyes right out, too. I swear to God, soon as I get off my shift, I’m crawling inside a bottle because that was something nobody should have to see.”
* * *
Asylum in Insanity
The gun’s not loaded. The fucking gun isn’t loaded. Dean knocked out the goddamn fucking clip before he goddamn fucking gave it to Sam. Fucking bastard--he thinks he’s so funny, does he? Thinks he’s a fucking clown—well, he’s got his head up his ass so far that he doesn’t even realize that’ll just piss off Sam even more. That does piss off Sam, and good.
Goddamn big brother always thinks he knows what’s best, thinks he can substitute for Dad. Well, does he remember the four years Sam spent on his own? Does he remember Sam got himself a fucking life? He’d better now. He’d better because Sam’s beating it into his stupid fucking face.
Oh, there go the bullets all rolling and spinning all over the floor. “Jesus fucking Christ, you always were a pain in the ass.”
They’re spinning and moving and it’s so damn hard to make one stop. Stupid little shits. Even when Sam’s got hold of one, it won’t stay in his hands. It squirts through his fingers and gets all covered in this disgusting shit on his hands--“Thanks a lot, Dean. Always have to make this hard, don’t you? Don’t you? Always fucking with my life, thinking you can fake me out into what you want to do.”—so Sam’s gotta rub it off first so the gun doesn’t jam. The gross crap squeezes up through his fingers and he snarls at Dean, since that was where it all came from. More of it’s pooling on the floor and soaking into Sam’s jeans, turning them sticky and clammy as if he didn’t have enough problems on the table.
Finally it goes in and he can snap the gun together. God, he’s so fucking mad. He’s never been so goddamn mad in his life at Dean and he’d like to tell Dean about it some more, but Dean never listened before and he’s not now. He’s just lying there. Ignoring Sam. Well, he can go on and do that, and in the meantime Sam’s just going to…God, he’s so mad. He’s so fucking mad. He’s never been this mad before. Never. Never never nev—
* * *
California’s nice. It’s warm and it’s sunny, and with it beaming away his blues, Sam slowly starts to put his life back together. Which isn’t easy, considering how he took off. Everyone thought he must’ve died in the fire with Jessica and he’s got a hell of a time coming up with explanations. Eventually he has to book himself to see a psychiatrist, who gets him off the hook with acute nervous breakdown happening right after Jessica died. He tells everyone he drove home and crashed with relatives during the months in between. Which isn’t exactly a lie.
LSAT scores are good for five years, which helps. Sam has more explanations to make, but he gets his career path in gear again. He chooses to start as soon as possible, since studying all night means he’ll sleep through any phone calls that might yank him off-track again.
Sometimes he still wakes up at night and rolls over, and it’s jarring to not even see another bed, empty or not, next to him.
Law school keeps Sam’s nose to the grindstone and fills up his head and his days so nothing else can remotely squeeze in. He likes it like that. He wakes up less and less in the middle of the night, and he no longer tenses up when he takes out his cell-phone. He’s seeing a few girls now—tentatively, unsure if it’s because he’s just missing somebody in the house and he doesn’t want to lay that on them. His life is hard but straightforward.
And a year later, just as spring starts, Sam finally decides he can call. Just a check-up, no strings attached. But Dean doesn’t pick up.
And Dean continues to not pick up, and Sam’s gut develops a hard cold ball that rolls around at night so he starts waking up from nightmares again. It gets so bad that one day he catches a bus to a town with amazing apple pie and really nice people who flinch when he passes around a photo of Dean. The sheriff in particular is a real hard ass.
Sam still finds the orchard. The scarecrow’s in pretty bad shape, but the leather scraps of the jacket haven’t rotted too much. Also, Sam’s gotten good at reconstructing faces from decomposed bodies.
He doesn’t need much time surfing online to figure things out. It’s kind of odd, how easily he accepts the obvious explanation. Before, he would’ve argued, would’ve been too disbelieving to think that a whole town of people could perpetuate such a horror. He would’ve said to—
Just like that, Sam’s life implodes. The thing is, they were supposed to have been able to leave each other and go their separate ways without anyone getting hurt any more. Emphasis on the ‘any more’ because staying together obviously wasn’t going to work out. Of course, staying apart didn’t--fucking--work—out—either.
It’s March, so clearly it isn’t the season and nobody’s too concerned about the orchard right now. At least, not enough to notice Sam torching the place till it’s too late. He mingles with the horrified crowd that gathers and watches the futile efforts to put out the flames. He just maxed out his credit card—his credit card, in his real name—on kerosene, lighter fluid, salt, everything he could get from ten different hardware stores. Those flames aren’t going out.
And he’s got plenty left with which to do the town while the people are at the orchard. He drives out of the place under a dusk sky so red from the soot that it looks like a blood wash. He doesn’t know what to do now. He can’t go back. He can’t save the world from the monsters—God, Dean--and he can’t stand the people so he doesn’t even want to protect anybody anymore.
He just keeps driving and driving. The sky never gets any darker or any lighter—just stays bloody. Sam gets used to it. He gets used to it, to the cramp in his pedal foot, the ice in his chest, the tightness of the muscles around his jaw and eyes, and soon he doesn’t even notice it. Soon he glances over at the passenger seat and someone’s there and it seems like they’ve always been there.
“Been waiting a long, long time for you, Sammy,” they say. They’ve got a deep, rough-silk voice like Dean, but they aren’t him by a long shot. But they fill the space. “And you’ve been looking for me for a while. Well, I’m here. I’ll take you in and take care of you now. I’ll be your family, and I’ll never leave you.”
And Sam says, “What do you want me to do?”
* * *
Layla’s a pretty girl, Sam absently thinks. All rosy cheeks, even though she’s sobbing like her heart’s fit to burst. Very pretty, and lively and if she even thinks of throwing a flower in the grave Sam will break her neck and swap her into the coffin where she damn well should be. It should’ve been her, and not Dean. Sometimes bad things happen to good people, and it’s not always fixable, and that’s just how life is.
Dean always thought differently, of course. He thought monsters could be stopped and people could be saved without any damage, and he thought saving other people was the greatest goal in life and he was wrong. Maybe he saved Layla, with her long blonde hair and sweet face. Maybe he helped her go on and keep living so she can raise her family with a dog and two-point-one kids and bow her head every Sunday in thanks to the Lord Jesus Christ. Who didn’t do a damn thing here. Who’s never done a damn thing, as far as Sam can tell.
He turns and leaves. He doesn’t care how it looks—him skipping out on his own brother’s funeral—but he just can’t stand to look at that goddamn girl anymore. His hands are in his pockets because they’re fists and he keeps wanting to curse but his throat is too tight. It’s just—Dean didn’t even know her. It’s not the same as with Jessica, Sam thinks. It’s not. It’s goddamn not and Dean had no right to give up his life like that. He doesn’t have a responsibility to Layla, but he does have one to Sam and he’s not getting out of it that easily.
Family’s something Dean believed in, isn’t it? It’s something he held sacred. It’s something he had faith in. Maybe it was a mistake. Maybe he tried to get away and Sam was just too slow…and if it’s a mistake, it can be fixed. It has to be. Dean can’t be dead and Layla alive. Dean can’t be dead, period. That’s not how it works, and if Sam could find one way to make that not happen, he can find another.
Sam stops at her grave—he doesn’t even want to think her name—because he needs to do something. Not to spit, or see if the hallowed ground is smoking from her presence, but to get a little dirt. Graveyard dust is good, graveyard dust from a witch’s grave is even better.
He uncurls the fingers of his right hand and moves them from his pants-pocket to his coat-pocket, where that little black book is. The Reaper spell hadn’t been the only one listed in it.
Dean’s not dead, Sam thinks. Because that’s not fair.
* * *
“You’re a big brother, too?” the kid says, hopeful and scared all at the same time.
It’s a look Dean’s seen a thousand times in a thousand towns, and by now he’s had plenty of practice dealing with it. He bends down and he puts one hand—one, because two can be claustrophobic or patronizing—and looks the kid in the eye and lies through his teeth. “Yeah.”
No, he was one. And he stopped being one in this town sixteen years ago. He’s never stopped paying for it, though.
“Yeah, and even though my little brother’s not around anymore, I still know what it’s like. Believe me,” Dean lies, lies, lies.
But it works. The kid says yes, and he shivers beneath the covers till Dean barges in to save him, and like a million other jobs, all ends well. The children get better and the last thing Dean sees as he drives out of town is a smiling, happy family in his rearview mirror. So many times he’s seen it and still it’s no good. He didn’t come through the one time it counted.
He flips open his phone, even though he knows it won’t be any good. As Dean got better and better at handling jobs, Dad started staying away longer and longer. They didn’t talk about it, but Dean understood and he couldn’t call Dad on it. He didn’t have the right to.
Dad mostly texts nowadays. He calls maybe twice a year, but Dean always makes sure to call after every job and report how it went. It’ll never make up for that one time, but he has to keep trying. He wants Dad to know—maybe it’s an apology, maybe it’s some weird twisted version of resentment, maybe it’s something else entirely. But all he knows is that one of the last things Dad ever said to him, while looking straight-on at Dean, was to call him and tell him if the kid survived. So Dean’s obeying. He’s never going to disobey again. He’s got to be perfect because he’s all that’s left.
“I took care of it, Dad. I got it for good this time,” Dean tells the phone. This should be a benchmark event—but who is he kidding? This doesn’t finish it. This job will never be finished, even if the shtriga is dead now. The slate’s never going to be clean again because the slate’s broken and buried somewhere in Fort Douglas, with a tiny marble tombstone over a tiny coffin—their mother had had an empty coffin burial, so Dad hadn’t seen the point in going back to Lawrence.
It doesn’t matter, anyway. It’s not about any one place, because wherever Dean goes, it’s always the same. He clicks off the phone; Dad always sends him a packet of coordinates at once, so he already knows where he’s going and what he’ll find there, and he knows it won’t be the end. It’ll never end.