This is my small and broken attempt to play in the gorgeous Mashiach sandbox that Askance and Casey have created. Thank you ladies for your wonderful brains and for bringing all this to light. Let me know if there’s anyone else who deserves to be credited for this particular ‘verse.
If he’d known it would come to this, Dean thinks he might have run away years ago.
The worst part are the feet.
(the hands can rest, can lay palms-up in some graceful mockery of supplication, and the forehead can be wrapped in gauze and cheap wool hats from Wal-Mart; neither is forced to take constant pressure except that from within, except the something or other that seems to be trying to force its way out of Sam’s thin skin)
Up until this point, the feet were always the ultimate solution, always that which bore their lives without complaint. They were the one great asset, the one guarantee that there was always another place that one could get to eventually (because if they had nothing else, they always had their feet and thousands of miles of road on which to walk). Sam’s trying to be so good, trying to take this with all the grace and humility that existence has forced on him, trying to not protest the fucking holes in his feet. Dean wonders if Sam’s not actually having to try for any of that, and if he’s just projecting his own frustrations.
Somewhere between Albuquerque and Amarillo, Dean picks up a stack of dark blue towels. He’s never had qualms about destroying motel linens up to this point, but somehow, this is different.
Dean wants to scream at Sam that he doesn’t have to do this, that just because this shit’s happened once before doesn’t mean it has to repeat exactly like it did the first time, wants to kick the brittle plastic ice bucket, now filled with lukewarm water, into the wall right above the bed and pull at the front of Sam’s shirt until his knees lift off of the dingy motel carpet he’s kneeling on, the generic pattern he’s still bleeding onto. He wants to leap out of the rickety plastic chair his fingers have white-kuckled on, wants to rip the flimsy polypropylene into bits like it’s the offender that’s gotten them into this hell fucked situation.
But he can’t.
At least, he can’t as long as Sam’s bony hand (thin, so thin, when the hell did he get that thin) is gripping his ankle. He wants to jerk his leg back, to haul Sam up and drop him on the bed and grab the damp, increasingly threadbare towel and go back to the streaks of pink that might make him sick but that have still somehow become familiar. He wants to wash the feet that actually need it at the moment.
But he doesn’t.
And so the towel curls around the back of his heel as Sam is glancing up into his face, a look of contrition and pleading and maybe even fear on his face, like he knows that this is killing Dean, like he doesn’t want to hurt Dean in this way but he’s still got no choice. Dean wonders if God watched the first time this went down, if He watched as the reviled and scorned and still greatest among men dropped onto bruised knees to serve those He’d come to rule. He wonders, too, if God’s watching now, if the big man is mayhap hurting half as much as Dean is. Assuming He’s paying attention, after all.
Things are beginning to smell like roses, but there’s no fancy soap anywhere around here.
Sam’s hand is still moving around his foot, cloth still running over calluses, gentle over the ticklish spot on the inside of Dean’s instep and that one middle toe that got broken during an encounter with a skinwalker three years back.
Things like that seem so insignificant now, so unimportant.
To be fair, redemption doesn’t seem all that important anymore, either. Not a whole lot seems important at this point, except unmarred skin and a lot less blood and the boy kneeling before Dean, hair falling over a face that’s most likely got a few dots of crimson on it by now; it’s been minutes since Sam had anything pressed to the crown of pinpricks along his forehead. Dean wants to press himself to them, press his willpower and love and strength to them, but such things make awful bandages. He knows; he’s tried.
And so Sam keeps moving, keeps the towel moving, head still bowed. The water in the bucket takes swirls of red from Sam’s palms, welcomes the droplets as they return to the universal cycle of elements in their liquid state. Each one is like a miniscule prodigal son coming home, acquiescing to God’s supplicant order for all things, but there’s no slaughtered calf of celebration for this homecoming, no Father throwing a party for these children. This water is not the salvation of the chosen, not like the Nile was to Moses. It’s merely the canvas on which the chosen’s sacrifice is painted, like how the Nile had to turn red before anyone really started to pay attention.
Dean wants to run away, but it’s entirely too late now.
"You know you have to keep going." The words are thin and fragile and sound like they’re being breathed out by the Earth itself.
"Promise me you’ll at least try," Sam whispers. "There’s folks out there that need you."
Dean knows he’s asking him to go on, to keep up the work, and Dean wants to promise that he will, if only to take that look off of Sam’s face. He wants redemption like Peter, wants proof like Thomas, wants mystery like Thaddeus, but he also knows himself better than to expect anything of the sort. He’s not about to go Judas Iscariot, either, but this limbo between the two extremes is perhaps more painful. He is neither the redeemed nor the condemned. He’s got no idea what’s going to happen after all this is said and done, and he’s frighteningly certain there won’t be anyone coming back to pull him from his nets a second time.
Gardens have never smelled so sinister; Dean wants to appreciate the permeating scent of roses, but he also wants to have prevented this whole thing in the first place, and the red writing being smeared across their little portion of history testifies to how well that went.
"Aren’t you scared?" Dean blurts out inarticulately, a few nights later. Grace doesn’t always buffer the words of the weary.
Sam doesn’t raise his head. “What does it matter?”
"… What do you mean, what does it matter?" Dean manages to choke out. "Of course it fucking matters."
"I just … I don’t care. Not about that kind of stuff. Not anymore." He must read the confusion in Dean’s face, the desperate attempt to understand that falls short of peaceful comprehension like Icarus fell short of the sun.
"Things like that just don’t seem important."
"Like, of all the ways our lives could go, this isn’t the worst way I ever imagined things coming to an end. I’ve got you and I’ve got a chance, and I don’t really know what else I’m in a position to ask for." The sentence lilts up at the end, almost a question, like he’s looking for validation that he’s worthy of even that small measure of mercy. "And I don’t … if this is the way things are going to go, I don’t want to fight it. This is a good thing."
Sam’s face suddenly breaks into possibly the most pathetic excuse for a grin that Dean’s ever seen. “And besides, since when was being scared a bad thing for us?”
The laugh Dean chokes out has less to do with anything actually funny, and more to do with the fact that if he doesn’t laugh he’s going to cry; the general choked heaving sensation within his chest is roughly the same, regardless.
"Fear’s supposed to be a healthy thing, that dumbass response that ensures that you’ll run when you’re supposed to. It’s not supposed to be this, not supposed to creep up with no way to stop it."
"But I can’t stop it, Dean, that’s the whole point." Sam’s voice drops to a quietness Dean hasn’t heard since they were just kids and Sam hadn’t quite grown into his skin, still shy and scared. "And I don’t want to, okay?"
"So you’re hanging by this length of rope and you don’t even care that the chair that hasn’t let you fall yet is slowly being pushed out from under your feet? Because one of these days, something’s going to kick it out and it’s just going to go!" Dean wants to scream, like his voice isn’t about to go out anyway.
"If it’s the rope you’re talking about here, then don’t pretend like this is then end line for it. It may kill me, but once I’m gone, you’re going to need to use it to pull people back into the boat, to toss into the metaphorical waters to pull up other people. You treat this like there’s only one side, like everything about it is bad. But you know it’s never that simple."
Sam’s silent. Minutes pass, and Dean gets up to pace, and prays for revelation from anyone in particular that the second use justifies the existence of the first.
Dean’s never considered the smell of iron mixed with flowers up to this point, and he doesn’t want to have to, so he buys new towels at a second-hand store in Atwood, Tennessee.
They already smell like roses.
TAGS: #mine: fic #jimmynovaks #whiskyandoldspice #sam winchester #dean winchester #stigmata #mashiach
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